Birth doulas provide emotional, physical, and informational support to mothers and their support people during pregnancy, during birth, and shortly after birth as well.
I have been a doula for over 6 years now and thought I’d some share about some unknown parts of this career.
“Unless I’m at a Birth”
If I had a dollar for every time I said this line, I’d be a trillion-aire!
I’d be happy to volunteer at school—unless I’m at a birth.
I’d love to drive to soccer Thursday night—unless I’m at a birth.
When that phone call comes that a client is labor, my family’s lives revolve around the laboring mother. I even have spreadsheets about the time of day/activities/drivers/etc. to make sure my kids can make it to school and activities! PS–my favorite time of day to get a labor call is in the middle of the night. Everyone is sleeping at my house, and it’s so easy to hop in the car and go to a birth!
To counter-act the amount of time I’m on-call, I don’t typically take many summer birth clients and none in December. I’ve missed my kids’ birthdays, my birthday, anniversaries, baptisms (I was the godmother!), and countless family parties. We plan vacations nine months in advance so I am not leaving when I have a client who might deliver. I’m beyond thankful to have supportive family and friends who help me out and understand that babies aren’t predictable!
Blood, Needles, and Hospitals
I’ve had some people tell me they could never be a doula because of the blood and needles involved. I remember the first birth I attended and remember it was a bit nerve wracking. Would I say the right things? Be helpful, but not in the way? WOULD I PASS OUT?!?! (I remained conscious the entire time.)
I’m not a huge fan of needles or blood, and often both are a part of birth. During the actual birth of the baby, I’m usually concentrating on the mother making sure she’s feeling supported through motivating words and cold wash rags. (LOTS of cold wash rags!)
I haven’t felt like I was going to faint during any births, but when I’m extremely tired, I do think about the possibility. My go-to remedy for those moments is Altoids because peppermints can fix anything! I consume a lot of peppermints during births!
Long & Fast Births
The longest birth I have attended was over 48 hours. That mother was AMAZING! To this day, I don’t know how she did it.
The hardest part of attending long births is that I get home sick for my family. After long births, I also have to recover. My legs are usually really sore from standing so much, and I am so hungry! I also get “jet lag” if I’m awake all night, so getting caught up on sleep is hard!
On the other side, fast births can also be really hard! The fastest births are ones I missed because those babies had their own agenda about entering this world. Those are very rare. While the majority of births happen in the “normal 8 to 18 hour range”, the quick ones occur a few times a year too!
When doulas are not attending a birth, there’s a lot of business that needs to be done. Interviewing potential clients, networking, marketing, banking/taxes, and continuing education take up a good chunk of time. I happen to really enjoy this part of doula work (most days!) and enjoy owning my own business.
It is really exciting to support a mother while she’s birthing her baby, and I doubt I will ever lose the emotion I feel of watching a baby take its first breath and of the mother going through so much to birth her baby, however that baby arrived.