Childcare Tips for Doulas

Childcare Tips for Doulas
Cincinnati Doula + Birth Photographer

I've found that one of the most common factors that prevent people from becoming a doula is the overwhelm of working out childcare. Birth is unpredictable, and doesn't usually happen on anyone's time except for the baby's. 

I'm the mother of four homeschooled children, right now they are ages 7, 3, 2 and 1, and I've been in the birth arena for many years now. I'm grateful for my husband's career that is not only accommodating and flexible, but offers paid days off from work. But I understand that not everyone has that option, and it's totally fair to worry about how you'll find someone you trust that will be on-call to watch your children.

But sometimes we, especially mothers, stand in our own way. It's probably generations of the patriarchy conditioning us to believe our passions and callings aren't as important to pursue as our male counterparts, but still... we do sometimes stand in our own way. Birth work isn't the only on-call occupation, families from all over are making on-call careers work. If you have a burning in your soul to become a doula, I'm positive you'll find a childcare situation that gives you the availably to head out the door when your client comes calling. 

Write out your family's weekly schedule. By writing it down, you'll get it out of your own head and logically see what days and times you truly need childcare - which may be less often than you believe. Is your partner home overnight and weekends? Is your partner home by 5pm during the week? Do your children go to school? While not everyone has a partner, writing out schedules does help to see exactly when you'd need childcare.

Fill in the gaps: 

- Extended family. I know it seems obvious, but extended family is a great option for last minute childcare. Do you have a family member who is retired, or stays at home with their children? 

- On-call retainer fee. Pay for a nanny's on-call time, even when when they aren't physically watching your children. Being on-call is difficult for anyone, so paying someone to be on-call for your family is very fair. I've seen doulas pay their nanny a fixed monthly retainer fee for being available to offer last minute services, and others pay a guaranteed 80 hours a month at $10 an hour.

- Another doula. Trade childcare with another doula, they already understand how to work on-call, and know how difficult it is to find childcare so swapping services is a great way for everyone to feel supported and sustainable. 

- Nanny share. Not all doulas would like to swap childcare, but many are also struggling with finding solid childcare. Get a couple doulas together to pay for a nanny's on-call salary together. 

- Au Pair. I know of a few doulas who've hired an Au Pair who receive a weekly stipend from the doula. This is actually an option that even I have looked into in the past, and it may surprise you with how affordable this option can be - especially when you're charging your worth. 

This definitely isn't an extensive list of options, there are so many unique ways to make this work. If your career is on-call, how do you find quality childcare for your children on your unpredictable schedule? 

What's in my Doula + Birth Photographer bag?

What's in my Doula + Birth Photographer Bag?
Cincinnati Doula + Birth Photographer

This post may contain affiliated links. To read full affiliate disclosure, click here. You are my family, I would never recommend you something that I didn't fully trust and believe in. 

While I don't know the exact number of births I've attended, I've supported an average of four birth clients a month for many years as a Cincinnati birth photographer and doula. In the beginning of my role as a doula and birth photographer, I found myself overcompensating my lack of confidence by stuffing my bag full of unnecessary gadgets. There was once a time when I brought three bags with me to birth, full of items that rarely were used. But as my knowledge and trust in the physiological birth process grew, and my experience gave me some confidence, I've found my doula bag has gotten smaller and smaller. I know now that mothers have the ability to birth their babies on their own, and they truly don't need anything other than their primal mind (except when birth becomes a medical event, but the items required are then from a medical team). I imagine that many doulas have gone through similar situations with their bags of "tricks", too.

If you're just starting your journey as a doula, please trust yourself, and trust birth. Your client doesn't need tennis balls or massage sticks, they want you.

You, birth sister, are already enough.
Your encouragement. 
Your constant support.
Your companionship. 
Your love.

But birth work comes with long hours, and we can find ourselves in positions that are uncomfortable and tiring, so there are items that can relieve some of the strain. Instead of the three doula bags I used to carry around, I now use a medium size camera backpack. It has a hard bottom case and a top pouch. And that's it. I don't even bring a purse anymore. I know it's a much smaller load than many doulas, but it works great for me and my clients. I often get asked exactly what I bring to births, so here are my necessities: 

what's in my cincinnati doula bag?

For clients:
fairy lights (also known as christmas lights)
flameless candles
custom painted birth affirmations
almond oil (massage oil)
vegetable glycerin (massage oil in case of allergy)
clary sage essential oil
lavender essential oil

For myself:
wallet (make sure you have cash)
extra pair of glasses (can't see without them)
gluten free snacks (I have Celiac Disease)
water bottle
deodorant (who wants a stinky doula?)
peppermint essential oil (helps with nausea, sometimes birthy smells mixed with sleeplessness can get uncomfortable)
change of underwear
extra t-shirt
sweater (dress in layers, sometimes rooms are cold but can quickly become pretty warm due to stages of labor)
small blanket (again, sometimes it's cold in those rooms, and this can be especially helpful if you take a quick nap)

And as a birth photographer, this is the gear that I absolutely can't go without: 
canon 6D
sigma 35 1.4 
canon 50 1.8 (backup lens in the event of an emergency)
canon speedlite 600EX II-RT
yongnuo speedlite YN 600EX-RT II (backup flash in the event of an emergency)
backup batteries for camera
rechargeable batteries for both speedlites
4 SD cards

Most of my backpack carries camera gear, but other than that - it's really just materials that facilitate a calming birth environment for the client, and personal items for myself.

