Managing An On-Call Life

Managing An On-Call Life

I went from working very predictable and typical hours, to a job that is widely on-call. Some of the work I do these days can be pre-planned and arranged (such as prenatal, postpartum and overnight support) however the bulk of what I do is attend births and those are hard to plan around.

People have the notion that their baby will be delivered on their due date, but the truth of the matter is that due dates are just rough estimates based on the last date of menstruation. No one can accurately predict the day that their baby will be born even if they know the exact date of conception and your baby certainly isn’t keeping track. Babies come when they’re ready. Luckily we have estimated due dates because they give us a ballpark idea of when to expect the baby but knowing exactly when is near impossible (outside of scheduling a cesarean). Even once labor has begun, it’s hard to predict how long it will last before your little one arrives. Throw in prodromal labor (contractions that can begin anytime at term and last for a few days to a week) and Braxton hicks (“false labor”), and you’ll start to see the value in going with the flow.

As a birth worker, this has been a difficult transition for me. There have been times when I’ve received word that a client believes labor has begun but she isn’t quite ready for me to join her yet. I have sat on the edge of my bed, frozen, like a statue. Afraid to start anything (like cooking or cleaning) and afraid to exert any energy for fear that when it’s time for me to join I’ll be exhausted, or asleep.

The last time this happened, I knew I had to develop a plan to help myself cope with being on call, and here it is…

  1. Live my life. If I was heading to the gym, or the store, or was about to start cooking dinner, then I will continue to do what I intended on doing. Being fully supportive to my clients doesn’t have to include putting my life on hold. When they’re ready for me I will put everything down, but in the meantime, I must go on as I normally would.
  2. Don’t be afraid of being tired. I know for a fact that when it is time for me to join my clients, my adrenaline kicks in and I am filled with energy and ready to work! I know that since I am a doula full-time now I don’t have to worry about being rested for any other jobs and after the birth, I can come back home to sleep and recharge as necessary. I also stock red bull in my fridge now. This has more of a placebo effect than anything else. Knowing that it’s there gives me peace of mind, even if I never drink it.
  3. Change my client’s ringtones. If I do fall asleep or find myself in noisy New York streets, a brash and startling ringtone will do the trick to make sure I never miss a call.
  4. Schedule the classes that I teach online to be lighter around my clients EDD (estimated due date). I have already come to terms with the idea that sometimes I might have to cancel classes in order to support my clients, and by scheduling fewer classes in the first place I reduce my chances of having to cancel at all. Luckily my teaching job is pretty flexible and I can make up classes on the weekends or any other time, really.

Handling an on-call life has been a challenge for me, but I’m happy that I took the time to figure out how to best support myself so that I can best support my clients.

Do you live an on-call life?

How do you cope with the unpredictability?

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Doula Support

Doula Support

As of today I have received my doula certification and have attended 5 births. I’ve had some clients deliver with an epidural and others who did not. I’ve been in attendance during vaginal deliveries as well as cesarean sections. Some clients were medically induced while others experienced spontaneous labor at home. After some births, my body has been physically drained and sore. After other births, I feel energized and ready to take on the rest of my day. The support I’ve provided has been as diverse as each of the women receiving the support.

Since I have begun my doula training, I vowed to myself to be dedicated to learning about research and evidence-based information. My dedication was due to apprehension that I would find an overwhelming amount of misinformation based on fear, old wives tales, and anecdotes. I have been pleasantly surprised by the volume of research that is available and the dedication of other birth workers in obtaining and sharing information based on research, data, and statistics.

The majority of my interest lies in helping my clients manage their pain and discomfort during labor and delivery. Three themes keep showing up: support, placebo effects, and perception of pain. These themes are a reminder of the power of the mind.

People feel and perform better when they perceive themselves to be in supportive environments. Support is relative and varies by individual and preferences. If my clients get what they want, they will feel supported and have a more satisfying birthing experience.

A client who gets an epidural after wanting a completely natural birth will feel dissatisfied. A client who gets an epidural after expecting, wanting and requesting it, will feel satisfied. It isn’t the epidural it’self that is causing these feelings, however, it is the expectations around the birthing experience. When our expectations are met, we feel content and fulfilled.

