If Only I Had A Doula When I Was A Single Mother

 I was an emotional wreck. 

I left my first husband in the spring of 2011. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever needed to do – primarily because my son was 15 months old. The only place I could call home was over a thousand miles away in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. I wasn’t okay when I left. I was having major health issues – both mentally and physically. I felt constant pain, and was in the throes of a postpartum mood disorder. At the height of a mood disorder, it took my doctors months to diagnose fibromyalgia. From there, it took years for me to work through Fibromyalgia as a mind over matter thing and something I wouldn’t accept as part of my identity. To date, I haven’t had a flare in a couple of years.

I thought marriage was forever. That was my intention when I got married. When it was apparent to everyone else, and finally myself, I knew that my ex was a contributing factor to the exacerbation of both my physical health and my mood disorder. And I needed help. Right away.

When I arrived in North Carolina, I had $10. I lived with my adoptive parents who had also taken in a woman and her five children. Nine of us all together lived in a small three bedroom house. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Mostly it was the worst of times. It’s only now that I can call my mom and we laugh at how terrible it was and that we survived. I was in a fragile place, and the woman was bipolar and abusive to her kids. Every day was like a perfect storm. We joke now about how there were knives, panties, and precious moments dolls in the bushes. We did the best we could, my parents and I, to keep her kids safe. It was never enough. We were outnumbered.

We went to laundromats, hung laundry on trees from the front yard, and wondered how bills were going to get paid. North Carolina was like a fight for a person that was already  so close to the brink anyway.

Emotionally, I felt like I was useless, leftovers, broken, a failure. My ideas of becoming emotionally involved with someone in the future were shattered. No one would ever want me. I was a broke single mother with a mood disorder and no job. I started a degree in business administration to distract me and because it enabled me to get food stamps and get a scholarship for my kid to go to daycare. I desperately needed him away from the other family that lived with us for as long as possible. He needed to be safe.  Emotionally, I needed someone to remind me that nothing lasts forever. Any platitude or cliche thing would have helped me. If I had a doula, I know I would have had someone to say, “I understand the details surrounding this, but how do you feel?” There would have been somewhere there to remind me that I’m not broken or a failure. Because none of us are. That’s a fair thing to say without setting any kind of unrealistic expectation. A doula would have helped me work through the spiral of thoughts in my head, and likely would have encouraged me to journal or turn the process into something creative. She likely would have smiled and told me one day this will all just be a memory and it’s up to me to chose my future. Doulas teach us how to advocate for ourselves. Seeing the recent doulas that have sprung up in that area of North Carolina lately, I have no doubts I would have had the best there is. 

I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing

Alex, upon arrival to North Carolina, still didn’t walk. And he was over a year old. I tried to keep the balance between school, a university job, parenting, and really just surviving. He had constant febrile seizures, many doctor and hospital visits, and was delayed in many areas. I worked with an occupational therapist, got prescriptions, saw a neurologist. When he wasn’t in the midst of a medical emergency or working on his delays, I did the best I could to parent him. It was a battle to make sure he had clean clothes and to ensure he’d have something to eat. There were nights once I scored an apartment where I’d be so overwhelmed that I’d sit on the toilet in the bathroom and let him play in the sink and get water everywhere because he loved it. When he had night terrors and screamed bloody murder for hours on end, I let him sleep in my bed even though his little kicks and climbing all over me made the fibromyalgia worse and made me feel like I was on fire. I worried too much about milestones and was filled with dread. If he wasn’t on point for where he should be, I didn’t want to read the happy baby and toddler books anymore. I know that if I had a doula, she would have listened to me  and made a list of his delays and things I could try in a way that worked for me. I know she would have gotten to know my son on a personal level, listened to me, and helped me to connect with local area resources much better than I was doing. She would have a long list of people to connect me with for things outside her scope of practice. And I know a good postpartum doula would have understood why I still needed help 15 months out and longer and likely would have warmed me some food and helped me put my kid to bed at least once. 

My Physical Relationships Consisted of Being Touched Out By Toddler Grabby Hands

There’s a bit of a dark place when you aren’t used to being alone and you’re used to having someone to sleep next to.  I was isolated from most of my family and friends and sleeping alone. There was no one to hug me or lay a gentle hand on me when I was crying my eyes out. My body felt like it was trying to kill me from the inside, and I desperately needed a gentle touch on the outside to distract me from my internal pain. I know a doula would have hugged me.  Seeing me frazzled like I was, she may have even combed out my hair or let me know when my skirt is tucked into my underwear so I don’t go around looking like that. I desperately needed contact with an adult person who understood what I was going through. Doulas have a wide range of experience or can connect you to someone that does. 

Connect With Someone

If you were brought here because of tags for single motherhood, fibromyalgia, or mood disorders, I am happy to connect and talk with you. Those things are some pretty hefty challenges. Don’t go it alone. You don’t have to.

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