This weekend was the longest labor that I’ve attended so far. Recently there was a discussion on the local birth forum about attending long labors. Doulas reported attending labors that were up to two and even three days long! The births I’ve attended so far have been about 8-10 hours, which includes some postpartum time and breastfeeding support. A few have progressed really rapidly once they got started.
I’m trying to sign up as a volunteer for at least two days a month, so I signed up at the beginning of this weekend. I figured that would give me lots of time to recover for school on Monday if I did get called in for a long labor. Sure enough, shortly after I was on call, the midwife called to let me know I was needed at the hospital. There was no rush, so I had some food and got ready. I’m glad I took the extra time because I ended being there for nearly 24 hours. (Note: 24 hours is well within the normal range for labor. Labor differs for every woman with every baby. When I volunteer, the labors are usually shorter just because I get called rather late in the process–after the mother has arrived at the hospital, gotten settled, and then requested a doula.)
Though it was long, it was a good experience. Time usually flies by when I am working as a doula. I don’t notice the long hours, but I do notice myself getting tired in the wee hours of the morning. Also, since I got back home, my legs have been sore and tired from being on them for so long. My upper arms and shoulders are also sore for doing counter pressure. But, that wasn’t something I noticed during the actual labor.
Some doulas attend 4-6 births each month. These women are really good at what they do, and they’re doing it to make a living. Like the times before, this labor was a good experience for me. I learned a lot. It was challenging, but I enjoyed every minute of it. However, I’ve noticed that I only have the energy for about one labor per month. I think that’s because I have a “day job,” a career, that I like very much and spend a lot of time with–mentally and physically. After the last time, I wasn’t quite ready to attend another labor until about three weeks later. So, I’m going to pace myself. For now, volunteering once or twice will be about right, I think.