"Hi! Just checking in to see how you and your family are doing. How is everyone feeling? Is there anything I can assist you with today?" This is me. All. The. Time. Yes, I am that person who is always checking on everyone. And well, I'm tired. Every year during my son's spring break, I take time off for myself. This year was different because initially I felt guilty for taking time away from my business while so many families are seeking support right now. But as the days passed, the guilt quickly faded and a week turned into nearly two. A revelation was indeed coming.
It has been 43 days since my family began sheltering in place. In the beginning, I was very productive and positive that this would all be temporary. Between checking in with my clients regularly, starting a new doula training, finishing my certification exam all while staying on top of the laundry, I was winning. Even the switch to 100% virtual services was smooth. I have offered virtual doula services for over a year now and while I believe I have done well supporting my current clients virtually during the COVID-19 outbreak, I began to feel weighted a couple of weeks ago. Weighted with being an advocate while I can't be physically present at the hospital, standing up to the health care industrial complex whose policies continue to change for birthing people & their support persons and generally being a savior for black birthing bodies even though I serve all types of families from different backgrounds.
Don't get me wrong, I have definitely shown up for my clients and given them the same quality service that I normally provide. I have made phone calls, sent emails, posted articles and updates from the WHO, CDC, FDA and Governor Cooper and local officials, stayed up-to-date on all the local hospital policy changes, provided referrals for food & educational sources and had more than a few virtual reassurance consultations with clients, friends and family. I have participated in Zoom calls for birth workers and I was even been interviewed to discuss how the virus has affected my work from a reproductive justice aspect. I have connected with different doulas and midwives from all over the country as we have been bonded by the impact of our work, clients and culture during this unstable time. I also started a birth story project so that others can share their unique birth and parenting stories during this global health crisis. But it was all with the thought that all of the chaos would be over in a few weeks and life would resume as normal.
My mind has raced with thoughts of what life will be like after this virus has left. I often think of those incarcerated, the immigrants who are still in cages and the homeless community. The back and forth of the media, health experts and leadership has caused more confusion and chaos among us while we try to stay connected to those we love virtually. Preparing to leave the house has now become more of a mental and emotional exercise than physical. Just one short month ago I was conducting final interviews for the first session of my doula mentorship program. Two weeks ago, when I sent out an email delaying the program because I didn't want my mentees burdened with the financial commitment during this time, my heart was already heavy. I was already questioning how I would be able to teach them and encourage their journey during a time when I myself was unsure. Truth be told, I probably ignored the biggest red flag. I have had no desire to be physically active while being sheltered in place. And if you know me, that is a big deal. I had a fleeting thought to move my Zumba classes online, but it would have been forced. I just didn't want to feel like I had to be "on" 24/7. Days, weeks and maybe soon, months will have passed and that feeling of being overwhelmed (even if you're safe) is only growing because there is no end in sight.
After a month of trying to be virtually present during a pandemic, I hit a wall. Trying to gain new clients during this time is stressful. Work was starting to feel like actual work and forcing productivity wasn't serving me at all. The fact that this all took place at the start of Black Maternal Health Week. That was very telling for me. I have slowly embraced the day to day changes that this virus has had on my personal and professional life. And while some of these changes have been great for me, I realized that other changes and practices have not. The more I come to grips with the fact that social distancing and shelter in place restrictions cannot be simply defined as temporary or short term because of so many uncertainties, the more I realize our new normal will change every generation to come in various capacities. Just look at what has already happened in a few weeks due to the delayed response from American leadership to keep us safe. That's pretty heavy.
So after acknowledging all of my feelings last week, I made a plan to replenish myself. I developed an outline that nourishes and nurtures me in the now and also prepares me to assist more families in the future. At the moment, I will be taking a limited number of new clients mostly those with late 2020 due dates and beyond. I want to be sure that there is ample time and space to develop our relationship and multiple plans for birth and postpartum. The good news is that there are so many doulas and birth workers who are offering quality services from their homes and even hospital parking lots and that is so needed. But I'm in a place where I need to step back and move and bit differently.
I will protect my family at all costs.
I will continue to support my clients in any way I can.
I will continue to do what I know I can do (my to-do list) and trust that God will cover & keep His people.
Be well and stay safe.