How Judgment Made Me a Better Doula

I use to be judgmental. Before I had kids I had very definite ideas about how children should be raised, how children should act in public, and of course, what type of parent I would be.

After I had my first, I still had some pretty strong feelings along these lines.

What can I say? Baby #1 spoiled me.

Lucky for me, he would sleep through the night at a very early age and, other than being sick quite often, was definitely what you would consider to be an “easy” baby.

I was just 19 when Biggest was born and I was surrounded by a LOT of opinions on how I should take care of him, especially how I should feed him. Since that was now almost 20 years ago, a lot of the information I was given was already out of date and has since been proven to be dangerous. We made it through, but it had a HUGE impact on how I birthed and raised my next two children. Things I heard and thought after my first child was born:
I don’t think he’s getting enough.” “You need to get up and get moving.” “Try some cereal in a bottle.” “His clothes are too big.” “He’s always sick, why can’t I keep him healthy?” Before he was a year, I was on anti-depressants.

I was 25 when Middlest was born and a completely different person than when I was 19. Aren’t we all? I’d gotten a LOT more, shall we say, “crunchy” in my beliefs and there wasn’t ANYONE who was going to tell me otherwise. After all, I had the internet now and I knew EXACTLY where I “screwed up” the last time. No WAY was that happening again!

Enter high needs baby. Let me count the ways he turned my previous ideas about newborn care on its head.

Jaundice.

Sleeping 5 hours straight immediately after birth, (then never again for the next three years).

Lip tie.

Colic.

Never letting anyone put him down.

Speech delay.

I knew what was best for him though, and I was DETERMINED to make it happen, come hell or high water, or, my own sanity……

When you have a high needs child, the advice from those around you never ends. Things I heard and thought after my second son: “You just need to let him cry it out.” “Stop swaddling him.” “He needs to be swaddled.” “Is my medication doing this to him?” “When are you going to stop doing that?” I went off my medication when he was 4 months because the side effects were worse than the illness, and I worried about how those side effects were affecting my entire life.

At age 28, my Littlest was born. His was an easy birth, and even though he was jaundiced like Middlest, he had none of the other “things” that made the early days tough with his brother. Perhaps it was because I was more confident the third time around, or maybe because those around me knew I was going to do what I wanted no matter what they say, but there was a LOT less judgment the third time around. We still got opinions on our choices for sleep, and the pets we kept, and the way we birthed our babies, but it was definitely lessened by then…or I just stopped listening. Who knows?

It was 6 more years before I took doula training. It was two more years, and a new certification organization before I ever heard the words nonjudgmental support. It blew my mind. It’s what was missing. It’s what I needed. It’s what most parents need. It’s what everyone deserves, but no one is taught.

Nonjudgmental support takes focus, training and practice. It is not something that comes easy in our society.

Nonjudgmental support means I give options and resources to you, so that you can make the best choices for your family. Then, I encourage you to embrace those choices and observe the best way to support you in those decisions.

I’ve been where you are. I’ve made choices for one child and completely different choices for another. I’ve felt what you’re feeling. I’ve had ideas and notions about what I wanted to do, and then changed them to best suit my family dynamic. I’m here for you. I see you where you are now, and I’m here to help, with no thought as to where you should be headed, where you came from, or where you will be in the future.

I’m proud to have come so far as a Colorado doula, and to have had the ability to bring true nonjudgmental doula support to new families in Denver, Colorado Springs, and surrounding areas.

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