Cultivating Patience as a Birth Worker
Slowing Down: A Path to Personal Growth
What do sourdough starter, blooming zinnia seeds, dirt, a french press, my butt up in the air in crow pose and a butter bell all have in common?
Patience. Mindfulness. Meditation. Surrender. Acceptance.
Not sure where I'm going with this yet? Stay with me.
As a birth worker and adult managing ADHD, I've found myself drawn to methodical and mindful activities that require me to slow down and pay attention. It's healing to the mind that is focused on EVERYTHING ALL. THE. TIME. And the rewards of working and cultivating things are so very sweet. But as a doula and childbirth educator for a decade (I celebrate 10 years with DONA International this month!), I find even more meaning in the patience and awareness these activities cultivate in me.
Patience in a Rushed Culture
Our culture is not good at waiting. We want everything now. This is not a national secret, right? Our lack of patience is exhibited in everything from fast food to hair extensions. I have a gardener friend who was shocked when I told him I was starting my vegetable garden from seeds. "Well how do you plant yours?" I asked. He responded, "I buy vegetable PLANTS from the garden store like everyone else. Who has the time to start from seeds?" When I tell people I make bread, many assume I have a bread maker or at least use recipes that require packaged yeast. Do you know that even the already slow-ish process of baking bread from pre-packaged yeast is a sped up process?!
Do you know what this is? It's a sourdough starter. I was inspired to make my own sourdough bread after watching the Netflix series "Cooked," last year and it has been quite the journey. You see, sourdough bread is SO simple. It's literally made with only three ingredients: flour, water and salt. The yeast comes from wild yeast in the environment. It takes 5 days to make the original starter, which then has to be continually fed and tended to so you can keep making bread. The process of making a loaf of bread is simple, but time intensive. Following this recipe from Kitchn, it takes 12 hours to make the leaven, 4 hours to rest the dough once you add more flour and water to the leaven, 2 1/2 hours to fold the dough, 3-4 hours for the bread to rise, 20 minutes baking with lid on at 450, then you turn the oven down and bake another 10 minutes, then you take the lids off and bake ANOTHER 15 minutes...and THEN...you're done.
You think I'm crazy until you've tasted THIS bread that YOU made FROM SCRATCH.
Oh. My. Lord. People. Rip off a piece of that deliciousness and slather some wonderful butter on it.
Heaven in your mouth.
Which brings me to butter.
I actually learned about butter bells from another doula, Kelley Mather, who wrote a phenomenal blog post about them in relation to postpartum doula work for Tulsa Family Doulas.
We've all had the problem of trying to spread too cold butter onto bread and tearing the bread, or trying to make cookies (if you still make cookies from scratch instead of break and bake) with cold butter that won't cream. In our effort to speed up the softening, we put the butter in the microwave, only to have melted butter that doesn't work well for baking OR spreading on toast. The butter bell is an old-fashioned way of keeping butter at a cool enough temperature to prevent it from going rancid, while keeping it soft enough to spread or cook with. Although it's ready to go the instant you want to use it, using the butter bell requires daily maintenance of pouring out the lukewarm water and replacing it with cold water.
How about my garden? What does it look like in August? Floral luciousness.
What does it look like now? Dirt. With grass and weeds and new baby plants just planted. But you know what else is in there? Little baby marigold sprouts that will turn into the HUGE orange blooms you see in the picture above. In a month or so, that garden will fill out and by the end of the season, I won't have to hardly weed at all because the entire bed will be full of flowers.
Spring might actually be my favorite part of the gardening season because it's full of hope. You plant seeds and then water and watch and hope until you see this...
And plants that are bulbs that seem to completely disappear over the winter return like irises and hostas...
Last but not least, there's tea and french presses. I make tea with a tea kettle because there is value to me in waiting for the water to boil, and steeping the tea until it's just right. I actually have a gorgeous tea pot with an infuser thingy that my husband got me for Christmas that is beautiful too, but my every day tea time is usually tea bags. And making coffee with a french press requires me to boil the water, pour it over, wait 4 minutes, then slowly and carefully press down the stopper. The result is so worth it!
