I have recently had to end things with a doula client due to events in my life that would have prevented me from guranteeing my presence at her birth. It was very hard and in a way it felt wrong.
As doulas we put so much of ourselves out there - giving our love and time to women that I at least find it hard to decide where to draw the line that says "this is too much for me to handle right now." How do we draw that line? How do we know when to say "no" and as doulas, how do we come to terms with that?

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If you can't be there for her, you have to do what you did. Hopefully you helped her find another great doula but in time she'll appreciate the decision. She needs someone who is totally available for her. You guys can always keep in touch if she enjoys you for moral support. :)

Drawing the line is an individual thing. You know if you can or can't help someone. If you aren't in the right place in life, take a break. You can always return when things are right again. For some it's having another baby. I had one 4 months ago and attend births with my baby. So my clients know going in that she will be there and to-date they all loved having her there. She's been to 7 births. :)

If it is other reasons like family needs you more right now or you can't drive because you are down to one car or anything....then you have to do what you did and put that woman's need for a reliable doula first and get her someone she can depend on 100% and take care of your issues then return to doula work when you are ready again. :)
For me personally, it is limiting the number of births I attend in this season of my life. I am homeschooling 7 children, the oldest about to graduate! I haven't advertised alot because I have gotten clients word of mouth or on the website that my name happens to be on.

I do have teens so they can take care of the younger ones when I'm at a birth. My husband always brings the nursling up to the hospital (I mostly do hospital births) and it always seems to work out. I have never been able to bring my baby to a hospital birth, but certainly at home.

My clients know going into a birth that I will do all I can to attend their birth barring any emergency. So far, I haven't missed a birth yet! Limiting the births to a couple a year is not so exasperating to my family either.

You certainly did the right thing, IMO. We are only human and our family still must come first :-)
THIS.

I am raising two young children, one who is still breastfeeding. What I have done is gotten clients through word of mouth and kept the numbers slow (about 1 to 2 clients a month). I haven't missed a birth yet, but I am not stretching myself too thin by having to be "on-call"
Well I am a professional doula, and I know all of you are too. When I stated that I am a professional doula this is my career. I own my own business and I hire doulas in my area to be my backup. I sometimes have to say no because we have to many moms in one month, but I sometimes have to say no because the person wants something I cant give her. For example she wants me to be like a midwife. I know what to do because I graduated to be a midwife but I am not licensed yet but she stated she wanted a doula. I stated the role of a doula and advised her to meet a midwife. But like everyone here stated sometimes you cant take all clients so you redirect her to where she needs to get the information and help of another doula
I think it is important to remember that as doulas we are responsible for the energy that we bring into each birth. If we are stressed out, frazzled and not really "there" with the mother she will know and it will have an impact on the energy in the room. We have to take care of ourselves and family first before we can have the right type of energy to share with our clients. And that's just my humble opinion. :)
I completely agree Muneera. I would definitely feel like I was not giving my clients or my family my all if I did any more than 4 in a year...that's why I started doing less. I currently have 9 dc ages 17-1, with another on the way. Although I am a professional doula, it is not our primary income and I am actually able to work on a sliding fee. I'm sure that I will be able to do more when I am in a different season of my life, just not now.

We are all in different seasons and have different goals in our careers. Each of us have to find the balance that will work for us and our families. No right or wrong, just different :-)
Thank you so much. I feel that this may be something that hits us all from time to time and I know that you guys are helping not only me, but other doulas who have faced these situations.
I think that if there is a voice within you that is telling you that you can't handle it at any given time, there is probably a valid reason for it and you are doing yourself and your client a disservice by ignoring it or pushing things further. It's important that we only take on what we ca handle in situations such as this because this profession takes so much energy and focus. If we aren't there 100% for our clients it will show. I believe that even though you may feel saddened by having to back out, it may actually be the best thing you could have done for your client as well as yourself. Try not to beat yourself up about it, but instead learn from the experience and figure out how to move forward on a path that better coincides with your life.
Kelli Hardcastle said:
For me personally, it is limiting the number of births I attend in this season of my life. I am homeschooling 7 children, the oldest about to graduate! I haven't advertised alot because I have gotten clients word of mouth or on the website that my name happens to be on.

I do have teens so they can take care of the younger ones when I'm at a birth. My husband always brings the nursling up to the hospital (I mostly do hospital births) and it always seems to work out. I have never been able to bring my baby to a hospital birth, but certainly at home.

My clients know going into a birth that I will do all I can to attend their birth barring any emergency. So far, I haven't missed a birth yet! Limiting the births to a couple a year is not so exasperating to my family either.

You certainly did the right thing, IMO. We are only human and our family still must come first :-)
This is my situation almost exactly. I've been a doula for 10 years with the help of my husband and mother. My children were small it was really hard. In recent years, I have 4 homeschool kiddos and had to take the last year off to plan my highschoolers years. I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things, but only taking 1 client a month if that.
It's really a hard balance, but it can be done. We are such emotional beings that we want to be there for a birthing family while also feel guilty about leaving our own. Down time is very important to regroup after a birth.
I appreciate everyone's responses. I just completed my training a few months ago and so far I've only attended one birth. My passion is strong and I would love to be doing births all the time, but I have 4 children from ages 1 to 9 years, and another due in about 8 weeks. I also have a husband who struggles with chronic health problems. I've decided that for now I need to take my doula work slowly and have faith that I'll be able to touch the lives I need to. I'm not actively looking for doula work, although I would really love to, and I had to recently turn down a birth because the due date is too close to my own. I plan to take about 6 months off after my baby is born, and then see how things go from there. I also plan to be an apprentice to my midwife, but that's on hold until I feel the time is right. When I decided to become a doula I decided that my family must come first, and if I can't be there for the mother 100% because of my family situation, then it's best for her to have a doula who can be. I'm confident that my situation will not always be so challenging and I look forward to being able to work much more with birth, and I'm very excited about that.

Thank you all for your input. It really helps me to know that others are struggling with the same thing, and your feelings mirror my own in so many ways. I love this work!
I had to pull out of a doula job, once. My marraige was falling apart, I had three kids and just couldn't keep the contract. I hadn't taken any money yet and i referred her to other doulas, and it was down to the wire, mostly only because she was late in contacting me...still, it came back to haunt me, later, when I discovered she had been really upset and complained to enough people in the local home-birth community that I haven't gotten a referral out of the local midwives, since.
I have learned my lesson. I actually haven't been douling since that time, because I have been really busy raising a family by myself. I am about to move back into the profession. I know I won't be perfect, but I will be much more careful not to over-extend myself
I think it can be really challenging to make sure you're taking care of your needs and those of your family. I am a newer doula, but have had 12 births in the last 7 months or so. I find that when I'm on-call, I'm more stressed and on edge because I don't know when I'll be needed. Just recently, I've been trying to just go about my days as normal and if I'm called, then I can react and respond.

I think it's important to decide when you'll take time off, so you won't be on-call for any mamas. I'm doing that now, and I'm REALLY enjoying my time off. When I resume being on-call in a few weeks, I'll be on-call for approx. 6 weeks, depending on whether any mamas birth before their EDD. And that can be stressful! But it's all about taking time for your needs and making sure you have some me-time. That's not always easy to do, especially if you're a caretaker naturally, but it's really important to feel renewed and refreshed with taking a step back from any responsibilties.

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