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I don't Let my past define me. I choose who I want to be. I choose my story moving forward.
I don't want pity or sympathy but I do have a story.
I have to go way back. In 1994, when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I was the driver in a devastating car accident that immediately took the life of a 16 year old friend. Another friend clung to life after being brought back with aggressive CPR, she wasn't expected to make it through the night. She recovered slowly with a crack in her skull and some severe liver lacerations. She learned to walk and talk again through an inpatient rehabilitation center. She never regained hearing in her left ear. The dark and winding back roads of East Texas were unforgiving and I spiraled into a period of my life that left me numb to just about every experience I had. I carried great burden on my shoulders that only compounded when I received word that the father of the boy who died committed suicide because he was so lonely after the loss of his only son.
I didn't cry over any of this for several years. It was so overwhelming, I couldn't allow myself to feel fully....anything Really. I wasn't drinking that night. I wasn't doing anything I shouldn't have been. I simply lost control of the car on a very steep hill.
I found myself in a situation in my very small hometown where I was judged, isolated, and bullied. I had worked at a burger place in town for almost 3 years with no issues from anyone... People were friendly for the most part, and if you know me, you know that I do everything 100%. I am a hard worker, I'm dedicated, loyal and friendly. After the accident, I didn't work for a while. I also didn't/couldn't go back to school. I wasn't physically injured but I basically became a zombie. I withdrew mentally and emotionally. When I did go back to work and Sunday church would let out, it became evident that I needed to take my life somewhere else. People would no longer let me serve them or even make eye contact with me. The rumors were flying and I was being labeled in the most ridiculous ways...from Being a drug addict to a Satan worshipper. I knew I was a good kid.
My mom got me to enroll in some art classes and a high school diploma program at the local community college but my heart wasn't in it and I didn't finish.
I moved to DFW in 1995. I moved in with a guy I had known only a few months. I tried to enroll in the local high school but after the counselor heard my story, she didn't want me. She talked me into attending an 'alternative' school that ended up being a very bad match for me. I didn't finish.
I found myself pregnant after only 6 months. I was 19 when I was married and Emma was born 3 weeks later. My life took on new meaning as I had a newborn to focus on.
I was the best mom I knew how to be and I became a stay at home mom.
When Emma was a year old, I had a small awakening and decided that I was horrified that I was a teen mom, had not finished high school, and never got my driver's license. I packed my bags and went back to East Texas to enroll in the community college program and get my high school diploma. It took 3 weeks for me to get my diploma and my driver's license. I was beginning to come out of the fog.
Despite a very unhealthy relationship with Emma's dad, I became pregnant again less than 2 years after Emma was born.
Sydney was a happy and healthy baby. I hired a doula to attend her birth and even though I did not get my desired outcome, her support meant the world to me.
I was a pretty happy stay at home mom. I became involved in some non-profit groups and even decided that once Sydney was old enough, I would like to become a doula myself.
My husband told me that it was "a pipe dream" and pressured me to get a "real" job. Things began to spiral out of control in late 2001. Emma was 5 and Sydney was 2.
Things became hostile and knowing I needed to quickly find a way to support myself and 2 kids with zero education and zero job skills, I took a job waitressing. My husband took my credit and debit cards and left me no funds to even feed the kids. I knew I had to get out of this controlling and abusive situation and deeply regretted foregoing education and job experience. I had no money and no support.
He hired an attorney. He set a court date. I called the court and and explained I didn't have an attorney and needed more time... I was grossly misinformed by the woman on the other line who told me the date could be postponed and to just let my ex know we needed to reschedule. I did that.
I was served with papers that day. I lost my children. It was the most devastating day of my entire life. My girls had never spent a single night without me. Ever.
I had 5 days to move out and nowhere to go. I won't go into detail about where I ended up. I managed to get a credit card and charge attorney fees so that I could have my girls half the time.... Only I wasn't able to because I wasn't willing to bring them to stay with me and I was focused on finding a job that supported us. I saw them long enough each week to drive them to my parents in East Texas where they stayed the week, then helplessly deliver them back to their dad. I was simply surviving. It was the darkest time in my life and it's painful to think about now. It only lasted 3 months, but it feels like so much longer.
