Life happens when I am on call.
My pets need to go to the vet, I hold childbirth classes, my daughter has a teenage heartbreak. There are days I want to head to the pool or an amusement park but I wonder if someone will call me as I take the tram into Dollywood. My husband schedules reservations for our anniversary at a nice restaurant and we wonder if we’ll have to cancel. I limit myself to one glass of wine or a beer.
My car is packed. I have my doula bag with the tools I bring, although I know I can make do with all manner of things at a home, birth center, or hospital. Some of the tools are just comforting for me — a tennis ball in case there will be hours of counter pressure, gum and mints, bobby pins for my client or myself. I keep a gym bag with clothes I prefer to wear to births (soft pants, a tank, a jog bra, a nice v neck shirt, and a sweater, extra socks) along with my Danskos. Always my Danskos for hospital births. There is even a set of pjs in case I am exhausted and want to stop off at a friend’s house in an extra bedroom or go to my office and sleep for a while before driving home. I keep bottles of water, cheese crackers, trail mix, and protein shakes — processed food but it has gotten me through many a long birth. A small toiletry kit holds my toothbrush, basic makeup, facial cleansing cloths, and a sanitary napkin. I go nowhere without extra cell phone chargers — one for the car and one for the wall.
Speaking of cell phones, mine lives in my bra a lot. It goes in the bathroom with me when I shower. The volume is turned up as high as possible with an obnoxious ring. At night I try to turn off the notifications for Facebook and email because if the phone makes a sound it wakes me. I check it in the night if I wake to make sure it’s working. I couldn’t begin to tell you the last time it’s been turned off.
Taking care of my health is imperative because there are no sick days when you’re a doula. I exercise, rest, make my best attempts at eating healthy, take supplements. If I begin to feel run down I must find a way to recharge.
My family supports my work by understanding plans can change at a moment’s notice — or I may feel like staying home and resting up. We sometimes drive two cars to visit my in laws because the distance is over an hour from our home but most of the births I attend are in between our locations. Sometimes I leave in the night and am back before they are up. Everyone in my family pitches in before, during, and after births by taking over any of my responsibilities or simply by letting me sleep uninterrupted for a few hours while they tiptoe through the house. My husband makes the coffee and sets the timer every night so if I get a call I need only push a button.My daughter handed me the keys to her first car because mine was getting an oil change and tire rotation and a mama called in labor. They handle the home front no matter how long I am gone and never ask when I’ll be home. I cannot even describe how much I appreciate them.
The truth is, being on call doesn’t just impact my life and theirs — it is our life. I am not complaining because I love what I do. Over time I have learned to set aside a few times a year that I do not take clients and am not on call so we can reconnect, take a vacation, tube down a river in our lovely neighboring mountains, etc. I cannot imagine anything as rewarding as being a doula but it is not a 9 to 5 job – it’s a life choice.
All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula, 2014