I got the call last week at 9:52pm. The call that it was time for me to join a sweet couple as they were working hard to bring their baby to the world. This call never gets old. It’s an exciting call – one of great anticipation, joy, and also the unknown. As I grabbed my doula bag and keys and headed towards the door, my husband started singing the Lionel Richie song “All Night Long.” I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at him. But he’s been a doula husband for long time. He knew, after hearing my conversations with this family, that I was absolutely going to be gone and working all night long. He wasn’t wrong!
So – How are we up all night long? Well, it depends on which doula you ask, but I’ll tell you what works for me. If I have the opportunity to even get two hours of sleep before being called to a birth, then it’s pretty easy to power through the night. However, when you get the call that takes you from your pajamas in bed relaxing directly to an all night birthday party at 10pm, it can be a bit more challenging. Here’s what keeps me going when I’ve had no sleep:
1. I focus on the fact that this is THE most important day for this family! Just this right here keeps my mind in the right place. I have the privilege and opportunity to walk alongside a mom and her partner in an incredible journey that they will never forget. I know that it’s absolutely vital for me to be there 100% and so I am. I just do it. Even when my eyes feel heavy, I just do it because that family is totally worth it.
2. I recognize that the mom is working so much harder than I am. I’m not going to lie – sometimes we arrive to a labor where the mom is only contracting every 5 minutes and those nights are difficult to get through because the room is dark and there’s a 4 minute gap between contractions. If it’s early in labor and she’s fairly comfortable between contractions and she’s possibly dozing herself, I’ve been known to almost roll off a birth ball when sitting on it beside her bed in between rubbing her back or speaking calming phrases. But – when a mom is in more active labor and her contractions are every 2-3 minutes, I have no problem being awake. She’s usually upright and her partner and I are engaged in every contraction… she needs her support system and we are right there. Adrenaline kicks in and time doesn’t seem to exist.
3. I hydrate with water. Lots of water. I know it sounds odd, but I just drink TONS of water. The air in most hospitals always seems so dry to me and so I drink tons of water. This also means that I usually go to the bathroom frequently which keeps me walking around and active.
There’s that very tough window from 2:00-5:00am. And then at some point, the sun rises. Once the sun starts to rise after being up all night, there’s hope. There’s new energy in the room. We know that the baby will be born – today! It’s exciting. Natural light is incredibly encouraging after a long night of labor. So how do I stay up all night? Because my clients are amazing and I want to be all there for them. Because I hydrate, snack when needed, and take care of my body. And, honestly, because I know that at some point after the baby is born, I’ll go home and shower and hit my pillow and experience the best sleep in the world.
So, if I happen to be your doula and you need me at 10:00pm, it’s all good. You just call me and I’ll be up all night or even longer to see you through. And there’s a good chance that at some point in the night I’ll be singing Lionel Richie (only in my head, of course!).