When I first started my doula training, I gave no thought to the business side of my work. The extraordinarily wise Susan Martensen (our doula training teacher) warned about some of the challenges of owning your own business, but I never paid heed. I was too caught up in the heady aspects of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. I naively thought I'd be someone's saviour - doula to the rescue!! Little did I know that "business" would take up more than half the time I spend doing my job.
I've already written a bit about my doula journey, but I find as time passes by (I will soon be marking my 35th birth!), I have become that much more reflective.
And the truth is, I keep reflecting on the mistakes I've made. Maybe it's that time of year - the end of summer, the start of school, and the planning for hibernation that comes with Fall. It's a time for self reflection. Or maybe it's because I'm nine months pregnant and slightly emotional.
Whatever the case may be, these mistakes I've made on my business path are niggling away at me. And really, they can't be labelled "business mistakes" - when it comes down to it, I screwed up with a couple of clients I worked for, and I'm feeling guilty about it.
Part of the yucky feelings I have when reflecting on these births have to do with the fact that there are people out in the world who think badly of me. I have a hard time with this. I am a people pleaser - the comments written in school reports by my teachers in Kindergarten straight through to Grade 6 were that I was always smiling, and always eager to please.
I go out of my way to avoid conflict in my life, but that usually ends up in me creating or causing conflict, as I'm rarely clear about my personal boundaries and intentions. I tend to say "yes!" all the time, and if I think that I've hurt someone's feelings or haven't followed through on something, I use the avoidance strategy. Juvenile, and not at all particularly helpful, this strategy allows me to avoid confrontation.
To be a successful entrepreneur, one must first recognize that
a) You will have dissatisfied customers. Someone, somewhere down the road, will not be happy with your product or services; and
b) You must have measures in place to recognize mistakes and learn from them
And learn I have! I feel ten times more comfortable as a doula now than I did back when I wrote this post. I recognize that the stress of the job requires me to limit the number of clients I take (no matter how many times I've been contacted by someone who sounds SO interesting and lovely, or have been called to help out at a unique birth...frank breech presentation anyone??). I also recognize the importance of time off, and scheduling in a month or two where I am taking a break from the crazy on-call schedule.
I have learned to be grown-up, and face confrontation. The mistakes that I have made are due to a number of variables, and I realize that much of it can be chalked up to a lack of communication (both on my part and theirs), and basic inexperience. I also recognize that no matter how much I "try" and have my best doula hat on, sometimes I just won't be overly helpful at births. Maybe the mother is amazingly calm and able to handle her labour with little support. Maybe she has too many support people at her birth, which means that I don't have a whole lot to do. Or maybe the birth becomes so medically complicated that my role is overshadowed by a whole lot of doctors, residents and nurses.
Don't get me wrong - I do believe I've been a good doula, and perhaps even a great doula for the majority of my clients. But it doesn't stop the yucky, sad feelings that pop up occasionally when I bump into the one or two clients who are unsatisfied with my services (Ottawa is a tiny place!).
Doula work is messy - it's based in emotions, which can be difficult to navigate at the best of times. Throw in being awake for 24 hours or attending two back-to-back births, and you've sometimes got a problem on your hands!
Despite the challenges, the past year as a doula has brought me so much joy and satisfaction, and the experience I've gained overshadows the earlier mistakes I made. But I think my planned sabbatical is causing me to become reflective and I occasionally wish for a time machine to go back and change some of the things I've done.
I'm curious to hear from my doula friends or fellow entrepreneurs. How do you handle your mistakes?