photo of the day (in memory of karen kilson, cd dona, cce)
I met Karen in 1996 at Danbury Hospital. We, along with a couple of hundred other women, were there to apply for one of 30 odd positions being offered as childbirth doulas in the hospital’s new and groundbreaking doula program. The hospital had placed an article in the local paper and I think they were a bit surprised at the response. Karen and I were both lucky enough to be selected. I’m pretty sure that if fate hadn’t have thrown us together, our paths would not have crossed. I’m so very glad that it did, because Karen was a rare gem.
The 34 women who were lucky enough to be chosen got to know each other a bit during the first days of doula training and as we worked together to make the program a success, we became more of a family. All of us shared a passion for helping women have the best hospital birth experience possible. We supported each other, listened to each other’s birth stories and together we learned how to mother the new mothers in our care.
If I had simply met Karen at a party or on the street, I wouldn’t have pegged her as the doula type. I don’t even think I would have imagined that she would have been selected as a doula in the first place because she didn’t fit my mold. I was a pretty crunchy granola, breastfeeding, natural childbirth advocate and well, Karen just didn’t fit that bill. Isn’t it a good thing I wasn’t in charge? As I learned from getting to know Karen, believing a certain way or living a certain lifestyle wasn’t the criteria for being a doula. Having a bg heart was and Karen’s was the size of the entire state of Connecticut. Karen jumped into being a doula with both feet, took off running and as far as I know, she continued caring and educating expectant couples up until the end.
Although I had to leave the doula program shortly after my daughter Clare was born, Karen and I managed to keep in touch on and off throughout the years. She helped me retain my sanity when my children were still babies by passing on her sage advice as a more experienced mother. She made me laugh when I wanted to cry. I called her once when my son was little and I was particularly sleep deprived and at the end of my rope. “Do you have any cheerios?” she asked. I told her I did. “Go get them.” “OK,” I thought. “Now what?” “Now lick one,” she said, “and stick it to his face.” “Feel better?” she asked. Strangely, I did. We talked and I made cheerio designs on Nick’s face while he sat in his high chair, not complaing a bit about the pieces of cereal stuck artfully to his cheeks, forehead and chin. It was pretty hard to do anything but laugh and Karen laughed right along with me.
Karen cried with me, too. When it was clear that my sweet little dog, who had been my companion before I met my husband and had my family, was ready to make her journey across the Rainbow Bridge, Karen came through for me yet again. She drove me to the vet’s office and sat with me as I said my goodbyes to my dearest little friend and together we cried at her passing. I hope that Karen knew just how much her being there meant to me. I don’t think I could have handled that task on my own. I knew that there wasn’t anyone else who would understand what I was going through like Karen.
As I became more and more busy being the mother of two young children with a husband who traveled almost 200 days a year and Karen began her own venture as a private doula and childbirth educator, we spoke very rarely. Our last few words were emails through Facebook and I hadn’t spoken to her in ages when I learned of her death. The world just isn’t the same without Karen in it. My heart goes out to her family and loved ones who are learning to deal with her absence.
If you are interested in the wonderful work Karen was doing as a doula and childbirth educator, you can still visit her website: Birthways