A week in the life of a doula
How about knowing a little more about what goes on in the often busy life of a doula? You will see that some days can be very intense.
I am Ysaline, one of the doulas of the first moments team for almost two years. For those who do not know me yet, I am also a birth assistant in a birth center in Montreal.
House in which I do 24-hour shifts to assist midwives during childbirth as well as post-natal. My two jobs combine well and fill my weeks well enough.
You are ready? Come on, let's dive together ...
DAY 1: Monday
8am: My week is off to a good start; a passage to the garage for my car. Fortunately, I have a replacement car because I have a busy week and without a vehicle, it is very difficult for me to efficiently get to my clients all over Montreal.
Today I am not on call but, being part of the regular team, I have to carry out some tasks for the good daily functioning of the birth center.
Before noon, I receive a message from Jessica, our new administrative agent, to find out if I am available for a prenatal course during the month of November with the possibility of relevailles thereafter.
It's a yes for me! Jessica puts us in contact by email, I await the answer of the future parents.
DAY 2: Tuesday
9 am: This morning I have Postpartum support by day and by night in the east of Montreal. I meet a couple who have just experienced the joy of welcoming a little boy who is two weeks old today.
They contacted The first moments a month and a half ago to find out about the interest and the terms daytime relevailles. We had organized a virtual outreach meeting to discuss their journey, their needs and wishes when their baby came out.
When I arrived, although I already knew them a little, I wanted to take time to share to let them tell me about the childbirth and the first days at home for three.
We agree that today the parents will go to rest.
Baby sleeps in my arms and wakes up to 10 hours to suck. I take baby to his mom and stay close to help if needed. Often times, parents take advantage of these moments to ask me questions. This morning, I reassure the mother about her ability to breastfeed despite breast surgery. She worries about not quantifying what her baby is drinking, and I fully understand her. I reassure her because, according to her, baby is gaining weight.
After the feed, I teach her how to express her milk manually in order to show her that with the simple technique of her hands, she is able to get milk out very easily, even if a newborn baby has more strength and is more effective. My client laughs and is reassured!
During all the remaining time of relevailles, baby sleeps on me installed in the baby carrier
He's 13 h. I swaddle the little man, put him in his bassinet in the room with his parents and I leave the new family.
I go home, take a shower and change before doing my groceries and continuing my weekly chores at home from birth until 16 h. I'm on call tonight with the midwives.
20 h : A birth took place at the birth center in the late afternoon. I relieve my colleague who has been there all day and I spend the night with the new family and take the time to help them with breastfeeding. The rest of the night is calm.
DAY 3: Wednesday
6:45 am : I prepare a hearty breakfast for the family who stayed last night.
8H : My colleague takes over for the morning. I can shower and continue my day of weekly chores before the afternoon team meeting.
He's 16 h, I am coming back home. I eat a little something and get my things ready because in less than an hour, I'm teaching a private prenatal class.
I check my cell phone; I have a text from Jessica asking me my availability for night relevailles in Montreal in the coming weeks.
I call her back in order to have a little more information and to have the pleasure of chatting a little together. After contacting the parents by email, I will take the time to call them in order to reserve the nights of relevailles. This is the best way for me to ensure my presence with them.
17 h : That's it; it's the first prenatal class out of the three that I teach this couple from Montreal. For security reasons, we decided to take the virtual option and it is in a good mood that we start the course. We begin by introducing ourselves, then we begin the various topics and the exercises of the evening.
19 hours : The course is over, I am going to lie down and rest for an hour before tackling a night of relevailles.
21 hours: My alarm is ringing. I take a shower, put on my special “nightwear” outfit (ie a comfortable, warm and soft outfit when the baby is on me). I swallow a soup, prepare an herbal tea and gather my things.
He's 21 hours, I'm going for a night with a family that I know well. Do I have my mask? Phew, yes! I still have one in my bag! I receive a text from my client, warning me that the baby has fallen asleep in his bed and that they are going to bed, the front door is cleared I can enter and close behind me.
22 h : I arrive at the family, I put on my mask. There is silence, everyone is asleep. I go to the bathroom to wash my hands and then I settle down comfortably in the little chair in the baby's room.
Baby is bottle-fed, they are all ready in the fridge, I just have to warm them up as soon as I hear baby showing the first signs of hunger. The night takes place very calmly with three bottles in total.
DAY 4: Thursday
He's 6 hours : I leave a little explanatory note to the parents concerning the course of the night with baby. Three bottles, two changed diapers and a very quiet night for the rest.
I slip away and go home, take a shower, change my clothes. My night was fine and I was able to rest between baby's feedings, I give myself two short hours of nap to start my day.
9 hours : Today is a rather special day because these are my last relevailles with a family of twins.
It's been almost 6 months since I saw them again, because I was not lucky enough to be able to help this family during the first wave of the pandemic. They are a couple that I met in early 2020 and who wanted regular daytime support at home for their 3 month old twins.
