Ever wonder what it's like to be a doula with a family? I'll tell ya! Welcome to my doula life! My main characters are Mike, my superhero of a husband and father to our three children; Jace, my 11 year old guitar-playing, x-box loving, sharp-witted son; Kaia, my 8 year old sunshine daughter; and Ty, my 20-month old whirlwind of a toddler. And then there's me! I've been doulaing since 2011 and have attended around 60 births to date. This is my full-time gig! With three children and a doula business, private and group childbirth education classes, evening sports and afterschool homework, staying at home as a full-time mom and also creating space for my own health and fitness, there is, as they say, never a dull moment.
One of the clearest reasons people hire a doula is to have one thing they can count on in the face of numerous uncertainties. I felt that myself this past week, when a friend asked me to lead a candlelight luminary ceremony on the beach during a memorial celebration of her husband's life. I felt honored to be a part of it, and equally frozen in the uncertainty surrounding the ceremony. I brainstormed a couple of ideas, but they weren't quite right. More anxiety grew, and I'm not a typically anxious person. Would I do it right? What should I say? What if I cry when everyone is looking at me? I had exactly 2 days to prepare something, and one of those days I was teaching class in the evening, which really gave me one day to prepare, and with 3 kids, I could reduce that down even further to one HOUR to prepare while Ty napped on Friday afternoon. The memorial was on Saturday evening.
Luckily, Mike is awesome and he offered to help. Truly, he took the reins and offered to do most of the talking. Meanwhile, my friend told me not to worry, a friend of hers (I'll call him "Jason") had loads of experience with luminaries and he'd be available Saturday to help me. I breathed a sigh of relief, relaxed a TON, and joked that Jason was my "Luminary Doula." He got a kick out of that. As long as I could find Jason, all would be well with the luminaries, he'd be my compass, I wouldn't have to be held too accountable and the ceremony would be beautiful. Let's tie it up with a nice red bow! And then, here's what really happened.
Saturday arrived, Mike and I brainstormed a few things we both wanted to say during the luminary ceremony, and as the sun began to sink, I did what I knew to do: I found Jason. Jason is super laid back, very likable, and immediately put me at ease. We filled bags with rocks and sand and tealight candles and arranged them on the beach. The sun began to set...quickly, as it seems to do over the water...and Jason ran inside to call the rest of the guests out to the beach. I joined Mike where the ceremony was taking place and we waited for Jason, my Luminary Doula. We waited. We waited. The sun was really cruising down now, and we knew we couldn't wait any longer. It was time. If we waited, we'd miss the sunset moment. Where was my Doula?!?
Haha. Ironic and hilarious, isn't it?
Without my luminary doula, I had to make the decision myself to move forward, to dive into the unknown. I had never led a luminary ceremony before and yet here I was. Without my doula. I started right in, Mike spoke some beautiful words, and yes, I cried as I invited everyone to say goodbye, one last time, to our friend.
After the ceremony I said to my friend, "Where was Jason? I had to do that without my Luminary Doula!" and she said, with all the wisdom of the midwife that she is, "See that? What's the lesson in that? You had it in you all along!"
You see, while having a doula eases fears, eases anxiety, and helps you answer your questions, the bravery and the courage and the knowing what to do and when resides in YOU all along.
Jason had a legitimate reason to miss the ceremony and as a doula, I understand that completely. One of the hardest things about being on-call 24/7 is that sometimes life calls, and my legitimate reasons pop up now and then, too. This week I had to take a day off to fulfill a promise to Jace. My commitment to #thedoulalife had me providing text support to a client through the night and next day, as well as secure and pay for a back-up doula just in case labor started, so I could be out of the immediate Fort Myers area for 12 hours to chaperone the 5th grade field trip. (Quick shout out to my fellow doulas Crystal, Nicky and Cheryl who are always willing to provide back up care, and especially Crystal who backed me up even in the form of text support at 3:30 a.m!)
It's a scary and lonely feeling to imagine birthing without your doula but you know what? If that is how your birth story unfolds, I know this to mean you have it in you all along. I'll never leave you to your own resources without backup doula care in place. It's another reason why preparation for handling the unknown and resiliency are key elements to your birth preparation. Of 62 births, there are just 3 that happened without me. You know what? It's exactly what those labors needed. I take my ego out, leave it on the doorstep, and let birth decide how it needs to unfold. Yes, I'm still in touch with the 3 aforementioned birthing mothers. I take my job seriously, I prepare my clients for the unexpected, I back-up my absences, and I leave the rest up to faith.
And don't worry, Jason. I ain't mad atcha! Thank you for your presence as well as your absence. Both were necessary aspects in my growth as a doula. Everything was perfect.
Stay tuned for the next edition of The Doula Diaries, and if you enjoyed this one, leave me a comment below!