Doulaing at Christmas: How can doulas plan their holiday period?
By Sam Sheppard
“Boundaries… yeah, yeah” I hear you say, as you roll your eyes and take a big sigh. It’s all we harp on about, right?
But what do they actually mean and how easy is it to actually implement them?
As the festive season approaches, I often wonder about those women/birthing people out there, trying to find a doula at Christmas. I wonder how easy is it to find one and wonder what their support looks like over this busy and challenging season. And doulas – how do doulas feel about doulaing at Christmas? (Jeeeez that’s a lot of wondering!)
I’ve never really worked over the Christmas period, bar the odd couple, and I’ve many reasons for booking my diary out. I love immersing myself in the festivities, the six close friends and family who have their birthdays between 25th Dec & 2nd Jan (it’s ridiculous, who planned that!) But also because I love it. Like, really love it. All year-round Christmas spirit kinda shizz…yes I am that person and I’m not actually sorry. Plus, it’s the one time I totally switch off. That’s essential for my own well-being.
Whether you love it or hate it, the festive period can cause issues around availability as a doula, and how to implement boundaries which feel right for us. When it comes to doulaing at Christmas, some of you may be happy to roll with whatever, not fussed about missing ‘key’ days, and loving being in a client’s home or birthing unit. While the world is full of cheer you witness the beauty and magic of birth and strong birthing people. What a gift!
For others, the thought of being away, missing friends & family get togethers, the outings and events, may fill you with a little sadness.
Now, it would be easy for me to say ‘just don’t take work!’ but I’m not that naive. We live in a time of uncertainty like people of our generation have never known. The stresses near and far, the years of a pandemic and its repercussions on day to day life. We don’t all have the privilege of being able to turn work down. Money isn’t a taboo word and can be a great driver when it comes to what we can/have to and can’t take on so I’d invite you all to be gentle on yourselves when deciding what works for you. We pay deep thought to what our clients need, what’s good for their overall wellbeing and how we can ease some of their strains…and I’m sincerely hoping you pay yourself the same considerations.
Doulaing at Christmas – some things to consider
Maybe think about what it means to you to be away from home if you love this time of year and want to totally switch off. If you are with a client, will you resent being there? Do you need the income, meaning that it’s not an option to refuse work? Can you make it easier for yourself by working with another doula to split the care? Maybe you tweek your support package a little…?
As always I’m not going to give advice.. we’re doulas right 😉 but I invite you to go gently and do what’s right for you and yours. When we go with our gut as to what feels right, we won’t go far wrong. Keep to your boundaries, make space for your own wellbeing and don’t get swayed by expectations and views of anyone.. because you are on the right track for you, you beautiful people.
As for me, I’m thankful that my phone will be on silent and I’ll be firmly off call to enjoy all that’s happening around me. Unapologetically wallowing in all the Christmas Joy!
I hope you find your joy, however it looks for you and yours 😊
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
What do other Nurturing Birth Doulas say about planning their festive period work?
Sarah Barker Webb (https://blossomdoula.co.uk/)
In the 10 years that I spent supporting births, I worked one Christmas/New Year. It wasn’t fun. My daughter was nine at the time. I felt so anxious on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day thinking that I really would hate leaving my family. It wasn’t worth it for me. I ending up being away from New Years Eve until baby born early 2 Jan!!!
Cally Edwards (www.callyedwards.com)
I’ve doula’d over the Christmas period for the past five years.
Last year/this year I missed New Years’ Eve with my family and friends. It was pretty gutting but the money was really worth it.
This year I’m on call again. Again, the money is good. I can’t really say no to that. It’s definitely a personal ‘do we click’ decision and each time it’s been a yes. Fingers crossed I’ll get lucky this year.
Nikki Mather (https://thedoulaelement.co.uk)
Over 10 years I’ve been on call for 7 of them. The past 2 years have been GLORIOUS not being on call. The sacrifices we make can have ripple effects and whilst they may suit the parents birthing their baby (and I’ve loved every minute of supporting those families, knowing that I may need to ditch my family to be with them), my children and family have missed my presence – because even being in the room with them doesn’t mean I’m present whilst on call.
To other doulas considering taking work on over the Christmas period: Don’t tie yourself up in knots trying to be the doula who ALWAYS shows up. We have lives, our clients understand this and if we can’t find back up for 1 or 2 days, maybe they’ll find another doula who can cover the whole time.
Sarah Sayer (https://www.sarahsayer.co.uk/)
For me it was always “am I happy and earning enough to potentially miss seeing my family on Xmas day AND be sober for most of the festive events?”
I’ve ended up alternating each xmas over the years where possible and I’ve never missed anything so far.
I also would always remind myself that if it doesn’t feel right then it’s not right.