A Day in the Life of a Doula

My alarm rings at 6:30, and my morning begins with coffee with my dear, counting our gratitudes and  mapping out the day.

By 6:45, two boys are on their way to high school, and depending on the day of the week,  up to four more members of the household are out the door by 7am, on their way to work or school.

I have fifteen minutes to check email and answer any texts that came during the night before waking the youngest, getting her ready for school and out the door while getting myself ready for the work day ahead.

Morning prenatal appointment at 9am, followed by an hour of phone time. I check in with mamas who had doctor appointments in the last couple of days, check in on the two mamas who had babies last week to see how they’re doing. In the afternoon, I have an hour for updating my records on the computer, getting insurance invoices together while I eat lunch, a phone consult with a doctor at 1, and a new client interview at 2.

3pm, I pick my daughter up from school, come home to say hi to the boys, oversee homework, and then get the grocery shopping done for the next few days.

Back home at 5, I start dinner for the family. We sit down together, our family of 8, as often as we can. Afterward, depending on the day of the week, I might have a client appointment, or a class to teach. There’s navigating the picking up and dropping off at various lessons. On other nights, there are choir concerts, school plays, PTA meetings.

Back home in the evening, there’s laundry to be done, household needs to be tended, and precious time to spend with my beloveds. In the spaces between, there are bills to pay, a dentist appointment, errands to run, a movie I want to see, friends invited over, family members to connect with, and so on.  At the end of the day, today’s undone “to-do’s” are added to the top of tomorrow’s list.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or, none of the above. Any day, any time, no matter what I may have planned, I could lift right out. When the “come now” call happens, at least once a week, my life screeches to a halt as I make a quick change, grab my birth bag, and get in the car. I might be out of bed in the middle of the night. I greet the sunrise through a hospital window,  bleary-eyed, having spent the last twelve hours with a laboring mama. My sitter gets a 6am wakeup call, asking her to step in where I cannot, to tend the morning in my absence. My clients get last minute calls to say that I won’t be seeing them today. My family might move through the day without me, while I miss the school play, the dinner guests, or the tucking in at night.

I’m often asked, “Isn’t that hard? How do you do it?”  In my view, I’m the lucky one – I’m getting to do as I love. My family’s needs for food, clothing, and shelter are met by my getting to live my passion. Sometimes, I might have a pang of, “Oh, I wish this was happening on a different day”, but when I’m present at a birth, most of the time I’m not thinking about  being anywhere else.

Committing to someone’s birth means giving them the privilege to take the reins over a day in this precious, beautiful life of mine. I get the blessing of being part of a miracle. It’s my family that pays the price. It’s the people I love who have learned that I may or may not be home when they get here. I may or may not be at the concert, the Halloween parade. The boys might have to make dinner. The laundry might wait yet another day. My kisses  and “Good night, I love you” might be by text. It’s my dear friends who accept that I may not make it to the birthday party. Inviting them over is always iffy. My mother’s phone call to ask how I’m doing might go unreturned for two days. That these who are so dear to me love me anyway is my greatest treasure.

Without their acceptance, flexibility, and support, I couldn’t do it at all. For the people who love me, I am truly grateful.


Beware the Hive Mind!

A stranger on the internet says: I chose a great birth center to have my baby in, but as of this morning they say that I’ve risked out. I don’t want to have my baby in the hospital. So, I’m reading a few things about unassisted homebirth, and I’m thinking that my husband and I can do this ourselves. We’re planning to call the paramedics when I’m delivering so that they can be there to help.

A hundred people in reply say:  Heck yeah! That’s a great idea! You can do it! Don’t let them bully you!

Another stranger on the internet says: My sister’s doctor says that she needs to be induced tomorrow. I’m trying to talk her out of it. How long should I tell her she can wait?

Another hundred people say: Tell her not to show up! Wait as long as she wants. I know someone who went three weeks after her due date, and she’s just fine!

And here on the other end of the screen, I sit on my hands.

I can’t believe that I even need to say that this is a bad idea on so many levels.

We have NO other information about these mamas. We don’t know why the practitioner that she knows and has chosen to trust with her medical care is advising her to make this decision. We don’t know what her birth center has said, or why the OB is concerned enough to think that the baby is suddenly safer on the outside. We know nothing of test results, or mama’s health, or signs that the baby may need help.

As a birth community, when we advise blindly to ignore medical recommendations, we are just as much in the wrong as the practitioners who apply all interventions to everyone regardless of need.

As doulas, childbirth educators, or even online birth junkies, it’s great to encourage and support. Mamas no doubt need the community around them who is willing to say “You are so strong! You can do this!”  Yes, we are in this together seeking to learn, and sometimes, we might know information that is relevant and useful.  However – these decisions should never be left to the opinion of strangers on the internet. When we cross the line into saying, “Don’t listen to anyone!”, we are taking the risk of jeopardizing the wellbeing of a mother and baby we don’t know. This is a serious breech of ethics.

We may be a lot of wise women, but we do not possess the collective wisdom to know what is best for a person that we have never met, that we cannot see, who has been advised by a practitioner that we don’t know, about medical facts that haven’t been shared.

My answer?

Mama needs to talk with her practitioner. Ask the benefits. Ask the risks. Ask the alternatives. Ask if doing nothing is an option. Then, make her own best choice. No hive mind needed.