When I first opened my doula practice I was somewhat shocked to find that I received as many (if not more) messages from other women who wanted to become doulas as from pregnant women looking for a doula. I understand the attraction– holding babies, witnessing births, the magical moments we get to experience over and over as our clients experience them for the first time. But there is one thing that many people have said to me that just does not ring true: “Oh, you’re a doula? That must be so family friendly!”
It’s Partially True
Well, it’s partially true. Being a doula is family-friendly. It’s especially family-friendly for the families that I support; in fact, I’ve come to believe (and the research supports it!) that there are actually no negative outcomes to having doula support through pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. No risks, no adverse consequences; only the many benefits of unconditional support and continuous care through one of the most vulnerable experiences of our lives.
It’s also true in the sense that owning my own business allows me to stay at home full time with my kids. In some ways it makes me a better parent because I’m forced to plan, focus on time management, and value quality time with them while balancing care for them and managing Nurtured Birth.
But Balancing Family and Work is the Hardest Part
At the same time, becoming a doula is the least family-friendly thing I’ve ever done. The thing about doula life that makes it tough is the unpredictability of birth. Selfishly, it’s one of my favourite parts of my job. But when I’m walking out the door at 7am on Christmas morning before the stockings have been touched, it’s hard on my kids. When I miss weddings, parties, and bedtimes because labour just takes a long time, it’s hard on my family. But I make these sacrifices to be there– to never miss a birth if I can help it. To answer texts and calls as soon as they come in. To be continuous support in moments that my clients will never forget.
But on mornings like this, when I’m driving to the hospital in a hurry after a rushed goodbye, focusing my thoughts on the family I am going to meet, mentally reviewing their birth preferences, fears and goals, there is that Paw Patrol sticker on the back of my hand and little voices in my head saying “Mommy, I want you to stay!”, “Mommy, what about the park?”; “Mommy, I’m going to miss you so so much…” I get just a taste of what parents feel who work outside their homes full time, saying goodbye each morning to little ones who can’t possibly understand the answers when they ask, “Why do you have to go to work?”
I understand more deeply the sacrifices we make as parents for the wellbeing of our families, and sometimes, because it’s just what we have to do. And I hope that in the long run, our kids will grow up to see and appreciate the choices we made while raising them through the little years– even when they miss us or wish we were home; even when the unexpected happens; especially when we give of ourselves to serve others.