Tomorrow morning I’m planning to meet a friend and her kids at the park for coffee and a play date; I tell her “I’ll see you tomorrow if I’m not at a birth.” Next week I’m planning to attend a get together at my older daughter’s school; I reply to the invitation “I’m looking forward to it! I will be happy to bring the cookies and drinks if I’m not at a birth.” My husband and I are going to a movie this weekend – “if I’m not at a birth.” Life as a doula on-call often requires a bit of schedule juggling and a lot of flexibility. Babies are born when they are born – and it’s always an honor to attend a very first birthday! Here’s a little peek inside the life of a doula who is awaiting “the call”.
While on call for a client, there are a few things I tend to avoid that may otherwise be a part of my common day-to-day life. For example, my family is fairly spontaneous bunch and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for us to load the kids and dog into the minivan on a Friday morning for a long weekend road trip to visit family in Virginia. Nor would it be surprising to find us heading out on an unplanned camping trip in the Jersey Pine Barrens or the Pennsylvania Poconos. While on call for a client, our family adventures are kept within a close radius of our home – maybe hiking at Sandy Hook or a trip to the beach at Asbury Park. And these day trips almost always involve driving in two separate vehicles – just in case I get called away at a moment’s notice. My husband drives a car loaded with kids and gear while I follow prepared with my birth bag and a change of clothes.
Living a life on call also requires a bit of an investment in my own health and well-being to ensure that I can show up as my best doula self at any hour of the day. When I’m on call I typically try to stay well-rested by going to bed a little bit earlier. I also try to be a bit more mindful of my diet while on call and try to be certain to stay well nourished. When on call, I tend to schedule fewer personal appointments and events in order to prevent the stress of a lot of last-minute rescheduling. And my bedtime routine when I’m on call looks a bit different as I turn the ringer on my phone all the way up and make sure that my shoes and clothes are ready by the door along with a light snack and plenty of water.
Being a doula on call requires an extra level of planning and preparation as well as a good deal of flexibility and willingness to change plans at the last minute (not to mention a good deal of understanding and cooperation from family and friends). The joy of having the opportunity to support families as they welcome their babies is absolutely priceless, and definitely worth the quirks of living the on-call lifestyle.