I want a doula…now what?

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Doula. It’s a word that is getting more and more exposure as of lately. However, it’s not a new fad or trend. It’s actually ancient Greek that loosely translates into “woman servant” or “woman who serves”.  Today’s definition, however, is a bit more defined. Doulas are trained women who offer emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after your labor. If you’re not convinced, there are amazing studies that prove having the unwavering support of a woman helps the mother during labor. Having a doula tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications, increases your positive feelings about your birth experience, and reduces the needs of a variety of interventions as well as your request for pain medication or an epidural.

You’re sold, right? Why wouldn’t you want a doula? Now, what do you do? Do you Google “doula” and cross your fingers for good results? Look on Craigslist? Call everyone in your contacts list and demand names and numbers? The last suggestion isn’t a bad idea, actually. Ask your friends who have given birth recently who their doula was. Ask your childbirth educator for some names and phone numbers. If you’re here, you’ve already found a great place to start. Your Baby Steps teacher is likely a doula. You can hire her or ask her for names of doulas she would recommend based on you and your partner’s personalities. The first step is to find doulas who you can contact to set up an interview with.

Once you’ve got your doulas’ information, call and talk to them! Or, if email is more of your thing, email them! Don’t be afraid to contact one. She’ll be as eager to chat with you as you are to talk to her. Google her name and see if she has a website or Facebook page. You can get a feel for them from either of these. The vast majority of doulas offer free consultations where you get to interview them. That’s step two. Set up your consultation with the doulas that interest you.

Now that you have a time and date, show up prepared. You’ll likely be meeting your doula at Starbucks, a yummy ice cream shop, or a park. Before you show up, take a moment and think about what you want in a doula. Do you want someone who has a motherly feel or someone who is more like a sister? Do you want her to be certified through an organization or working towards a certification?

Here’s a list of questions you can use to get an idea of what you might want to know:

Background information:

1) What made you become a doula?

2) What organization did you train with?

3) Have you completed your training? If no, are you still accepting certifying/reduced fee births?

4) Do you have kids?

5) How were your birth experiences?

Her unique Doula offerings:

1) How many prenatal meetings do you typically schedule?

2) How many postpartum meetings do you typically schedule?

3) Who’s your backup?

4) What happens if I change my mind before giving birth and no longer want a doula? Do I get a refund?

5) How often can I call you, text you, or email you?

And, the nitty-gritty financial questions:

1) What’s your fee?

2) What is your retainer?

3) When is the remainder due?

4) Will you accept payments?

5) Do you barter for your services?

Boom! Step three has been completed. By interviewing several different doulas, you can get an idea for the variety of personalities that are out there. Let’s say you interviewed 5 doulas. You weren’t impressed with two of them. They did nothing wrong, but you just weren’t feeling it. That’s fine. Cross their names off the list. Send a short email thanking them for meeting with you, but you’ve decided to hire someone different.

Now, with the 3 you liked, compare notes. Who did you enjoy talking to? Who did your partner enjoy talking to? Was there something that stood out with a particular doula that you really liked? Maybe it was why she became a doula. Maybe she is from the same hometown. Was there a doula you felt an instant connection with? Did you walk away thinking, “That’s it. That’s her. I want her at my birth!”

If so, go for it. Trust your gut. You want to feel a connection. Your doula is going to support you during one of your most amazing life experiences. She should make you feel comfortable and safe. After talking to her, you may have felt excited and eager for labor. Or perhaps some lingering doubts and fears were replaced with a calm peacefulness. That’s the person you go with.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, call her. Try not to wait too long; the doula isn’t going to keep her calendar open for weeks. Remember, you aren’t the only Mom calling her. Many doulas have a set number of moms they will commit to in a month. Sign the contract and pay the retainer fee. Each doula handles this differently. Some have you sign and mail the forms + check. Others may meet you in person, while others accept PayPal and electronic forms.

You did it! You’ve hired a doula. You now have someone who can help you navigate pregnancy, labor, delivery. You also have a great resource for things in your community. Need help deciding which Baby Steps childbirth class to take? Thinking about switching your care providers? Looking for breastfeeding support? Your doula will likely be able to point you in the right direction.