At a recent birth, the family I was helping chose to try some “Therapeutic Rest” so that they could combat the mother’s exhaustion and help her finish her labor strong. At that point, I had been caring for them for almost twenty hours, and I was a *little* tired myself. I saw Momma get snuggled down in her bed, cocooned in pillows and blankets, and Dad curl up on the fold-out bed, also well supplied with comfort, and I turned off lights, tucked in edges, and once I heard snoring, I stepped outside.
It took me a few years of doula-ing to realize that nobody needed me to watch them sleep, and the best way that I could be the best doula possible is often for me to get a little rest, myself. I’ve gotten bold at asking nurses if I might have a pillow and blanket, and then finding a spot close by to rest my head. I usually set a timer on my phone, and poke my head in the room to check on my clients about every hour or so. The nurses also know exactly where to find me, should something interesting happen in between my timer going off.
This was the first time I was at this particular hospital, and the waiting area was completely empty. It was supplied with very upright chairs with wood frames–the kind that only have padding on the seat and the backrest, and there was not going to be any curling up on those. I found a bench, though, pushed it up against a chair, plopped my pillow on the chair seat, and curled on my side. The wood rail that formed the end of the bench dug into my ribs, but I was so tired that I was dropping off right away.
And then, just as I really started to sink into sleep, I head a voice.
“Ma’am? Ma’am, that doesn’t look very comfortable. I think you need something better, Ma’am. Would you like me to make up the bed over here in room thirteen for you?”
I barely mumbled something about thanks, but the nurses knew where I was and I needed to stay there. I don’t know how much sense that made to him, it’s quite possible that he thought I was a loony who had wandered in off the street seeking a warm place for the night. But then, I’d obviously won the trust of the nurses enough to get them to hand me hospital bedding.
“All right, Ma’am, but let me at least bring you one of my bed chairs. They’re a lot nicer than that hard bench.”
I may have nodded something, but truly I was still more than half asleep. I don’t remember anything else until the floor vibrated with the rolling of something huge, and that voice was there again.
“Here you go, this reclines and this comes out, and it lays flat. It’s MUCH better, why don’t you come over here and lay down?”
I sort of stumbled over, collapsed again but into a lovely softness, and re-positioned my blanket over my feet.
“Isn’t that better?” asked the voice.
“Oh, so much. Thank you. This is lovely….” and I was asleep again. I think I heard a chuckle before footsteps walking away, but I didn’t pay attention to anything else until my cell alarm beeped at me.
Whoever he was, I am so grateful. I realized that I never even opened my eyes to look at him, but I hope that I conveyed my very real gratitude enough. In getting some deep rest, I was much more alert and capable when that dear birthing family needed me, and it was a benefit to all of us.
So, I don’t know his name, and I don’t even know what he looks like, but he was my angel in the waiting room.