When I was about six months pregnant, I commented "I think we should have a doula."
Ever-practical Patrick was like "Why would we need a doula? I'll be there." (This is the same man who when I said "If I have a c-section would you go with the baby or stay with me?" said "What, is this one of those Cosmo quizzes?")
Eventually he agreed, though, that having an extra person around for Beatrix's birth would be a good thing. And the first time we met Vanessa, when we walked into Dunn Brothers to meet her and she was curled up with a 450-page book, we knew she was the right person for us. One of the best decisions we ever made).
Over the next several weeks, we spent a lot of time together as we tried different techniques to turn stubborn Beatrix around from breech (it worked!) and come up with a birth plan that we felt good about and Abbott would not pooh-pooh.
When we went in to one of our last pre-natal appointments, and they decided to admit me, Patrick called Vanessa who remarked casually "I'm already packed up. I figured it would be the case."
And I don't know that we would have made it through the next 30 hours without her. She helped me live through pitocin, being hooked to a monitor and unable to move much, 2 epidurals (the first one failed), and a totally stalled labor. She hit McDonald's (the only place to eat) in the middle of the night with Patrick. She talked her way into the delivery room for the c-section. She stayed with me for the hours after, while Patrick was with Beatrix to be checked for her heart murmur (guess he passed that Cosmo quiz).
For the next few months, she would come over and help me learn to nurse. She cooked, teaching Patrick an awesome curry. She carried Beatrix around in a wrap so I could get some sleep. She cleaned. Westley fell into our pond. She knew more about our early life as family of three than anyone else.
And after that, we got to be friends with Vanessa. We got to see her (far too rarely), and talk, and Facebook message. We got to share joys and sorrows with each other. Vanessa was so prevalent in both — so much joy and sometimes, so much pain. The joy made me feel better about the world. The pain made me want to fix it, somehow, but I never know how. I just knew it was wrong for someone so vibrant to be feeling it.
I'm never going to get another chance to know. Vanessa lost that battle with that pain on Sunday. The ripples of shock, and pain, and sadness throughout so many people I know are deep. I'm surprised, honestly, at how deep they are — and how many people are so deeply and strongly affected. It's nice to know that the love I felt for Vanessa was not at all unusual, and to realize how much she touched and so many.
I really wish she had known that. I really wish it could have helped.
(it's kind of a bad picture, but one from that night in labor)