Being a Doula is hard. Like, REALLY hard.
It’s stunning and beautiful and profound and core-shaking and magical and fascinating.
It's also gut-wrenching.
When a client hires you, they are hiring you to support them through some of the most intense moments of their lives. They are relying on you to be there in the thick of things... not only when things unfold as they envision, but also when things begin to fall off the rails.
When they hire you, they know that they can call you at 2am when their gassy baby is screaming her head off and nothing is working to soothe her.
When they hire you, they know you will answer an urgent text in the middle of family dinner.
They are depending on you to be the calm amongst the storm.
But what happens when you can’t be the calm in their storm?
What happens when your own life is an emotional roller-coaster? When you’re tapped out and literally have nothing else to give? When you’re so emotionally empty that the thought of attending a birth or going to one more postpartum visit leaves a pit in your stomach or brings you to tears?
TELL ME YOU HAVEN’T BEEN THERE.
TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE.
There’s a reason the typical burn-out rate for Doulas is 2 years, people.
And it’s not because we take on too many clients or because we don’t have enough help from our spouses or because we don’t take good care of ourselves (although those factors may definitely be true for some!).
It’s because being a Doula is really freaking hard. It’s also because typically in “Doula School” we aren’t taught our worth. We aren’t taught that self-care is important. We aren’t taught that our gifts have value. And we definitely aren’t taught that it’s ok to say no.
The expectations put upon Doulas is BANANAS.
Advocate. Therapist. Midwife. Massage Therapist. Lactation Consultant. Sleep Trainer. Super Woman. All rolled into one.
This is what some Doulas claim to be. This is what is projected onto others even if the claims aren’t made by the Doulas themselves. This is what a society that doesn’t really know WHAT a Doula does, thinks we do.
I’M SORRY, BUT FUCK THAT.
While I may be a fantastic Doula, I am also a human.
As much as I would like to, I cannot promise a particular birth outcome. I cannot cure your Postpartum Depression. I cannot make your baby’s colic go away.
As a Birth & Postpartum Doula, I commit to support you through these life-changing experiences and I do it to the best of my ability. However, I cannot save anyone from anything. Not even myself.
I have my limits. And so do you. It’s different for each person, but that limit does exist.
SO, WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU REACH YOUR LIMIT?
Me? I have to force myself to take a huge step back and look at what I’m costing myself AND what I’m costing my clients by trying to push beyond my limits. It is selfish of me to think that my lack of emotional wellness won’t affect my client’s birth or postpartum experiences. It is unrealistic to think that giving anything less than my best to a client will result in them being satisfied with my services and my support.
Quite honestly, sometimes I have to put myself first. And that is absolutely ok.
Yesterday, I made the decision to transfer a client’s care to another Doula within our agency.
I did it because I know myself well enough to know that I would not be the calm amongst her storm. That I was unable to be emotionally present for her in my current emotional state. It was not done lightly. And while I did it for my own health, I also did it for my client. Because she deserves the best support she can get. She deserves someone who has their shit together.
I currently do not. And I’m woman enough to admit it.
Thankfully, I work for an agency that supported me in this decision and encouraged me to take care of myself. I take comfort in the fact that my client will have a tremendous Doula who is better equipped to support her in the ways that she needs. I trust that her birth will be all the more amazing because of this transfer of care.
Admitting that you are not enough is a shitty feeling. But it is not a failure. Asking for help is not a weakness. Taking time to focus on you is not wrong.It took me a long time to learn this. But I’m thankful for the lesson and for the awareness in the here and now.
SO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF?
How is your day-to-day life reflecting the value you place upon your own self and well-being?
In case no one has told you yet, self-care is imperative. And it often goes overlooked in the life of a Doula. It’s unfortunate but true.
But hear this... KNOW this: YOU. ARE. WORTH. IT. You cannot live a well-balanced life without it. Your work will not be sustainable if you don’t do it. And regularly.
Please, please, please don’t be like me. Don’t put yourself last and ignore your self-care needs. Pour back into yourself so that you have something left in reserve to give to your clients. Honor your limits. Know when to say “Uncle”. And for goodness sakes, don’t apologize for it!