As this pregnancy moves along, I am reminded daily that I will soon be taking a sabbatical from birth doula work. Every visit that I make to my client's homes and every baby that I witness coming into the world is bittersweet. I know that soon I will be the one on the birthing stool, and although I anticipate the joy of this, I know that my days of jumping out of bed to attend a birth at 1 a.m. are numbered.
Turning away clients has so far been the hardest part. I will not be taking on primary clients after August 1st (although may provide occasional backup for my doula friends). With each email I send out, I don't mourn so much the loss of income or "business," but more the loss of an intimate connection with people on the path to parenthood.
In this job, there needs to be boundaries (of course), but these boundaries are loose and sometimes transparent. I witness what we normally deem to be human frailty, or perhaps loss of control. As we go about our daily lives, meeting and working with other people, it's unlikely we have the opportunity to see the nakedness of our humanity - to see ourselves as we have always been. Animalistic, primal, and grounded.
Palliative care nurses may say the same - in our jobs, we see the essence of this life. We witness the comings and goings; the circle as it begins and completes. It is whole, it is real, and it never ceases to amaze me.
But doula work is hard with little ones around. You must have someone who is willing to take your kids at the last minute, and sometimes at unpredictable hours (depending on what your husband does - mine does not have a 9-5 job, and so we sometimes need childcare before 7 a.m. or after 5 p.m.). As well, you become that person. The one that cancels last minute, or just never shows up to events or appointments. The one that can only make plans by saying "however, I'm on-call for a birth at that time..." The one who can only travel if she takes 4 weeks off, and doesn't get paid for vacation.
As well, doula work does not pay a lot. Most people balk at the cost ("what!! You charge $550 to attend a birth?!"), but depending on the length of the birth and the hours I have dedicated to pre and postnatal care, I'm sometimes getting paid $15 per hour. For our family, full-time doula work (4 births per month) would not pay the bills. I've also come to the conclusion that my current life, with 3 days per week of work at the hospital and 2 births per month, while caring for a preschooler and a small baby, would be madness.
So despite the fact that I think I've found my calling; the thing I've always wanted to do with my life, I may need to step away for a while. Or at least until I can find a way to manage my home, love my children, give my hubby the attention he deserves, be a good friend/daughter/sister, AND attend births...all at the same time, and with a smile!
But stepping away doesn't mean saying goodbye. I'm happy to say I will soon be teaching prenatal classes with Birthcare. And with that comes the occasional backup I can do for other instructors, who are all doulas themselves. It may also be possible for me to do extra training in breastfeeding and postpartum doula care, which although the market is highly saturated, may offer some better daytime hours. And I will certainly never turn away a repeat client - the joy of following someone through to their second (or third!) pregnancy is too much to give up.
So, my hope is to have the best of both worlds. To keep my foot in the door, for when I feel like life will allow me to return. Giving up on my dream job is not an option. Allowing my dream to work alongside reality, is.
Are you a small business owner or doula? How do you manage to balance work life with small children?