5 Tips to Avoid Having Doula Burnout | How To Make Your Business Thrive – Doula Series Ep.11

By: Care Messer Birth Doula, Doulas, Education June 15, 2019


Setting up a successful and long-lasting business is SO important! We may come our of our doula training with even more energy and love for the work that we want to jump right in! And we should – AFTER we have put a few key things into place. You are creating a business that works for YOUR life. That blueprint may look different than other women in your community and that’s perfectly ok. In this video, we look at where to start in creating great business boundaries and form a business that will keep you just as excited about birth work as you felt when coming out of your training! You’ll also get some ideas on what kind of families you want to work with and how to attract them! We want you around for a long time – so take the time to put these things in place first!

Video Transcript:

– What is doula burnout? Well, it’s an incredible amount of stress that you can totally avoid if you plan early and ahead before you even start the interview process. Stay tuned for the top five things that will help make your business long lasting. So number one on our what things to avoid for burnout is family comes first. You need to evaluate your life and what’s going on to make sure that you’re not dumping all of your effort into birth work and putting the real people in your life aside. Keeping your family at the forefront of all of your business opportunities and goals and time calendaring is number one. Because if you start feeling resentful that you’re not seeing them and they start feeling resentful that they’re not seeing you. Or that their stuff gets put on the back-burner all the time for your other families, that resentment is gonna be carried into the birth room and it makes birth work not pleasurable for anybody. And remember this baby gets born one time and what energy you bring into that room counts. So one of the things you need to keep in mind is how well you calendar.

If you suck at details, you need to get good at details. Because looking ahead to see what your family’s got coming up is important. And if they have a big project due on Wednesday, maybe Tuesday night would not be a good interview night because you need to be focused on your family. What can you do to put their needs first and your needs first with them? So that your business doesn’t take up that space. So honestly, it’s easier to find the days that are not gonna work first and then reverse engineer working backwards to see which days will work as far as setting up your work hours. So for example, if Wednesday nights are the only night that you and your partner and the kids can get together with cool, peaceful schedules then Wednesday’s are now sacred. That is family time and nothing unless it’s a birth, takes precedence over that. So an interview can’t be on Wednesday, it’s just off the table. That’s a deal breaker for your family.

Another possible deal breaker to think about is Monday nights are full of sporting events and carpool and trying to get the kids fed and then homework done and all that kind of stuff and then you’re rushing out to an interview, you’re not gonna be at your best. You’re gonna feel rushed the whole time which pushes your family to feeling rushed. Everybody’s discombobulated. And then you’re supposed to walk into an appointment calm and steady? It doesn’t always work that way. Your family needs the best of you and you need to feel composed and calm when you walk into that family. So if your family’s busy on that night then Monday’s might be another deal breaker. So now that you’ve figured out your sacred time that nothing’s going to change unless it’s a birth, it’s time to set your work hours. And the most important part of setting your work hours is being very clear and concise with your words. So it’s not left to the imagination with a lot of wiggle room because that wiggle room is gonna catch you in the butt every time. So looking at your schedule when are you available for interviews? Just weekends? Only on Tuesdays? Tuesdays and Thursdays? Pick a couple of times that you’re available and know that those nights can be set aside for interviews. Or possibly prenatal appointments or postnatal appointments. So knowing your schedule well ahead of time like right now, before you even schedule appointments or interviews, it’s really gonna help with burnout because you’re clear and concise as to what’s coming next on your schedule. When a family is calling you for an interview, you know the exact times you’re available and when you’re not available.

So this is one of the best scheduling tricks ever. Number one, is when you’re talking to them you give a clear starting and ending point for your consultation. I do half hour consultations. I do hour consultations. And that’s what you’re going to keep to. Whatever it is, stick to your allotted of time. That’s how they know they can trust you and you’ve set a boundary in place. That’s gonna help in a lot of stuff later on down the line. And it’s simple the phrase, “I’m available on Tuesdays and Thursdays “after seven o’clock at night, “and I’m available Saturday mornings “as long as we finish by noon.” If that doesn’t work for their schedule you have maybe some bendable places or you can say, “Would next week be better?” Your business comes first and every business has business hours. So don’t worry about that. If you’re not the right fit for them, you’re not the right fit for them. But your family has to come first and you have to be clear with your times.

Another way to avoid burnout so that you get home at a decent hour is if your prenatal appointments are two hours or two and a half hours, your family is planning on that. Don’t stretch it out and keep talking and talking and talking and talking until midnight. Because then they don’t know when you’re really gonna stay and what if she comes and she stays that long again. You want to make sure that when you say, “I’ll be there for two hours, “my appointments are two and a half hours.” They will be counting on that time. Because they have to get up for work tomorrow too or something like that. Be respectful of their time and also be respectful of your time so you get home at a decent hour. Number two on our list is avoid the feeling of desperation when looking for a doula job.

