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March 13, 2004

Doulas and the Elderly

Some of the birth doulas I've met also work with hospice. I asked one such doula why she would do both. She explained to me that whether she worked on Labor and Delivery or in ICU, the job was still the same, to give comfort and encouragement during the most important day in a person's life.

Thursday, my next door neighbor had a heart attack. She is 77 years old with no immediate family. She came here as a WWII bride from Germany almost 50 years ago.

I've been sitting in intensive care with her. At first, I was there just to be kind, to make things a little easier, maybe lessen the fear a bit ~ To bless her. What I didn't expect was how blessed I would be.

I've learned more about this little lady in 3 days than in the 7 years I've known her. She's told me stories of working with her husband, on a dairy farm in Kentucky. She also allowed her niece to tell me about her life in Germany. Before falling in love with a handsome American GI, she was a figure skater in Nuremberg.

It's as though she needs for the stories to be told. The legacy of her life.

As we talk, I hold her hand. Her fear subsides. Her accelerated heart rate slows. She rests. I understand the truth in what the hospice doula said to me.

Posted by Angi at March 13, 2004 06:16 PM


What a beautiful experience. And what a gift to hear her stories. I used to volunteer at the nursing home beside my college and at the one beside the domestic violence shelter I worked at. I loved to play cribbage and just listen. I am so glad you were there for that woman. What a remarkable gift from you.

Posted by: Kathleen at March 14, 2004 08:55 AM

Nice! I remember a similar sort of experience when I was an x-ray tech. Doing a long drawn out series of x-rays on a very elderly lady and listening to her talk of her childhood 80+ years earlier. What she wore, the food they ate, games they played, school lessons and domestic trivia. It comforted her no end to be able to talk.

Posted by: Jarrett at March 14, 2004 10:46 AM

Angi, what a beautiful image--you holding the hand of that elderly woman and listening to her stories. I agree with Kathleen, that is a gift for both of you.
You are a living example of the compassion that I wrote about the other day.

Posted by: annie at March 14, 2004 01:46 PM

It's very kind what you're doing for her...her story is so sad, she needs someone right now. I'm proud of you!

Posted by: Jonathan at March 15, 2004 02:58 PM