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The Struggle for Balance


Stephanie Shirley Photography

Over 10 years ago I decided to become a doula. It wasn’t really like a decision, it was more like submitting to the inevitable. I knew in my heart that it was who I was, but I was scared: scared of not being successful, of not knowing what to do, of being too busy or not busy enough, but mostly I was scared of being on call. My spouse had spent many days and nights on call and I knew what that life was like and I wasn’t convinced I could do it.

As a Doula on Call I have missed birthdays, parties, holidays, you name it. I have had my entire family in the car, headed to the zoo, only to turn around on a dime for a woman in labor. It is a hard balance, but my many years and births have taught me how to deal with it better – I think. Every once in a while – it is just hard to walk away from my life and tend to the needs of those outside my family. I have learned to set boundaries and be clear about the times when I am absolutely unavailable. I have built an amazing system of support in TLC Doula Group: six unbelievable doulas bound together in the ultimate support. I plan my vacations way ahead of schedule and practice open communication with my clients and the doulas that support me.

Part of figuring all of this out is due dates. It’s really hard to figure this out, especially when you don’t work in one location. When I started I would take one client per week, but eventually my client load got heavy enough that this was no longer an option. Plus, with birth being expected anytime between 37-42 weeks there was never any kind of way to gauge when a woman would go into labor. So – I quit worrying about dates, worried more about bunching locations and keeping my volume low and my quality high by upping my prices to provide more focused doula attention. This worked really well for a long time, but…..

It is a balancing act and this year on October 11 – the scales tipped. It was late on October 10 when I got the first call. Labor was in full swing and I headed out pretty quickly. I worked with the couple through the night and early in the morning of October 11 – my birthday – a baby girl was born into love. Her birth was joyous and I was overwhelmed with the feels for this family. It was my second baby with them and I count them as dear friends as well. I went home, exhausted, but happy. I told my understanding family that I would nap and we would go out for a late lunch to celebrate. I was wrong. It wasn’t too much later I was awoken by a call from another client. Her water had just broken. I put on my shoes, grabbed my stuff and headed for the door. On my way out I had to stop and get on my knees to explain to my children that today wasn’t just mommy’s birthday, but I had to share it with two other babies (wrong again) today. They hugged my neck and told me they loved me. Traffic was awful and I had to get creative, as my client was now on her way to the hospital in HARD LABOR! Thirty minutes later I walked into a delivery room in chaos. During this time I started getting texts from another client who seemed sure she was in labor and I texted her in turn to let her know I was at the hospital already and I would call her as soon as I could. Labor was fast and a big baby boy was birthed in short order. Checking my phone I saw that my third client was in the hospital and in hard labor. I hugged and kissed on the mom I was with and asked her permission to leave and tend to my third client in labor and she graciously acquiesced. I ran down the hall to find my third client in hard labor. She beamed when she saw me and we got straight to work. She was already deep in labor and it wasn’t long before I met my third new soul that day, a beautiful girl.

Being a doula on call is hard, but worth it.

My birth day was marked with three new souls and it couldn’t have been sweeter. I left the hospital late in the evening and made it home to find a cupcake and a few sweet gifts from my kids left out for me. My kids, they missed my birthday. So today we will celebrate – because for me it doesn’t matter what day we celebrate. My kids and husband have grown used to a Life on Call. They have learned how to have a doula as a mother and wife. More important than that, WE have learned to make every day special. A life on call isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it hurts and it’s always hard to walk away from my life not knowing when I will come back, but we make it work.

The life of a Doula on Call is hard, but worth it. Finding balance takes time, but it is achievable. Setting boundaries and having great support and back up make it easier.

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