When Life Gets in the Way of Being a Doula

August 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Here’s a story from my doula days…I haven’t had a birth since May and I’ve been missing it a little. This is a short piece I wrote a while ago about life as a doula. Enjoy!

I just experienced one of the more painful experiences as a doula – I just missed my first birth. I had my backup doula just in case but it still felt terrible telling my client I couldn’t be there at her birth. She is a good friend and was my first doula client 15 months ago (before I even considered myself a doula, just a “helpful friend”).  I have had 7 births so far and haven’t needed to call my back up doula until today. So this first time experience left my heart sad realizing that I truly can’t do it all and that the world really does goes on without me.


Living as a doula means being prepared at all times to drop what you’re doing and head to a birth. For me, these have been birthday parties, dinners at home with spouses and families, church services, and outings with friends.  People are always very understanding of my work but it does come at a cost. This weekend, we were celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday in the mountains at their cabin by the lake. I had births the past two weekends and my next client wasn’t due for two more weeks. Now would be a great time to leave town. She was a week late with her first. This is perfect. Boy, do babies sure do have a funny sense of timing!


When I got the call from my friend at 630am on a Saturday morning, my first groggy thought was, “Surely, she’s not calling because she’s in labor.” Dang. After listening to her on the phone, I knew that even if I wanted to try to make it, I couldn’t. Women having their second babies with intense contractions 4 minutes apart generally don’t have very much time left in their labor! Not only that, she kept saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” Double dang. She’s in transition. I ran through in my head how I could get home and attend this birth. I quickly realized that was not possible – it would be at least 3 hours speeding home through the mountains. I notified my back up doula and burst into tears realizing that I couldn’t be there. I am not super-doula. I can’t do everything or be everywhere. But that is OK. I felt like my soul needed to breathe a bit and so I took a walk while the rest of my family slept.


I knew I made the right decision but it was so hard. As doulas, living on call can be difficult and tiresome at times. But we can’t live our lives just waiting for the phone to ring. While I was in the situation, I was reminded of an article I had read in the DONA magazine a few months before stating the exact same thing. As doulas, we can’t put all of our lives on hold just because we have clients due to give birth. It was incredibly challenging to stay put and not go to my friend in labor. I wanted to help her focus, breathe, and encourage her. I wanted to help welcome her baby (who is also my godson) into the world. As doulas, we are doers. We don’t wait very well. While out on my walk, I read my Bible to help encourage my heart and enjoyed the sunshine and mountains. I knew that I had made the right decision in staying, even though it was difficult. I knew how important it was to my dad that we could be together for his special birthday. My phone rang and my friend let me know that she had delivered a healthy baby boy only 2 hours after she called me. I cried again, rejoicing with my friend. She was elated and I was happy to know that she had the kind of birth she wanted. I hadn’t been there, but all was still right in the world.


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