A day in the life of a Doula.
I wake at 5am to a text message from a new dad. “Placenta was in the cool bag within 12 minutes of arrival, all cooling instructions have been followed and it is safely on it’s way to our house ready to be made into smoothies.”
I reply that I’ll arrive to prepare the smoothie and collect the remaining placenta after my postnatal visits this morning.
A placenta needs to be in an appropriate container and cool bag to be chilled in the first 30 minutes after birth. The reason for this is to ensure it is chilled quickly after birth and safe to consume for the food standards I adhere to as a placenta remedies provider. The parents have received very clear instructions on how to do this and I send out a kit they can use at home or hospital, which I am relieved they have followed.
I grab a coffee (or three!), and head out to my first family at 6am. It’s a half hour drive and it’s icy this morning – the first frost of the year.
In my role as a postnatal doula, I arrive to support a family after they’ve had a sleepless night with their newborn baby. I pop a sling on, ready for a baby to snuggle in should I need it whilst I fold up the dry cloth nappies and replace them on the drying rack with freshly washed nappies.
Mum is feeding her baby when I arrive and once he is fully satisfied with his belly full of breastmilk, mum hands over the smiley baby so she can head of and grab a refreshing shower and some much needed breakfast. Making the best use of my time as a postnatal doula is important to their family. Both parents are exhausted, and mum tells me she’s not had time to brush her teeth in the past 24 hours, let alone grab a shower or enough water to drink. I pop the baby snuggly into the sling and continue my way around the rooms; tidy around, sort any baby paraphernalia out around the house and make a tidy nest again on the sofa, complete with snacks and water for the day. I chop some root vegetables ready for roasting and pop them in the oven with the timer on as I’ll be gone when they’re ready to come out. As mum comes downstairs I hand her a cup of tea and pop a sleeping baby down out of the sling and into his crib so I can head out again to the next family.
My next visit is to a new family I have not met before who are struggling to feed their baby. Mum has called me on the evening before my visit and wondered if she was doing something wrong because her baby would latch on well, and then sleep very quickly, not swallowing much at all and then come back twenty minutes later. This cycle of on and off feeding was leaving her and the baby without any rest.
I arrived and made us both a cup of coffee. I listened to mum explain her journey so far, the thing she has been experiencing and a little about her birth story so I can build a picture of any external factors that may be affecting where they are currently. We discovered that baby was being held a little away from mum’s body, baby needed to stretch and crane their neck to reach the breast. This quickly tired the baby out and so she fell asleep after a couple of minutes of active drinking. I supported mum to change her position a little and hold baby close. She was a little hesitant because of her sore and lacerated nipples. Once baby was tucked in close and able to latch on quickly, she took a huge mouthful of breast and drank well for 20 minutes, falling off the breast fully satisfied. Mum couldn’t believe the baby was so relaxed and full – milk drunk! Such a little tweak to positioning can make all the difference.
Off I go again to collect this morning’s placenta. It’s 12pm and I am aware I need to eat. I grab a salad from a cafe as I drive towards the new family’s house. Being a birth and postnatal doula quite often means I skip a meal if driving lots on a busy day and so protein bars, dried nuts and fruit seem to be my go to snacks to keep me going.
I arrive to collect the placenta and congratulate the new parents who are now at home after their birth in the middle of the night. I pop on some gloves, check the temperature of the placenta to ensure it is sufficiently cooled and after showing the parents the amazing placenta and all of its fascinating functions, I take off a piece for the smoothie. My smoothie kit is already at their house and I leave dad with the piece of placenta to blend with fruit for his wife as he gets his gloves and apron on – he has been very excited about preparing this for his wife. The remaining placenta is safe in the cool bag and I head home to process it into capsules.
After preparing the placenta and placing it in the dehydrator overnight, I settle down with a hot drink. I log on to the laptop to check my messages and emails. I organise my diary for the next few days and set up some games with the kids who have been with their dad at home today as he took a day off to be with them. Dinner will be ready soon and I have some admin for my volunteer roles to do too before the evening is over.
I am hyper-aware throughout the day that I am also on call for a birth. There is always an acute awareness of the possibility of leaving everything with very short notice, dropping everything as soon as the call comes for me to be with a birthing family. Parents-to-be keep me updated with any changes in how they feel, or any signs of labour and I often have some notice before the time comes to jump in the car. No babies today, so I continue my evening with emails, follow up calls and texts and relax with my children after dinner. I aim to sleep early so I can start over again tomorrow with the next placenta encapsulation step and a trip to the post office to return them to their owner in capsule form. Doula Last Words – “unless I’m at a birth.”