And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.(Matt. 6:12) (KJV)
I like to be informed and prepared. It eases my anxiey. It makes me feel safe. So you might be able to imagine what someone like me might do with internet access during a first pregnancy. As I began my info-glut, it seemed everywhere I turned I found information indicating the value of a doula.
My mother and my sister live over eight hours drive time away from me. My husband is a wonderful, loving and supportive man but he is disabled. Attending the birth was going to be challenging enough for him without acting as a labor coach. I didn’t feel right asking my mother-in-law to take on the role (she is sweet and amazing and most likely would have said yes.) My sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) is an RN but she also works full time and I had no way of knowing what day I would go into labor. One of my college roommates was a practicing doula at the time and I would have hired her instantly but she lives about a 5 hour drive away.
So….hiring a doula sounded like a perfect solution. I wanted someone to help me concentrate on my Bradley Method relaxation exercises. I wanted someone to help me use my essential oils. I wanted someone to help me through labor using drug alternative methods to deal with the pain. I wanted someone who would advocate for me and my wishes when I might not be able to do so. I also wanted someone who would stay with me even if I did decide to have an epidural or worse, had to have a c-section. These are all typical duties a good doula fulfills.
I spoke to my mother about my thoughts and she generously offered to pay the doula’s fee. (Our finances were tight. With a third person soon joining our household, I feared I wouldn’t be able to convince my husband that the expense was money well spent. He didn’t think natural childbirth was a good plan for me anyway.) I started hunting online for a doula. (Mistake numer one.) I found several that sounded good and picked one to interview.
The online description of her skills and experience sounded perfect. Her webiste looked beautiful. Her fee was extremely reasonable. She lived close enough to get to my local hospital within an hour. She was at least a good place to start.
Her name was Terry and we met at a Panera for our interview. She interviewed perfectly. I liked her right away. She said all the things a good doula should say. She claimed to share my faith. She had no problem continuing to support me if I chose an epidural. She was not afraid of standing up, respectfully, to a physician on my behalf. The stories she told me of her background and experiences were remarkable. I was sold. I stopped my search.
We made plans to meet again so I could give her the signed contact and her fee and discuss my birth plan in detail. I wanted to build a stronger relationship so I would feel absolutely comfortable having her by my side in the delivery room.
We met again at the same Panera a few weeks later. It was almost an hour drive from my house but she was very busy and had a client who was due to go into labor anytime in that city. It was a good meeting. She assured me that she was lining up a back-up doula who would come to me if she was unable to do so (which would only be if she was seriously injured or ill). She told me that it was a little harder to find a back-up doula willing to drive the extra hour that would be needed if I had to deliver at the women’s hospital. (My baby’s heart might have a defect requiring me to deliver there, we were unsure at the time.) She even surprised me by telling me that she was wanting to start buying essential oils to use in her practice and she would like to buy them from me! (Not something I was aiming for at all, but great news!) I gave her the signed contract and her full fee in cash. I left our meeting on cloud nine.
Next time Terry was going to come meet with me near my home. She only had one client left to take care of and then only me. (She was moving to Florida in August and I was due in July. I was going to be her last client before the move.) She was also going to bring her back-up doula along so I could meet her.
But things started to change. My calls and texts went unanswered first for a day, and then for several days. When she did return my calls she was very sweet and always had a great excuse. She kept pushing back the date of our next meeting. She still hadn’t secured a back-up doula but that was okay. She would find one. She insisted that she would most definitely come herself anyway.
Less than a week before my due date she cancelled our meeting yet again. She told me that a wind storm had blown a tree down across her driveway and she couldn’t get her car out. She had called guys to remove the tree but they were very busy since there was so much damage down in the area. They surely would have it removed in a couple of days. She would call me to let me know when she could get out.
She didn’t call me.
I went into labor the next day– about four days before I was scheduled to be induced. On the way to the women’s hospital I called Terry and left a message. I sent her a text message. She replied the tree had not yet been removed but the men had been working on it all morning and surely it would be done soon. I was to keep her posted.