The day I went to court, I went to eat lunch at a restaurant... I met a couple of men in suits and they recruited me to come sell cars. I was 24. I went to work for a Lincoln/Mercury dealership and was finally making a living wage. I got an apartment and when I found the conditions of the daycare my kids were being taken to by their dad, I drove to Houston and back that day so my sister could start watching the girls. They finally came to live with me.
Things were looking up.
I really enjoyed my job. My bosses liked me so much they created a position for me. I excelled.
In April of 2002, I entered into a new relationship. I finished my doula certification but back then, I was told not to charge for being a doula. I worked for free or very very little money. I sacrificed for my clients. I took a job at Lover's Lane Birth Center doing insurance claims and front office work. My boyfriend helped me pay for daycare and I became deeply dependent on him. When he could no longer help me, I quickly learned that I couldn't survive on what I was making. I was evicted from my apartment. I became homeless for the second time in less than a year.
I was lucky. I was accepted into a program called GRACE. I was given a place to live where my rent was based on a percentage of my income. My 3 year old went to an amazing daycare in downtown Fort Worth while Emma went to kindergarten in North Richland Hills. I enrolled in a tech school for medical assisting. I sacrificed a great deal to keep my kids safe in those days and spent an average of 3-4 hours a day driving where I needed to go.
But I goofed up again. I put myself in a relationship and situation where I wasn't supporting myself. I left GRACE and moved in with my current husband. I graduated from the tech school with president's high honor roll in 2003 and went to work for a family practice and then internal medicine doctor. I LOVED it. I worked front and back office. I became pregnant with Katy in 2005, got married a second time, and quit my job to stay home again.
I left a job I loved to stay home because I thought it was best for her. It was how I was raised.
I didn't know that my own fulfillment and happiness mattered. I naively believed that independence didn't matter.
I intermittently worked as a doula and came from a very old school way of doing things. My doula philosophy was much like my mothering philosophy. Give, Give, Give. I hardly charged any money and found myself barely alive after some births. But it was the life of a doula...and I loved doing the work.
Ava, my VBA3C baby, was born in 2010. She was a surprise.... And I was drained.
I found myself an empty shell. I had given my soul to take care of my kids. In all the years I had been alive, I never took care of me. I wanted more. I wanted to quit being a doula because it was literally killing me and my family.
But I had no relevance in the job market. I had chosen to stay home with my kids.
I'm not going into detail but my marriage started to fall apart. I was financially dependent on my husband for over 10 years and could not support myself....now with 4 children.
In 2012, I began to work very hard, to take my profession seriously. I decided to make business changes and when that happened, I stumbled upon an organization called ProDoula. This will turn into a book if I write about what ProDoula means to me....so I will save it for another day.
I will say that I am a professional. I make a respectable living. I have formed relationships with doctors, midwives and nurses along with other healthcare professionals. I have received recognition and awards. I have taken multiple trainings and am educated. I am certified. I have done something that I was told I could not do. I have built a career out of what started as a hobby. I was shunned and ridiculed and I have come out on top. I believed in myself until others believed in me. I am on my own and have 4 children I am taking care of. I have never been more proud in my life to stand on my own two feet. I LOVE my job. I take pride in what I am doing because I am doing it in a way that serves me and my family, not just my client.
This way, I have more to give my clients.
Do what makes you happy. Do what fills your cup. Don't get in situations where you cannot support yourself. My children are seeing me succeed and that will do more for their success than anything I ever say to them. I will NEVER put myself in that situation again. At each ProDoula advanced business training, Randy Patterson says that we should be in relationships because we want to be, not because we have to be. I can't agree more.
I am proud to charge a fair fee to be a doula and you should be proud to work with me. My success as a doula makes your path as a doula easier.
Edited to say: I was never physically abused. I don't want to mislead anyone. I have shared my story in a way that conveys my message in the most honest and respectful way I can. My older children are 19 and 16 now so I feel comfortable sharing more details about that experience. I also have a very normal ex-husband/ex-wife relationship with their father now. Our marriage was not healthy and our divorce was absolute Hell. It took years for the hostility to lessen.
Because of my preparation this time and work as a doula, the split has been near seamless and drama free. In fact, only a handful of close friends even knew we split. No, I never posted on social media that my marriage was over. I respect the fathers of my children and do my best to have a positive relationship with each of them.
Abbey is a birth and postpartum doula and placenta specialist in Dallas/Fort Worth and a mom to 4 children between the ages of 22 and 8.