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How to take a doula holiday

I'm headed out on holiday this week! As happens every year, we are loading the car with camping gear and headed to a beautiful place for unknown adventures. This year's destination is the badlands of South Dakota. I'm excited for rugged terrain, blue skies, and wide open expanses (I know, I sound like a tourist brochure!). While the tips below are focused on those of you who are birth or postpartum doulas, I have to follow them as well as The Website Doula! It's not easy to leave the to do list behind, and the list of clients who want me to help them now (or ideally yesterday...). But I somehow manage to do this every single year, disappearing for a week or two into the wilds, and returning to discover that things maybe weren't as urgent after all.   I return to my office on July 21st and will be ready to roll with some lovely new clients for site designs starting in September! Ready for a free website consultation? Book your time now!

It's time for a doula holiday!

It's summer! The river beckons for afternoon swims, the camping gear wants to leave your storage shelves, and the kids are home from school. Going on vacation as a birth or postpartum doula is not easy. Here are my top five recommendations to help you prepare for your next doula holiday:

Schedule ahead.

Decide when you are going to take some time off your doula practice several months in advance. Let's face it - if you don't schedule your holiday time, it probably won't happen. Before you know it the windows of time around various client due dates will make it almost impossible to get away. I learned this lesson early on in my doula career after frustrated conversations negotating holiday times between my husband's schedule and client EDDs!

Resist temptation.

You know the call... A fantastic family with the due date that is "close to your departure date but will probably give birth before you leave". It can be hard to resist the extra income from that one bonus client, but the stress incurred of either hoping they birth in time, arranging backup and/or being up all night with them when you should be packing is really NOT worth it.

This applies to other major life events as well! Years ago I said YES to a family whose due date was my moving date. What are the chances? I thought... Well, it turns out the chances were very good. It was a gorgeous birth and I loved being there, but it left my husband to pick up the pieces with two young children in tow.

Have a fantastic backup partner or two. Trust them.

This is not easy for those of you who live in more isolated communities, and sometimes is simply not possible. Still, an upcoming holiday can be a great chance to reach out and build connections with other local doulas while seeking a strong backup relationship.  Know that should your client go into labor when you're away, your backup doula may not care for them in the exact way that you might have, but trust that your backup partner is holding your client's best interests at heart.

Leave the devices at home.

I mean it. No computer, no cell phone, no tablet. We live enough of our lives on-call. Give yourself a blissful retreat from always being available. I do not say this lightly; it is achingly hard for me to leave the computer at home, believe me. Still, as panicked as I feel walking out the door, I'm always glad that I did. Sometimes when I return this device I spend so many hours on actually feels a bit foreign, my fingers awkward as they learn to cruise the keyboard again.

Let Go.

I'm doing this right now as I write this post.  I had big plans to have my website set up with blog posts that would go live while I was away. But as I write this post I realize I'm not going to do it; as hard as it is to let go, the reality is that even doing that will make me feel like I'm working while I'm gone.  So I'm keeping it simple by surrendering to holiday bliss, and hopefully inspiring some of you to do the same this summer.

Besides, I have managed to advance set-up some facebook posts, a huge victory for summer 2019!  Good is good enough, and this year I'm way ahead of my usual curve - feeling pretty proud of myself!

On coming home...

The reality is that when we return, our doula practice will always be here waiting for us when we return. Yes, there will be a host of emails waiting in the inbox.  That's just fine.  One or two of them might even be important; that's just fine as well - that's why you hopefully had a backup doula available just in case!

It sometimes feels like a bit of a culture shock for me coming home, taking a few days to be ready to settle into my routine again and embrace my to do list. Over the years I've gotten better at this, ideally taking a day or two to simply unpack and enjoy my home and family.  If you have doula clients needing visits, consider scheduling them for a few days after your return rather than in your first 24 hours back. Think of yourself as being "in transition", and let that threshold between vacation & daily work life stretch out as long as possible so you can better integrate the benefits of your time away.

About Sarah Juliusson

Hi there, I’m Sarah Juliusson, The Website Doula. I support your practice growth with creative website design, seasoned business guidance, and plenty of great resources to help you find your way. With 20+ years as a doula and childbirth educator, I believe in the value of your work as much as you do. >> learn more about my work as the website doula

4 Comments

  1. Tara on August 18, 2013 at 3:30 am

    I think having strong back up is key. I have found over the years that I will use my back up more and more and feel good about it. A few ways I make this happen:

    1. Connect in my community. Without making connections you cant find back up. Take time to really get to know how others practice, how much experience they have, and what their personality is like. Personality is a big one for me. My back up must be similar enough in personality to me so that my clients will instantly feel comfortable with them.
    2. Don’t be afraid to tell your clients when your back up is covering for you. The sooner the better — I try to tell them during the interview if I already know what blocks of time I cant be with them. This counts for vacations but also for times when I am teaching a CBE class, a doula training or other workshop.
    3. In the interview I also talk about how my back up may come to relieve me should I need to sleep. I have decided that I don’t put a time limit but rather take it case by case. I was thrilled once I started to do this that I have never had a client not “get this” and understand that we both benefit from this break should we need it.
    4. Confidence. Having the confidence to step out, take holiday, and honor yourself and your business in these healthy and professional ways will make your doula practice sustainable!

    Best, Tara Brooke CD, PD (DTI)



  2. Sarah Juliusson on August 21, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Beautiful Tara. And yes, I think effective client communication regarding the use of backup doula care is a priority. Calling in our backup does not suggest inadequacy on our part, but rather reflects our desire for families to have the best possible support. I have always phrased it something like this: “My goal is for you to have the full benefit of doula care regardless of the length or nature of your birth. Sometimes this requires calling in my backup doula partner, who may bring a breath of fresh air and new energy that can make all the difference in a challenging birth.”



  3. Svea on November 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for this article!

    I’m a new doula (almost celebrating my “1 year anniversary” as an official doula) and am having a very difficult time leaving my client for a couple days 3 weeks before the EDD. I have a strong backup doula and have no doubt she will be amazing, but a part of me still feels like I’m abandoning my client. I know I need to let go and trust that it will work out as it should, because it always does.

    Thanks again.

    Svea



    • Sarah Juliusson on November 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Congrats on celebrating your one year anniversary Svea! I’ve found often if we either end up unable to attend a client’s birth, or we attend a family’s birth as their backup doula, we see the value and power of what we have to offer even without that depth of relationship. It shifts the relationship from being about a primary connection between you and this family, to seeing the gifts that someone else might bring to them. It’s kind of like when you leave a job that felt like Everything, and then move on to another role and see someone else doing your job and things are going just fine 🙂 This is not to devalue in any way the very real connection and importance we have with our clients, but when it comes time for birth, the most important element in my experience is Presence (and not necessarily Our presence).