As a independent doula, and like many other birth workers, I am on-call from the moment my clients sign a contract with me. Birth can happen during any week of pregnancy and at any time of day, any day of the week. Because of this, it may seem that I don’t really start working until the birthing time begins.
So how do I spend my time and what does the on-call life look like?
Throughout pregnancy, I am available to my clients. They often call or text with questions about what they have read or seen, or things that have come up during a prenatal appointment. When I get this call or text, I go into research mode. I may already have resources ready to go, or I may need to investigate the internet or reach out to a colleague. I get back to them with what I’ve found, check if they have any other questions, and see if they need to process that information or form questions for their provider. Sometimes we just spend time on the phone chatting.
When we have scheduled our prenatal sessions, I gather materials and resources about the topics that we will cover. Then we spend a couple hours together going over their birth plans, newborn procedures, comfort measures, and postpartum needs. If any questions come up during this time, I’ll be gathering more information for them and following up to make sure they feel comfortable moving forward.
My phone is always with me, but as the birth day approaches, I am double and triple checking to be sure that it is charged and the ringer is on. Every night before I go to bed, I do a check on this. My clients are assigned a special ring tone and they are on emergency by-pass so that a call can come through even if it accidentally is put in silent mode. Plus, I regularly check my phone to make sure I haven’t missed a text or call.
I often let my family and friends know that I might have to break the plans we’ve made, and do so at the last minute. If I head to an event, I will be sure to drive separately in case I need to leave early. I don’t usually travel out of town during the last month of a pregnancy, and I don’t tend to venture too far from home (staying within an hour or so) during that last week. If I hear from a client that things are “starting,” I have a look at my calendar to see what I might need to cancel or rearrange. Depending on how things are progressing and at what time of day they get going, I may take a nap or head to bed early.
My birth bag goes everywhere with me during the last few weeks. I’ve always got snacks, water bottle, change of clothes, extra shoes, and some toiletries. Depending on the hospital, there’s also a birth ball in the back seat of my car!
Birth brings with it a lot of waiting followed by intense moments of activity. The on-call life looks a lot like that. I go about my days with patient anticipation, ready to jump up and go at any moment!