I have been working ever since I was 11 years old, but it wasn’t until the age of 32 that I began down the path of doula work. Between ages 11 and 32, I held multiple jobs that had nothing at all to do with being a birth doula. What I realized recently is that each of these jobs helped me build solid skills that were completely transferable to my work as a birth doula. Every job that I held before I became a doula were like stepping stones along a creek. Each step on those stones got me closer to the other side where my ultimate passion and true calling was found.
Job #1: Babysitting
Like many young teens, I began babysitting as soon as I was allowed. I loved the money and loved working with kids (most of the time). I embraced this job and was booked solid pretty much until I left for college.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #1: Love of babies, ability to speak easily with a variety of families
Job #2: Snack Bar Attendant at a Community Pool
As a snack bar attendant, I spent the entire summer surrounded by candy, soda and hot dogs. As a 14 year old that can be both amazing and dangerous. I learned quickly that spending the day in the heat and eating Starbursts wasn’t a great idea. It became apparent way back then that eating nutritious food and staying hydrated is the smart choice…especially during a long day at work.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #2: There is value in taking care of yourself.
Job #3: Temp Work
Temporary work was completely unpredictable. One day I would be assigned an office job and the next day I would be working an assembly line in a microchip factory. I wouldn’t know where I would be working until the day before or even the morning of my job. This uncertainty isn’t for everyone, but it sure set me up with some great doula skills.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #3: Embrace the unpredictability of life. You’ve got to roll with it.
Job #4: TCBY (Yogurt Store)
In this job I had the pleasure of working a drive through. That really doesn’t have anything with doula work, but it’s definitely an interesting life experience. What I did learn during my summer of serving yogurt is the ability to easily stand for an entire day. I learned the value of comfortable shoes and I’m pretty sure I am wearing the same type of shoes that I wore during those long summer hours of making waffle cones and doling out fro-yo.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #4: Ability to stand for long hours at a time and the importance of comfortable shoes
Job #5: Retail Clothing
Working at a mall provides the ability to meet all different types of people. And some of these people aren’t happy. In my days at Limited Express, I learned some valuable people skills. I picked up skills in conflict resolution and customer service all in a week of work. I also developed an awareness of my surroundings when walking to my car in a parking lot. I would often request a security escort which is something that I feel comfortable doing at a few local hospitals as well.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #5: People skills and an awareness of my surroundings
Job #6: I was a Strawberry
Yes, you read that right. I spent a short part of one summer dressed up as a strawberry for a fair taking place at a local farmer’s market. In my role as a strawberry I passed out fruit, posed for photos and on occasion filled in for the pony walkers. Yes, there is someone out there that has a picture of their adorable child on a pony being walked by me dressed in full strawberry gear (right down to the green tights and green stem beret). In this job I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and be okay.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #6: Ability to step way outside of my comfort zone
Job #7: Anesthesiology Research Associate
My primary job in college was working with one of my professors as a research associate in the Department of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University. I was so proud of this job and wore my VUMC badge as a badge of honor. In my role, I would often go into the hospital with my equipment, enter a patient’s room and setup everything for research. I would have to speak with patients and sometimes their family members about the data which we were collecting and how we were collecting it. I became very comfortable in the hospital setting which comes in very handy with doula work.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #7: Comfort with working in a medical setting
Job #8: Database Programmer
In my days of database programming, I developed a love of data. I learned how data is gathered and displayed can really tell a story if it is done correctly. As a doula and childbirth educator, I stay up to date with current research and best practices. Reading studies and analyzing the results is easier after having spend years as a database programmer.
Doula Skills Learned in Job #8: Love of data and an ability to read research
Job #9: Mom
I didn’t have to think twice about this one. My days raising 4 children has taught me how to be patient and doula work requires some serious patience. I think those long hours of working on potty training alone has taught me patience. I can endure hours of sitting on a metal stool watching a client sleep after that training. No problem! Along with patience, I do think that I learned how to have empathy for women going through childbirth and early breastfeeding. Having experienced these challenging times myself I do draw upon those experiences and have a great amount of empathy for my clients
Doula Skills Learned in Job #9: Patience and Empathy with Childbirth and Breastfeeding
If you are just starting out on your journey to doula work or are new to the profession, I encourage you to reflect on your own journey to doula work. I bet you also held jobs or had life experiences that have prepared you for this work in ways that you hadn’t yet considered.