If you come into this work, “I have to get hired. “I don’t have any money.” And you’re all stressed out over money. Then you’re gonna take jobs and make decisions that are not gonna be in the best interest for you or this new family you’re trying to support. Think of the emoji girl. Are you the emoji girl going, “me, me, me, me, “and I have to have it and I’m in and I’m ready and I’m… “Please call me, call me.” Whenever there’s a doula posting. For example, you see that post on one of the doula groups that says, “medium to experience doula & 800 to $1,000. “Due date, July 1st.” Whatever it is. And you go, “I need that money. “I could do it. “$1100, what can I pay my bills with?” And you get excited and you throw your hand up, Miss emoji girl. And you’re not even thinking that they said medium to experience and you have three births. You’re not even in the running for that. But yet you’re throwing your hat in the ring because you need the money. So you’re wasting your own time and you’re probably wasting this family’s time because unless there are no other doulas available, you’re not in the running for it. But putting yourself out there because you’re desperate is gonna make everybody a little uncomfortable. Because it probably is not gonna be the right fit. They’ve already told you it’s not gonna be the right fit. So think about that before you respond to those requests that a family may have put out.

Please know that it’s okay to pass up on a job that you’re not really qualified for. Or that you kinda know you’re not a good fit for. The right birth will come to you at the right time. It always works that way. Another part about going into an interview desperate for money is that you may miss some big red flags that if everything was peaceful and calm in your life, would be big red flags. And you wouldn’t necessarily go with that family. For example, you know that you work best with a family who’s very proactive in making their birth experience the best it can be. And if you’re desperate, you may take on that family that’s gonna leave everything into their care providers hands. Not willing to take any responsibility for anything for their own birth choices. And they may not be open to evidence based information. Even though evidence shows certain things. You may take that birth and regret it later. And you wouldn’t if you didn’t come in so desperate.

A surefire way to avoid burnout is understanding that the doula interview goes both ways. Not only are they interviewing you but you’re interviewing them. If they’re not a right fit for you as the coach and they’re your client, they’re not a right fit. And it’s totally okay to give that to somebody else that will be a right fit. I really believe in passing on names so that family has the best opportunity to find the perfect fit for them. When you really believe that you will be at the births you’re supposed to be at, you bring a totally different perspective to every interview. You feel calm. You feel open. And you go with the flow of it. That makes a good interview. And it will bring a different energy into that baby birth.

Number three on our list is be very crystal clear about what kind of families you want to attract. When looking at your families, look at what beliefs you hold about parents in general. Do you believe that inductions are shit shows that last six days? Do you believe that first time moms all have labors that start at 24 hours and end at 48 hours? If those beliefs have shown up in your life and you see it over and over, maybe we should be curious about why those beliefs are in your system and why you keep attracting those families? Are you open to different kinds of families? Because in my personal experience I don’t have shit show inductions that last six days, very often. And I don’t have first time moms that have 6000 hour labors. Because I don’t set them up for that. And I don’t set myself up for that. There’s a lot of things that go into those kind of births. And you can do a lot of pre planning ahead of time to create the environment that you want to attract a different kind of birth.

So let me give you a little brief example of a belief system. In America we feel like and we’ve heard over and over that first time moms have long drawn out hard labors. They are forever. They go on forever and ever and ever. But average labors for first time moms in the world are eight to 12 hours. So why are ours double to triple that? Long held belief systems. Why do we believe that? There are things that we can do ahead of time to help set them up for success and have a different goal in mind when going into labor. Let me give you a different idea for how to be concise with your languaging. As educators this year we came up with a list which looks very lengthy but there were six of us doing it, of the top five things we wanted to attract in our own classes.

So for example, we wanted motivated families that were connected. We wanted them to have a good sense of humor and a desire to learn. We want them to have a voice or the ability to find one. And what’s really funny is when all of us had these plastered all over our house and the screen savers on our phones, those are the people that started showing up in our classes. The universe is always listening. So here’s some ideas of what kind of families you may want to work with. How about, I work well with families that are proactive in their birth experience and will work for the outcome that they desire. Or I work well with families that have found their voice in our birth system and just want the extra support in the labor room. I work well with parents who are willing to trust the birth process and make the most of this baby’s birth no matter what turn it takes. Or I work well with families who respect my boundaries as I respect theirs. So they’re kind of affirmations. But what they’re doing is they’re setting a standard for the kind of families you want to attract and work with. It’s your business, create what you want.

