Just three months after we got married, I ran home over my lunch break to find a huge utility van in the parking lot with a big hose coming out of the back and in to our apartment building. Excited that they were FINALLY getting around to shampooing the carpets like I’d asked, I bounded inside to grab lunch and head back to my office. 

Squish.

Wow, this is the most water I’ve ever seen anyone use to clean carpets.

Squish squish squish. 

Why is the water coming up over my feet? Wait, why is there water raining out of the recessed lights in our dining room, onto those wedding gifts that hadn’t made it out of their packages yet??? 

I wish I’d had a doula for that moment. When I called the apartment manager, she informed me that the pipes in the unit above ours had burst that morning and they were working on cleaning it up. Uncaring that this had upended our lives and destroyed our things, she said that the cleanup crew would lift up the carpets and put some industrial fans under to dry it out, and that we should be okay to stay there while it was going on but it would be loud for a week or two. When I pressed, she told me I should find a hotel if I didn’t want to stay there and that my insurance might pay for it. 

I was stunned. My flood doula would have validated my feelings.

“It’s understandable that you’re shocked and upset; you were certainly not expecting this and it’s a lot to take in at once. How are you feeling about the choices the apartment manager has given you?”

After a few hours of thinking about it, I decided it was unacceptable that the complex not only didn’t tell me about the flooding so that I might save some of our things, but also did not offer any apology or remediation to the situation. I was angry and I wanted to find a new apartment. My flood doula would have said,

“It’s okay to switch apartments if you don’t like the way you are being treated here. It may seem like you can’t possibly switch in the middle of all this upheaval, or like you are stuck here based on what they are telling you, but I can assure you that plenty of people have made a change in similar scenarios. I have a list of apartment complexes if you want to look for a few to interview, and I can help you come up with a list of questions to ask! It’s also okay if you decide that you do want to stay here after you think on it for awhile; I can also understand not wanting to make such a big change in times of stress. Let me know what you need from me; I’m here when you are ready to talk about it.”

I pulled out our lease and found a clause about being let out of the contract if the conditions were unlivable. I called the office and was immediately told that their policy is that unlivable means no heat in freezing temperatures and that if I wanted out of my lease, I’d have to pay a fee. Insert flood doula:

“Sometimes it’s a knee-jerk reaction to say that something is a policy in order to make things easier on the person delivering the information. The apartment manager must have a hard job being the go-between for the lessees and the owner of the apartment! You can go along with what she is saying (either stay or pay to get out of your lease), you can question what she is saying and ask to speak to your apartment owner, I can check with a few of my apartment manager friends to ask if the information she gave you is accurate, or you can consult with a lawyer and push back a little. What are you feeling like you want to do?”

A little threat of a lawyer goes a long way–I not only got out of our lease, but they also refunded our May rent and paid our power bill for that last month. I still needed that flood doula long after the flood was over! My family agreed to sell us a family home, we cleaned it out and started some renovations on it, then on closing day they backed out! We lived with my grandparents for six months as newlyweds, in limbo while we were trying to sort out the home sale. My poor husband stayed out of it, having no clue how to support me through it. Our flood doula would have facilitated a discussion between us and helped him figure out how to support me and be involved in the decision-making process: 

“It is so hard when your plans go awry and you don’t feel like you have any control. Do you think your wife might want permission to drop this family home sale and start house-hunting, or do you think she really wants to purchase the family home and is needing to hear that you support that? Would you like to surprise her with a dinner out tonight and you can start a conversation about what she wants to do? Or maybe you would like to type up a letter to give to her if it is too hard to talk about it? I can help you brainstorm a few plans of action so you can support her either way and make the best out of this situation.”

Flood Doula would have been as integral a part of our first-year-of-marriage team as a labor and postpartum doula is to your birth and parenting team. Ultimately, I wanted a doula because I wanted the support that doulas provide:

  • encouraging us to communicate our needs respectfully with the professionals we have hired
  • helping us maintain control through difficult times
  • facilitating connection with our loved ones
  • being our cheerleaders through it all
  • Making sure our loved ones are able to get the support THEY need, whether it’s reassurance, rest, or a listening ear
  • sharing information when we want it to assess our options
  • assisting us in forming our ideas into a plan
  • supporting us in our choices without an agenda
  • helping us when circumstances change to decide which things from our original plan we might be able to compromise on
  • showing us how our team can still honor the deeper intentions of our plans when we can’t “check all the boxes”
  • validating us through the roller coaster of emotions that come along with it all

The best doulas offer something that few people in this world are capable of: unbiased, nonjudgmental support in times of stress, change, and unfamiliarity! What life event would YOU hire a doula for?

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About Kate Herzel

Kate Herzel is the co-owner of Heartland Doulas alongside Stacy Ash, and together with their combined 20 years of experience and 7 doulas, they help people have really amazing birth and postpartum experiences. In her spare time, Kate enjoys cooking with her kids, brewing beer with her husband, and entertaining for her friends.