Burnout. Trauma. Exhaustion. Elation. Sadness. Feast. Famine. 36 hour shifts. Tears of joy. Tears of sorrow.
Would you take a job that had those words in the job description? Probably not. But here we are as doulas, most of us fulfilling a passion that goes beyond just a job we enjoy. For most of us it is a calling. Heart-work. We do this because of the satisfaction and personal growth we get from helping new families blossom. Supporting a woman as she brings her child earth-side is one of the highest HIGHS you will ever experience. The knowledge that your presence calmed the birth space, that your suggestions for movement or your hands on her back gave her the ability to dig deep and find strength is a feeling like no other. At times like that we are confident we are where we are meant to be.
However, this profession can make us questions every decision we have ever made in our entire lives. It can be riddled with sadness and can bring to the surface our own birth traumas or other types of trauma from our past. We can be overwhelmed by the needs of our clients and the guilt we feel for putting our families second so we can tend to others. We run on gallons of coffee and very little sleep for far too long. Then, the pendulum swings in the other direction, and the phone doesn’t ring. No clients, no income. We stress about money, we second guess leaving our day jobs to pursue our doula careers full time. We feel guilt for expecting our spouses to take on the financial burden alone during the dry spell. We feel stupid for thinking we can survive in this profession as a single parent. We should have saved more money, not bought that expensive fill-in-the-blank-birth-related-item, should raise our fees, lower our fees, advertise more, advertise less, take on more clients at a time, offer more classes, blah blah blah. You all can hear your negative self-talk voice clearly can’t you? We’ve all been there, no matter how successful we are.
So how do we as birth workers, deal with the stress of our beloved profession? Who do we turn to if we need to decompress after we’ve attended a long, difficult birth? Who do we share our high with when our client rocked it, and is overcome with joy and gratitude? If we are lucky, we have great partners who will listen. But even they can’t truly get it, though they may be genuine in their support, They aren’t One of Us. We need community. Do we have an inclusive, collaborative community of birth workers here in the Tucson area? I’d like to say yes!! We have amazing doulas here. We should have all the support we need. But let’s be honest. We are out here flappin’ all by ourselves. Does anyone else feel this way?
Our town is full of skilled, educated, experienced doulas, but for whatever reason, rarely do we collaborate. We may have a few doulas we work with regularly because we are in the same agency or we partnered for back up, etc. We may say hello at a training or even refer to someone if we can’t take a client. But we are unto each our own island.
Nearly seven years ago, I moved to Marana from a small town in TN, just 45 Min. NW of Nashville. I left a small but growing birth community that I had the joy of building with the help of a few other doulas. I came here so excited at the prospect of meeting the other doulas (there were SO MANY compared to where I am from!) and working with them, getting to know the birth community, and really digging in, helping where I was needed. Turned out, I wasn’t needed at all. Sadly, not one doula or midwife answered an email or returned a call. I visited OB offices with baskets of treats and business cards and got the cold shoulder. I was devastated, and so confused as to why this was happening. This is Tucson, a progressive, liberal town. Aren’t towns like this supposed to be inclusive and friendly? I wasn’t finding this to be the case at all, and I was not sure how to handle it. Eventually, I made a few connections, got a job at a local hospital and got my foot in the door that way. I did meet some amazing doulas. A few that I am so happy to call friends. I can refer clients to them and they refer to me as well. I love seeing them at events and love watching their businesses bloom. I feel proud for them. I feel no competition or fear that they will somehow take away from my own success.
Last month, I was contacted by a new doula. She was thrilled and shocked that I answered her email right away. She told me that I was the only one who responded at all. A week later, at the TPDC meeting, I introduced myself to a face I hadn’t seen at the meetings before, and it turns out she was also a new doula, new to the profession and to the area. Same story. She had contacted a bunch of people and not one response, so decided to come to a meeting to meet a few people. She saw my business name and said, “Yeah, I gave up and never even bothered contacting you.” This makes me sad, here we are, seven years later and it hasn’t changed. But it needs to. We are women who have the same passion and have taken that passion and turned it into a business. We don’t have to have the same goals or the same business model to work together or support each other. We need less competition and more community. (Facebook pages aside. Online support is nice, but not the same.) I want to have a whole list of amazing doulas that I can refer someone to if I am not the right fit for them or cannot take them as clients. I would be grateful to be on someone else’s list. I would enjoy meet ups where we can all learn and grow from one another’s experiences, where we can support and be supported. Where trust is built and a community built around a common goal is formed. Because regardless of how you run your business or how many clients you take on each month, our reason for being a doula is the same: We have a passion for helping and empowering other women. Don’t we also deserve that help and empowerment?
This blog is my call to you, Southern Arizona doulas, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulators, and other birthworkers. My invitation to gather together and get to know each other. Let’s talk about the highs and lows of our businesses, and support each other. I am not looking to take anything from any one of you. I am genuine in my desire for a birth community that is cohesive and collaborative. I believe it will be so beneficial for everyone involved. My first Doula Support Meet Up will be in January 2019. If you are interested in this event or just meeting one on one, reach out. Click HERE
Before I close, I want to introduce you to one of the doulas I mentioned earlier. She is kind and smart and I really enjoyed meeting her. She was nice enough to write a little bio when I asked her to, so I will share it with you, so you can meet her too! I hope I’ll be sharing more bios of other doulas on my blog in the future. I want to invest in you. It only helps us all!
Kayla Levine is a postpartum doula and certified placenta specialist. She helps women during their fourth trimester and beyond to feel loved, balanced and ready for motherhood. She takes a holistic approach with each client to ensure a new mom is well fed, well loved, and nourished on a soul level. Kayla has a passion for bringing more awareness to the period after birth called the 4th trimester or postpartum period, and helping women find the resources they need to navigate this sensitive and sacred time. She provides placenta encapsulation, 4th trimester planning, meal delivery, and postpartum doula care where she assists in the home after the baby is born and helps families adjust to this new way of life. If you would like to know more you can visit, www.TucsonPlacentaEncapsulation.com