Few phrases get tossed around in the doula community quite as often as “self-care.” Attended a long labor? Make sure to practice self-care. Having a slow month? Take the opportunity to indulge in a little self-care. Stressed out balancing family and work commitments? Carve out a couple hours for self-care.
The conversation around self-care tends to take the form of solving a problem or having a treat, usually as an individual in isolation. There’s a subtle suggestion that if you’re stressed out, it’s your own fault. Either you’re not making the time for yourself or you’re not using it correctly.
As doulas, we give so much of ourselves to others. We share our love with our clients in late nights struggling with a painful latch, long labors that inch along for hours, or even a freshly cooked meal. To pursue a career as a doula is to make a statement that people need the support of others to find happiness.
And yet our ideas about self-care follow the individualistic model we’re hoping to challenge: take a bubble bath, write in a journal, bake a cake. It’s not that any of those activities is a bad idea. It’s just that healing happens when we feel nurtured and loved, not only by ourselves but also by our communities. I know that I can’t move on from the hangups of seeing a traumatic moment in a birth until I talk about the experience with my husband. When I get turned down after an interview or see a natural labor end in a Cesarean birth, it’s spending time with other doulas and my family that reinvigorates me.
I believe that self-care isn’t about precious moments of self-indulgence; it’s about trusting your community to be there for you because you know you’re there for it. Let’s break that down a little. In any successful partnership, there comes a time when we stop keeping tallies of favors. We’ve seen plenty of proof that the other person truly has our best interests at heart and acts accordingly, and know that we feel and behave the same way. We stop counting how many times who has driven whom to the airport and keeping track of who bought lunch last time. We happily help whenever we can, knowing the favor will be returned. We make the sacrifice, knowing sacrifices will be made for us. We trust completely.
What happens when we see ourselves in partnership with our whole community? With every friend, every family member, every fellow doula? What happens when we hear the struggles of others with the same unconditional empathy with which we listen to our clients? When we think of our own struggles that way? What happens when we give freely to others? When we receive the same in kind? What happens when we care for ourselves and our community on an ongoing basis, not just when something goes wrong?
Most of all, what happens when we stop creating a distinction between ourselves and our community when it comes to self-care?
If you’re like me, you want to find out.
This October, OneDoula is hosting a retreat in Tulum, Mexico called Thriving Together that’s focused on self-care as a community. Between invigorating and restorative yoga sessions, thought-provoking workshops, and shared meals, we’ll forge a new community based on love and trust. We’ll learn how to support our fellow doulas with peer counseling. We’ll explore what it means to be a Slow Doula and how to make our practice emotionally and financially sustainable. We’ll find new ways to nurture ourselves with holistic care. We would love to have you join us.
If we’re thriving, we’re thriving together.
– Sophi Scarnewman, DTI Event Coordinator and Doula