Working with women in birth is highly emotional, no matter the outcome. One birth can leave you flying high,and the next one can range from frustrating to disappointing to devastating. Many of us choose this work because it’s our natural tendency to serve others. We need to remember, however, that we cannot effectively nurture and support others unless we ourselves are nurtured and supported.
Cheryl Richardson is a life coach and author of many personal development books that focus on “extreme self-care”. She explains in her book, “Take Time for Your Life”, that extreme self-care is the “foundation of a rich and fulfilling life. This means putting your self-care above everything else”.
It’s vital that we each develop ways to nurture ourselves after a birth to help us process our experience, heal, if necessary, and feel ready to attend the next birth with a fresh and positive perspective. We each should take personal responsibility to give attention to four areas of our self-care: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual. Here are some examples for each area.
- After attending a birth, the birthing mama isn’t the only one who has had a rush of hormones running through her body. Take time to sleep. If possible, reschedule appointments, turn off the phone, and jump into bed.
- Give some attention to your physical fitness. Giving physical support to women can take a toll on your body. Strength training and cardio workouts will energize and support you.
- We encourage women to eat a healthy diet. We should be doing the same. Cut down on refined sugars, carbs and caffeine and introduce more whole foods into your meals.
- What else makes your body feel energized and refreshed? A bubble bath? A massage? Make a list if you need to and have it ready for days that you feel physically run-down.
- Review your notes from the birth and make a list of topics that you would like to know more about. Research these items and expand your knowledge base.
- Read another book from your doula organization’s book list.
- Take a workshop or attend a conference to learn more about your profession and meet other like-minded people.
- Work on your business or marketing plan to become more clear about your vision and action items for your practice.
- Connect with other doulas and build back-up relationships to give you mental well-being that your clients will have continuous care if you are unable to attend their births.
- Build your support team of caregivers to ensure you have a list of reliable care providers available on short notice when you are called to births.
- Keep a journal about the births you attend. Write out all your feelings, frustrations, and joy.
- Get into the habit of acknowledging yourself for what you did well. If you’ve attended a tough birth that you’re replaying over and over in your mind, ask yourself about the gifts you received from that experience, then take what you’ve learned and apply it to your work in the future.
- Connect with other doulas who you can call and process births with. These sisters will help to acknowledge you, celebrate with you, and support you.
- Learn how to do the Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT. EFT is a great tool to help you process difficult births, and it is a great tool to teach your clients as well. Learn about flower essences, homeopathic remedies and herbs that can help ease strong emotions.
- Spend time with those you love. Play and hug your children, talk about your experiences with your partner.
- If necessary, seek the support of a therapist to help you process this work and the way your emotions are affected.
- Spend time out in nature to think, write or just be.
- Connect with Spirit in a way that’s most natural to you.
- Have a creative outlet. What brings out the best in you? Draw, paint, write, sing, dance, cook, garden…
- Enjoy silence and solitude.
- Call someone whose energy feeds you.
- Find ways to laugh.
- Listen to recordings of spiritual teachers or inspirational leaders.
These are just a few examples. I’m sure you can come up with many more on your own. By tuning into what your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs are and meeting those needs, you will be taking steps that allows you to grow as a doula, and you will be honoring yourself by seeking things that help you feel good. You will find yourself being more present, more compassionate, and feeling more whole. Take time to care for yourself as often as (or even more than)you care for others, and you will see many rewards.