A birth doula's main role is making sure expectant parents have the information, resources and physical support they need to have a wonderful birth experience. For a doula, that usually means traveling to prenatal meetings, being on call for 4-6 clients a month, staying with a family throughout the labor and birth of their child and meeting them in the postpartum period.
It is truly an honor to do this work, and it takes a lot of emotional, mental and physical strength. In order to be fully present, it is important that doula's also take care of ourselves. I've come up with my own self-care routines that I thought I would share for others.
BEFORE A BIRTH
Scheduling and Routines
I try to keep up a routine as much as possible when I am not at a birth. That means waking up and having breakfast with my partner, walking the dog, following up on email and then meetings, etc.
I really try to make sure that I am at least in bed by 11pm. If I get an early morning call from a mom in labor, I can easily put on some fresh clothes, grab my doula bag and hop into a taxi feeling ready to go.
Clean Home and Healthy Food
When coming back from a long birth, it's nice to have a space that truly feels like home. For me, this means having a clean apartment, fresh flowers and a refrigerator stocked with healthy but easy to prepare food. I've personally given up going grocery shopping and started ordering local/organic food from Fresh Direct. It makes me happy and saves a lot of time.
I try to work out at least 3 times a week. Plus, it's an added bonus that I go to the same gym as de Blasio - makes for fun 'celebrity' sighting.
Friends and Family Days
I always schedule one day a week to do something new and interesting with my partner and our dog, Joplin. I'm also lucky to live a few train stops away from my mother and a few blocks away from all of my oldest friends. Whenever I need motherly love or want to hang out, I give them a call.
DURING A BIRTH
I don't have the best self-care practices when I'm at a birth. I usually only eat luna bars and have a hard time taking naps, both of which I don't recommend. I do, however, drink a lot of water, wear comfortable clothes and dansko clogs, and try to get at least a few minutes of fresh air.
COMING HOME FROM A BIRTH
Keeping A Routine
It's so important to have a routine that keeps you happy and healthy when you come home from a birth. No matter the time of day, I always put away my doula bag, hop into a nice warm bath or shower and put on comfortable clothes. If I am coming home in the late morning or afternoon, I will continue with all the meetings I had scheduled and then go to bed early. If I come home in the middle of the evening/morning, I will sleep until my usual wake-up time and then continue with the day. I don't like to take too long of a nap or else I find that my schedule gets wacky.
I am fortunate enough to have a partner who is a. Always attentive to how I am feeling emotionally and physically and b. Becoming an Acupuncturist/Herbalist. If I ever feel any aches or pains after a long birth, my partner is there to give me an acupuncture/massage session for free!
Take a Vacation
As a professional whose main job is to be available and present for others, we want to schedule in a lot of births but, it's important to also take a break. Doula's can't just take a weekend off or go a few hours outside the city when we are on call, so give yourself at least month off every year to simply relax.
What do you do to take care of yourselves before, during and after a birth? Please share your suggestions so that more doula's can take care of themselves in the way that they deserve!