Transform doula burnout
Just 3 years ago I was miserable. I was suffering from anxiety, insomnia and serious fatigue. All symptoms resulting from the work that I felt the most passionate about- birth work. It all started on the yoga mat. My prenatal yoga students were begging me to attend their births. They wanted me to help them experience the strength and calmness they felt in yoga class at their birth. So I took a Doula training at Birth Day Presence with Debra Pascali-Bonaro and I dove in!
Debra Pascali-Bonaro pictured with Tara Tonini
To this day, when I think back to the first birth I attended tears of joy come to my eyes. I LOVE being a Doula!!!!! That passion led me to take on too much, too fast. I was running around NYC teaching prenatal yoga during the day and attending several births each month, most of them taking place at night. I was burning the candle at both ends. Then one day my body crashed and I realized that something had to change. So if you’re in a place where you’re burnt out doing the work you feel the most passionate about, and you know something has to change, please know you’re not alone… I’ve been there.
Now I want to help you make it to the other side.
Recognizing The Patterns
Birth work is HARD WORK! Oftentimes we Doulas are on-call for weeks at a time, just a phone call away to ease the questions or worries or our clients. Then there is the physical part, squeezing hips during contractions, working with a rebozo, assisting our clients in all types of physical comfort measures for hours on end.
For years I used coffee to power through my exhaustion.
Being an on-call Doula always gave me a consistent level of anxiety that made it extremely difficult to sleep at night. My cell phone ringer always left on the highest volume and as I lay in bed at night my mind would be consumed with my clients needs and my todo list for the next day.
When adrenaline and caffeine is flowing through our bodies it can be challenging to feel and identify the amount of fatigue that lays underneath.
Learning How To Say No
How comfortable are you in saying no? I’m still building strength in my no muscles. My heart still aches and my tummy feels funny when I have to tell a client no. Why? Because I care. Because I believe every birthing person deserves access to a Doula. So I developed a personal toolkit to make the process easier. First I put together a Doula referral list so I had multiple resources I could refer clients to. Next I drafted a template email that basically helped me say no. Once I learned how to tell clients no, or simply refer them out I was able to schedule time for my own self-care.
Have you ever been on an airplane? When the flight crew goes through the safety procedures they instruct passengers in case of an emergency the oxygen bags will deploy and to fasten your oxygen mask before assisting others. I never understood this concept until I experienced Doula burnout.
In order to be of the highest service to our clients we need to nourish ourselves so that we are giving from a well nourished place. When we Doulas learn to center our needs and prioritize our self-care we become resilient and we are able to lend our resilience to our clients when they need it.
Tara Tonini is a yogi, meditation guru, healer, and birth educator. She offers several classes online, including Practicing Labor Coping Skills series with boober, a place for parents to be matched with providers.