On call

What does "on call" mean for a doula? The endpoint is obvious -- when she gets the call that the baby is coming. But when does it start? What is life like until the mom goes into labor?

In my practice, something happens the moment a mother decides that I am her doula and signs my letter of agreement. Something has changed in my life. She's in my head. My official "on call" time starts when the pregnancy hits week 37 and is considered to be "term." (40 weeks is full-term.) At that point, little pieces of my world change. My car is always gassed up. My phone is never off -- on "vibrate" if I'm in church, at a movie, or in any place where it's noise would be unwelcome. I remind the family to "call, don't text" if labor starts at night. (It's in my letter of agreement, but I'd rather be redundant than miss a birth.)

I check and restock my doula bag. Doulas can't give from an empty cup. So I make sure that my own supplies are in order: snacks for myself, powdered Gator Ade, toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash and breath mints, hand sanitizer. Did you know that laboring women have an acute sense of smell? I don't want the mother to barf on me because of my bad breath! Then I check to make sure that my mom supplies are organized: essential oils, Rebozo, cheat sheets on labor positioning. OK, we're good.

Then I try to stay rested and ready. Take a shower in the afternoon. Take a nap. Go to bed with the coffee pot filled and at the ready, clothes laid out. Rinse and repeat.

I often joke, "I just gassed my car and took a shower. You'd think the baby would come!"

Eventually the call comes. Nobody ever stays pregnant forever. I turn on the coffee, jump into my clothes, let the dog out. Drink my coffee, grab my doula bag, get into the car, and go.

"On call" has ended. Now I'm on duty.


Paula Moyer