I have a doula client that is due any day, and it’s making me crazy.
The first time I heard the definition of a doula, I knew that I wanted to be one. That was a couple of years before I got pregnant with Joan and Kate. So when I was pregnant, I was adamant that we would have a doula, even though my husband was skeptical. Now he’s a banner waving believer. For both of my labors we’ve had the same doula; now she’s also a dear friend.
I started the process of doula certification when Kate and Joan were about 18 months old. During that process I also got hired to teach childbirth classes. The two are a perfect match for each other. I am a birth junkie, surrounded by birth junkies, and I meet a new group of pregnant women (and potential clients) every 5 weeks. I cannot think of a better arrangement.
I love being a doula. I really, really love it. But it’s also very hard. Basically, once a client contracts with me, I am on call for her until her baby is born. This means that, depending on their due date and when they contract, I’m on call for a month or two (sometimes even more). Usually people deliver close to their due date, except for when they don’t. And there is no way to know this ahead of time.
I was so excited when this couple asked me to be their doula. It’s always an honor, to be chosen to be present for such a special day. But, as usual, the excitement has worn off to be a vague dread. Will they call me tonight, just after I’ve fallen asleep? Will it be Sunday, when I’m enjoying my day with my family? Or worse, Tuesday, when I don’t have many good daycare options?
The details overwhelm me. And yet, I feel called to do this work. Also, everything always works out. The other women I teach with are doulas too, and we always back each other up, if there is a conflict. The thing is, there is rarely a conflict. And always, always, always, once I get to the hospital, everything else disappears, and I am where I want to be in the world. It’s the getting there that’s hard. The transition of dropping my (very busy) life and entering the world of a laboring woman/couple can be a shock. However, I fall in love with every mom, every couple, every baby. I am high for days afterward. I am never “used to” the miracle of birth. If anything, I am more stunned each time I witness it.
The last birth I attended was very hard on my doula spirit. The doctor decided to do a Csection, due to baby’s low heart tones (which means the baby is not handling labor well). The mama had some other underlying health concerns, so she was at peace with this decision. She was only dilated to 1 cm and had been in labor for about an hour, and yet she was happy to meet her baby sooner rather than later. One thing led to another, and her STAT Csection was delayed about 1 hour. When her baby was born, he was born limp, blue, and completely lifeless. He stayed that way for between 5-10 minutes. I stood there, frozen, video camera in hand, praying the life into that little body. They were bagging him (forcing oxygen into him). It was tense but very controlled. No one panicked. He’s 3 or 4 months old now, and totally fine.
Since then I have not actively taken any clients. My family has had the medical year from hell, so I’ve felt my nurturing spirit was best used here at home. But when this very cute and sweet couple from my small group at childbirth class asked me to be their doula, I simply couldn’t resist. And I am so excited to be there for them. But damn, it’s hard to wait and wonder and not stress about how it will all work out.
But it ALWAYS does work out. It’s just so hard to remember that sometimes.