Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Up Side of Primips

A doula friend and I have a running joke that she always gets the repeat (multiparous)birthers whose labors race along. I get the first-time (primiparous) mothers whose labors are, well, first labors.

Granted, I've had two primips whose labors were under five hours and who spent less than an hour at the hospital before delivering. In general, however, my clients have the 18 or 24 hour labors. I was recently reminded, however, that in addition to their excitement and curiosity about every aspect of pregnancy and birth, first time mothers have another positive element: no other children.

The older I get, the less I like other people's children. When I was in high school, I babysat all the time. I truly enjoyed it. I still correspond with families for whom I used to babysit.

Then I had my own children. Or I just got older and less tolerant. Or both. At any rate, the result is that I now have little patience for other people's children, especially those who wildly disrupt doula client visits.

I recently visited the home of another doula's client. I had agreed to back up this doula during a week that she would be out of town. We got to her client's home and were greeted by a tangle-haired, grubby-faced, barefoot, dress-wearing three-year old. In fairness, my children would probably look like this if they were girls. Her appearance was not the objectionable feature of her presence, of course. It simply added to her feral aura.

During the abbreviated visit -- cut short because it was obvious we couldn't carry on more than a superficial conversation -- this girl helped herself to the items in the other doula's birth bag, hauling out essential oils, CDs and honey packets with reckless abandon. She rolled the birth ball up to me and demanded "bounce me." When I said I was busy talking to her mom, she pressed a palm to each side of my face, the better to turn it toward her, and said again, with no humor whatsoever, "I said bounce me."

Her mother finally asked the girl's father to entertain her. With his assistance we were able to exchange phone numbers and establish the dates I woud be on call. Yet even with the paternal diversion, the girl managed to get in a pull on the other doula's hair and throw a class I tantrum.

This woman ended up delivering with the doula she'd hired. The doula got called to the house four hours before the mother delivered. Short? Yes. Everybody happy? Yes.

But now, poor soul, this doula has to wade into that house for postnatal visits and deal with the daughter who is adjusting to a new sibling, who appears not to know how to respect others, and whose mother certainly won't have time to discipline her now, if she didn't for the past 3 years.

Me, I'm happy to work with parents who are anticipating their first baby, the possibility of a long labor, and a lifetime of effective parenting.

(In fairness, I had a client in the past year whose three-year-old daughter was a delight. She and I drew photos for each other. We had a tickle-monster relationship. When I came for post-natal visits, I delighted in playing with her and having her company while I cleaned the bathroom. Another client's son was no more demanding than any other two-year-old would be. Yet I think this was largely my good fortune and fate is not something I generally like to tempt.)

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