We arrived at the hospital. My labor was confirmed. I was dilated to 4 centimeters. I texted her this information. That was the last time I texted with her that day.
I was busy breathing and concentrating on relaxing. My mom started texting my doula for me and sending me updates. Eventually even that became too much for me as my pain increased. By the grace of God my sister-in-law was able to come to me. She applied counter-pressure to the unbearable pain in my lower back during my contractions.
I was wearing down. The pain was too much. I started crying and screaming during the contractions. I asked for the epidural. They have two anesthesiologists at that hospital at all times. Each of them were in one of the operating rooms with a C-section. They could not come to me. I felt like I was losing my mind.
The nurses tried four or five times to get an IV started on me. I told them after the first failed attempt to try the crook of my elbow. They didn’t listen. They sent for a different nurse to try. It didn’t work. They explained my elbow crook was a bad location for an IV because every time I bent my arm it would cut off the flow of fluid. Finally, with my arm a bruised mess, they gave in and were able to place the IV successfully in the crook of my elbow. I didn’t really care at that point about my arm or the pain from trying to start an IV and failing. I was too busy trying not to lose myself completely to the pain in the rest of me. I just wanted them to get it in right so I could have my epidural.
Finally the beautiful, glorious anesthesiologist came in with his magic shiny needles and drugs. The nurses sat me upright. I had a massive contraction and warned them I was going to throw up. I didn’t–but that was when my water broke. The contraction leveled off and the anesthesiologist did his work. Almost instantly the pain evaporated. I felt amazing. I loved everybody. Except my M.I.A. doula.
I let my mom know I had gotten an epidural. She told me she had offered to pay for a rental car and a cab to pick my doula up so she could come to the hospital. Terry had refused the offer. As far as we knew she had still not left her house.
After the epidural took effect a nurse checked my dilation. I was at nine centimeters! If I hadn’t been so tired and so relieved that the pain had stopped I would have been livid. I had been in transition and nobody told me. I had been sooo close to giving birth without the drugs!
Of course, as is often the case, my labor stalled as soon as they started the epidural. I stayed at nine for an hour and then hit ten centimeters. Time to push! Except I had never pushed before and I couldn’t feel anything. The nurse told me when to push and I did try. I curled up and told my body to push. I was just getting the hang of it when the On-Call GYN and his resident came to see me.
He expressed his disappointment in my progress. He had expected the baby to be crowing by now, but the baby had not even dropped into the birth canal. He told me he would come back in an hour and he threatened a C-section if I didn’t make a lot of progress. He gave the order to cut my epidural in half and started me on a pitocian drip.
I hate to think what it would have been like if he had removed the epidural completely. I also like to think it would have been better without the “help” of the pitocian. I am pretty convinced that I would have been able to push effectively without it because I could feel the contactions perfectly well. Too well for my taste.
In fact that’s all I could feel. I pushed and pushed and pushed. The baby’s head started to crown. They told me to stop pushing while they moved me to the OR to deliver. I did not obey them. I kept right on pushing. In between contractions I begged them to increase my epidural again. I screamed. I begged. I cried. I pushed.
So there I was in the very brightly lit OR with at least ten people standing around just watching me as I begged and screamed and pushed. The GYN and his Resident stood at the foot of my bed with their arms crossed watching. I wanted to kick them in their masked faces, especially the GYN. (Can you imagine screaming for help while everyone just stands around staring at you? I wish I could forget.) Finally I knew I was running out of strength. “Can’t you do SOMETHING to HELP me?!” I demanded, addressing the GYN. Yes. They could do an episiotomy. “Is he going to come out without one?”
No. They were standing there watching me knowing that my baby’s head was not going to exit my body without my body tearing or them cutting me. AND they hadn’t seen fit to share this information with me.
“Then do it,” I said.
I don’t know what I sounded like in that moment. I felt more rage and more desparation and more helplessness than I ever had before. They waited until the next contraction and then took a pair of mayo scissors to my perineum. I felt the cutting. I am sure I screamed.
One more push they said. One more push I provided and then he was out.
