Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Decommissioning My Doula Bag

I have been dancing with leaving the doula profession for a while now. There was a period of nearly a year when I didn't take clients, then I was back in for several. Then off again for six months, then pulled back in. Looking at this blog, I see that pattern repeated. Like with a cat at the door, all this coming and going becomes frustrating and confusing.

The reasons I keep coming back are the same ones that led me to this work in the first place. Birthing women are amazing. In a world where so many things are disappointing, overwhelming, discouraging, it renews the spirit to work with pregnant and laboring women. Every one of my clients has been smart, strong, inspirational. Even when the circumstances of the birth were not what they had hoped for, these women shone. They triumphed. Who can resist being around that?

In the past few years many of my clients were women and families whom I'd served before. That, too, was a pull. It is such a to have witnessed a woman's prior labor(s) when heading into a new one. It is a blessing to already have a bond with the family. I have yet to say "no" to a repeat client.

And yet. Life has become more complicated. I don't know how. My children are older and more independent. But I find myself busier with them after school than I used to be. In part there is more shuttling -- to piano lessons, soccer practices, friends' houses, etc. There is also more emotional need. I am more exhausted helping my adolescent navigate friendships and self-discovery than I was helping him learn to read or ride his bike.

More and more there are no "good" nights to be called away to a birth, no weekends I can afford to miss in my family's growth.

Dabbling in doula work doesn't work either. This spring I had two clients, my first in more than 6 months. With each of them there were things I forgot (e.g. offering to drop off postpartum herbal bath mixes) that used to be reflexive. Hospital policies had changed and I didn't know. I felt out of shape.

Hard though it is, I need to embrace these many signs that it is time. I am not saying I'll never return to being a doula. But for now I need to stop.

I am so grateful to each woman who shared her birth with me, and to each birth for what it taught me about life, mystery, knowledge and faith.