How many children do you have?
Content warning: Miscarriage and domestic violence.
I have recently been chatting to someone who needed postnatal support. The subject came up organically and as such, I wasn't trying to sell myself as a postnatal doula but I did mention that it's what I was doing.
She stopped and looked at me puzzled. "You're a doula?" she asked. I wasn't sure why she reacted the way she did but I confirmed that I was, indeed, a doula. She laughed and said "... but you don't have any kids!". At this point, I had to make my excuses and walk away because I could feel the tears pricking and I didn't want to cry in front of someone who could be so horrible.
I have already mentioned in a post via social media that I have more than 20 years of experience working with children. I also have 8 siblings, 18 nieces and nephews and more cousins than I could possibly count! However, I am not a parent. At least, not in the way that most people define parents.
I feel like it is important for me to tell my story if only so people stop asking me and others when we're going to have children!
Anyone who knew me growing up will tell you that I have always loved children, that I've always wanted children. In fact, many thought that being a parent is all I would actually do with my life!
In secondary school, I took childcare as one of my GCSE options and when I went to college, I studied childcare and education. I remember how disappointed my dad was when I told him I was going to study childcare. His words were "You're going to spend the rest of your life raising kids, why not do something different whilst you can?!".
The truth is, I didn't want to study childcare. Not originally. I wanted to be an archaeologist. However, when a careers adviser laughs in your face, you can't really continue down that same path! She asked me if I had any back up plan and I said I was good with kids - there you go, a perfect career for a council estate kid who will most likely be knocked up within a year of leaving secondary school!
Annoyingly, her prediction was correct and I was knocked up within a year of leaving secondary school! I was just shy of 18 when I found out I was pregnant. I won't go into detail but that pregnancy was cut very short by way of domestic violence.
Whenever I am asked "so when are you going to have kids of your own?" it feels like I am on the floor again, trying to protect myself from the boot heading towards my stomach.
Why is that even a consideration? Why must I have children of my own? Even if I DID have children of my own, my birth story would be mine and mine alone. No one bats an eyelid at a male obstetrician or gynaecologist. You wouldn't expect that your divorce lawyer is divorced. Should your psychiatrist have a specific diagnosis of their own?
Having children of my own will not make me better at my job as a postnatal doula (nor as a nanny for that matter!). In fact, you may argue that having a childless doula would be preferable as there would be no childcare emergencies and none of my own "birth baggage" potentially clouding my judgement.
Before I attended my training, I had to do some pre-coursework. I was surprised at the heavy focus on my own experiences. It was a shock to the system for sure but I am at a place now where I have dealt with my grief and I have grown from it. When I attended the course, I was the only student (out of 10) without children of my own and I was concerned it would hinder me but by the end of the course, I was confident that my past experience would stand me in good stead!
Furthermore, it's really rude to as someone when they are having children or WHY they have no children. Please just stop!