A few weeks ago my oldest son had a full evaluation with a psychologist and received the formal diagnosis of Autism and ADHD. My son is 8 now and this diagnosis was one that I fully expected. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that I have known this to be true of him for some years now. Hearing those words in an official sense was not upsetting to me that Friday, but when we first set out on this journey 6 or 7 years ago they would have devastated me. It's been a long process and looking back I sure do wish I would have had a doula to walk alongside me!
When my son was a 2 year old with a vocabulary of 5 words and tantrums that were horrific, I needed a doula. She would have given me space to vent my frustrations and affirmed what I was feeling. She would have offered coping techniques to foster a more positive relationship between my son and I. When I voiced my concerns about my son's development, she would have gently encouraged me to speak to his pediatrician. Attuning my needs and desires, she probably would have suggested that I write down a list of my biggest concerns to bring along to the visit with the doctor! (That doula of mine would understand my own sometimes-frenetic brain and would have known how to keep me focused!)
When other people gave unwanted parenting advice, My doula would have been just a phone call away. I would have called her for reassurance. My doula would have asked me what our doctors and school staff had to say about things. She would have asked me what I felt in my gut. She would have reminded me to trust myself and my child- and also the words of the professionals who are specifically trained to work with children with special needs. My doula would have also reminded me that some things in life require very hard work and sometimes things get more difficult before they get better. And this is normal. My doula would have reminded me that other people have the best of intentions, but that what works for one child and their family may not be the best for another. My doula could have given me a good mantra to focus on in those moments- "Take what you need and leave the rest."
If I had a doula with me all these years, she would have been there with us the day my son finally had his evaluation. She would have been a fun, chatty distraction as we waited for him to complete his testing. When it was time to speak with the psychologist and soak his words in, she would have listened intently and offered encouragement. She may have needed to remind me of a few questions I wanted to ask, but forgot in the moment!
A doula would never have advocated on behalf of my son or myself. That isn't her role. However she would have offered unbiased support and appropriate information- if I asked her for that. Above all, she would have reminded me through the years that Autism and ADHD diagnoses or not, my son is my same sweet sunshine boy.
And we're doing just fine.