the blog of a Philadelphia birth doula.
"Do you think I need to cancel this appointment?"
I began my day with a text from a doula colleague, with a client in early labor. She was wondering if she should go ahead and cancel a prenatal visit with another client scheduled later in the day, or if she should roll the dice and gamble on being able to make the appointment, and she wanted my opinion. This is the reality of doula life - working around being on call.
What does being "on call" even mean?
For this doula, the on call period begins at 38 weeks (when you are considered "full term"), and ends when your baby arrives. Anytime between 38 and 42 weeks is considered normal, so for a 4 week window of time, I am available to you 24/7, whenever your birthing time begins. Having a support system is crucial, and I am grateful to the people in my life who fill that role. It's what allows me to step outside of my life to be present for my clients when they call, saying "It's time!"
I've heard on-call life described as living, "phone in hand, with one foot out the door", and that's absolutely accurate! You eat with your phone. Sleep with your phone. Leave your phone sitting on the sink while you're showering - no matter where you're at or what you're doing, your phone is there! (Fully charged, ringer on high!) Being on call means your friends and family get used to hearing, "As long as I'm not at a birth!" Sometimes it's crazy. You have to make sure you're ready to go at a moment's notice - that your gas tank is full, your bag is packed, and that someone else can pick up the kids from school. It means you may have to reschedule appointments at the last minute. It means only having half a glass of wine with dinner, instead of helping your friend finish the whole bottle. (Sometimes it means throwing a $20 bill at your friend to cover your share of the bill, and heading out the door before dinner is even finished!)
What does being "on call" mean for my clients?
From 38 weeks onward, it means that I am ready to walk out the door with little notice, whether to join them at home for early birthing, or to meet them at their chosen birth place. It means when they wake up at 3AM and think they might be having contractions but aren't quite sure, they can pick up the phone and call me, confident I will answer. Once I am with them, nothing else matters - I am 100% theirs until they no longer need me, whether that's 2 hours or 22 hours.
Is it hard? Sure, sometimes. Is it rewarding? Beyond words.
Professional birth and postpartum doula, breastfeeding support and childbirth classes in Philadelphia, Delaware County (Delco) and the Main Line, including: Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, Center City, Fishtown, East Falls, Germantown, Havertown, Lansdowne, Media, Mt. Airy, Northern Liberties, Ridley Park, South Philly, Springfield, Swarthmore and the surrounding areas.