We get asked all of the time what our lives look like as doulas. We thought we might give you the light hearted version of what we do and say, peppered with some of the realities of being on call.
Let it be known right away that we love wine. Like a lot. If we have back to back births as I did this past February it is a given that there will be wine delivered to my house for off call. If we schedule a meeting we bring wine. We generally schedule meetings citing wine as the reason to get together. We find a new wine, we share. Someone dies in your family and you don't get flowers.. you get wine. Heck you get a repeat client having her third baby, we cheers you. With wine. So the moral of the story here is this: we don't drink when we are on call. We can shout out on Facebook that we are dying for a glass of wine and wonder if we should open it and a lovely midwife will remind us that perhaps opening a bottle of wine would precipitate a birth. (Cause babies are sneaky like that....) We listen to the reasoning and cry. The crying is mostly because we are all mothers and let's face it...wine is helpful to most mothers. So it is not unusual to hear one of our doulas say " I will just have water because I am on call" at one of our staff meetings. And as soon as her water was finished she got called to a birth and the babe showed up just over an hour later. For real.
At any given time you will hear us telling clients that we will come support them with breastfeeding issues but we better take their number in case we get called to a birth. Then we re-schedule our days. We tell our children of driving age that "sure you can have the car because I am not on call." We schedule our classes around our on call schedule. We have missed holidays, our own children's birthdays, our partners holiday parties and our own wedding anniversaries because we have been attending births. I have been at births on Mother's Day and my own children's plans for me went by the wayside. They absolutely have come to understand this is a distinct possibility in the work I do. I made my son's grade 8 graduation by the skin of my nose because I was attending a birth.
Our children know that they can wake up in the morning and we won't be there. My children have grown up with this and it takes a lot of juggling on my partner's part but has become so much easier as they have grown. Now in the age of texting (seriously cell phones were not even around when I started attending births!) my children are excited to hear how the Mama and baby are doing. This past February they were all on tenterhooks as I attended the birth of a woman that is as close to attending my own daughter as I will get (her Father is a dear family friend) and there were tears of joy from my whole house as the happy news was delivered after she brought her premature daughter earthside. This is most definitely a peculiar lifestyle....yet most birth workers would not change it.
"If I am not at a birth I will be there" echoes in our every day conversations. We drive back from vacation cottages because we have clients go into labour. We go to weddings in other cities when our first time mamas are in the early stages of labour. We are available to them the whole time we are somewhere else. We have back up for each other in case there will be an overlap. We never have to use our back up. We take our cell phones to the soccer field and get called off when our clients call. Our whole team knows what is going on and sends love and well wishes to our Mamas. And they want an update (with permission of course) once the babe is earthside. Then they too, celebrate. Generally with wine.
The stuff that comes out of our mouths turns heads. In the hospital parking garage someone might hear "I am leaving now and yep, she rocked it! Not even a tear and he was over 10lbs. and he nursed like a champ." On the three am car rides home after a beautiful home birth the universe will hear thanks being given up for the privilege of bearing witness to a new soul making their way into the world. Our Bluetooth conversations always end with one of our team mates saying to us "Now go home, get some rest, I will cover your day for you and I will check in on you later. Love you." And we do truly love each other. We have supported each other in our births and postpartum. We have rocked each other's babies and shared milk, we have made dinner when life has thrown us a curve ball and we cannot face cooking. We have cried over losses, laughed over beer pong (or Somersby cider pong....yum) kissed each other's foreheads and texted each other 50 times a day. We have held each other up through family death, crazy stupid family dysfunction and our own children's struggles. Because of our shared passions in birth, breastfeeding and families we mesh like this. We know the lifestyle we all live and the commitment it takes first hand and are truly empathetic with each other. Pushing each other to go on vacation and recharge has become a real team affair....when one of us books a vacation we all cheer and cannot wait to hear the plans come together.
"You need to rest....you haven't slept in days" is what you will hear us say to our Mamas. We also say it to each other. We have placentas in our fridges and my kids know enough that an ice cream container in the freezer does not always mean that ice cream is what is inside. We freak out over Ina May's latest publication and we go crazy over policies and procedures that we know aren't always the best practices for our Mamas. We listen to birth trauma stories, we help process pain, we offer hugs, love and are fully invested in our Mamas. We are a bit crazy, too, at times but we are blessed. Yep, you will hear us talk about a cervix, a uterus, mastitis, blocked ducts and overactive letdown all the time. You will hear us voice our opinions on birth, circumcision, the treatment of children and the importance of evidence based medicine and birth practices. We are a crazy lot, we birth workers. And we love it.