Yesterday I was told that the average career span for a doula is four years.
For me, closing the overnight postpartum care chapter of my life has felt natural. I want to focus more time on my family and on my health and in all honesty, I want to sleep better.
The mental toll doula work has is intense. We take on our clients emotions, struggle to set office hour boundaries, miss out on events due to life on call, and our sleep schedules are a mess.
I didn't realize how close I was to the average burn out mark though. In October it will be five years since I received my certification and six since I decided I wanted to be a doula. At twenty-one years old I am entering my second career. Not my second job, but a career. I have worked many jobs, but doula work has been a full career for me.
It has been filled with travels, amazing projects, guest speaking events, and immense growth, but the tax on my mental and physical well being does not go unnoticed.
There have been many moments where I have had to step back and care for myself and now that I am wrapping up this chapter of my life I feel that they were all warning me that the real step back from this work was not that far away.
All this is not to say that doula work has not been absolutely amazing. Being around birth and postpartum was the first thing in my life that really made sense, but all good things must come to an end. I have realized that something in my life needs to go in order for me to grow and for the first time in my life I am allowing that thing to be my career. Not my relationships or my health or my home.
But this does not mean a full step back from work all together. This is more of a changing of paths, to something that better aligns with where I am in life right now.
I am a student, dog mom, and partner, not just a doula. I need time and space to work to cultivate the other aspects of my life and realms of who I am.
This has led me to starting a new business, which may seem counter intuitive when I said I want to step back, but this business model is one I have explored for quite some time - one that aligns more with my life.
I do not want my services to be a luxury. I want to focus on community based care that is accessible. In order to do that I think the best route is through grant funding. This led to the Kimball Wellness Association, a registered nonprofit that is focused on virtual support, new parent education workshops, and an extensive babywearing lending library.
Through donations, grant funding, and sponsorships these services are offered to community members free of charge.
It has been quite a while since I have felt genuinely fulfilled by the work I do. This project already has me feeling more fulfilled! As well as feeling better aligned and like I am not fully leaving doula work.
In a few years when life has felt quiet for a bit you may find me dipping my toes back in the doula pond, but for now and for the future that I like to think I can predict I will be focusing on projects that better align with my needs and the needs of my little family.
Jess is a full spectrum birth and postpartum doula and a newborn care specialist. She has been working with newborns for nearly 9 years.