Remember though, you are enough. Nothing brought into the birth room will be more important than your trust in the journey (unless, again, birth becomes a medical event).

The Birth I Almost Missed | Cincinnati + Dayton Birth Photography

The Birth I Almost Missed
Cincinnati + Dayton Birth Photography 

Mom was scheduled for an induction, but her daughter had other plans. I woke up in the morning to a call saying they're already at the hospital... that she's been laboring for hours but they don't need me yet. So I wait.

We stay in touch through the morning. Nothing substantial seems to be happening. I only attend births when I am specifically requested to come. 

And then I get THE text. "She's 9.5cm. It's go time!"

I have to be honest, I did not think I was going to make it to the hospital before her daughter would be born. I was still home. It was raining pretty hard. The drive to the hospital would be about 15-30 minutes depending on traffic.

I'm in a panic. I'm rushing. I fly into the car. I race to the hospital. When I park, I start running. I run through the parking lot into the hospital. I run through the hallways to the elevator. In the elevator, I throw my camera together and hope the settings will be good enough. I run from the elevator into their room. Sure, I may have looked frazzled and while. 

But I arrived just in time. 

Mom was graceful. Beautiful. Centered. And in just a couple minutes, her daughter was born. 

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My Promise To You As Your Cincinnati + Dayton Birth Photographer

My Promise to You as Your
Cincinnati + Dayton Doula + Birth Photographer 

Almost a decade ago, after a community easter egg hunt, my husband, Kyle, surprised me with my very first DSLR.  I'll never forget this day. We got in the car after the hunt, and Kyle spilled the beans. He told me we'd be driving to the camera store and that I could pick what I wanted (within budget, of course). 

You see, I've been talking about getting a "nice" camera to take pictures of my family. I wanted to preserve our memories. I wanted to have an artistic outlet. Kyle has always been my biggest supporter, he's always the one pushing me to try new things and ends up the loudest person cheering me on from the crowd. Basically, he's a really awesome guy.  

A Rebel T3 and the kit lens. My first camera baby. I quickly found out that good photography was NOT just pressing a button. All of the professional photographers I admired weren't just keeping their camera on AUTO, shooting in JPEG, and calling that enough. Yikes. Talk about a reality check. I found out there was a series of settings I had to control to produce the images I desired. And did you know that images had to be post-processed (edited)? I didn't. My camera wasn't magic, it wasn't going to produce images on it's own will. I had to put in the work. I was in control, not my camera.

Similar to an oven... the chef is the one preparing the meal, carefully choosing ingredients and using her knowledge, intuition, and taste to bring ingredients to life. Her oven is just a tool. The oven warms the meal, but she created it. 

I read books (I highly recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson if you're thinking about photography or have a DSLR and would like some knowledge on exactly what each setting does and how to use them to properly expose images).  I took workshops (check out Clickin' Moms for workshops and breakouts taught by respected photographers). I hired mentors (I reached out to my old photography girl crush and she let me hire her!). And I practiced, trial by fire. I am thankful for all the families in the beginning of my journey who let me use them as models, and even paid me for my sessions (which were pretty bad lol). 

And here I am... two camera upgrades, a collection of lenses, a stint at owning a brick and mortar studio, and many years later. I document my children, and I document birth. Looking back to the day that I brought home my first camera home, I never would have imaged this would be my life. I'm so, so grateful. But I'll never stop learning, evolving, and growing. I'm thankful for that.

I started reminiscing how my photography started because of a Facebook post I recently posted. It talked about how long a gallery takes me to edit, prepare, and send off to clients. This was posted to simply to bring awareness to how much works goes on behind the scenes here. People were surprised, many assumed that I was just snapping a picture during birth and sending it off in a gallery a couple weeks later with no extra work. Even doulas who offer birth photography didn't realize that post-process editing is kinda' a required thing. And I understand, because I was once there. When I purchased my first camera, I had no idea. 

And birth is such an emotionally charged event, that even poorly exposed images can bring up all the feels. 

But let me tell you, once your baby is born doesn't mean my work has ended. I work many, many hours meticulously preparing your birth gallery.

And I promise you, my images of your birth are captured with intent. And I delicately hand-editing each and every image. Just as the chef, I use my knowledge, intuition, and personal taste to prepare your birth gallery... to show you how strong and powerful you are in timeless images. Doing any differently would feel like a disservice.

Are you new to photography, or looking to dive into birth photography? Reach out! I'm always happy to chat.