Doula Diaries Part 2: A Day in the Life
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.
Let's take a 24-hour snapshot into a day in my life, shall we? We'll start at 5p, because naturally doulas keep some pretty strange hours. Nothing about my life is 9-5. Thinking about becoming a doula? Read on!
5:00p: My husband works his 2nd job on Wednesday nights, which was tonight. He's a Psychologist and takes private clients one evening a week at 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00p. This usually puts him home at 9:30p. I'm on my own with the kiddos for homework and dinner and bedtime, and that's ok, they're pretty great to be around. Just before dinner, I get a text from a doula client with an update on a prenatal appointment she had with a specialist. She's a little shaken, and I offer her text support, ask my kids to wait just one more minute as I text and then I head to the table for dinner so we can say what we're thankful for, together. Doula clients come first, until dinner time, then it's all eyes on each other.
6:00p: Wrapping up loose ends with a doula-to-be who found me online and has asked for my advice, in between cleaning up Ty's chair and folding the day's laundry. I get inquiries weekly from doulas in training or doula-hopefuls, and I try my best to make space for them and answer their questions, get them started off on the right foot. There is PLENTY to go around!
8:00p: I get Ty into the bath and nurse him down to sleep. I slink away from his room quietly, (SO quietly!!) and check on Jace and Kaia. I find Jace asleep in his bed and Kaia asleep in mine. They put themselves to bed; I missed reading to them! But, I'm really grateful they read their books and fell asleep peacefully. Since all 3 kids are asleep, it's time to clean up the dishes and kitchen, and prepare for their morning performance at school, including costumes and a change of clothes in their backpacks. Let's not forget that tonight is my "work night," i.e. my night with "free time" to catch up on the week's piled up to-dos. I'm not complaining; it's just ironic.
9:00p: Time to update my spreadsheets, document the mileage I've driven for work this week, note any income and expenses, and document any contact I've made with my doula clients this week. I check my business emails and schedule 2 Initial Doula Consultations for this weekend. I brainstorm some blog ideas. I get distracted by Facebook.
9:30p: My next-up doula client and I exchange a number of texts back and forth, including my suggestions for her prodromal labor.
10:30p: My husband arrives after running to the grocery store after his insanely long day of work. I close up my computer; 10:30 is late enough for a workday. It's never done.
12:00 midnight: Ahhhhh-sleep. Asleep!
1:07a: After one hour of sleep...I get a phone call from my doula client...she's in labor! I ask her some basic questions about length of contractions and spacing contractions; I ask if she's notified her midwife. I ask how she is coping through contractions and ask her to rate them on a scale of 1-10. I make sure she's not alone. And then, I'm on my way. I get up, get dressed, throw my hair behind a headband and grab my doula bag. As I brew some coffee, I put her address into Mapquest and make sure I know the route (I've been to her home before, but it's late, or shall we say early). I pack some snacks for myself for the day and I'm on my way by 1:40.
2:10a: I arrive at their home and am fully present as a beautiful homebirth unfolds. I meet mom right where she is and join her quietly, talking her through the hardest moments of her contractions. The midwife arrives, followed by her birth assistant. As active labor gives way to transition, I offer lots of hip-squeezes, verbal affirmations, visualizations to bring the baby down, pain-coping assistance, massage, water, physical position changes; I check in with the birthing father. The minutes pass, the moments linger. Big brother sleeps. I press mom's back, I talk to her baby girl, I reassure her, this beautiful birthing mother. Once in the birthing tub, I can tell that she is starting to sound "pushy" and I reassure her that it's ok to work with her body, it's ok to follow her body's lead. More moments pass, and in the early morning hours, baby is born! I take innumerable pictures, I help mom to her bed, and I am so proud of her. I'll say that this is one of the quickest births I've attended; Usually I prepare for at least 12 hours with a laboring mom. Mom knew when she needed support and wasn't afraid to ask for it. Rockin' awesome.
6:00a: After cleaning up the birth space a bit, preparing mom a sandwich and fruit, and kissing her sweet forehead in congratulations as she begins to drift off to sleep with her newborn angel, I'm on my way home. I'm totally on that birth high but I can feel the fatigue setting in on my 30 minute drive home. It's probably not the safest idea for me to drive home, but really, what choice do I have? I get home just as the household is waking up. Switching gears, I help the kids with breakfast, making sure they have what they need for their dance performance at school this morning, and greet a very happy and well-rested toddler!
6:40a: I make a few contacts to babysitters to see who might be able to watch Ty for a bit so I can nap. There's no way I can keep going. No luck. Nada. One is student teaching, one is on the other coast with family, one has plans this morning. My mom is an hour away but that feels so far away, and I need sleep like NOW, and besides that, I'm certain she's still sleeping. Mike offers to come home later in the day but he has to go in for his 8:00a appointment. He leaves with Jace and Kaia at 7:15 to bring them to school, and I'm feeling defeated and extremely exhausted, running on one hour of sleep since the previous morning. Last ditch effort, I text a mom in my neighborhood who seems too sweet for words and who nannies for 2 children in addition to her own 2 children. We've met at the park before and she's like, awesome with kids. She can do it! She tells me to bring him by and I don't think the words are out of her mouth before I have a pull-up and applesauce in hand and am flying out the door. By 8:15 Ty is playing happily at her house. Attachment parenting win for our well-adjusted toddler! He's wearing a huge smile and already helping himself to watermelon off of their breakfast table. I give him a droopy-eyed huggy and I'm turning back around, like a magnet pulled to my bed...
11:00a: Wake up to my alarm, it's time to get Ty. I'm grateful for the 2 hour nap and my head hurts with grogginess. I'm planning ahead for my next bit of sleep, like I'd imagine an addict looking for a fix. Sleeeeeeep! I don't feel like this after all births, but the timing of this one in particular was brutal. Thankfully I'm able to nurse Ty to sleep around noon and catch another hour of sleep while he naps. I wake to a super sweet text from Mike, saying he's picking up the kids from school and taking the afternoon off for me. Omg. Yes, he's always this amazing. He is one main reason why this doula gig can work in our family, especially with a recent-newborn now-toddler. His support, not only in philosophy and words but also in action, is what allows me to freely be *IN* my role as a doula. Without him, I'm not sure how I'd make it work. Frankly, I'm not sure how other doulas make it work because I happen to know that not all husbands are as amazing as mine. I mean, he takes the day off when I go to a birth whenever he can, and I'm attending births regularly, and he's a director at his workplace. He just makes it happen. He's amazing for me.
5:00p We're here at the 24-hour mark, 5-ish hours of sleep caught up on, albeit pieced together. Kids are happy, mama is happy, daddy is happy; everyone is fed and clean; a beautiful baby girl was born at home; and a fun night awaits, as my kids get to be a part of 2 dance performances at their school in one mere hour from now. Birth notes and documentation will wait until the next day. Tonight, I get to be Mama.
Welcome to the world, Melia Loren! Catch her birth announcement here!