Your doula

Things are different now from the way they used to be. In an ideal world, everyone would be so supported by their communities and “villages” that my job wouldn’t exist. your doula

But our world isn’t ideal- families live far away or are working, we’re stretched thin, we’re isolated, and it seems like everyone around us is busy. Not your doula. Your doula is not too busy because your doula is there for you.

We go to our doctor appointments and we wait an hour for ten to fifteen minutes of face time. Unless there’s something urgent on our minds, oftentimes our questions leave us in the moment, or we forgot to write them down, or we think of something on our way out the door. Who is there for us then? Who has answers, or knows how to get them? Google? Friends who may or may not understand? Our parents who gave birth in a totally different world? What if we just need to talk about something, and it’s not necessarily “doctor-worthy”? Your doula can help. She can listen, validate concerns, calm fears, help you think of questions, help you avoid Google and direct you to the best source for the answers you seek. She’ll never judge, never think you’re silly, and is a constant for you. When we go to give birth, often it’s just us and our partners punctuated by hospital staff coming in and out at various intervals but never able to stay for very long. They care about you, but they are also focused on making sure your baby is healthy and safe. It seems as if nobody is there exclusively for you, not even your partner. He’s having a baby too, and his focus is divided between you and your baby. He has needs of his own that must be met as he tries to balance them with meeting your needs. What if he gets tired? Anxious? Hungry? As much as he wants to be, he cannot be there exclusively for you.

Your doula can. Your doula is the only one whose job it is to prioritize you and your needs. Everything she does revolves around you.

She is a buffer, someone who makes things easier for everyone around you. Her presence and support ensures that everyone around you can focus on their jobs because they know you are taken care of. She supports your partner by helping guide him in supporting you better. She can be the firm hands on your hips so that he can be the gentle voice in your ear.

She takes the pressure off of him to be everything and instead gives him the freedom to be himself, the one who loves you and the one you need in that moment.

Your doula is experienced in childbirth and knows how to anticipate your needs. You have work to do, and she helps you to make the most of it. Your doula knows what to say to give strength and encouragement to everyone around her, but especially you. After your baby is born, your doula rejoices with you and begins the work of adjusting pillows, snapping a few candids of those first moments (if you’d like, of course), and helping you as the rest of the world melts away and your world is now on your chest. She assists you as you settle in until she sees you breathe deep, that sigh that tells her that it’s time to slip away. Don’t worry, you’ll see her again at home soon, when she will sit down with you to answer your questions and talk about anything you need, whether it’s your birth or how beautiful your baby is.

When everyone else is there to see the baby, she is there to see you, because her work is making sure that you are cared for and that you know how important you are to her.

My Nanoo was a nurse

As told by Lindsey Hanna, co-owner of Doulas of Memphis Nursing has always been a significant part of my life. My grandmother, whom we affectionately referred to Nanoo because little Lindsey couldn’t quite get out “Nana,” was a nurse. She was like another mom to me and had a significant role in my upbringing. My mother worked when I was small, and we were able to avoid daycare because of Nanoo. She had recently retired from 30+ years working as a nurse, and all of those years were spent in the Baptist system. She was my role model and the reason I became a nurse, too.

Being a nurse runs in the family

If nursing isn’t in our blood, it’s pretty close. Nanoo became a nurse because of her aunt, but not before waiting a couple of years after high school so that she and her sister would graduate at the same time. They were roommates in a big new city, and they jumped in and graduated from Baptist Nursing School (now known as Baptist College of Health Sciences) together in 1953. Here she is in 1955, getting ready:

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My turn

Nanoo was spunky and fiercely loyal to Baptist. She “guessed it was okay” that my aunt worked at St. Francis because “they ain’t no competition anyway.” When I was in nursing school at Baptist College of Health Sciences, the same college Nanoo went to, I mentioned to her that I was considering pediatrics and working at Lebonheur. She said, “That’s in that Methodist Corporation, isn’t it? I don’t want no granddaughter of mine working at Methodist!” Eventually she conceded because it was the only pediatrics hospital around. To be fair, Nanoo also said she would disown me if I ever got a tattoo. I still don’t have a tattoo, and I never embraced the Methodist rivalry, and that’s okay.

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Good enough for me

She was funny and sharp as a tack, and one heck of a cook. The only milk I would ever drink was Nanoo’s milk, even though she got in the same jug from Kroger as the rest of my family. The rest of my family didn’t serve me milk in a chilled mason jar with a handle, and the rest of my family didn’t pour it quite like Nanoo did. Her cooking was “never good enough,” and she was always fussing about this or that detail that didn’t turn out quite right. It didn’t matter because we loved it. Biscuits and gravy, pot roast, cheesy potatoes, peanut butter pie, muscadine pie, strawberry fig jam were the smells of my childhood.

Just like my Nanoo

Nanoo had strong hands, hands that could peel boiled tomatoes, and if you ever had an ailment of any kind, she had the tools to fix it. She taught me to sew, to cook, to can tomatoes, to crochet, and when Nanoo taught you something, you went big or went home. My first sewing project was a reversible vest with pearl buttons, my first crochet project was a full sized afghan, and it’s no wonder that to this day I can’t do anything halfway. I looked like Nanoo, and wanted to be just like her, and that meant that I was going to be a nurse...in the Baptist system, of course.

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I worked as a nurse in restorative care for two years and labor and delivery for three years before the birth of my son, and Nanoo didn’t blame me for taking some time off to be a Mom. She patted me on the leg, which was her version of a great big hug, and said, “That’s all right. He needs you.” Nanoo was a nurse in a simpler time. Nurses had more time to sit and nurture their patients, to treat them like family. I never went back to nursing, but that nurturing spirit that my Nanoo had, fiesty as it was, led me from nurse to mom to doula.

Nurse Appreciation Week

Even though I’m not working as a nurse right now, I will never stop appreciating the work that nurses do. It will always be a part of who I am, and who my family is. If you haven’t recently, take the time to thank a nurse in your life not only for what they do, but for who they are. Show them that you see them, that you see their work, and that it matters to you. Because nurses matter to all of us. My Nanoo was a nurse, and my life will never be the same because of it.