"Watch your heads, and sit down over there," said Grandma, motioning to a large trunk beneath the musty slants of the attic eaves. And then the storytelling began....

Antiques were folded into dusty boxes around us, their significance left unlabelled but for Grandma's remembering tales. I listened to the stories of my ancestors from the keepers of their treasures in that damp, dark haven where history and the future came together. And during those childhood hours in the attic, I would hear my calling—the.eternal quest for stories told and untold. I answer it still.
Musty smells and mothballs will take me there again, sitting on a box in my memory, enraptured. I hear knockin' on the attic as voices in my head—whispery phrases that need a turn, stories aching to be told, or simply memories wanting another moment of my time. When I hear that knockin', I know there's a voice to be heard and a story to be told. So, be careful on the ladder, watch your head on that beam, and have a seat on that trunk over there. Lean in, for I have some tales to share...

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year = New Life

Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2013.

 Hello 2014! It’s about freaking time.

Time to shake things up. Turn the world on its ear, give it a spin, then flop it onto its back for a good belly rub. Grumpy ol’ thing has been lying on the couch, licking wounds for too long, and it is past time to pull some new tricks out of the sleeves.

If you’re looking for resolutions about exercise, recommitting myself to my childhood religious upbringing, or giving up beer and belly dancing, you’ve got the wrong gal. I’m not here today to vow to stop speaking my mind, my truth, or about my feelings because it irritates someone else. No promises here to try harder to go with the flow and fit into this crowd or that. That shit goes against nature. My nature anyway. Besides, I’m starting to learn to accept the perfect mess I’ve spent 43 years becoming. It’s cool.

So, you may be asking what I’m here yapping about then, when you’re out there kissing your loved ones, and hugging the strangers next to you. Or what I could be doing at this late hour while you’re sleeping snug in your beds, oblivious to the parties the neighbors are having? I’ll tell ya. The truth is 2013 has not been my favorite year of them all. Don’t worry. I’m not going to dwell on last year’s news. It’s just been less than the most fun of all in the world forever. And that kinda sucked. So that brings us to this moment in time.

I’m prepping for a complete overhaul, folks. New year = new beginnings, and all that stuff, right? So, tonight—just moments ago—I took the first step in creating a new life for myself. New challenges, new people, new experiences. Out with the old, in with the new. Cliché? Perhaps. But true. I’m not messing around—anyone who knows me knows I don’t stick in a toe to test the water. I jump in and then see if I can figure out how to swim.

For example, I took a secret (read “unapproved by the parental unit”) vacation in my youth and ended up moving from Indiana to Florida 4 months later to go to college to become a zookeeper. I ended a marriage one month, and tackled open heart surgery in practically the next breath. I covered every possible angle of my lifelong dream to work with animals (zookeeping, wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary technician, and pets of course), and then walked away from it all 10 years later when I fell in  love with a French Canadian 5 years my junior. I “built” a family of friends living in Florida for many years, and then packed everything I could into a U-Haul, quit my jobs, and with no promises between us, I moved to upstate New York just so I could date the Frenchman ‘properly’ and see if we had a shot at a “real relationship” instead of the long distance “fantasy of a romance” we’d been playing at. I put my stuff in a storage unit, and spent 6 weeks looking for a job and a place to live. I talked my way into a preschool teaching job on charm, desperate desire, and my experience cleaning animal poop, and ended up as a head teacher within a year. And when my love proposed three years later, I immigrated into Canada and got married to a man a lot of people had told me was too young to truly commit (we’ve been working our way through his so-called “commitment issues” – 17 years and 3 kids later. Lol). And when I realized I had limited options (read “no”) for jobs living in the nation’s capital, because a) there is no zoo, b) preschool teachers are actually required to be certified, and c) I don’t speak, read, or write French in a town built on bilingualism, I decided to skip the whole job search stress thing and started my own business. I now own and operate a home daycare.

Nope, I don’t mess around. And after a few rather shocking jolts to my circumstance in that nasty year of 2013, I’m finally ready to try something new.

So just a few moments ago, I registered to study to become…(drum roll please)….a Doula.

Please don’t make that disappointed “Is that even a real thing? Because I’ve certainly never heard of it” noise. It’s rude. Just ask me. “What, Kelly, praytell, is a doula?”