They cut the cord instantly. They rushed the baby to the warmer to be checked. My former audience scrambled. They now had work to do. I was no longer the center of attention.
The nurse who had helped me count to ten for my pushes and who had been holding my right hand left my side. That felt horrible, her leaving me. It was a cold reminder that we were not friends, she was just doing her job.
The baby cried. They called my husband over to meet him. Meanwhile the GYN had delivered the after birth and was starting to giving step-by-step instructions to his Resident on how to sew me back together. I felt every drive of the needle. They insisted that they had injected me with lidocaine and they couldn’t give me any more. I cried out in pain. My legs shook violently and they told me to hold still. I couldn’t stop the shaking. My body was exausted and my nervous system was shot.
A nurse brought me my son to hold. He was a nice distraction to say the least. Everything around me faded to the background including the pain of the stitching. All I could see was his little face, he was wrapped up tight and wearing and a hat. It felt like the warm little bundle in my arms was making everything okay…
I wanted to hold him forever, but he had to go to the NICU to have an echocardiogram. Our time was short. For me the repair work continued a while longer.
I was still being repaired when the neonatal cardiologist came in to tell my baby’s heart looked fine. (God bless that sweet man, he could have easily sent someone else but he came in himself.) I shead some tears of relief and thanked him. The stitching was finally finished and I was rolled back to my labor room.
My hand-holding nurse catheterized me. (I only mention this because I didn’t feel it. So at least the the lidocaine or the epidural was good for that much.) She turned off the epidural and disconnected my IV.
My husband had left me to introduce his parents to the baby with my blessing. They couldn’t enter the NICU without him. The nurse left me also after her tasks were complete. It seems weird to me to leave a person alone after such an experience but no one else seemed to think so. Nothing felt real. I stared out the window at the black night outside for a few minutes. I looked at the clock and called my workplace and gave a quick update. (I was a third shifter and I knew my people would be working and waiting to hear from me.)
The nurse came back to wheel me down to the NICU. The baby’s blood sugar was low and they wanted me to nurse him. I happily complied (with help) and soon got to meet and hold my son properly.
Terry never did arrive. Supposedly she had been thirty minutes away and turned around when my mother informed her that I had received an epidural. (If this is true she did that with the full knowledge that I still wanted her with me. She knew that from day one. I watched her writing it down.) But I don’t think she ever left her house. I don’t think there ever was a tree across her driveway. I don’t think she ever intended to lay eyes on me again after I handed her that envelope of cash.
Terry, the so-called doula, called to “check on” me a few days after I got home. I could not speak about my birth experience with out breaking down. I told her about the post-traumatic flashback I had the day after delivery. She told me to get counseling. I told her I wanted half of her fee refunded to me. Our contract stated that half of the fee I paid would be refunded if the doula did not attend the birth. She informed me that her lawyer told her that she was not obligated to refund anything. She also said that despite not being obligated she felt like she should give me something. She was going to think about it and would call back to let me know what she decided to do. Weeks passed.
You can probably guess how that turned out.
I was too naive. She had never offered me a reference to call and I didn’t even bother to Google her. I trusted her blindly.
Guess what you find when you do Google her? She was at convicted thief. This information comes complete with local news footage of her being escorted before a judge! She stole thousands of dollars from a youth hockey league that she was in charge of and got caught. She pled guilty. She was fined and given probation.
Can you imagine? I had been played for a fool and lost my mother’s gift. I didn’t know there were people out there running doula swindles. It seemed too evil to imagine, that kind of coldness and intentional betrayal of a woman at her most vulnerable, so I did not do my research. I trusted a stranger and got burned.
I could not tell anyone my birth experience for a long time without weeping. It had been the exact opposite of what I wanted. The Doctor was a jerk who was annoyed that my labor took too long for him to go home for his kids’ birthday. There was no one to champion my wishes or to remind me that I didn’t have let them pump me full of pitocian. Because my “doula” betrayed me, I ended up with a third degree episiotomy. My son didn’t get any cord blood. (When I asked the doctor why he didn’t wait to cut the cord as I had requested, he informed me that there was no benefit for a full term infant. Which is untrue).
