This is when I remind myself, (and my clients), of something my CAPPA trainer once said. Our goal as a doula is not to rescue a woman from her birth experience. CAPPA-certified doulas are there to assist, guide, support and encourage our clients to advocate for themselves.
This way, their triumph is their's and their's alone.
Telling myself this helps me not only cope with the anxiety of potentially missing a birth, but also helps me remind the client who's birth I HAVE attended of this critical fact: SHE DID IT - not me!
A grateful client will often profess profusely that she couldn't have done it without her doula. This makes me very uncomfortable, because it disempowers her.
After all, I'm not the one that got through those contractions, overcame a wall she thought she couldn't climb, or stood up for something she believed in...SHE did that, not me! A doula with an inflated ego is not something anyone wants in the labor room, and could in fact do long term harm.
I fiercely believe in the power of doulas to change birth outcomes, so it's a delicate line to balance between emphasizing the value of a doula while maintaining the strong belief that ALL women are capable of finding the strength within themselves to birth their children.
As a doula I have to be careful to not become overly attached to my client's birth experience. It's hers, not mine. I'm just a tool in her labor bag. I provide valuable information, counter pressure, massage, or anything else I can do to lessen her pain and/or anxiety. But any decent back up doula could and should be able to do those things...Part of my job as your labor doula is to do my best ahead of time to make sure you feel prepared and knowledgeable heading into your birth experience, with or without me... (the idea of missing the birth makes my stomach turn, but it's true that a great back up can and should be just as good as the Doula you originally hired!).
While its very unlikely that a doula that has responsibly booked her schedule and is committed to her clients will miss a birth, life can and will happen, especially if you do this career long enough. Part of our job as doulas is to prepare our clients for the unpredictable nature of birth and equip her with the confidence to overcome obstacles or changes in plans...this applies to who attends your birth as well. A doula could be physically ill, or have a sick child at home... Even if she could make it to the birth, you likely do not want her exposing your precious newborn to germs. A family emergency could arise, such as a funeral. Or maybe two births are happening at the same time, even with estimated due dates days or even weeks apart. Birth is unpredictable!
If I have to miss a birth, there is no doubt that I am deeply saddened. The one birth I've missed I had a good, long cry in the privacy of my home, if for no other reason than I missed an incredible experience, had been planning to be there, and had grown comfortable with the client in the months prior to delivery, even becoming friends. It stinks to miss out on something so amazing!
But ultimately, I AND MY CLIENT trusted that she is PREPARED, CAPABLE AND POWERFUL. Having a doula you know and feel comfortable with helps, but the longer I’ve been a doula, the more I’ve realized that our clients don’t need US to have a fabulous birth experience. They have it within themselves. Are job is to prepare them as best we can prior to the birth, support them with our whole heart during the birth, and provide a wonderful back up doula that can do those same things should we not be able to attend.
I'll end by saying this - Trust me when I say doulas want to be there! We don’t want to let our clients down. We have high standards of professional ethics. But sometimes, life happens. We can’t plan everything, especially in this line of work. Our clients need to know that THEY are ultimately the key to their success, not one specific doula.