Thank you for asking, kind people. Doulas are birth assistants, or birth companions. They are not midwives who actually deliver babies. A Birth Doula, or Labor Doula, provides emotional, physical, and mental support to a mother and her partner during labor and the birth of their child(ren). She assists the couple in education about the birthing process (some are birth educators as well), the choices available, and the different things that can or might occur through the process of birthing. She may help write a birth plan. At the birth, she acts as a liaison between doctors, nurses, and/or midwives, and makes sure the couple knows and understands what is going on. This allows the mother to focus more on the birth, and the partner to focus more on the mother. It is known as “mothering the mother.” The idea is that having the extra support at the birth allows the experience to be positive, magical, and wonderful for the mother and/or couple, reducing the stress and increasing the joy.  After the birth, the doula will usually stay around for a couple of hours to assist with breast or bottle feeding, make sure the mother’s needs are taken care of (that she’s brought food, is able to rest and recover, and mostly that she is allowed to bond with her baby). She will then visit a couple of times the first week or so postpartum.

Postpartum doulas assist the needs of the new family following the birth. They are there to make the transition to family life go a little smoother. They visit the family in the home, and can answer questions the family may have, provide a break (naptime!) for the parents, babysit older children, run errands, prepare meals, take care of pets, or take the mother and new baby to doctor check-ups. A lot of doulas act as both birth and postpartum doulas.

Which is what I intend to do on this new leap of faith.

I have been fortunate. I had three healthy pregnancies, three wonderful births and different experiences with each. I have the joy of those memories that will last a lifetime. It has always saddened me deeply to hear my friends or family members talk of their horrible birthing experiences. They shudder about things gone wrong, unexpected turns in plans, or trouble with the medical personnel they had to deal with. It’s heartbreaking to hear. But more than anything, I can’t bear to hear someone beret themselves for perceived failures about the choices they made, or the experiences they didn’t expect to happen (like emergency c-sections, or difficulty breastfeeding). I would love to help support people navigate those precious moments, and hopefully assist them to create the kind of memories they love to remember and share.

So, this is my new adventure. I don’t know for sure if there is enough demand for doulas in my area to make a good living of it. I don’t have a great grasp of how the whole “on call” schedule thing will work in my life. I don’t know any other doulas, or how willing they will be to partner up with me to act as back-ups. I’m not sure how long it will take to start getting “gigs” or how to set up a proper website, or what I’ll call my new business once I get the training off to a good start. And I don’t know how soon after a couple secures my services it would be appropriate to start cuddling the baby belly and whispering to the unborn child that it is Totally Uncool to start labor on a Beer Friday. I mean, will the mother freak out about that? There are some really strange people out there. Do I really want to work with someone who doesn’t understand the Sanctity of Beer Fridays?

As you can see, this will be quite the Leap for me. There are a lot of details to still work the kinks out of. I’ll need to take singing lessons, get over my repulsion of bad breath, and fight the urge to continuously offer all the baby names I still love but my husband refused. (I mean, seriously. What was so wrong with Sawyer? I mean, can’t you just see him? Little blond, blue-eyed Huckleberry Finn character with a fishing pole? Adorable, right?) The good news is that poop blow-outs will not faze me—if the years as a monkey keeper hadn’t prepared me sufficiently, countless years of diaper explosions and the one incident of a toddler girl finger painting the pack-n-go crib, and splatter painting the bedroom walls with her own shit certainly did the trick. Vomit? Check. No sweat. Blood curdling screams? No pregnant woman has anything on my first daughter’s shrieks from the age of 2 hours until well into her 5th year of life. (No worries, she’s perfect now.)

The opportunity to share in the miracle of birth and being invited into the nest with the nestlings? Priceless. A gift. A blessing.

So, can you cross your fingers that I manage to make my way? Send up a wish, if you will, that I’ll get some calls soon. And if you know anyone in the Ottawa area looking for a doula, give them my name, will ya? I will need to assist two mothers and/or their families as part of my training. I'm ready as I'll ever be.

Creating a new life can be scary, I won’t lie. But there comes a time when there is really only one option left—to push onward and get 'er done. You don’t know what gifts you’ve been given until you get to the other side of the fear and pain.

Maybe understanding that, and practicing it as my lifestyle, makes me uniquely qualified to help others bring a dream come true of their own to new life.


Anastasia (Stacy) Barnhart said...

Kudos!!! I think your choice is awesome and beyond beautiful at that. Often considered doing the same as well. Keep blogging/posting progress and such. I look forward to reading on your New Adventure!! Happy New Year!

Kelly said...

Thank you, Anastasia!! I am so excited. I've got a stack of books, my coursework, and some fun ideas to incorporate into my business. I've never tired of pregnant ladies, pregnancy and birth stories, newborns, and new families.I wanted to do something to nurture people. I couldn't think of a better way to fulfill these desires. I will definitely keep everyone up to date. Happy New Year to you too! May all your dreams lay out your path too. (And if you decide to move to Ottawa and become a doula, let me know and we'll partner up! lol!) (((Hugs!!!)))