Tonight, at midnight, I will be officially on-call for a birth. With the honour of being a birth doula comes the obligation of being available at a moment's notice from 2 weeks before D-Day until the baby shows up...possibly an entire month.
Unlike other jobs that require being on-call, there are no shifts, no down-time. For a month, I will become the unreliable friend, uncommitted volunteer and hopeful participant. I will hesitate to plan any dinner plans, especially expensive ones, just in case I have to leave after the appetizer but before the main course. I will RSVP to parties with the words, "2 adults...maybe, if my client isn't in labour". I will refrain from going to the movies or Walmart because the cellphone reception is crappy in those huge buildings. Long walks or hikes will be replaced by short ones, lest I need to sprint back to the house to hop into the car enroute to the hospital. My cellphone will be my constant companion - by my bedside, on the sink while I shower and tucked into my pocket during church. I will haul my doula bag with me everywhere I go, even to the grocery store.
Ah, but with the bad comes the good. Whilst on call, I will re-read The Birth Partner with renewed fervor. I will go to bed early to get precious sleep lest I need to be awake for 30 hours straight. I will rise early to hit the shower and do my housework in case I am called away mid-morning. I will eat healthy, regular meals because this may be the last unrushed lunch for a couple days. I will savor my morning coffee for it's taste and warmth, and not only for the caffeine that may sustain me through the night hours. I will become an ultra-organized, efficient mother and wife so as not to leave any loose ends when I abandon ship for the high seas of labour. I will cuddle my children, remembering their own births with fondness and a remembrance of that high I felt for days after first kissing their chubby little cheeks.
On-call is tough, but it does have it's silver lining...