Supporting clients during the COVID-19 pandemic

Where can I even begin? These are some unprecedented and uncertain times, for sure. What can I say that hasn’t been said already? I think this post will be more for me than any of my clients or readers. This really won’t be an educational post as much as a personal post about where my thoughts are leading me lately. I am trying to think about how I can best serve my clients during this time.

Even though I have much to be thankful for, I am still stressed. I am stressed at the disruption in our normal routine, and I am stressed at our uncertain future. I am stressed about what this will mean for my future in my endeavors to become a nurse. Will this put me a year behind? Will it prove to be an insurmountable roadblock?

I am worried about my family’s safety and health. I worry about whether or not our food and other household supplies will last long enough to outlast this pandemic, and if we do need to go out for more supplies, will we be able to find what we need? Will we finally succumb to sickness? Will we have enough money for said supplies?

I am concerned about those children whose parents were already at the breaking point when their kids were in school full time. What will this added economic stress and confinement do to those parents? To those kids?

I am stressed, but I am thankful. I am thankful that the coping skills that I have developed over nearly a decade of dealing with postpartum depression are hanging in there. While I may be weepy for no reason, or maybe for reasons that I can’t explain, I am still able to function. While I am dealing with anhedonia, I am able to still pull myself out of bed at a decent time. I am able to continue with self-care routines that help me be the best mother I can be. I am thankful that my husband is home and still pulling in a steady paycheck. For once, being a teacher (and trying to live on a teacher’s salary) has its advantages. At least for now.

Several years ago, I decided to turn my business over to God. I decided I would trust in His timing and His providence. I would trust that He would bless me with the perfect amount of work that I could handle. I’ve always prayed that I could be the best doula I could be for my clients. I’ve always hoped to be of service and to do my best work, and I’ve always had a prayer in my heart as I’ve supported my many amazing clients.

I haven’t always turned my business over to God. In fact, I decided that I would NOT pray to ask if becoming a doula was the right thing to do because I didn’t want Him to tell me no. I wanted to be a doula so badly that I decided to just do it anyway, without praying to know if it was right. I was also a bit spiritually rebellious at the time. If anyone knows me in real life, I’m really not the rebellious type. Not even a little. So you might get a good chuckle out of my idea of rebellion.

Doula work definitely has its ups and downs. If anyone reading this is mulling over the idea of becoming a doula, just know that it isn’t always sunshine, daisies, rainbows, and cute babies. Yes, those things are included, but it is WORK. Growing a business is WORK. Birth work is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. At least it has been for me. Often, just when I’ve had just about all I can handle of the business demands, the set-backs and failures, the rejection, and the heartbreaking outcomes, a miracle happens- whether that be a joyous outcome to a long-awaited birth or the perfect, uplifting comment said to me by a client just when I needed to hear it. I have witnessed many miracles during my time as a doula, and there have been just enough to keep me going. Even though I was a complete rebel about deciding to become a doula, God has been with me every step of the way. In seemingly small ways and even in some tremendous ways, He has been with me.

I am sharing these things because I have included God in many of my business decisions as well. I do the best I can with the resources available to me, but sometimes it is hard for me to trust. Even though the rug hasn’t been pulled out from under me yet, I am still fearful that there will always be that first time. This is not to say that everything has always gone according to plan. I think I have some pretty good ideas, thank you very much. But often God has other plans, and I don’t always like them. Sometimes I even think my ideas are better. Yup, I said it. But I really couldn’t do any of this without Him, so I keep trying to offer my trust. It is so hard for me, but I am learning more and more how to trust His will for me in my life and business. He really is in the details of our lives.

For the past several years I have been mulling over the idea of offering Virtual Doula Services. I’ve been trying to think about what I’d want this plan to look like, but for some reason I can’t explain, I haven’t felt like it was time for me to offer something like that. There really is something special about providing in-person support during childbirth that just can’t be duplicated virtually. Humans really do need human contact. Doulas provide that human element in what is often a highly medicalized event. But there are some circumstances in which virtual doula services can be appropriate and even preferred, such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve supported people over the phone quite a bit and sometimes that was all they needed. I’ve supported clients in other states during high-stress situations in which there was no way I could be there in person. Virtual doula support isn’t a new concept, but I haven’t made it an official service offering. I’m not sure why I haven’t felt ready to offer it. Perhaps it was God telling me, “Not yet.”

There is a lot we doulas are having to think about when deciding how we can best support our clients during this time. Houston doulas are not new to thinking on our feet and being flexible. Babies still needed to be born during Hurricane Harvey. But COVID-19 is a cross-contamination nightmare. I already felt heightened heebie-jeebies regarding microorganisms when I started taking Medical Microbiology this semester. Now I feel like jumping out of my skin and holding my breath indefinitely. Unfortunately, neither of those are viable options.

I would like to think that those in positions of making life-altering decisions are doing the best they can with the information available to them, but I am not always certain this is the case. It is hard to know who to believe right now. Which sources are credible? I have read disturbing accounts of what those front line healthcare workers are dealing with. I have also read heartbreaking stories about people having to give birth without any support people at all, much less with a supportive doula at their side. I am reading about babies potentially being separated from their parents immediately after birth. I can’t imagine the stress expecting parents are facing right now. I also can’t imagine how hard it is for those doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to try to support patients without adequate safety equipment and support themselves. This is just an all-around horrible situation for everyone involved.

Virtual Doula Support Options:

So during the rest of 2020, I am planning to offer a virtual doula option for those who may be interested in that type of care. I am available for June 2020 due dates and beyond. These packages will still include a virtual meeting to establish if we are a good fit, two meetings before birth to discuss birth preferences, learn mental and physical techniques for labor, teach communications skills, and to address any other questions or concerns about the upcoming birth. During labor, I will provide phone, text, and face-to-face support using a virtual platform such as Zoom. After the birth, we will have one more virtual meeting to follow-up with any concerns.

I also have offered Virtual Birth Planning meetings for several months now. These are still an option if you’d like support at any point during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum but on an hourly basis. Read about Birth Planning Sessions to learn more about what these can entail.

My heart goes out to those families who are having to navigate their pregnancy and birth journeys through some uncertain territory. Everyone is doing the best they know how to do with the information available. My goal is to continue offering a calm and steady presence during this time, even though it may look a little different than before.

 

 

 

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