Maybe it’s time to admit defeat when the third doula falls through

One time when I was six or seven, I asked my parents how to spell a word. Their response was “look it up in the dictionary”. I distinctly remember feeling helpless, my response was “How do I look it up when I don’t know how it is spelled?” The way I knew to navigate a dictionary was using for definitions, not figure out spelling. I didn’t have the right framework to figure it out. Honestly, I’m still pretty terrible at figuring out how to spell things with dictionaries, spelling and editing aren’t my strengths as a content strategist.

That experience and countless others at home, school, and elsewhere taught me two things: first, is that at the end of the day I can only rely on myself (I didn’t say these were good lessons). The second I learned much later: when you can’t figure something out, it’s often because you don’t have the right framework.

Caregiving is hard. Especially if you’re helping someone who is navigating the medical system. Doubly so if you’re taking care of them 24/7—even if it’s only for a short period of time. If you want to successfully keep your head above water, you need a framework.

At the end of the day that’s why I wanted a doula. Even though my surgeon and the rest of my medical team are great, I wanted someone who has experience advocating for other trans folks as they worked through surgery. I wanted someone with experience to tell me whatever I was going through was normal, and no, I don’t need to go to the ER and yes, those stitches look weird but they’re fine.

Even though I have two amazing partners who are going to trade off for the first and second months taking care of me. Even if they’re only here for a month each, I want them to have breaks and be able to live their own lives. because even as people tell me all I should have to do is focus on my own healing body, that’s not how reality has ever worked for me. As much as I just want someone to take care of me, that’s just a lovely fairy tale. Other people can not just drop their life to take care of someone else because the world keeps moving even if I’m bed bound.

My anxiety comes in waves, it settled down a bit after the fundraiser, but without a doula it feels like it’s gone back up. It feels like I am playing the role of product owner, project manager, lead designer, and individual contributor.

That is untenable.

Trying to find a doula myself was nearly a 12-month task and I failed. And that’s because I didn’t have a framework for figuring out how to find one other than typing search terms into duckduckgo and hoping for the best. The fundraiser got off the ground because Chris said “Cordelia, let me ask you a few questions and then just do it.” If I had to do it myself, I’d still be staring at a blank screen.

And if it’s untenable now, then after surgery it’ll go from untenable to impossible. And so even as I know everything will be fine, it feels a little like I’ve gone back to the beginning, still without a framework for understanding what I don’t know about recovery. Still without a framework for asking for help on things I don’t know I’ll need.


Now read this

[Interlude] My brain is preparing for surgery is like it’s a term paper

I rarely pulled all nighters in college. I’d stay up late the night before a paper was due and get up early to polish and finish, but I’d usually let myself sleep for a few hours. I’d do that because I’d often dream about the paper and... Continue →