Lordy, then there's yoga. I won't even go into it, but it's taken me forever to be able to FINALLY be able to do a headstand and hold a steady crow pose. Y'all who do yoga know how valuable this practice is for cultivating patience and perseverence!
Childbirth and Parenting Require Patience
It seems like a no-brainer, right? Even so, it seems to be the lesson we all have to learn over and over and over. We just discussed it in our blog post about patience in the early phases of labor.
The emotional support and even physical and practical support I give as a birth and postpartum doula necessitate that I cultivate patience and awareness in my personal life. This means intentionally developing these skills through personal growth so I can have what it takes as a professional. Amy Gilliland said it best
"[The methods] were more complex because they require experience at numerous births, reflection, a clear understanding of the mother's needs, and ultimately a deepening level of emotional intelligence and skill." 
During the actual birthing time, my primary role as a doula is as an observer. I watch the birthing person, the birth partner. I listen. I dip into my own emotions in order to be empathic and FEEL what's going on in the room, in the mother's body. The watching and waiting and mindfulness I've cultivated in tending to dirt and seeds and air bubbles in bread starter come in handy right then. Penny Simkin believes the way doulas communicate with clients is what makes the most impact, ultimately contributing to positive outcomes. This happens through a soft voice, gentle touch and acute awareness of the vulnerability and altered state of consciousness that occurs during labor . In order to be aware and understanding of the processes occurring in the autonomic nervous system and limbic system, doulas must grow their mindfulness muscles!
Patience in Birth Business
As birth workers creating attempting to create sustainable practices, we must have patience as well. I know, I know, THIS coming from the lady who wrote the book "How to Double Your Doula Business in 30 Days or Less." That's true, by the way, by implementing the practices lined out in that e-book, I really did grow my business 400% in one month, BUT it took me FOUR years to learn and lay the foundation for that growth!
I'm pained when I watch my colleagues suffer emotional and financial strain that ultimately result from a lack of patience. They want more clients and experience so they rush to spend hours and hours and money they can't yet replace with client revenue on marketing strategies that don't end up giving them the results they want. They end up throwing in the towel on work they are truly passionate about and that can make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many families. Often lack of patience (and legitimate support) is the real reason doulas fail.
If those same passionate birth workers would patiently learn what they need to learn, focus on the right things and lay the foundation in their businesses, they would reap mountains of rewards with far less pain. Personally, I'd rather endure the pain of patience than the pain of financial and emotional ruin!
Investing in Your Personal Growth
So what can you do to grow your patience muscle? Whether you're a parent preparing to give birth or a doula or childbirth educator working to improve your business, the BEST thing you can do with your time is invest in your own personal growth! Here's a list of things you can do immediately to strengthen your patience and awareness muscles:
- Bake sourdough bread - I highly recommend Kitchn's Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Begin a yoga practice - I love the Gaia app so I can have inexpensive, accessible classes on my phone any time of night or day and anywhere I go!
- Begin a meditation practice - I love the "OMG I can meditate!" app. Mindfulness practice improves immunity, stress, concentration, and emotional intelligence.
- Grow something from seed.
- Make your coffee with a french press and buy a tea kettle to boil your water instead of using the microwave.
- Use a butter bell for your butter.
- Focus on personal growth in the YBE Equip program for doulas!
- Enroll in my FREE online training for birth workers "How to Transform Your Birth Business and Increase Your Income in 5 Simple Steps!"
Connect with Me!
I'd love to hear from you. Comment on this blog post or drop me a line and share with me how you cultivate patience in your life!
Written by Missy David, the Honeybee Mama
CD(DONA), CYBET, CLC, HCHD
Gilliland, A. L. (2011). After praise and encouragement: Emotional support strategies used by birth doulas in the USA and Canada. Midwifery, 27(4), 525-531.
Penny Simkin, PT, BDT(DONA) (2016, July). The Year of the Doula. General Session presented at the DONA International Engage Conference in Bellvue, WA.