It is difficult, although often very wise, for a doula to "bench" herself, to say, "I can't right now." It is wise if you know in your bones that you don't have it to give and that you would not be helpful in the birth setting.
I had to bench myself at the end of this winter (or what I thought was the end; more later). I was getting ready to enter a hospital and go to a mother. I turned my head and stepped off a curb and onto my ankle. As it turns out, I fractured my ankle. The rest of the winter (which continued into mid-April!) I had to make friends with a variety of assistive devices: a "boot" (instead of a cast), walker, knee scooter, crutches. Now I'm down to a brace that fits into my shoe. It involves threading the world's longest shoelace through 28 eyeholes, and I have to unlace all but two of them to take it off. Needless to say, once the brace is on, it's not off till bedtime.
As you can imagine, the whole thing has been quite commanding of my attention. So much that I knew I could not contribute much to a laboring woman and her partner. The show needs to be all about them.
I'm now coming back to life -- and doula life -- in phases. I can now walk my own dog again. Not driving yet -- the break was on my right ankle, and I'm not yet able to suddenly jam on the brakes without pain.
The hub will give me a ride, though. Therefore, last week I told my doula sisters that I can be on call to spell someone. If you're supporting a mom with a long labor, and you need a nap, I'm your person. I still tire easily, but I'm good for a few hours of relief doula-work.
And just last night, I got a query from a mom due in the summer. I'm answering that one. I'll be ready by then.
Coach, send me in.