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  • Writer's pictureNicole Sivers

I Wish I had a Doula When my Daughters Contracted Lead Poisoning

But doulas are for expecting and new moms, right? What if you could hire them for more?

In November, of 2014, my youngest daughter turned one. Like other one year olds, she had her finger pricked to check for lead. She had a level of 19. 19?! They reassured me that finger pricks are often inaccurate, but to be safe all four girls should get blood work. Finger pricks are inaccurate alright. My oldest had a level of 6. (no big deal) My youngest three’s levels, though, were scary. Two in the high 30’s and one (Olivia) was a high of 41! Hospital admission for medical treatment becomes necessary at 45. Naturally, it was all uphill from there…

The health department inspected our home and told us what to clean and what to eat. Our entire home, from the basement up, was saturated in lead. They didn’t seem convinced that we were already taking these measures. We washed hands constantly and forced as much iron, vitamin C, and cilantro down their throats as we could and were retested. Olivia’s levels went down a couple points, GREAT… Or so I thought. We kept it up and thought that it would continue. Wrong. On February 5th Olivia was admitted to the hospital for Chelation Therapy with a level of 49.

Meanwhile, over the past 2 ½ months, we continued to pay our rent while our landlord ignored the fact that his rental property was contaminated with lead and it was making my family sick.

For those who are not familiar, Chelation Therapy requires a five day hospital stay hooked up to an IV and a separate IV to push fluids into the body because Chelation can ruin a person’s kidneys. Then, following discharge from the hospital, the patient can never return to the place making them sick because their system is too vulnerable. Yes, you drew the right conclusion. In order to keep our family together, we were homeless.

With no close friends and family to turn to, we were forced to seek out the little bit of family we had to beg to let us stay while we figured out our next step. They didn’t want us there and we didn’t want to be there, but we had no choice. We did our best to stay on top of our family (as we are a family of 6) and get out of there. After six weeks, it just couldn’t go on any longer. We had to pack up our van and leave with nowhere to go. We ended up at the Volunteers of America (a homeless shelter) in a one bedroom, 150 sq. ft. apartment, that was $40 a night and $10 a piece for each child. That’s $80 a night, $560 a week… To be homeless. We were there an additional six weeks.

You’re probably thinking, “what the heck took 12 weeks?” Well, you see, once this happens every place my children stay in (let alone live in) need to pass a lead inspection. That makes sense, right? What doesn’t make sense is the countless laughs, nos, and hang ups from potential landlords when they found out under what conditions we could live there. It took three months to find a place to live that was certified lead free.

It is now June, 2016, and we are still dealing with the consequences of lead poisoning. We are still not allowed to take our daughter into a home that has not been tested for lead and are still (little did we know) required to adhere to regular blood work to check their levels.

While having everyone so focused on the well-being of my daughters (which I am of course grateful for) I really could have used the nonjudgmental support of a doula. Just having someone ask how I was doing or tell me I’m doing great coping with this would have been so great to hear. Having someone familiar with my situation that I could form a personal, trusting relationship would have

made the world of difference.

If only I had someone with the knowledge and compassion of lead poisoning. If I had received the educational support I needed, might have known that New York requires regular bloodwork. I also would have known that if you fall a little behind, expect a visit and threats from Child Protective Services.

While a doula could not make my daughters better or find me a place to live, just having someone there for ME unconditionally would have changed my entire experience. A doula’s job is generally directed towards expecting and new parents, but the situations in which we could use a doula’s nonjudgmental support are endless. A doula’s main priority is to offer nonjudgmental support to their clients. We do that by providing physical, emotional, and educational support. Tell me human beings only need that kind of support throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and into the postpartum period.

Other than birth and postpartum, when could you have used a doula?

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