And number four on our list which kind of sounds counter intuitive, but invest more time in your prenatal period. Invest more time in prenatals. Why would you do that? Because really good bonding ahead of time can shave hours off a labor. Which helps avoid burnout. Now, I’m also gonna combine that with really well educated parents that are getting a lot of different resources to help build their birth and their birth experience, i.e., a good out of hospital education plan. They’re reading good books. They have evidence based information articles that they’re combing through. They’re getting the same good stuff from all different sources. Which makes them think this is how it is because it is how it is. We learn better when the seed’s planted here and a seed’s planted there and a seed’s planted there. So if the educator is saying the same thing that you’re saying. Good care provider pops in and they’re saying the same thing. They’re evidence based article. What they’re reading and following on Instagram, it all comes together. It’s gonna be really easy for you to come in during those prenatal appointments and work on fears and worries and tweaking the things that may hold up a labor. Because they’re already getting the education from all other outside sources. What can you do in those little hours instead of reeducating them or educating them for the first time. And work on bonding with this family and creating a beautiful working relationship?

In our doula trainings, we were kind of prepped to have two prenatal appointments, support them during the labor and the birth and then follow up with one postnatal appointment. However, what I have seen in some local doula contracts which works really well, is a minimum of two prenatal appointments, others as needed. And those add needed ones are for bonding and connecting and tweaking those things that you’re not gonna get if you’re fully educating them at every single visit. So when I say extra bonding time, what am I gonna do in a bonding appointment? A bonding appointment or an extra prenatal can be a walk on the beach. It can be a walk at the lake. It could be taking your kids to the park and meeting that mom at the park and just chatting while the kids are playing. It’s just girl time or mom and you time or whatever you wanna call it so that you can get a little more information and get to know her on a different level. Sometimes things will come out in a casual appointment where it’s not so rigid. That will help you in the birth and shave hours of time off.

The reason these doulas have adopted this policy is their birth go smoother. They have shorter labor’s. Parents take more autonomy and more ownership of their births. Because they feel like they know what they’re doing. They’re more bonded to you. They’re more comfortable with you. Vulnerability is everything in a birth. And if a mom feels more vulnerable with you she’s gonna react differently with you. Long hard births do not have to be your normal. And that’s the fastest way to burn out. Prenatal preparation and examining your beliefs about birth make all the difference.

And number five on our list or helping to avoid burnout is probably the number one, two, three and four, and five slots all together. And that’s having really good self care. That self care game has to be strong. And I am the worst person on the planet to teach this. I am so involved in birth work that I do nothing but birth work. And my self care is crap. So let’s discover this one together. Figure out what works for you to help you unwind and relax. And here’s some ideas. Maybe a solid sleep with no interruptions and no phone. Maybe you need to binge watch on Netflix. What if you added $50 within your fees so that you could take part in a pedicure or a foot massage after birth? And what happens if it’s a difficult birth or you witness something kinda traumatic? Do you have a grounding ritual where you can visualize the lessons from this birth? Or let the difficult crap you just watched drain away into the ground? And if you don’t have a grounding ritual I need you to get one. Do you have someone in your community to process the highs and the lows of a birth? Or someone who can offer you feedback or perspective if you don’t know what just happened? It’s essential in not feeling alone by understanding that every one of us goes through this. And a major form of self care which I experienced personally, is keeping your client load manageable.

If you overload yourself it gets too crazy and you’re too stressed out and it’s really hard to recover in between births. Sometimes one birth a month is gonna be plenty. Sometimes too. What if it’s every other month? Only you know what’s gonna work best for you in your busy life. And the last one is allowing yourself some free time, free of birth. So you can actually just relax and not think about vaginas for a day or two. It keeps you excited and you wanna stay in the profession. By using really good self care you stay motivated and excited about the profession, and you can walk into every birth experience feeling refreshed and ready to support that family. So to recap, avoiding burnout is very doable if you pre plan. Make sure that you set clear time boundaries for appointments and interviews. Remember to be very intentional with your interview process. It’s a two way street, and don’t go in feeling desperate for the work. Be crystal clear on the clients that you work best with and make a list of those qualities that you’re looking for. Understand that investing more connection time ahead of the game will make a huge difference in the length of these labors. And make sure your self care game is on track. So really avoiding burnout is just planning ahead and creating a beautiful business that works for you.

About the author:
Care is the founder of the Birth Education Center, San Diego HypnoBirthing and Cuddle Sanctuary San Diego. She is a Birth Educator, Hypnotherapist, Birth and Postpartum Doula, INNATE Care Provider, Erotic Blueprint Coach and also professional Cuddler. She specializes in connection work between people and increasing self boundaries for a more balanced life together.