How to live “on-call”

When I was a new doula I was stressed to the max the first few times I was on-call. It was like at any moment of the day or night the phone would ring and I would have to go screeching out to tend to my client in labour. Then reality set-in and I realized that being on-call was really not what I’d imagined. Most of the time it turned into several days of contact between my client and I as they experienced pre-labour signs.

So how can we be ready when needed?

I realized that the on-call lifestyle was better handled by being PREPARED like I might get the frantic call, but to live (for the most part) like I wasn’t on-call. Life like that was so much more tolerable and enjoyable.

Here’s a great exercise: for the next two weeks ask yourself at the beginning of each day “what would I do if I got called now?” and think about how you’d handle your day. Would you need to call the babysitter to pick-up your child from school? Would you need to call a friend or family member for help? Would you need to reschedule a dentist appointment? Just do it for pretend to see how you’d handle it. One of two things will happen: you will either have a solution for everything you need to adjust (and can stop worrying), or you’d realize there are gaps in your ability to rearrange your life, and this will give you the opportunity to find a solution (so you can stop worrying).

But what if…..?

What if your client calls you while you’re doing yoga and your phone is off? What if your child is sick? What if your childcare cancels? What if your phone gets accidentally turned off? What if you’re in the grocery store with a cart full of groceries? Honestly, we could play the ‘what-if’ game ALL day. Don’t do that to yourself. It will kinda drive you mad. Instead just be prepared for whatever might come by having lots of options. There is a solution for EVERYTHING. Promise.

Preparing our clients

doula with pregnant clientOne of the best things you can do is spend some time prenatally with your client to help them understand how and when to contact you. Because I was a very busy doula when my children were young and my husband often worked out of town, I made sure my clients gave me lots of lead time when they thought they were in early labour. This gave me the time to get childcare in place so when they actually needed me, I was ready. I used to say “I’d rather you call me because you’re feeling something and then call me back two hours later to say it stopped, then to call me frantically to meet you at the hospital asap”. Remember most labours are long. I’ve never missed a birth waiting for my babysitter to arrive. Well there was this one time…. but it doesn’t count cause the midwife missed it too ?

So what DO I need to adjust?

There are three things I do when on call. I always have my labour bag packed so it’s ready at any time, I don’t drink alcohol to the point of not being able to drive, and I ALWAYS ALWAYS have a charged cell phone. Otherwise I live life. I tell my clients to leave a message or text me if they don’t catch me on the first try and I’ll always get to them within an hour at most, usually much much sooner. But remember…they’re usually calling me in early labour to let me know that things MAY have begun. Once I know someone’s in early labour then I’m glued to my phone and I don’t do things that I may have to leave ie grocery shopping (gosh that would suck to leave a full cart), bringing my kids to a long activity, go out for dinner, etc.

How do I book things if I may have to cancel?


You may need to work with people who understand your lifestyle and who can accommodate a last-minute cancellation without a charge. If they won’t, then find someone who will, or just book an appointment when you know you won’t get called. I remember one two-year period where I must have seen about a dozen different massage therapists and hair stylists because I always just booked whoever was available last minute. But really there are worse things right? ? My friends all knew my lifestyle and we’d still host dinner parties. I once had to leave my own dinner party but my company was gracious enough to clean before they left!

So again, my best piece of advice: be prepared for the call, but live like you’re not on call.

Good luck my lovely doulas.

#WorldDoulaDomination #On-CallLife #DoulaLife

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About the Author

Stefanie Antunes and familyStefanie Antunes has been a Lamaze® Educator and doula since 2002, after the birth of her second son showed her just how valuable it is to be prepared for birth and to have good support around you.

Stefanie is a visionary in the childbirth field. She leads the Discover Birth organization providing a variety of services to expectant parents and training for those wishing to pursue work in the childbirth field. Stefanie is a board member with the Association of Ontario Doulas, former Public Relations Director for DONA International, and sits on many local boards and coalitions to improve our communities. She is a DONA-approved Birth Doula Trainer, runs an Approved Program for Lamaze International and runs two doula agencies Discover Birth and The Nesting Place.

Stefanie is the founder of The Birth Doula Program at the Scarborough Hospital.

Stefanie is a contributing author in the best selling Power of Women United and the book Bearing Witness: Childbirth Stories Told by Doulas. She is a regular contributing writer and blogger, and has done many interviews online and for TV/radio.

Before becoming a doula, Stefanie worked in corporate intelligence, helping large companies keep abreast of their markets and competitors. She now works to bring some of those same skills to the doula profession, helping it grow and prosper, along with its many doula members.