Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where did the month go?

It's almost July and I've only posted once in June? Not for lack of thoughts, news, etc. Mainly time.

We just returned from a wonderful week's vacation in Michigan's Leelanau Penninsula. I knitted lots (more on that in a future post), read a satisfying amount, and enjoyed my time with the family.

I return to what promises to be a full, challenging month. If all goes as planned we close on the sale of our house and purchase of a new one this next week. Two weeks later we're scheduled to move. Just a few blocks across town, but an emptying of domicile nonetheless.

That would be challenge enough, but it just so happens I also have a client due the same week of our planned move. Who would have guessed when we listed our house in March and I accepted a client in April, that the (most welcomed) forces of relocation would pinpoint the same time frame as the labor godesses.

As always, I'm putting my faith in the "this will work out; it always does" mantra we birth tenders cling to.

Which reminds me. Two nice twin stories to pass along. The first from someone I know through work, whose twin boys arrived roughly a half hour apart in early June. They were her second and third children. They, like their sister before them, arrived vaginally, without any pain meds in their mama. Between them, they weighed over 11 1/2 pounds.

The second is from a former client who left the area about a year ago. She, like the work colleague, was young, not on fertility medication, and completely floored by the announcement of twins on the way. Hers, too, arrived vaginally in a birth she would not have wanted to go any other way.

It is reassuring to hear that hospitals are still letting multiples, at least in some situations, arrive in their own time, through the birth canal.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Professional Hazard: Friendship

Yesterday, after having lunch with a former client, and a week after having coffee with a different former client, I was reflecting on the wonderful friendships I've made through my doula work. This includes, of course, my friendship with my backup/co-doula, T$, as well as the other amazing birth professionals I've gotten to know over the years.

It also includes the growing number of mothers and families I count among my friends. When I became doula, I hoped I would occasionally get to serve as a doula for a friend. I did not anticipate that I would often become friends with someone I served as a doula. It happens.

In large part this reflects the fact that most of my clients are similar to me: college educated, mid- to late-30's, partnered, Caucasian, liberal, middle-class, etc.. I admit my practice is not as diverse as it could be, despite my sliding fee scale and willingness to work with low-income clients.

It was therefore heartening to read this news story about a doula and client who became friends despite differences in their socio-economic, marital and educational status. Their respect and inspiration runs both ways.

There is a place in all doulas that hopes for this: that we may learn from our clients and they may learn from us; that we mutually raise each other a little bit from where we were. In a profession where the hours are long, unpredictable and intense, it is a pleasant perk to meet women one enjoys being around. It is likewise satisfying to have women want your company.

Yet unspoken in the article are those boundary issues we doulas need to keep in mind. Anyone who has worked with women in crisis, transition, or just a bad situation knows the "rescues" are few and far between. It is not the doula's job to help new mothers set up housekeeping. Nor should we assume emotional responsibility for the family's welfare. The doula heart wants to make everything better. It rarely can.

The doula-client relationship is a different thing from a friendship. Sometimes the former evolves into the latter. More often -- especially in cases of need -- the former masquerades as the latter.

Fortunately for the women in the article, their friendship appears genuine and balanced. Both of them draw from it and contribute to it. Things have worked out nicely for each of them.

Part of a doula's work is maintaining self-awareness. One must recognize when the urge to help or simply spend time with another woman exceeds the doula's professional scope. When that happens, it is either time to begin closing the doula-client relationship or to embrace the newly budding friendship. Both actions, when honestly motivated, keep us invigorated and rewarded in our work.