So, you are searching for a birth doula, and you see they include “on-call” times in their services provided. But what does that mean? While I can’t speak for all, it typically means life habits are changed for approximately 4 weeks surrounding your estimated due date (EDD).
When on-call, all plans made, always end with “… if I’m not at a birth…”. When we do make it out, we skip that beer or glass of wine with dinner and come home on the earlier side. We keep our phones out and they are constantly being checked (it can be hard to hear your phone in some places!) Travel plans are carefully planned out, usually months in advance, and most doulas not traveling more than an hour away from home. Often, this means missed family vacations, birthdays or even simple outings to neighboring cities. Just this past year, I missed my 4 year old sons first birthday party with friends. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and friends that were able to keep it going as usual. There are also many things I’d love to do in New Orleans, but my on-call schedule prevents this. While this can be inconvenient, especially on our families, we are doing what we love and it is a lifestyle we become accustomed to.
Many doulas, including myself, have families and young children of their own and we must have detailed plans in place for when we are called to a birth. Including having several sitters on-call along with us, and like us, they alter their life for a short time. Who will be available for the bus stop? Who can pick up someone from school if they are injured or sick? Who has the authority to authorize medical treatment if my husband cannot be reached (he’s a pilot and not always accessible by phone immediately).
I have a Babysitter Binder specifically for my sitters with any and all instructions needed. Meal and snack ideas, typical day schedule, activity ideas, emergency numbers, detailed instructions on any medication my children may be taking, etc. A special, laminated (yes, I laminated it), note goes to school with my kids, letting their teachers know I am at a birth and should not be the first phone call in an emergency. Our spouses are also put on alert. If I am called to a birth in the middle of the night, my husband needs to know the details and when to call the sitter in the morning (I’ll usually give a quick call letting them know I’m leaving the house). Since he’s an instructor, he can sometimes reschedule flights and stay home.
As a clients EDD approaches, we also begin to prep for the phone call. We restock and double check our doula bags and personal bags for items we may need at birth. Bags and any other tools needed are placed by the door or in our vehicles. Birth friendly clothes are laid out and ready to slip into at a moments notice. Our vehicles gas tanks never fall below half full… ever… (my husband has been scolded before about this). ‘Non-smelly’ foods and snacks are put together so that we may stay fueled and nourished at your birth, without strong aromas of food lingering in the air or on our breath (no garlic here!). I personally have a dinner prepped and ready in the freezer and $20 for pizza to make it easy on my sitter(s) and husband.
Doulas make sacrifices in order to provide the best service possible to our clients, but we love what we do and wouldn’t change a thing. When we say we are here for our clients to serve, we mean it.
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