I became a doula because I wanted to combine helping young mothers with getting experience in the field of obstetrics. I began attending births as a doula when I was 16, and given that I was so young, I focused on working with teen moms. I was able to form both a personal and a professional relationship with them and create friendships that will last a lifetime. I also learned a great deal about pregnancy and childbirth which has helped me in my continued journey to a career as an obstetrician. In celebration of World Doula Week, I wanted to take some time to reflect on these past five years that I’ve spent as a doula.

It was never easy to be both a high school student and a doula. One morning when I was a senior in high school, a mom called me around 7am to tell me that she was in labor. I excitedly got my things together, emailed my teacher that I would be busy attending a birth and unable to take my biology test that day, and raced off to the hospital, expecting a long day comforting and coaching a first-time mom. But this baby had other ideas. Just 15 minutes after I arrived, a healthy baby boy was born. My first thought was awe and joy for being able to witness a new life enter the world. My second thought was that I would still have to take my biology test that afternoon.

Being a doula has taught me to be prepared for any situation and to expect the unexpected. Every night that I was on-call, I made sure that my phone was fully charged and my bag was packed just in case. Sometimes births went perfectly and other times they did not, but I learned valuable lessons from each one. My teenage years revolved around call schedules, induction dates and late night phone calls from worried moms instead of parties and movies, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. There’s not many people who can say that they were able to help deliver babies as a teenager, and I am forever grateful to have had that experience.

The teen moms that I work with have always inspired and amazed me. Many of them not only finished high school, but went on to college with babies in tow. At a time when the media paints a negative picture of teen parenthood, I saw nothing but extremely dedicated and hard-working moms who made countless sacrifices for their children. Some of the babies that I’ve helped deliver are now in preschool, and it’s been an honor to grow up alongside them and their moms. Watching the transition from a nervous pregnant teenager to a confident mother is an honor, and I am very grateful to have been present for the birth of their child and to be a part of their lives.

While I truly loved attending births as a doula, I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to spend the rest of my life doing when I continually found myself staring at the monitors and trying to interpret the care provider’s decision making. I will soon be onto medical school and then a career as an obstetrician, and though my official doula days will be over, a part of me will always retain the doula spirit that helped me cultivate my passion for caring for pregnant women.