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?