We had the good fortune of connecting with tracy hartley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi tracy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I was 49 years old when I first heard the word and the concept of “doula.” I had a job that I loved and had been there for almost 7 years but, from the moment I understood what a doula was, I knew that was what I wanted and needed to be. There wasn’t much thought about the fact that I would be “starting a business” until I had already started a business! Learning to be a doula was the easier task. Learning how to create a website in 1996 was much more difficult! As my doula skills grew, so did my business skills and, within a few years, I had a viable business that has supported me for 25 years.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Educating people, preparing them for their upcoming birth and then supporting them through labor is the easy part of being a doula. Learning to live a life on call, 24/7/365 is not as easy! Many doulas don’t make it past the first year because being on call is harder than they expected. When I started my doula work in 1996, I had to buy a pager so clients could reach me and I would have to pull off the freeway in search of a pay phone when they did! The transition to always carrying a cell phone, or actually two cell phones, seemed easy to me after that, but a lot of new doulas have a hard time with the on call part of the work.
After being a doula for 25 years, it has become second nature to me to always be packed to go to a birth, with my birth bag, inflated birth ball and ice chest with snacks along with a change of clothes in my car if I’m going to be more than 10 minutes away from my house and I don’t go more than 30 minutes from home unless I don’t have any clients due with 2 weeks, which rarely happens! I took my first vacation in 2018 after being a doula for 22 years.
What sets me apart from other doulas now is my experience. I’ve attended the births of 690 babies and I learn something new at every birth. I also allow new doulas to shadow me at births and I offer the presence of a newer doula at the birth and provide my services virtually. This allows my clients to have the benefit of my experience, expertise and knowledge along with the energy and enthusiasm of a newer doula. This option allows for a lower cost and gives newer doulas a chance to work with clients “hands-on” while having the safety net of knowing that I am always there to answer questions and help with decision making.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spot is the beach, although I don’t get to go there often because it’s too far to go when I have clients due, which is almost always! As a full time doula, I rarely go out to eat, and I never drink in case my phone rings and someone needs me to go to their birth.
My son has a very popular podcast with a lot of followers and I do meet up with small groups of listeners a couple of times a year for dinner or movies, but the locations are based on where the greatest number of listeners live or are staying at.
If my best friend were visiting and I wanted to show them the best time ever, we would go where that person most wanted to go and see what they wanted to see. I don’t have any particular favorites.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am grateful to my daughter, who allowed me to be her doula at the births of all three of my beautiful grandchildren. The love and support of both of my children has helped me continue this work even though it meant missing birthday, dinners and holidays. They’ve all been awakened in the middle of the night when I’ve left for or returned home from a birth because no matter how quiet I try to be, my dog announces my departures and arrivals with great enthusiasm.
I would not have been able to become the doula I am today without my amazing group of backup doulas who are always willing to drop everything and head to be with my clients when I’m not able to be there. That doesn’t happen often, but on those rare occasions when two clients are in labor at the same time, knowing that one of my backup doulas will be there means everything. Being a member of DASC (Doulas Association of Southern California) has allowed me to meet and get to know hundreds of doulas to learn from when I was starting out and to teach once I gained experience.
Without the support of my wonderful family, my backup doulas and all of the doulas I’ve met along the way, this work would not have been impossible.
Other: The Hospital Project at www.bestdoula.com
Shoots and Giggles Photography