Since coming to this realization I have shifted the conversations that I have with my clients from spewing information and tricks of the trade to me listening to their hopes, wishes, and fears. I don’t have a magical doula wand or pixie dust that eliminates pain but I do have some experience, an ear to listen, a heart filled with good intention and a bag with some tools to help my clients customize a birthing experience that they won’t want to forget.

Working Together To Improve Birth Outcomes

Working Together To Improve Birth Outcomes

I find that in many cases, people tend to be of the opinion that life is either black or it is white. You are a man or a woman. You are a liberal or a conservative. You either believe in God or in Science. You are gay or you are straight. As time goes on, people who live in shades of gray are helping others to see the true broadness of life by being vocal about where they stand on all these spectrums that make up individuality.

There are people who were born with male genitalia, but identify as women and are sexually attracted to both. There are people who are conservative on issues of women’s reproductive rights and liberal when talking about the legalization of marijuana. I am of the opinion that the best way to improve birth outcomes is through the joining of modern medicine and tradition midwifery ideals because it has been my experience that seemingly opposing views, tend to work well when combined.

Imagine a world, where doulas and midwives work with clients to provide safe, comfortable and supportive birthing environments, right next to traditional medical personnel who are providing medical oversight, as necessary. These two notions need not be in contradiction to one another. The best possible outcome is when all supports can work together to give a pregnant person what they need in all areas, emotionally, physically and medically.

I have a friend who shares many things in common with me. When I go through something difficult, I know that I can go to her for complete understanding and camaraderie. We can talk for hours about all of our shared experiences and feelings. I find this type of support to be necessary for my growth as a human being. I need to feel like I’m not the only one going through certain challenges and I gain strength from knowing this, but growth cannot stop there. I know that without our awareness, we can sometimes get caught in a cycle of venting, which can be dangerous. I’m lucky though. While I have this friend, I also have my fiance. My fiance pushes me to take action. It is because of the type of support that he offers, that I’ve made many of the lifestyle changes that are leading me to be a better, stronger and wiser human. But when he pushes me, I sometimes feel rushed, unprepared and unsupported. It is the combination of ideals that lead me to feel fully backed, in a very wholesome way. Supported to cry, whine and complain, and equally as important, I feel supported to act on the areas where I feel dissatisfied.

I believe the same applies to improving birth outcomes. We need a balance of the knowledge of modern medicine, which can save lives, in combination with the knowledge of traditional midwifery, which can prevent birth trauma and improve overall experiences. We need both and we need to work together.

Review: Tapping The Power Within

Review: Tapping The Power Within

One of the books I read towards my Doula certification is “Tapping The Power Within” by Iyanla Vanzant. I  chose this book because I am a fan of Iyanla, and based off the title, I knew this book would add to my new career as a Doula, but more importantly to my life as a whole.

The most personally influential concept addressed in this book, was that of alignment. Iyanla writes, “When we are in alignment, we can recognize and accept the lessons that will lead us to a fuller, more peace-filled, and more purposeful sense of living.” The idea of alignment has been increasing present in my life over the past few months. In December, I attended a three week yoga workshop and that is where I first heard the word, in this context. The workshop discussed how being aligned with our higher purpose increases the flow of our lives. When we aren’t aligned, we find ourselves feeling unsatisfied and displeased.

In January I  read “A Return To Love” by Marianne Williamson and I saw her speak later that month. The part of her seminar that resonated with me the most was when she said “When you are aligned, you cannot separate your spiritual self from your personal or professional self.” This truly spoke to me, as it also did while reading “Tapping The Power Within”.

For the past 10 years, I have been employed by an agency that serves the developmentally disabled population. It is a frustrating job for someone like me, because I feel like administration, overseeing agencies and bureaucracy in general, held me back from implementing change in the lives of the people I  served. My initial disalignment was the catalyst for finding my higher purpose.

Through many conversations with myself, family and God I  came to find that I am truly served by serving other women and their babies. This realization led me to people who were and/or knew Doulas. I was overwhelmed with the thought that I  could be fully aligned in my life’s purpose and create a career out of it, at the same time! “Although thoughts govern how we respond throughout life, they may not be in alignment with the spiritual purpose or meaning of the experience,” Iyanla writes. As a doula, I  feel like my spirit is at ease, because every aspect of my being is working together to serve the world and to equally serve myself.

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