• TIna Bilodeau CD(DONA)

Raising kids, and being a Doula

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

Raising kids is hard enough, but doing in on a doula's schedule, and income, is a whole other story.

Like many others in the doula profession I also began working after a not so stellar birth experience. My daughter, Riley, was born in September of 2016. For the first year of her life I worked full time, and Riley attended daycare at the local military installation. Everyday I would go to her daycare on my lunch break to nurse her, and put her down for her nap. It was the best time of my day, and it was my way of getting more time with my infant. Working full time left me feeling absent, and having a drama filled work environment made me feel like it wasn't worth taking time away from my child.

For a full year I would pick up a tired fussy baby from daycare, and go home to fall asleep on my couch with her after we ate. When DONA announced there would be a training held where I lived (all the way in Italy) I knew I had to be there. It was my chance, to step away from a meaningless job, that wasn't going anywhere, and step into the world of birth work full time.

Because I immediately stepped into my doula role, I was immediately faced with the issue of on-call sitters. I had pulled my daughter out of her full time daycare spot already. Doulas are not always on call either. Over time I have gotten pretty good about knowing when a client is close to labor. Its then that I will touch base with a sitter, a few times I have told my sitter "Hey, this baby is probably coming on Thursday." and sure enough, that baby came Thursday. That makes it easy for my husband, who is normally in charge of drop off, because I am already gone.

Juggling childcare with an on-call schedule is the biggest hurtle. At home sitters are my best option because daycare centers don't often support drop in care. In the year that I have lived in southern Illinois I have carefully crafted a network of licensed in home sitters, a few college students, a stay at home mom, and a teenager down the street. If the situation arises that I need a sitter, I have it covered.

I have had competitors in the past try to smear my name because I have a toddler, and not school aged children. Advertising more or longer meeting, because they don't have to pay childcare. Its wrong, and its dirty. In a business where you support families, you should use somebodies against them.

My doula clients also should not have to worry about my daughter when they are in labor. Its a sweet sentiment, but it always stings a bit when a client voices guilt that I'm away from my family. I am a professional, and care is arranged. My daughter is most likely at home with her father, sleeping in her own bed. Once I almost missed Christmas, but I made it home right as my family was getting up. I went upstairs and showered, and then proceeded to make breakfast and open gifts. But here's the thing, my daughter does not remember that Christmas. And I knew that while I was at the birth. I wasn't in any hurry, my mind wasn't elsewhere. My number one priority was the mother, and she knew that.

Over time my daughter has become a little birth worker herself. Its not uncommon for clients to stop by, I live very close to the hospitals and doctors offices in O'Fallon Illinois, so they often pop in after appointments. Normally because a baby is needing help changing positions. So my daughter has seen Spinning Babies moves, she quite good at forward leaning inversions. She likes to repeat me when I'm explaining things, and she knows that if I'm gone for a long time that somebody is having a baby. I've gone to pick her up from the sitter, and her first question is "Was it a baby boy, or a baby girl?" I think its cute, and I don't want to discourage her. If I can open her mind to a world of birthing without fear, then so be it. That's one more for the future generations. But her familiarity with pregnancy also leaves me kicking myself sometimes. She often tells people that I am pregnant ( I am not) or asks if I have a baby in my belly. It may be uncomfortable, but I don't want to discourage her, and in doing so replace the veil on physiological birth.

Just like any working parent, I need to balance work and home, I just have special circumstances with not having a set schedule. I never know how long I will be with a client, and that can make finding sitters a struggle. And scheduling prenatal visits needs to be structured, and I cant spend all day with clients. But I think that brigs a level of professionalism, I have a list of things to achieve, and im working, not just hanging out.

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O'Fallon, Illinois
ST. Louis, Missouri

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