Managing Doula Burn Out

Updated: Jun 27

Black Lives Matter.

We in America pride ourselves in being a progressive, intuitive nation with the best in thinkers and leaders. I would counter by simply saying that applied knowledge is power, unapplied knowledge is lethal.

now that you know better, do better.

In May my practice welcomed baby number 34, the sweetest chunk of a baby and a home birth! I feel honored to have held space for that mama and also realized an important fact about myself, I was burnt out.

When I made the decision to become a doula it was easy.

The thought process for me was:

  1. I'm intrigued by birth

  2. I love infants/children

  3. I want to help women choose themselves in birth

I felt that that those desires would be enough to sustain me in this practice and I was WRONG.

Becoming a doula has challenged me in every way possible.

Emotionally: I've reached the point of exhaustion -- being on call and emotionally available at all times is taxing. Even when its not my best day my families deserve my best self.

Physically: Sleep deprivation is real. When a mom tells you she's having contractions sleep does not come easy and when it does come it's never really restful, waiting for the call that's going to kick you into gear.

Mentally: I work hard to connect with the families that I work with. Building that connection most times requires hearing the very intimate and personal details of their lives. Their hopes and fears pregnancy. Sometimes processing past traumas and often divulging things to me that they've never actually said aloud. This takes a toll but I'm honored to do the work

What have I realized will make a difference in recognizing burn out and stopping it before it starts.

Saying No, unapologetically

Being one of a few Black, bilingual doulas, practicing in my state meant the demand was not only high in volume but high in responsibility. I felt a responsibility to serve my community as well as the surrounding communities to the point where my life outside of doula work suffered. I was taking on too many clients; being paid just enough to cover gas (literally) and my school work was put on the back burner.

I learned albeit late the importance of choosing myself and saying no, and my no did not mean that i didn't care but instead that I had to prioritize. Ultimately, I settled on allowing myself and my practice a very strict three clients per month, end of discussion.

Self-care as a form of L O V E.

My understanding of serving my community meant that I would have to sacrifice myself. The reality is that I was no good to anyone else if I myself was not being fed. Not being able to care for myself genuinely meant that I was not giving my best self to my clients, and that is unacceptable. To love them means I need to love myself first.

Walking away from the table.

There's a saying that something about, "leaving it all on the table" I would take it a step further and say it was important for me to walk away from the table. I needed to not take my client's issues home, to bed with me. I cared for them and worried for them but it was important that when I did all I could do during my business/work hours that the rest was left at the table for the next day. I practice this daily.

Burn out is not unique to just the doula profession of course, how do you deal with burnout? What are some tangible steps you take to ensure you are taken care of?


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