Monday, January 25, 2010

Rebalancing After Birth Attending

I had a lovely weekend, full of births. Lovely for my clients and me, but it's important to remember that when a doula tends to her work, there is often a family missing her. My husband Mitchell works hard all week, so in the evenings and on weekends when I am at births, instead of getting to relax and doing things as a family of 6, he's holding down the fort. Usually on weekends we share the chores of catching up on housework, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. So when I'm away at births, he takes on most of that, as well as tending to the emotional needs of kids who may have feelings about Mom being away. He's the one who brings them to all their activities. This may make you other doulas jealous, but he often even gets up with me in he middle of the night and drives me to where the birth is. Yes, he gets tired sometimes being a doula's partner, as many do. So it still amazes me after all these years that his support for my work continues to grow stronger. Not that he doesn't sigh in disappointment sometimes when he realizes a plan he had to play some cards with his friends again gets waylaid by my unpredictable work...but he understands that it is somehow an important thing I have to do. He supports that it is my path, that it's simply what I DO. What warms my heart is that he speaks of me with pride. You can see why I stick with him.

I was so happy Saturday night when we attended Carl Bigheart's talk here in Montreal! A woman I know, a friend of a friend whose birth we had the opportunity to support together, who had never met my husband before said, "It is so great to meet you! So you are the person who makes Lesley's work possible! Thank you so much for all you do!" I was very moved by that, and I encourage all of you who know doula's partners to make sure they feel special once in awhile. It is a big job to be the partner of a birth attendant of any kind, and truly, the quality of our work is commensurate to the amount of support we have. I have 4 children, a home, and a dog, and I can leave at any time for a birth, be gone for 2 days, and not have to worry about a thing. How many can claim to do that? I have 2 marvellous teenage kids who help out too, minding the younger ones when my husband and I go out together on occasion, even if it's just a 10 minute drive to Tim Horton's for a coffee.

In order to rebalance my family life after births, I try to make sure my kids have some special attention. I had no qualms today, when we got up and I saw the younger ones looking a little deflated at starting the week without their "mom" quotient, telling them we would all just stay home together. I don't worry about things like them missing a day of school now and again for their emotional health, or occasionally cancelling my day of appointments if they're not pressing. I also keep strict boundaries around my pre/post natal work. Even though it may not be very convenient for my clients, I simply don't meet with them outside of the hours my kids are at school unless it's really urgent. No evenings, no weekends, unless they are in labour. In the end, it makes me a more present doula, as I'm not stretched so thinly and chock full of maternal guilt. It's hard enough for the poor kids to wake up in the morning on occasion and I'm not there where they expect me.

This infrastructure of support has not been easy to come by. A new doula will usually not have the luxury of setting her own pre/post natal hours as she tries to become established in her community, or have a strong sisterhood of other birth attendants to connect with when they need help and advice. Many don't have teenage kids to help with the younger kids when their partners need to go somewhere while Mom is at a birth. And understandably, many partners are just downright resentful of how demanding their lady's doula work is of their own time. Lots of doula careers burn and fizzle because the family simply doesn't have the resources to handle it. I have worked long and hard in order to have a secure system within which to be able to attend as many births as I do (67 babies in 2009, and 7 so far for 2010). I am so thankful for the opportunity to witness so many babies enter this world within the loving environment I try to create out of a cold one, and it simply would not be possible without the support of my family. If I attend a birth that challenges everything I have physically, emotionally, and spiritually, while talking to my sister doulas is essential to regrouping, it is really my husband who tends to my sometimes broken heart. My husband is the best doula in the world.

All right! Enough gabbing. Off to fold a week's worth of laundry while I watch Nightmare Before Christmas with my kids.