We doulas love what we do. Being a birth worker is one of the most fulfilling jobs. It’s fun, empowering, and glamorous. But let’s face it, it can often be physically and mentally exhausting. How does your body feel after being up for 36 hours at a birth? Are your arms sore after doing counter pressure on a mama’s sacrum for 5+ hours while on your knees!?
It took me a few long, draining births to realize I needed a way to decompress after a birth. I needed to dedicate at least an hour to myself to feel rejuvenated. At DTI, a huge part of our program focuses on encouraging doulas to practice self care. It’s so important. It’s what keeps us going.
So how do you find your decompression routine? Maybe it comes to you organically, or maybe it is something more intentional. Years ago, when I was practicing full time in New York City, I often found myself going home in a cab in the middle of the night or on the subway during the early morning commute. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, so usually I had a 45 minute commute. Either way, I was tired, hungry, mentally drained, and greasy. My feet ached and yet I remained in a state of awe and celebration after witnessing the miracle of life and welcoming a brand new being into the world. Whew. Like I said, birth work can be exhausting.
But I will never forget the moment I found my decompression routine. It was 5am and I was in a cab on the West Side Highway. I had just left the hospital after a very long and very beautiful birth. There was no traffic on the highway so my cabby was driving pretty fast. I rolled down the window and enjoyed the fresh air. I popped in my iPod and pressed play not knowing what would come on. The first song of Closing Time by Tom Waits came on, Ol’ 55 (oh good, one of my favorite albums). I leaned back on the head rest, got cozy, and sank into the song:
“Now the sun’s coming up,
I’m riding with Lady Luck,
Freeway cars and trucks,
Stars beginning to fade,
And I lead the parade…
“…And it’s six in the morning,
Gave me no warning; I had to be on my way.
Well there’s trucks all a-passing me,
And the lights are all flashing,
I’m on my way home from your place.”
I remember smiling (wow, this song is so fitting). And, that was that. Now after every birth, whether I’m in the car or in a cab or the subway, I listen to that album always starting with Ol’ 55. It calms and comforts me. It accompanies me back into my life. And the best part, after years and attending many births, every time I listen to that album, just on a normal day, it reminds me of all the births I’ve witnessed and all the strong mamas I’ve held.
So, that’s what I do. I know doulas who take a warm bath or who jump into a natural spring full of cold, cold water or who take a Zumba dance class.
What’s your decompression routine? Do you have one?
Gina, DTI trainer and mentor