As doulas, we give our all for our clients.
We care for them, we are empathetic, and we hold space for them emotionally. We support them physically for hours during labor. While we are not responsible for outcomes, we feel a deep responsibility to help them have the strength to achieve their goals for labor and birth.
Sometimes we forget to do these things for ourselves.
We are so used to helping others that we aren’t always the best at recognizing when we need a break. We care for our clients while also keeping a professional boundary, and yet sometimes the births or circumstances we witness can scar us deeply.
Taking care of ourselves is vital. We can’t be at our best for our own selves, our families, or our clients if we are burned out. Here are some ideas on how we can refresh and renew ourselves as individuals and as doulas.
Sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause many physical and mental health issues. In our busyness we might be tempted to push through, chug more coffee and just keep going, say yes to one more commitment and figure out how we’ll actually do it later. In the long run this will not only make our personal lives more difficult, it will also inevitably lead to less-than excellent service to our clients. Build time in your schedule for sleep, and be sure to sleep after a long birth or postpartum shift. If your schedule is especially strained, actually building time for sleep into your calendar might be a good idea – seeing that blocked off can help you recognize and prioritize.
Talk with doula friends and colleagues. Vent, cry, laugh, ask for advice. Other doulas are wonderful resources for so much involving our clients, but also for us. They understand the demands and limitations of this work, and they too struggle with many of the same things. Sometimes just venting about our frustrations can be an important stress reliever, and who better to listen than someone who has likely been in a similar situation?
Don’t compare yourself to other doulas. Just because that one doula you know seems to never need a break, that doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone. Recognize you and your family’s circumstances, and identify and prioritize accordingly. Remember that different people are in different situations as far as their families, personalities, skills, finances, and seasons of life. Not everyone can juggle four clients a month, or five-nights-a-week postpartum shifts, or all of it at the same time! Don’t compare yourself to other doulas – just do the best you can for yourself, your family, and your clients.
Talk with a therapist or counselor. There are some instances when talking with a professional would be the most beneficial for us. Especially difficult birth circumstances, illnesses, or death may necessitate talking with an expert to work through the experience and learn how to cope with our personal and professional life moving forward.
Take a break. There may come a time that stepping away from birth work for a time is what might be necessary. Prioritizing you or your family’s unique situation and recognizing the need to take a step away from work is not always easy, but often leads to better health and better work in the future. Maybe that means two weeks of vacation, not taking clients during a specific season, or a longer break to work on mental health. However it looks, it’s wise to take a break for a bit and come back stronger, rather than to suffer through because you think you have to always keep going.
What would you say to your client? We doulas are excellent at tuning in to what our clients need and gently advising them. If your client was struggling in the way you are, what would you say? Honestly consider this and then move forward appropriately.
What other tips do you have for fellow doulas on how they can care for themselves? Join Birth Beautifully on Facebook and tell us what has worked for you.