The mom exclusively breastfed her two babies but wanted to take some time for herself and to rest while the dad worked. The pandemic has upset everyone's plans and here we are for our last meeting.
The two little ones are awake and in full discovery on the awakening carpet when I cross the door, will they recognize me? I discover two puzzled little faces, who look for their mom, then look at me again.
I have to communicate a lot more with the non-verbal since wearing the mask and transmit my smile through my eyes and reassure as much as possible through my voice. Not easy as an exercise with two babies close to the stage of separation anxiety and for whom the interaction with strangers is groped.
Obviously, their mom stays close and reassures them. It didn't take us long before I got adopted and they agreed to play threesome. The twins rub their eyes, it's time for the midday nap, we put them to bed and start the bedtime routine with a round of “bye bye” from the doggies, followed by a story and a music.
It's my client's turn to lie down. I take this opportunity to tidy up the living room, throw an load, do the dishes and play the ballet. It is silent in the household.
I will not have benefited much from the presence of the binoculars because the lifting unit is nearing its end. As agreed, I leave the family without waking mom and leave a note on the table for a brief summary of the nap. I leave the little family on tiptoe.
My afternoon is rather calm. I go home and start my Covid routine, namely: washing my hands, disinfecting my belongings (cell phones, and other materials that I may have touched), showering, putting my relieving clothes in the washer, and preparing food. other business.
It seems like a long time ago when I could help up to three families in one and the same day…. Unfortunately, the current pandemic situation puts me in an awkward position with this kind of schedule. So I am positive and I prefer to stay quiet for the rest of the day because I start my care at the birth house tonight at 20 hours.
DAY 5: Friday
Good morning! It is 8h, my night was calm, I was not called this night, phew a full night! It feels good. I have a vitamin-packed breakfast, I grab my baby wrap and set off for 4-hour relevailles for the same family as on Tuesday.
9h : I arrive at the parents' place, the mother is still sleeping, it is her husband who opens the door for me. He has to work today and asks if I can bathe the baby if I have time.
Baby is still asleep and her mother has expressed her milk during the night so that I can bottle-feed in the morning if necessary and thus let her sleep. I stay alone with the sleeping baby close to me in the living room.
He wakes up without showing any sign of hunger so I take this opportunity to prepare all the necessary things in the bathroom: clean clothes, diaper, 3 towels, soaps, small bath etc.
I turn on the water and undress the little man who seems very attentive and awake. I check the water temperature and put my feet and baby seat in the water first before putting it all in. He seems to like it, so I submerge him completely, being careful to keep his nose and mouth out of the water. By making small movements back and forth, I rock it gently before soaping it from head to toe and rinsing it with the shower head.
I would like to prolong this moment of sweetness but the water is starting to cool. Baby is showing signs of hunger, so I hurry to dry him, dress him and warm the little man's next drink with the bottle warmer! Hop! 60 ml swallowed in less than two, then baby falls asleep for the rest of the relevailles.
Dad takes advantage of everyone being calm to ask me to show him how to use the carrying scarf. I show him the steps for a basic knot and promise to do it with him next week right with baby on him.
I hurry because, this afternoon, there is the staff meeting of the team The First Moments*. Go to the park to meet all together under the sun. Presentation of the team's new doulas, update of files, news in the company etc. I love our meetings because it is always a great moment of exchange and it is just fun to meet with colleagues and friends for the oldest.
18 h : I'm teaching prenatal classes to another couple tonight. I am leaving my team to meet this new couple who are looking for information to welcome their baby in a serene way.
When I arrive I put on my mask, wash my hands and take care to sit 2 meters away from the parents as much as possible. This meeting is very stimulating because they both have many questions and expectations from our discussions.
He's 20h 30 : I finished my course, I am leaving my parents to join my team and finish our 5 7 @ at the office, taking care to pay attention to health safety measures. Imagine several doulas who have not seen each other since the beginning of the year, they have things to tell each other!
I am on call again this evening, I will not stay too late because I am tired of my week and I feel that I will be called tonight (sometimes we feel things without really knowing why).
DAY 6: Saturday
Good morning! It is 8h and a busy night ends. Last night I was called for a home birth in 21 hours which dragged on until the early hours of the morning. After a short trip to the birth center to drop off all the midwifery and childbirth equipment, I go home to enjoy my Saturday.
DAY 7: Sunday
Today is rest for me, finally.
Hope this recap of my week gives you a better idea of what doulas are up to! With the guards of the birthing center, I have decided not to take any more accompanying custody, but as you can see, my schedule for prenatal preparation and postnatal support is still full.
Doula and perinatal naturopath
*This day took place in September 2020, when Ysaline and Jessica were part of our team. The health measures taken at the time of writing this article complied with government requests.