doula life

In the Spotlight: Ashley Mullen, Doula

We have a special place in our hearts for this month's spotlight feature... not only because she's an indispensable member of our team, but because prior to becoming a doula, she was first, a DOC client. Orange County, we're delighted to introduce you to Ashley Mullen!

I (Lauren) first met Ashley in high school. She was a new freshman member of the sorority I was president of (yes, high school sororities are a thing in Long Beach... don't ask me why!) so we got to spend a decent amount of time in each other's company. Fast forward many years when I went to a consult with Ashley (not knowing it was her) where we became reacquainted and where I was hired as her doula. 

Let me tell you something about this woman: She is one of the strongest people I know. Not only did she handle her birth like a freaking rockstar, she managed the many challenges of the 4th trimester with grace and humor. She'll tell you herself, she got everything thrown at her once her baby arrived and it was not an easy journey. But she found her way through the darkness and in doing so became inspired to become a doula and help other new moms through similar challenges. 

Ashley is an incredible teacher, not only in her Babywearing 101 class but at in-home postpartum visits as well. She's well-versed in baby gear, has extensive knowledge of breastfeeding and babywearing and has such compassion and empathy for new parents. Her organization and insight will help you prepare your home, your nursery, and yourself for the days, weeks & months after birth. Believe me when I say that you want her on your postpartum team

We are super excited to share her light and passion for postpartum work with you in this months "In The Spotlight!"

In the Spotlight :: Tawnya Guimond, Birth & Postpartum Doula

Welcome Back to our "In the Spotlight" series! Here you will learn more about the members of the Doulas of Orange County team as well as members of the vast birth & parenting community in Orange County. 

We love meeting new people and hearing the unique wisdom each person has for how to navigate this season of life. The childbearing years are no joke and we think you deserve all the support you can get. It is our hope that with these spotlight introductions you'll find the well-rounded support you need to embark on this journey with confidence and excitement.

Without further ado, we'd like you to meet Tawnya Guimond, Birth and Postpartum Doula, Placenta Specialist, and Parenting Educator. Tawnya is one of the most amazing and committed Doulas we've ever had the pleasure to work with. She works tirelessly to provide nonjudgmental, consistent support to birthing & new families. Her warm & bubbly personality draws people to her and her thirst for knowledge is inspiring. Tawnya teaches our monthly Baby Care Basics class in Irvine and helps guide expectant parents through the ups and downs of early postpartum and parenting. She is a favorite at our weekly New Mama Cafe group and is an integral part of the DOC team. We adore her and know that you will too! 

Today, Tawnya shares a bit more about her passion for life as a Doula, a mom and the many things that make her joy so contagious!

Honor Your Limits

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!