From top left: Kim, Christa, me, Amber, Sorrell, and Anne.
There are normal cycles a doula goes through, from the excitement phase which gets you pursuing your dream in the beginning, to the elatement as you share births with families, to the let-down that happens every so often when a birth doesn't go as a family planned. Another place a doula finds herself every so often is in a burn-out mode. I promise, once you have been working as a doula long enough, you will hit these phases, just as sure as the stages of labor, and then cycle back through them again.
I have experienced a few different burn-out points as a doula. Luckily with proper self-care, emotional support from other doulas, and time, a burn-out is bound to pass. It was during my first burn-out that I had an idea of working with a group of doulas to provide expanded coverage to clients at a reduced price, thus enabling more families affordable doula care, while also having a better way to carry out plans and "have a life" when working in a realm where you are constantly on-call.
I love growing new doulas, and because of this, I have always worked with others to weed out local doulas so we could meet together to share the joys, frustrations, and common issues doulas face. Every couple of years or so (as burn-out dictated), I would get a group together and present this idea of sharing call and rotating schedules. The first time I tried this it was spring, 2007, and we met at a midwifery office called the Red Tent. But something was missing. I felt disappointment as I realized this wasn't the group of doulas, for many diffferent reasons, a plan like this would work for. I tried again, and saw, again, we hadn't yet evolved into that group yet. So imagine my surprise when in October of 2011, I brought this up at yet another local doula support meeting. Suddenly, there we were! On fire with ideas, eager to see if we could make something like this work, and it seemed like each one of us was meant to be a part of this.
The women involved were all doulas I had met one way or another. I had known Amber the longest, as she attended the very first DONA-training I helped my mentor and friend, Connie, bring to Chico years before. We often would be the only two to show up to community doula meetings, so we got to know each other very well. Kim was a former client of mine (whose birth I missed because her baby was born in the car en route to the hospital!). She had trained as a doula and childbirth educator and her schedule finally opened enough, after having children, to allow her to pursue it again. Anne was another participant at the third DONA-training in Chico, and we met there, when I facilitated the breastfeeding portion of that seminar. Sorrell came along at the 4th DONA-training the following year, and we met under the same circumstances; she had worked as a doula and childbirth educator formerly in Plumas County. Christa was actually a phone call out of the blue -- her family was relocating to Chico from Northern California and she wanted to know about the birth climate in our area. That first phone call I fear I talked her ear off, I was so happy to hear from her.
So, we all end up in a room together, I share my idea, and lo and behold, after years of wishing for something like this, we discuss it, shape it, see how it feels for our lives, and the Chico Doula Circle was born! We had our first public meeting for parents in January 2012, and things just rolled forward from there. I was so sad to leave this group of women, and Christa left as well, to pursue nursing school in New York. But I see with gladness all they are accomlishing, and I still believe this is an incredible opportunity for doulas and families alike. Maybe someday I will get to be a part of something this wonderful again. In the meantime, I love knowing it is out there, serving the Chico community, and offering education and support to women and families during pregnancy and birth.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)