You are handed a tiny, precious being, born to this world very recently. You are completely in love. Authoritative medical figures come in with packets of paper and tons of information, and tell you lots (and LOTS) of things about this little creature, but mostly a list of safety rules and all the things you are ABSOLUTELY NOT TO DO IF YOU WANT THIS CREATURE TO STAY ALIVE. And then, they send you on your way. Back home, where you will be ALL ALONE with this vulnerable being whom you can apparently kill by looking at sideways or maybe you will do absolutely everything right and they will still somehow die (the medical people warned you about this too). You are wracked with uncertainty and doubt. You’ve interacted with larger versions of this creature and they seemed easy enough, but this? This is new. This is different. This is the weight of their world on YOUR shoulders and you have to not only not fuck it up but somehow be GOOD at it, lest you be judged by the entire internet.
Your first night home with the creature, you wake every hour to make sure it’s breathing (unless it wakes you first). Your brain fills with questions, which you write down and debate calling the 24/7 emergency number to ask, but then decide you can stick it out til morning. The moment the doctor’s office opens, you are on that phone, rattling off a list of questions from the mundane to outlandish “what ifs”. You are consumed with both a love and a fear so great you worry you will drown in it.
I am talking, obviously, about bringing home foster kittens. (What did you think I was talking about? 😉 )
I was a long-time postpartum doula when I brought home my first kittens. I already had two regular cats who were pretty self-sufficient when they moved in. These guys were much younger, and so vulnerable. The shelter people, while lovely, basically sent me on my way saying “Don’t kill them! See you later!”. I finally understood what my friends meant when they said they were terrified to leave the hospital with their new baby and couldn’t believe they were allowed to take him home.
I wished so fervently that there was someone to be there with me, answering my questions, telling me I was doing a great job, bolstering my confidence, making food for me so I didn’t have to extricate myself from under a small, warm, sleeping body. Someone who KNEW what she was doing but ALSO didn’t make me feel stupid for asking a million questions. I wanted help figuring out which of the rules were hard and firm, and which were more guidelines. And hey, if she wanted to scoop some litter and wash some food dishes, I wouldn’t have stopped her. 😉
You know what else? I wanted someone to celebrate with me – to gush with me over how RIDICULOUSLY CUTE they were, and every single thing they’d do. To really help me fully share the joy of the whole experience and not just drown in worry and tasks.
I needed a DOULA.