Friday, July 13, 2007

Doula Client

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.

9 comments:

Brillig said...

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I had a doula at my first three births (all at home) and she was amazing. But I can only imagine the stress! My first baby was born 19 days after her due date. Yeah. That's a long time to be on call like that!

My sister is a doula and a midwife and when she lived nearby I used to be her on-call babysitter, so that at the drop of a hat, she could run off to a birth and have her kids taken care of! Crazy life you women lead, but WOW you sure make the world a wonderful place!!!!

I hope you'll tell us about this birth, when it ever gets around to happening... I'm kind of a birth junkie myself--can you tell?

Doulala said...

I could have written this post myself!
My twins were born in February '03, and I attended my first birth in August of '04.
I'm finding that the longer I do this job, the more relaxed I get about being on call. When doing birth work it's easier if we learn to go with the flow, just like women in labor.
The twins have been very helpful in teaching me this lesson too. :-)

desperate housewife said...

I'm so excited to have a doula at my upcoming birth, my second. But I do feel bad for her, because now I'm dilating early and might go early like I did last time, so she's basically on call ANY time from now until my due date. And she's leaving on vacation with her family next week, and then to LA to be inseminated for an Australian couple she's surrogating for. Stressful summer!

feener said...

What an interesting, amazing career.

Erin said...

Very cool. I cannot imagine doing what you do for a living. I think it's amazing, seriously. I would have a tough time handling the intensity and all the what-ifs. I have a hard time handling those things in my own life.

My own perspective on my upcoming birth is to have a few expectations as possible. It sort of forces me to remain flexible. It worked the first time around (things went very smoothly, not necessarily according to any plan, but smoothly), so hopefully it will work this time too!

I hope it goes well with your client. Keep up the good work, woman.

Anne said...

How funny you post this, as the hband just asked me this weekend if you're back into the doula gig after Marin's arrival. How lucky we are to know that you're the best doula, ever -- with the best timing, ever. That adorable couple are lucky people to have you.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

I've always wondered how doulas and midwives managed. Very interesting post!

Germany Mom said...

This blogging thing is driving me CRAZY!! All of the instructions to leave a comment keep switching to German and I can’t translate! Okay, anyway, this post really spoke to me – it’s weird that I chose to tune in to you today. I am currently in the process of trying to set up a list of babysitters so when my doula client gives birth (which should be sometime this week) I have someone available to watch my 2 boys. Being overseas makes it more difficult since I don’t have family nearby. I’m also not the kind of person who likes to ask for help. So I’m feeling your pain!! I’m understanding the excitement and honor about being asked to be present at this birth, but also the stress and anxiety of putting my life on hold for this person – the fact that we just got back from a week trip in Ireland yesterday doesn’t help things either. OH! I just want to say how excited I am that I saw Eat Pray Love on your book list. Yeah! I’m just about done with it and have loved it – I’m glad you’re reading it with me!

Katie said...

I had never even heard of a doula before I was pregnant and boy, do I wish I had had one. The hospital sent me HOME IN ACTIVE LABOR telling me I was just in pre-labor and I had a low pain threshold. They basically laughed me out of the hospital. One hour later, I almost gave birth at home in my bathtub, then on the toilet and then in the car on the mad race back to the hospital (G*ddamn military doctors). If I had had a doula, she would have KNOWN that shaking legs and feeling like I have to go #2 might just mean that I might actually be in labor. Anyway. I could make my blood boil again in two seconds just thinking about it.

I am so glad that people like you exist and that you are called to do what you do. There is no shame in taking a few years off to nurture your own young children, though, so don't be too hard on yourself!