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Doulas and safety - the day I hit the wall

October 20, 2013

Doula Tips - Doulas and Safety

Saying that Doulas are dedicated is kind of an understatement in my opinion.  They often go above and beyond in their role.  They are determined to help each client have the birth experience that they desire.  Sometimes they are so focus on this goal that they don't take care of themselves.  I've heard countless stories from doulas about going hours without breaks, missing meals and getting by on very little sleep.  Most doulas tend to put the needs of the client ahead of their own needs.  While this is admirable, it isn't necessarily safe.  A doulas safety can sometimes be comprised when they are hyperfocused on their job.  This was definitely the case for me in November of 2011.  That was when I hit the wall.

Around 1am I received a text from a client in labor.  Around 3am labor had picked up and she was ready for me to come to her home.  I had a bit of sleep in me, but was by no means fully rested.  We labored at her house for a few hours until labor had really accelerated.  We made a quick drive to the hospital where she was planning a water birth.  Once we arrived my clients realized that they had left the certified proving that they had completed the water birth course at home! Oh no! A water birth was a top priority for this couple.  I offered to drive back to their condo and retrieve the certificate.  They were so grateful and off I went.  I knew she was progressing quickly and was on a mission to get back to the hospital in record time.

The drive went smoothly.  I parked in the parking garage, ran to the elevator lobby, went up the elevator and ran down the hall to their condo.  When i say ran i really mean ran.  I was full speed doing my best to make good time. I grabbed the paperwork, locked the condo, ran down the hallway, aback down the elevator and then ran full speed right into the glass wall of the elevator lobby.  CRASH!!!

Next thing I know I'm sitting on the ground with blood dripping off my lips and a major bump on my brow bone.  I quickly checked to see if I had lost any teeth. The answer was no thank goodness!  What do I do now? I'm injured, but still have a client in labor that needs this certificate.  So, like most dedicated doulas would do, I carried on with the task.

I was in pain. Worried that my skull was okay and kind of concerns with whether I should be driving. But, I made my way back to the hospital and brought the certificate back to the room.  My next challenge was explaining what happened with enough detail to answer the worried looks from my clients, midwife and the nurse WITHOUT drawing much attention to myself.  It's not about my injury. It's about their big day.

I got some ice of my head and went about supporting mom.  Thankfully she gave birth about 2.5 hours later.  I was pretty good about being able to focus on my job and not my head.   I did have quite a shock while I was leaning over the tub supporting mom from behind while she was pushing.  The midwife suggested a mirror and when the mirror was being placed I caught a glimpse of my eye and head. OH NO!! That wasn't pretty at all.

It was a very beautiful and a very memorable birth.  The injury to my head was so significant that I have nerve damage right at impact. Needless to say it could have been much worse!

I share this story as a warning and a plea. Please be safe doulas. Get out there and give it your all, but don't put your own health and safety at risk. You can't be an effective doula if you don't take care of yourself.

2 Responses


October 21, 2013

Wow! What a crazy story. That’s the kind of thing that will be laughed about in the future, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time. I want to give a hearty ‘Amen!’ to being safety-conscious. I know that when I’m on my way to a birth, I tend to drive a little faster, I get more frustrated with detours, construction, and heavy traffic, and I’m so focused on the job to be done that I hurry even when I don’t really need to.

Thanks for posting this. We all need to be reminded that our safety is important, too. The best way to serve our clients is to make sure that we can BE THERE and BE HEALTHY AND FOCUSED.

Nicole McKay
Nicole McKay

October 21, 2013

We really do need to be safe and although your story highlights some big concerns about your injury and caring for yourself, we also have to look at all the little ways we can keep ourselves safe.

This can include when we are in a position for a long time finding supports for our bodies, using tools so we reduce the stress and strain on our bodies, getting enough sleep while on-call, easy to eat foods that are nourishing for our bodies, breaks (including regular potty breaks), and allowing for ample time to get to your client in your agreement so you can drive safely and according to the weather conditions (a big deal here in Canada).

If we can’t take care of ourselves, it is very difficult to take care of others. We also need to lead by example so they will care for themselves as they bring they grow in their parenting journey.

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