The broken path that led me to my doula training.
When I trace my steps back to how I got here, my path was so unpredictable and tumultuous, it could almost be a movie. Starting at the beginning… After a cervical cancer scare in 2005, I was faced with the fact that treatment may leave me unable to have children. The idea of that was terrifying, so I promptly got pregnant with my daughter, Graydon, probably 8-10 years earlier than planned. At the time I was with a partner that was ‘not quite’ right for me, I certainly did not vet him the way I would have, had I had my current life experiences – ah, the errors of our youth. Our relationship started to fall apart and I discovered three things very quickly into my pregnancy:
- Going to medical school would be back-burnered.
- I needed to figure out a career that would allow Gray to be home with me after she was born.
- I needed to be financially self-sufficient.
The search to solve the above issues kept me awake night after night. It was all I thought about. I will also add that I had no family within 4000 km of me and none of my friends had children, so my support network was slim to none.
Looking back, I realized that I first stepped on the doula career path when I hired my own doula and childbirth educator. She was lovely, honest, knowledgeable and dished no bullsh*t. I had a really long hospital birth that ended with a natural a. My birth was exactly what I wanted and I really did not mesh with my OB that delivered my daughter. This moment caused me to reflect on my medical school path. I loved birth and babies and women’s health. I had imagined that I would be a revered obstetrician, however, I loved the relationship to birth that my doula had, not my doctor.
Building a Doula Dream: Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship
When I got home from the hospital, I called my doula back over and we had tea and I picked her brain about how she got to where she was with her career. I asked her what she charged and how much time client care took and how she scheduled births in the month. I asked how she found clients and when she did prenatal appointments. Eureka – I had solutions to my problems!
I figured if I hustled in the day while Gray slept, I could work ON my business. In the evenings when my (then) partner was around I could work IN my business (doing consults and prenatal appointments etc.). I called the local daycares and found a center that could do last minute drop-offs for when I got called to a birth in case it was during the day. I knew I had support for evenings and weekends. This was all coming together. Being a doula would let me have Gray with me AND I would be financially self sufficient AND this would look great on a medical school application if I decided to go that route at a later date. PS – the medical school ship has sailed, but at the time I did not know that, I truly didn’t anticipate loving my new job this much!
As soon as my doula walked out of the door I registered for the next doula training in Toronto. Before the course even began, a few months later, I had read the entire reading list plus anything else my local library had to offer. I threw myself into the birth world. I completed my training and thought it was pretty good and yet I had so many questions still and did not know anyone to ask since my trainer flew back to her home city on the Sunday night right after the course was done.
The following Monday morning I posted on Facebook, which was just ‘up and coming’ at the time, that I was a doula and I got my first call 1 hour later! I felt really confident and so I quoted the top rate for doulas in Toronto at the time… and they said yes. It was exhilarating! Owning my own business made me feel so empowered. Being a support, so other women could connect to their own power, fuelled me. I loved deciding when I worked and what I charged. I loved teaching. I loved creating handouts and lesson notes. I loved doing my own branding and marketing. I loved meeting so many women, queers and their families. And I freakin’ loved labour and birth. It made me feel things I had never felt. Yes, there were times I was exhausted or cold or missing a concert because my backup was already at a birth, however, when that baby enters the world and gasps and spreads their arms out like a star as they are placed on their mother’s chest, you forget you are tired or cold or missing out on something. It is magic.
Faith in Doula Community: A Journey of Growth and Empowerment
As my practice grew and I saved enough in my first year to move out and get a home for just Gray and myself. This had a new set of challenges. Thankfully, I had built more of a support network so I had other doulas and friends that were able to help me when I was called to a birth. If you find yourself unexpectedly ending up in a doula, embrace the journey
Being a single parent entrepreneur was scary sometimes, I am not going to lie. I found comfort in knowing that I had so much faith in my community, I loved what I did and I was great at it, so I trusted it would be great. And it was. During the first few years of my business, I grew the largest doula agency in Canada with a wonderful business partner at the time, Natasha. Natasha and I created a doula certification that included all of the things that we wished our training had included: doula business support; doula mentorship; and a permanent community for our current students and graduates.
The bebo mia has changed and grown and matured over the last 13 years. We include free therapy for our students and alumni. Yes, healing the healers is so important to me.
In my personal life, Gray is a brilliant little human that knows so much about conception, pregnancy and birth, she could teach a course on it and I met an amazing spouse who supports what I do so fully and completely.
So, when I look back to how I got here, it was a wild ride and when I stand in the birthing space I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be!
Bianca Sprague is a doula trainer, activist, birth doula, lactation educator, childbirth educator and business consultant. She and her partner Hailey are the moms to their 16 year old daughter, Gray. Bianca is the founder of bebo mia and Baby & Me Fitness.
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