I have been a practicing birth doula for almost 8 years. I have watched as 50+ women and their families welcomed their children into the world. I truly love this work. It interests me and it fulfills me.
Just last year, I made it official and turned my homegrown business into an LLC, Diamond Doula Care. It was a big deal to ‘incorporate.’ It meant that this was really a career now. I was taking the game to the next level.
The end of last year and the beginning of this year saw a surge in business. I was teaching full childbirth ed classes regularly and my doula dancecard was full. All was right with the world.
*Enter stage left, tap dancing with top hat and cane: CANCER
Obviously I stopped practicing immediately. I had one birth between diagnosis and mastectomy, but kept the diagnosis to myself. At that point I was still me. It was business as usual.
After the mastectomy and the snowball of crap that followed, I had to refer away every inquiry into my services. Luckily, I have a strong network of other doulas in my area to refer out to, but I lost a lot of business and a lot of potential clients while building up my competitors.
Now that treatment is over, I am asked a lot when I will start doula-ing again. The answer is not easy.
I am not sure that I want to be a doula anymore. There, I said it.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this work, but my life has changed. My female body no longer operates in the standard issue way. I can’t have more children (not that I was going to but…) and I certainly couldn’t breastfeed anyone. I am not sure that I could successfully and happily stand witness as other women bask in the glory of these things, as they happen for the very first time.
A large part of doula work is breastfeeding. I feel some kind of way about my breasts, about the capabilities of all of our breasts, and it is not exactly positive. How could I place myself in a situation where I could potentially pass this mild disdain onto a brand new mother?
Also, logistically, being a doula is incredibly difficult. Once you accept a client, you have to be available for weeks before and after her estimated due date. No travel, no boozing, no going off the grid. You have to be game-day ready at all times. This has always been a struggle, but now I have had a glimpse at how precious my own time is, and I am not sure I want to spend it waiting.
I know birth work will always be a part of my life in some capacity, but I see potential in other things as well now. I want to work with young women going through breast cancer. Maybe as an advocate, author, mentor, ally, I don’t know, but the pull towards this type of work is strong.
Cancer patients need doula-ing too. I am not sure I have it in me to start a new business from scratch again, at least right now, but I wonder if there is something already out there for me to do? Could I doula specifically for women who have gone through or will go through, breast cancer treatment?
I would love to say that finances aren’t an issue and I could volunteer, but ultimately, I need to financially contribute to this household again. I am feeling anxious about how this is going to happen. I want to allow myself the time to ease back into life which includes having a job, but the realist in me thinks I should be starting now as I feel ‘fine.’
Being ‘done’ with treatment is thrilling. Being expected to go back to business as usual is daunting. I don’t know who I am or what I want. This feels like an opportunity to redefine myself, but do I really want to?
The one thing I do know is that I have had the honor to stand by as so many families have grown. Each time I shed a tear as I watch in wonder at the female human body and spirit. The same feeling comes over me as I think about my fellow BC fighters and alumni. We did it, we were fundamentally changed and re-born too.
I hope and pray that I can find a way to weave together these worlds in a way that is both emotionally fulfilling and economically fruitful. I have so much to give and such a determination to give it.
2017- the year of the Chemoula?
3 Comments Add yours
I’m in a similar situation, wondering if this was a wake up call to change careers, find something easier on me and the family. Ultimately, we are in this purgatory of before and after. Everything feels fuzzy, my identity, my body image, my responsibilities. The wounds are still too raw right now, but you may find yourself aching to be back in a birth eventually. I’ll pray for guidance for you!!
You are so loved and you oh will doula in many many ways—no matter what you decide.
After completing my treatments I felt like I needed to take a step back to kind of honor what I went through. I ended up leaving my job but some women love their careers and go right back to it. I ended up doing something different and it allowed me to be with my kids more. I’ve helped other women going through treatments by listening and sharing because it was important to me that I pay forward for all the help and support my family and I received. I wasn’t paid but I wasn’t looking for that. Check out the Wellness Center to see if they have some ideas.