I don’t think I mentioned yet that the night we gave BG his first dose of chemo, I also got my first call from a mom in labor. While I worried about whether or not he was going to spend the night puking (he didn’t), I also busied myself worrying about finding this young mom another doula. I never did. The very next night, a doula in charge of volunteer doula work in our area called me to ask if I could go to a birth that night. I found myself looking up and saying, “Really, universe? Fucking really?”
I have since put all my doula books up on a shelf. I packed up my binder with all my forms, put my doula bag on a shelf in the closet. I won’t be pursuing this for a long time. The clothes I have been buying to be comfortable doula work clothes are now my pediatric oncology ward clothes. They’re my walking around San Francisco clothes. My going to a blood draw knowing that we’ll be back in the hospital until goddessknowswhen waiting for a platelet transfusion clothes. They’re my meeting the entire pediatric staff of one of the nation’s leading hospitals clothes. They’re my cry myself sick and pass out from exhaustion clothes.
But they’re not doula clothes.
I can’t help but be sad about that. I was just getting started. This was going to be my thing. I was going to be a great doula. I had so many plans, had mustered up so much courage, and for what?
I have had a few different people say to me that my training will serve our family well. I’m certain it will to some extent, but isn’t any mother going to do anything she can to help her child through hospital stays and procedures and pain? It doesn’t take special training. My wife tells me I’ll come back to this. I say it too, tough I wonder whether I am really going to want to enter a hospital again after enduring the coming year(s)? Am I going to have it in me to help people welcome their babies into the world? I don’t know right now. Fortunately, I don’t have to know now. There is no way in hell I would risk spending precious moments away from my son at this point. This is my singular focus.
For now, I’m even taking time off from my usual online work. I can’t imagine focusing on writing skills. It all seems so trivial, so banal. Who gives a shit about comma splices and thesis statements when your kid has fucking leukemia? I can’t even pretend. For the second time in three years, I’ll be taking advantage of FMLA. I’ll take my Paid Family Leave. I never imagined I would need them for this purpose. I’ll take every bit of help I can get so that I can care for my boy, but I really hoped I would need these for another baby, not for that second reason–the caring for a sick relative reason.
They say that this recovery is going to take a full year. We’ve got home chemo to build up to the transplant. We’ve got two blood draws a week as well as platelet and blood transfusions as the chemo and the cancer deplete his counts. He’ll have a bone marrow transplant when they find a match, but leading up to that, we’ll have intense in-patient chemo, and following, we’ll have up to two months of waiting to find out if it worked, waiting for his immune system to begin to develop again, and then months of his body recovering. I’m certain it’s going to be a large slice of hell, a hell for which there is no training. It’s a hell filled with anxious guts, blood running cold, walking down the street feeling like someone took a giant ice cream scoop to my center.
So really, what does it matter that I can’t be a doula when I have that ahead of me? My old hopes and dreams have been boiled down to this: I want my son to live. I want him to be healthy. I want him to grow up. I will wish on every candle and eyelash and shooting star to make these dreams come true, for they are all that matter now.