Doulaing, you say? Hmmm, that also sounds vaguely familiar…
Last December, 2013, I thought I had finally found my calling and I signed up for a four day Doula training workshop at Mother Tree (one of THE places to train in Portland). The workshop seemed to confirm everything I was thinking about becoming a Doula and it felt so right. Friends and family thought it was perfect for me and I felt like God was opening doors and leading the way, I was so excited!
But then, last Summer, I worked with two clients. Two amazing clients who trusted me as a student and invited me into their lives for an extremely personal, intimate, and miraculous occasion. I was honored, and still so excited, but also a bundle of nerves.
I felt absolutely useless at my first client’s birth. I knew my first would be awkward and I’d get more comfortable the more I did, but I felt so out of place. It was her third baby so she knew what she was doing, but I didn’t. I hadn’t met the husband yet, and I was fine with that until the day of the birth, we introduced ourselves and then I was trying to figure out our balance. If I tried to comfort her would he think I was stepping on his toes, would he think he should have been the one to do it? I ended up letting him handle things if she was closer to him, and if she was closer to me I’d try, but I was NOT a natural, and that really surprised me. I do know I’m more quiet and reserved, but I also think I’m empathetic and compassionate and figured I’d be much better at offering comfort and encouragement. I just hope I didn’t take anything away from their experience by being there in all my awkwardness.
With my second client I was probably too open about my feelings and nerves, I didn’t really have a client filter on my mouth. She was someone I had started to get to know as a friend beforehand because of other connections, and I think all my sharing-as-a-friend did nothing to promote confidence in my abilities to care for them during their birth. I should have employed the time-tested method of “fake it till you make it”.
I will forever be grateful to these two clients! Even though I ultimately decided NOT to continue pursuing the Doula path, it was an extremely clear and easy decision. Why not? Well, even with the awkward learning experiences above, the one thing I wasn’t the least bit worried about ended up being the thing I hated most, and there’s no way around it: being on-call.
As a doula you start being on-call 24/7 when the mother is 38 weeks, and if she goes past her due date, her Doctor may allow her to go until 42 weeks before inducing. For every client there is a potential of 4 weeks on-call. In order for me to stay busy enough as a Doula to make it my full-time job, I would have had to take on mom’s with due dates about 3 weeks apart, and with that 4 week potential, it would mean way more on-call time than off.
What exactly did I hate about being on-call?
- Needed to stay within a 1-2 hour radius of where the mom is planning to give birth, for obvious reasons. This is negotiable with the mom, but you want to stay close so you can get there ASAP when she needs you.
- Needed to stay in cell-phone range at all times, again, for obvious reasons. This can also be negotiated with the mom beforehand. For example, when I was on call last Summer we were talking about going hiking and I had to tell Mr. Won’t Run that wasn’t an option since I wouldn’t want to risk losing cell service, especially if I got the call at the top of a mountain, then we’d have to hurry back down and speed back into town. As a Doula you are in very close contact with the mother, if she’s 38 weeks and not showing any labor signs at all then you’re probably good to go if she signs off, it’s not like you’d drive 90 minutes out for an eight mile hike if she was 40 weeks and had lost her mucus plug.
- The main reason… I slept terrible! Even though the phone is right next to me at night and I’d check, double-check, and triple-check that the volume was on and it was plugged in and charging, I was sure the one call or text I’d miss would be theirs. I thought it would be easier with the second client, but it wasn’t, and I can’t live like that. Mr. Won’t Run will tell you, I neeeeed my sleep.
These reasons really aren’t the end of the world, and I know a lot of people who don’t mind being on-call at all, but it was CLEARLY not for me. I’m okay with that, but really disappointed since it seemed like all signs were pointing towards being a Doula. I am still fascinated by all things menstrual/fertility/pregnancy/labor/baby, but I’m not really sure what to do with that. Placenta Encapsulation? Infant Massage? Sonogram Tech? I don’t know…
So… it’s still the 8-5 grind at my cubicle day job, but it pays the bills and I can’t knock that!
Do you feel like you’re working your calling?