A doula’s role as an emotional support person to a family in labor is a heavy responsibility. Some labors may have a doula awake and on her feet for the better part of a few days. Minimal food and sleep lead many to become exhausted both physically and emotionally. The doula hangover is what many call the phase after a long birth. Doulas can save themselves the trouble with the following five guidelines to take care of themselves after a birth.
1. Take a warm bath or shower.
There are a lot of substances unique to labor and delivery that need to get cleaned up after a birth. Hospitals can be germ-infested and if you are napping on the floor, it is best to wash your clothes and yourself as soon as you can. Have a special soap or shampoo you save for after a birth. Create a cleansing ritual for yourself after you get home from being with a client in labor. This helps your brain and your body fall into a routine and allows you to leave the adrenaline at the door and let go.
2. Eat something hearty and nutritious.
Chances are the last time you ate a real meal, if you were lucky, was before the birth. That may have been days ago. Snacking on vending machine chips and quickly eating granola bars in the hall hardly can suffice you for very long. Keep pre-made meals in your freezer and fridge that can be easily prepared. Make sure the meals are filling and can nourish you after your many hours of tiny bites. You can also freeze fresh fruit and portion off for a quick smoothie. Just pop in the blender, add a little water and you have yourself a good start.
3. Sleep when the high wears off.
All doulas know the feeling after a birth. Good or bad there is exhilaration and a high like no other. You just witnessed the miracle of life and it can create a buzz that lasts days. Once you have the ‘doula high’ it can be hard to put away the experience and fall asleep, even if you feel exhausted. If you are on-call for other births, it is necessary that you get all the shut-eye possible. Once you get home, try to create a ritual to let your mind know sleep is coming soon. Take a warm bath, have a nourishing meal, reflect on the birth, then follow with as much sleep as you can get.
4. Clean out your birth bag.
If you have back-to-back births, a clean birth bag is a must. You need to restock your disposables like Chux pads, tissues, and barf bags. Also, some births require you to change your clothes several times. Have extra clothes and outfits for births handy if you need to do a quick replacement in your bag. Extra clothes and shoes can never be too handy at a birth. Be sure to replenish your snack stash, as you may need to eat extra in between back-to-back births.
5. Process the birth.
It is important to process the birth whether it was wonderful, devastating, or anywhere in between. A strong and supportive doula community is the biggest asset when working as a birth doula. Share your recent births with a close friend or fellow doula. These ladies can enable you to work through tough births and process your emotions around a certain situation or client. Once you can process it out loud and get support for your situation, you are able to move on and help most effectively at your next birth.
The rate of burnout for birth doulas is one of the highest among any occupation. This is because of the emotional investment that is required for your work. Create a relaxation ritual for yourself to enjoy after births. Don’t forget to share your experiences and work through any hang-ups with your doula support community. Creating a routine for yourself after births, allows you to successfully move from client to client in a healthy way.