It is fairly well-known to anyone who knows a doula that we live an "on-call" life. It isn't a typical "on-call" schedule. It isn't one day at a time, or a weekend. It is long-term.
We RSVP to events with a phrase "if I'm not at a birth". We rarely carpool, in case we have to make a quick getaway. We keep our phones on us during the day, and right next to our heads at night. We answer all unknown number calls at night. We answer texts immediately, or as soon as we can. We don't go to events too far away without scheduling backup. (I can't speak for all doulas on this, but I don't even have a glass of wine with dinner when I'm on call. It makes me too sleepy.) We schedule vacations 10 months in advance, or we plan them with spontaneity after a client births. We go to bed early, because we never know when we'll be called in the middle of the night. We say "no" to activities that may go later into the evening because of that. We cancel plans or appointments last minute (one time I had to cancel a dentist appointment three separate times because I kept having a birth on the new appointment date!) We may miss kids' birthdays, special holidays, or school events. There are very few guaranteed aspects of birth, except for it's unpredictability.
It's quite literally a constant way of life for a birth professional.
I've recently found myself in an unexpected extended time of "off-call" due to the unpredictability of birth. I wish I could say it is a "quiet" time, but in reality, my off-call schedule is nothing but. Off call is the time where I catch up on regular life. I schedule appointments, I finish projects, I do all of the things I've neglected when there's 5 births in 3 weeks. This week 4 of our family's 6 members have Dr. appointments, with one in Anniston. Next week, every.single.one. of our four children have a Dr. appointment, with two of them up in Nashville. Off-call typically is also a time to meet with clients, so I try to get prenatal scheduled during the times when I have a more predictable schedule.
It isn't all work, of course. There are so many wonderful "off -call" things I enjoy. The good news is that I can have a glass of wine, or a cocktail at Buti-glow (which, by the way, was SO. MUCH.FUN!) I can leave my phone on the counter in the kitchen while my family takes a walk. I can go on hikes without worrying about if I have phone service. (I still am available for my clients, of course but it isn't the same level as immediate access. In reality, I am always a tiny bit on call when I have ANY clients.) I can take a short get away with a friend and just focus on relaxing, and fun, and conversations. I can paint the entire downstairs without being worried that I'll have to leave in the middle of painting a wall. I can fly down to Florida over Thanksgiving to visit my family. Really, I can live like a non-birth professional for the most part.
I'm loving the on-call life at the moment and cherishing it. Before long, I'll be back to carrying my phone around like a tiny baby, back in the on-call saddle, anticipating the arrival of new life, and I'll love it just as much.
Tracy Abney is a certified birth and bereavement doula serving Huntsville, Madison and other parts of north Alabama.