You sleep with it next to your pillow, you take it with you to the bathroom, it stares at you across the table during a romantic date night. Yes, as doulas we have intimate relationships with our phones.
Being on-call plays a huge role in our lives and it changes as we grow and evolve as doulas. Being on-call has played many different roles in my life. My relationship to it has transformed as I grew in my work. There was a time, before I had my children, that I was glued to my phone and my heart skipped a hundred beats when my first clients’ phone numbers flashed across my cellphone screen. I was over the moon to be on-call and to be attending births. I felt like I was an unstoppable force during those first years as a doula. And then I had my own children and being on-call took on another meaning. Gone were the days when it was just my own schedule to rearrange and worry about; now I had a baby in the mix. Suddenly, I had to figure out my own relationship to breastfeeding and co-sleeping and attending births. Should I pump and start attending births in a few months? Should I give it up? Should I just wait and recognize that my life as a doula is redefining itself? Every doula who is also a mother has to reconcile these questions and do whatever works for them. I was in new territory and I didn’t have the answers laid out ahead of time. But really, how could I? I remember a moment when my first son was around 6 months old and a woman called inquiring about my doula services. I wanted to say “yes!” but I clearly felt a different answer come. I simply was just not ready. And the truth is that I loved not knowing where my cellphone was during those first few months. It could have totally run out of juice sitting at the bottom of my purse. It was a huge relief that I didn’t know or care. A few months passed, though, and I soon found myself ready to start attending births. Back on-call, but this time as a new mother. This topic comes up in every training we do with women interested in becoming birth and postpartum doulas. I have had long conversations with women who are really struggling to figure out how to make this work for them. Being on-call is probably their number one fear and hesitation.
The truth is that every family has to figure out what works. I have doula colleagues who started attending births two to three months after giving birth while others waited two to three years until they felt ready. For me, the key has been support from my family and that includes my children. It gives me such joy to see how my young boys already relate to birth and the power of women’s bodies. They talk about pregnancy and want to know the names to all the “girl” parts. They love hearing their own birth stories and the mystery of being inside my belly. They tell me they remember the warmth and darkness. We chat about mama being a doula just as much as we talk about their favorite superheroes. Birth is a natural part of our home. I’m blessed to have a partner who is equally as passionate about me feeling fulfilled in my work. He doesn’t see my work as a separate entity, but as an expression and extension of who I am. We have made it work, I think, because we both appreciate and value each other deeply. We have also needed to pull from our village of friends and community (yes, that includes our trusted babysitters!) to help cover the times when I’m away. And so far it has worked.
Being on-call feels more balanced now. We’ve found a rhythm that works for us and some months are slower or busier than others depending on what’s happening in our family life. My relationship to it has changed as well. What I’ve learned is that I have to trust my life of being on-call. I have to trust birth and all that comes with it. Being a doula is the most unpredictable job but I continue to feel so grateful and can’t imagine my life without it.
How has being on-call affected your life?
All love, Aimee
DTI Mentor and Trainer