I was traumatized. I was furious. And most of all I felt that Terry, the woman who masqueraded as a doula, owed me a debt. She had coldly taken my money, emotionally manipulated me and betrayed my trust. It was because of her that things went the way they did. I did nothing to deserve it, other than being foolish enough to trust her.
At first I used my anger to survive my pain. I blasted her name far and wide on social media. My mom considered suing but the transaction had taken place over state lines and Terry had probably already left for Florida. It was hopeless.
After a time, maybe eight months, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that I had to forgive this woman. I was shaken. I didn’t know how to do that. Usually when someone hurts me I find a way to believe they didn’t intend the harm they caused or that they could not help it or something like that. But what Terry had done to me? Intentionally taking advantage of me and betraying me? I could not understand. I couldn’t justify it. How could I forgive her? She was not even sorry.
I remember a story my mother read to me when I was young about Corrie Ten Boom. If you don’t know who she is you should look her up. After getting caught helping the Underground smuggle Jews to safety during World War II,she survived imprisonment in a series of nazi prison/death camps. After the war, she was approached by a man who had been a nazi guard during her imprisonment. He had been in the congregation to which she had just finished speaking. He came toward her to shake her hand. He was rejoicing in wonder at God’s forgiveness of his sins! Corrie was not feeling forgiving. Can you imagine the trauma that seeing him again must have triggered in her? She felt strongly convicted that she was to forgive him. But she could not make herself do it. So she prayed for God to help her forgive him. She still couldn’t do it. So Corrie asked Jesus to give her HIS forgiveness for this man. And it worked! God filled her heart with His forgiveness and love. She was able to shake his hand sincerely.
I knew when you get that nudging inside that you need to forgive someone, and you can’t, you ask for help. As children of God we are commanded to forgive. We are commanded to love our enemies. If we refuse to forgive those who hurt us we cannot receive God’s forgiveness. Our hearts slowly fill with bitterness and hate, they harden. Our souls get sick. What was just a wound becomes infected and begins to turn our souls septic.
I know that you don’t forgive a person because they deserve it. I know that I have done things that I certainly did not deserve forgiveness for. But God loves and forgives me anyway and I depend on this utterly. Who am I to accept such mercy and not extend it?
So I made a conscious choice to forgive Terry. I asked God to help me do it. I did not feel it. I consciously quit dwelling on my hurt and anger. I slowly quit wishing for her to suffer. I willed it and I and asked God for help. It felt hollow. It felt fake.
But the Spirit in me started to stir my spirit from the moment I made my choice. I was made able to forgive myself for foolishly not checking Terry’s backgound and not demanding refrences. I was able to forgive myself for losing my mother’s gift of a doula. I quit beating myself up. My shame disappated.
When I think of her now, and about what happened, I am able to stay calm. She isn’t hurting me anymore. I do feel concern that she will do to others what she got away with doing to me. I don’t know what else I can do about that. I guess I should lay that in God’s hands as well. But honestly I haven’t forgiven her yet– not completely.
I thought I had until I was about half-way through writing this. It’s not over for me at this point, to say it is would be lying. But I also I know that I choose to obey. Sometimes that means walking in that obedience for a while. Or in other words, I choose to forgive her over and over. Reading Corrie’s story again also encouraged me. It reminded me that I can ask for more than help.
I can ask for Jesus to give me HIS forgiveness and His love for Terry. Even though the thought of this made my insides quaver, I did do it a few days ago. I took a few deep breaths and then I asked. “Jesus, please give me Your forgiveness for Terry.” I even said it out loud.
I don’t know what happened in the spiritual realms when I did that, but I felt only the slightest of changes in mine. I wasn’t miraculously flooded with instant agape love for Terry.
Honestly, I was a little relieved when that didn’t happen. I am sure my faith isn’t as strong as Corrie’s was at that point in her life so maybe I just need to walk in my new prayer for a while. I am determined to forgive her. I will not let this one small loss sicken my soul forever.
I am feeling led to start praying for her. Luke 6:28 may be my answer. I’ll let you know.