A day in the life of a Doula.
I wake at 5am to a text message from a new dad. “Placenta was in the cool bag within 12 minutes of arrival, all cooling instructions followed and it is safely on it’s way to our house to go in the fridge.”
I reply that I’ll collect it after my visits this morning.
A placenta needs to be in an appropriate container and cool bag to be chilled in the first 30 minutes after birth. The reason for this is to ensure it is chilled quickly after birth and safe to consume after preparation. The parents have very clear instructions on how to do this and I send out a kit they can use at homeor hospotal.
I grab a coffee (or three), and head out to my first job at 6am. It’s a half hour drive and it’s icy this morning – first frost of the year.
As their postnatal doula, I arrive to support a family after they’ve had a sleepless night. I pop a sling on, ready for a baby to snuggle in should I need it whilst I fold up the dry cloth nappies and replace them on the drying rack with freshly washed nappies.
Mum is feeding the baby when I arrive and once he’s fully satisfied with his milk, she hands over the smiley baby so she can grab a shower and some breakfast. Making use of my time is important to her family. She is exhausted and tells me she’s not had time to brush her teeth in the past 24 hours, let alone grab a shower. I continue to tidy around, sort any baby paraphernalia out around the house and make a tidy nest again on the sofa, complete with snacks and water for the day. I chop some root vegetables ready for roasting and pop them in the oven with the timer on as I’ll be gone when they’re ready to come out. As mum comes down I hand her a cup of tea and pop a sleeping baby down out of the sling and into his crib so I can head out again.
My next visit is to a mum struggling to feed her baby. She has called me the evening before and wondered if she was doing anything wrong because her baby would latch and then sleep very quickly, not drinking much at all and then come back twenty minutes later. This cycle was leaving her and the baby without any rest.
I arrived and made us both a cup of coffee. I listened to mum explain what she’s been experiencing so far and a little about her birth story. We discovered that baby was being held a little away from mum’s body, baby needed to stretch and crane to reach the breast. This quickly tired the baby out and so she fell asleep after a couple of minutes of active drinking. I supported mum to change her position a little and hold baby close. She was a little hesitant because of her sore nipples. Once baby was tucked in close and able to latch on quickly, she took a huge mouthful of breast and drank well for 20 minutes, falling off the breast fully satisfied. Mum couldn’t believe the baby was so relaxed and full! Such a little tweak can make all the difference.
Off I go again to collect this morning’s placenta. It’s 12pm and I am aware I need to eat. I know my kitchen will be out of bounds for a few hours so I grab a salad from a cafe as I drive towards the new family’s house. Being a Doula quite often means skipping meals and protein bars, dried nuts and fruit seem to be my go to snacks throughout the day.
I arrive to collect the placenta and congratulate the new parents who are now at home after their birth in the middle of the night. I pop on some gloves, check the temperature of the placenta to ensure it is sufficently cooled and after showing the parents the amazing placenta and all of it’s fascinating functions, I take off a piece for the smoothie. My smoothie kit (and a brand new hand blender) is already at their house and I leave dad with the piece of placenta to blend with fruit for his wife as he gets his gloves and apron on – he has been very excited about preparing this for his wife. The remaining placenta is safe in the cool bag and I head home to process it.
Placenta Encapsulation amazes me everytime. They tell a story and I feel amazed everytime I have one in my house as I turn them into wonderful remedies. This placenta will be a smoothie which dad has made, capsules and a tincture.
I have a couple of hours to keep the placenta in the cool bag and it’s a good job there is time allowed! My daughter has been baking and so the kitchen is a little worse for wear! I clear every side including the sink area of everything. Every side needs to be clear, clean and disinfected to abide by food safety guidance and ensure the safety for my clients. I don my gloves and scrub the area. I spray down with hospital grade disinfectant and leave for the required contact time before wiping down. I then unpack my Placenta Preparation Kit and dehydrator. This first step of preparation for the placenta takes around 1 hour.
A piece of placenta is taken first and prepared for the tincture. This will stay in the cupboard for 6 weeks to develop. The rest of the placenta is sliced and popped into the dehydrator, the cord long enough to make a keepsake heart. I can’t even start to tell you how many pairs of gloves get used in the process!!
I turn the dehydrator on and begin to clean everywhere down again and disinfect. All of my equipment is cleaned, rinsed and put into a bucket of hospital grade disinfectant so it can be reused once again.
The kitchen area used for placenta encapsulation is now out of bounds. I prepare dinner on the other side of the kitchen, placing all food equipment directly into the dishwasher and avoiding the sink other than for clean water to wipe the sides down.
I settle down with a coffee to check my messages and emails. I organise my diary and set up some games with the kids who have been with their dad at home today. Dinner will be ready soon and I have some admin for my volunteer roles to do too.
I am aware throughout the day that I’m on call for a birth too. This is always an acute awareness of the possibility of leaving everything with very short notice. Parents keep me updated with any changes in how they feel, or any signs of labour and I often have very little notice before the time comes to jump in the car. No babies today, so I continue my evening with emails, follow up calls and texts and relax with my children after dinner. I aim to sleep early so I can start over again tomorrow with the next placenta encapsulation step – Doula Last Words – “unless I’m at a birth.” 😀