I am still waiting for my doula clients to have their baby (the due date is today and the mom is 3-4 cm. dilated already) so as usual I’m juggling the various places I have to be, carrying my cell phone and birth bag around, and hoping the baby arrives before Friday or after.
I have loved working with this family (since June) and put a lot of thought into what I should tell them about my situation. I didn’t want to stop being their doula…I didn’t want to hide from them the fact that I would be less available to be at their birth over July and August…and I didn’t want to lay my breast-cancer burden on them and have part of their birth worry be about me. Births are not about me, and having clients concerned about me rather than the other way around just doesn’t feel right.
I had my first surgery when I had already planned to be away, and when they were a month from their due date, so I waited to tell them anything until after that, when I knew more. About a week after the surgery I met with them, along with my main backup doula, and at the end of the meeting told them that I needed to have some surgery and would be unavailable another stretch of days besides my vacation week (which they already knew about). I didn’t say what kind of surgery and clearly gave off no please-ask-me-what-it’s-all-about signals, though I’m sure they wonder.
To schedule the re-excision, the surgeon gave me a range of reasonable dates. I picked the surgery date I thought gave me the best chance of still being at their birth–the earliest date I could get (which suited my other scheduling needs too). After vacation, I met with them again with my other backup, so they would know them both, just in case. This doula was going to be on call for them during the re-excision days, since my primary backup for this birth was on vacation that week.
Three or four days after the re-excision, I was feeling pretty good and ready to go to their birth. The moon was full, their toddler had predicted the baby would be born right then, and I was ready…but no baby. Now it’s a week later! And I’m talking to them every other day and working out backup coverage for the hours I will be in Boston on Friday. I guess this challenge is at least diverting…
I haven’t told them any more details of anything going on with me–and when I’m talking to them, thankfully, I enjoy so much focusing on them, and I don’t even think about myself or this whole cancer thing. It is a full-consciousness break from the world of the sick, somehow, and further confirms for me that this work, supporting women and families in pregnancy and birth, is what I need and want to be doing.
I feel pretty clear that telling them what I’ve told them so far is the right thing to do, from the doula perspective, but I can see how it looks paternalistic (maternalistic?). I think I will end up telling them afterwards, when my postpartum visits with them are over. Assuming they are curious–if not, I won’t bring it up, I don’t think.
I spent so long trying to figure out what felt the rightest to do in this situation–I hope in the future I can arrive at the same level of comfort with a conclusion by a shorter, less thought-consuming path.