January 8, 2017


Sometimes you ask me whether I have backup.

Sometimes you don't, and I tell you anyway, when you ask me if there's anything you should be asking me about that you haven't.

Backup is really important to me, to you, and to your birth.

I have attended well over 60 births as a doula at this point.

During two of those births, I called a backup to come for some of the time.  Once it was because I wasn't going to be able to get to the birth for a few hours; once it was because in the middle of a 36-hour labor I had a workshop scheduled for my other job that I couldn't cancel or get a substitute to lead.

I have missed 3 births entirely, which were attended by backup doulas instead of me.  One of those times was because I was on vacation and the family knew that I might be when they hired me and we had a specific plan about who would come if I couldn't.  In fact, that doula was with another client and called ANOTHER doula as backup.  Everybody was happy.  Except me; I was really disappointed.  Partly that was because it had been the vacation from ... well, not hell, but definitely heck.  My kids had been really sick, I had fallen down the stairs and bruised my tailbone, etc.  Partly it was just the first time that had happened to me and I wasn't mentally prepared.  The next time, I had two moms in labor at the same time in different hospitals.  I am told by other doulas that sometimes if both moms are in labor at the SAME hospital, it works out and you don't necessarily have to call in backup, but nobody can be in two places at once.  Again, everybody was satisfied (including me.)  Most recently, I got a call while on about hour 6 of a 24 hour drive home from vacation.  My client who wasn't due for another 3+ weeks had just had her water break all over everything at work (classic!)  I spent the next couple of hours on the phone finding a backup, because it was close to the holidays and a lot of people were unavailable for one reason or another.  But a backup I did find, and she went, and later the client texted me that the backup doula was AMAZING and I said, of course, I knew she would be.

I have also gone to births as the backup for several doula sisters.  Once just for part of the labor, until the doula could come from the other labor she was at.  Seven times the whole labor or at least most of it including the birth itself.  I actually love attending births as a backup.  I don't have the (mental) stress of knowing I'm on call (usually) and I get to come into the birth process and sort of prove to myself what I can do, even with no background in who this particular family is and what they want - extreme doulaing - figure out how to support, build rapport, meet needs, and facilitate clear communication by the seat of my pants.

Right now I am part of the Philly Doula Coop, which means I have built in backup from a group of doulas I know well and trust completely.  I also regularly trade back up with Kate from BellyWise who I have the pleasure of seeing weekly at our kids' homeschool coop, and back up Lori from Delco Doula.  But I've been called out of the blue by doulas I only know through professional groups on Facebook, too.  That's maybe less than ideal in some ways, but it is a manifestation of grace; as a doula, if I am needed and I can possibly provide the support without hurting myself or my family, I will go.