Being a doula is one of the most unpredictable jobs. Being a mother and a doula makes our job even more unpredictable. I worked for five years as a doula before having my first child. Originally I thought having a baby would be a continuation of my birth work. I was already working so closely with mothers through pregnancy, birth, and the postaprtum period, so having a baby of my own would be a natural extension of that, right? Wrong. It took me by surprise when motherhood and being a doula seemed to be working against one another. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I knew I wanted do attachment parenting with my baby — I wanted a family bed and I wanted to feed my baby breast milk exclusively. My personal preference wasn't to pump or give a bottle. But now my parenting choices were colliding with the logistics of my work. I was unprepared. I talked to other doula-mama friends. Some were lamenting their inability to attend births, others were pumping or bottle feeding and going back to births at two months, while still others planned on taking a year or more off to focus on raising their children and being the primary caretaker. As we say in birth, we have the honor of watching babies and mothers come into the world. But when you're watching yourself come into the world as a mother while trying to maintain a doula practice, sometimes the view can look pretty murky.
As trainers we frequently hear questions about how to balance motherhood and birth work. We've all been through the transition of having a doula practice first and then becoming mothers second. Here are some things to help you navigate the fine art of being a mother and a doula. It is certainly an ongoing learning process!
- Be patient. Discovering your parenting style is a process that you learn over time. We're growing as parents (and doulas!) while we watch our babies grow.
- Decide for yourself how much time you'd like to take off. Is that an option for your family or do you need to get back to work?
- Do you want to breastfeed exclusively or are you planning to pump and/or bottlefeed?
- Support, support, and more support. You can not be a successful doula without back-up support and a lot of community support. Line your numbers up and make sure that you feel comfortable with your caretakers. You don't want to be second guessing your child's care at a birth. Being fully present is important.
- Give yourself the space to try it out at first. All babies are different. Some babies are more predicatble than others. It may be easier to have a sense of what your baby or child will need as time goes on.
- Going back to work for every woman is a process that involves making decisions for yourself and your whole family.
- Stay flexible. Being on-call has it's challenegs, especially when you're juggling your children and family life.
- Know when to slow down and recharge. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our families and better serve and support families.
What is your experience of being a mother and a doula? How do you balance your birth work and motherhood?
Stay tuned for more as we continue to explore this topic in future posts.
Love to all,