Anyone who has done birth work knows you need a few key characteristics to make it sustainable: compassion, professionalism, patience, and flexibility. 

Today let’s talk about flexibility as it relates to being on call as a birth doula. 

Outside of inductions or scheduled cesareans, the majority of the time you won’t know when your client will go into labor. Birth Beautifully birth doulas technically begin their on-call time for clients at 37 weeks, but when you have multiple clients, you are often perpetually on call. 

Depending on your personal circumstances, being on call can be quite disruptive, or may not impact you very much at all. If you have young children it can be more complicated, due to the need for childcare at odd hours or for extended periods of time. It also may mean missing family time from dinner and bedtime tuck-ins to big events like birthday parties, graduations, holidays, and the like. 

How does anyone get used to this? 

Flexibility. Make plans with family and friends, but remember you’ll need to be flexible. If your client calls, you may have to skip that event you wanted to attend, or find a way to reschedule it if possible. This can be emotionally challenging when you feel sad or guilty for missing out on that time with your family because you are supporting your client. So how do we deal with that? 

When talking about a life of being on call, we usually only mention the downside, but there is an upside too. Our job isn’t a typical 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. position. We have lots of flexibility in our days, some days not seeing any clients at all, affording us extra family/free time. Most jobs don’t have such a perk. We have to remember this benefit when we start feeling down in those moments when we are missing events because a client is in labor. 

Another perk of our position is that we can decline to take clients who have estimated due dates that are too close to events that we can’t bear to miss. If you know you’re going on a summer vacation or absolutely don’t want to chance missing Christmas morning with your family, you can choose not to take clients during those times. Very few jobs allow this kind of flexibility. 

When we are tempted to get discouraged with constantly being on call, we can remind ourselves of this great work we have chosen to do, and the families we are honored to support. To share your tips for handling on-call work, join us on Facebook at @BirthBeautifullyCNY and on Instagram at birth.beautifully, and for more on becoming a Birth Beautifully birth doula, get in touch with us at  

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.