We’re currently on a much needed family vacation, and I’m enjoying some focused time with my little ones and my husband. Last year I attempted to schedule a family vacation on three different occasions and within 48 hours each time I was asked to attend a birth. I could have said no, of course, but after talking with my husband all three times I felt strongly I should say yes. My poor children were pretty tolerant the first few times, but after that they began to express their opinions about me getting their hopes up and then dashing them! I knew I had to set better limits & boundaries. I’ve written before about being on call and potentially missing special occasions. While our families are supportive of our work and those times we may miss, it’s important that we make up for some of that time away by giving them our focus when we are away as a family. (She says, while typing a blog post from her family vacation! Don’t worry, the kids are enthralled with the grandparents at this moment.)
How do you handle vacation as a birth professional?
* You schedule FAR in advance. Like 8 months in advance, and you give everyone a heads up that you are taking that time off work so you’re not available. Sit down with your partner and family and go over the calendar for the year to find those moments when everything coordinates and you can get in a vacation. I’ve had Thanksgiving plans since Thanksgiving LAST year! Then when contacted by someone with due dates in that window you have a list of doulas you can refer them to that you know well.
* Conversely you may need to be flexible! When a client last year birthed earlier than anticipated we had a window of time before I went on call for my next client – we seized the opportunity to run away on a quick vacation!
* How big of a vacation window you set depends on your personal comfort, where you are heading, travel method (flight vs. car) and if you are willing to cut vacation short for a client. In my case I have a 4 week window when I’m on call – two weeks before/after their due date. I won’t take any clients due less than 2 weeks before or after my travel dates. Yes, that means a big window I’m not available! It may also mean you have a birth right before you leave, which can make you (and the client) a little nervous. I scheduled a flight once anticipating a client would birth around a certain time frame and she surprised us by going far past where she did in her prior pregnancy – which meant she birthed less than 48 hours before my flight. Thankfully it worked out well but it was getting a bit concerning!
* Have reliable back up. You never know when someone will birth much earlier or later than anticipated, and you don’t want to be scrambling last minute and adding stress for you and the client. I have a twin mom due this summer but knowing those twins like to keep us on our toes I have back up lined up for while I’m gone.
* Check in on your clients before you go to make sure all is well, answer any questions they may have, and to ensure they have your contact info by cell AND an alternate number (such as your spouse’s cell, the hotel, etc.) just in case. If my back up is needed my client still contacts me and I contact my back up – it would stink to leave them stranded because my cell was out of area and they had no alternate contact. I also let them know the dates I’ll be gone and reassure them they are VERY welcome to still contact me with any questions or concerns while I am gone. They may say they don’t want to bother me on my trip but I reiterate I WANT them to contact me with any and all concerns!
* If scheduling is such that you don’t feel you can go far then consider a staycation – play tourist in your own area or plan some trips for within 1 to 2 hours drive from home. We’re taking our kids camping at the local lake beach this summer, and later doing a trip to the coast for some beach camping. These are close enough that if there’s an emergency I can get back quickly to clients, but far enough that we can disengage from daily life and get some family time. In these cases if you have a client who is very near her due date and you still want/need to get away somewhere then be sure you have your full stocked doula bag with you and you may need to bring a separate car so you can head home fast if you are needed. While not a vacation I was literally getting read to get on the table for a massage when I was called to a birth. Thankfully I had a spare set of scrubs in my bag (I was on call as a midwife assistant, not a doula client) but I didn’t have my work shoes! My husband had to bring them to me so I wasn’t running around in socks. Have EVERYTHING you may need with you in case of speedy departure.
* While you don’t need to have your phone with you 24/7 on vacation, do check your message periodically just in case. Then put your phone down and go back to enjoying your vacation.