What is it like to be a Birth Doula in Buffalo, NY?
What is it like to be a Birth Doula in Buffalo, NY?
I write a lot of pretty serious stuff about trauma, and while I take trauma and women’s birth experiences very seriously, I’m a pretty lighthearted person and I often look at the bright side of difficult situations. There are a lot of posts about what it’s like to be a doula and I wanted to present my version, specific to Buffalo, and specific to wearing both hats of doula and birth photographer.
Practically every one of my clients asks what it is like to be a doula. While being a doula is a TON of work, if I didn’t stay lighthearted about the commitment and emotional labor I would probably explode, so here are some insider peeks at what it’s like to be a birth doula in Buffalo.
The Tricky Stuff
So. Much. Driving.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t LOVE driving, but just like with any job in Buffalo, being a birth doula requires some preparation for traveling. I must be sure that my car has at least a half a tank of gas at all times, just in case I get called out to a home birth in North Tonawanda or a client in labor in Springville- or let’s be real- the same in one day (yes, it’s happened- and by some miracle I made it to both births with plenty of time to spare!) I’ve definitely prayed to the birth gods that I didn’t run out of gas on the way to a birth before, mostly because stopping at a gas station at 3 am is my least favorite thing to do. I feel like since I made this post specifically about Buffalo I would be remiss if I didn’t include something about the snow. There’s a lot of snow sometimes, which means being cold a lot and driving really slow for 8 months of the year.
Pack ALL the Snacks
Have you ever been away from home for 12 hours without snacks? Long births are inevitable, so it’s important that I have the fuel to keep going while doing my job. Some births require a lot of physical labor and its important that I can refuel and stay present for the laboring family. Sometimes this means a midnight 711 stop on the way to a downtown Buffalo birth or just planning to eat Tim Hortons Hospital food until the sodium and weak coffee kills me. At least they offer plant milk now, so that’s a plus.
Drop the Kid and Run
My kiddo is with me most of the time and I often have to drop her at a friends house and RUN. She’s pretty used to it by now and has made lots of friends this way. Her school is also getting pretty used to getting the call from my husband, “We’re coming in a little early today, Nichole’s at a birth.” Then later that day my husband gets a call from me, “Can you get her from daycare, I just really need to sleep.” Oh that reminds me…
WHAT IS SLEEP??
So between balancing my toddler, attending births and being a part of a functioning household, sleep can be pretty elusive. Once, I was awake for 36 hours straight attending two births back to back. This is super common for birth doulas and as much as we can prepare, rest up ahead of time and wait until active labor to see our clients, sometimes this kind of thing just happens and we need to keep the promises that we made to our clients. It is part of being a doula. I try to combat this by avoiding caffeine when I can so I have a better chance of napping on the spot if I need to and getting to bed at a reasonable time. Waking up at 4 am isn’t bad if you went to sleep at 10, but I’d probably be toast if I went to sleep any later than that. So add to the list that I love to get to bed early.
The Elusive Business Stuff
Did you ever wonder how doulas get clients? There’s definitely a hustle to being a doula because only about 5% of birthing families use a doula and there are quite a lot of us. Just like any other business we have to blog, network and be really intentional about setting aside time to grow our business. We need to learn about putting keywords in our blog posts like, Buffalo Birth Doula or Buffalo Birth Photographer (see what I did there? Stuffed those keywords like WOAH). We need to troll the internet and learn about whatever the heck a backlink is. We need to grow the courage to charge what we are worth. All of this takes time, patience and a widely ranging set of skills. Honestly, this is what sometimes makes me question if I can keep up being a doula. I’m a rock solid super star doula but spending a whole day managing invoices and tracking expenses, not my fave.
All- Exclusive Staycations without the Fam
Being on call means more than just waking up in the middle of the night to attend labor (and trust me that’s a lot all on its own). This means staying within an hour of your on-call family’s birthplace for FOUR WEEKS. Most recently, this meant that my husband and daughter went out of town without me. My husband needed to be out of town for a medical appointment and because I was on-call for two families, he brought our toddler with him, along with both of our dogs to stay with family. If I was called to a birth, I couldn’t come home to let the dogs out, I wouldn’t be sure I could find overnight care for my daughter that wouldn’t totally freak her out. I make sacrifices, and my family makes sacrifices because this work is too important not to.
The AMAZING Bits- Why it’s Worth it
Women deserve better - We all deserve better
Women and their families deserve better access to information, support and advocacy during birth, as well as attentive postpartum care. Unfortunately, most women aren’t introduced to crucial information about the birthing process, their rights and what to expect until it’s too late. When women use doulas they are statistically more likely to have a better birth outcome. Trust me-I’m all about the touchy feely but I’m also about the numbers. If I can be a part of the movement to improve maternal health outcomes (And I’m going to shout loudly from the rooftops that this needs to include mental health too) then you bet I’m going to keep showing up for women when they need me.
Witnessing birth is incredible
Every time I witness a birth, I get to see the newest member of the human race. It’s truly incredible if you think about it, the NEWEST person in the world is right there. Right. There. Freeze time for a second and then take a second and look up and right there are the newest parents. These three people who are just getting to know each other and learning how to be a family. This baby is learning what it is like to breathe, to see and to smell. It’s not just about the birth for me, it’s about the labor, the education, the empowerment but man, getting to witness the birth of a child is incredible. Every single time I feel like the luckiest one in the room.
Quality Kiddo Time
While the schedule of being a doula is unpredictable, it does allow me to spend a lot of quality time with my daughter. Work life balance is really important to me and working as a doula is supportive of this. Plus, walking in the door to see my baby after I get to witness the birth of someone else’s encourages me to really appreciate my relationship with my daughter.
Working Alongside other Strong Women
You know, when I was growing up I remember really resenting that I was a girl and wanting to prove I could be just as awesome as a boy. Fast forward to now and I am infuriated that I was ever made to feel that way. This work has really opened my eyes to the power and unimaginable strength of women. Seeing not only the power of women as they birth their babies, but also the work that women in this community are doing to change the standard of care in birth work is incredible.