Birth Junkie

Woman standing against fence with hands in her hair seemingly distraught

I am not a morning person by any means and am someone who normally requires 8 hours of sleep per night to be functional. When I get the call at 4:00 in the morning that a client is ready for me to join them during their labor, I am instantly awake and feel as though I got my full 8 hours of sleep, even if I only got 4 hours. Adrenaline and noradrenaline kick in to create readiness and to slow digestion, which is helpful because, as a birth worker, we don’t get many breaks to stop and eat.

A birth high is a rush of oxytocin, the love hormone, which is released during sex, childbirth, and lactation.

What professions do you know where the person working gets a contact high off the work they do? If a therapist got a high after working with patients, those patients would likely feel violated and seek another professional to work with. How insensitive would it be for a hospice worker to get a high off their work? If a pharmacist got a high from work…well, they would probably lose their job!

The birth high belongs to the family, not the doula. The triumph and sense of accomplishment belongs to the family, not the doula. Professional doulas are not getting a fix by attending your birth.

Some birth workers are proudly self-proclaimed birth junkies. The visual is a woman going around looking for her next hit, her next score. Comparing birth work to a drug addiction makes it seem like she is attending births recreationally for her own selfish reasons, not for her client. If one feels some kind of personal gain from someone else’s birth, that person is not a doula, she is an oxytocin vampire.

Admittedly, there is something very moving about being a witness to life coming into the world. I am usually leaving work when everyone else is just waking up and beginning their day. They have no idea that a new human being, completely innocent and totally perfect, just took its first breath. I am thankful for all of the families that allow me to be in that vulnerable and intimate space during the expansion of that family. But once I leave, I shower, I eat, and I catch a few hours of sleep before continuing about my day.


One response to “Birth Junkie”

  1. Rain says:

    Beautifully articulated. I always find it embarrassing (for my profession) and feel a little disturbed when I see other birth “professionals” talking about the “rush” they get. It’s absolutely a really special, and yes, very moving thing to be a part of someone’s birth. But it is still about them. The only rush in that room should be theirs. As professionals, we can acknowledge the joy of birth and the need to decompress/move out of the birth space, without couching it in junkie terms.