Shopping for a Doula? Here are 6 Steps for Navigating and Maximizing Your Doula Experience

Considering Hiring a Doula?

 

Image © and used with permission

Maybe you are hearing the word ‘Doula’ for the first time, or have heard it, but are very unfamiliar with a doula’s role or why it is so important to have a doula as part of your birth team.

A doula (a woman standing by) is a labor support person who provides physical, emotional and informational support for families throughout their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journeys.

Doula care is so much more than just support during your labor and as a first time mom, or a family considering doula care for the first time, it can be a bit difficult to know where to begin in your efforts of finding the right doula for your family’s individual needs, but also maximizing the care-to-cost-to-connection ratio with the doula you choose.

Here are six steps to help you navigate this new territory and maximize the kind of experience you can have in your search for a doula, but also in your birth journey!

 

Step 1: Do you even want or need a doula?

Doulas are hired for all different birth scenarios, and not just an un-medicated, out-of-hospital birth. They are beneficial in any setting and are a perfect compliment to the care provided by a midwife, the continuous support needed in the hospital room, or the calming presence often missing in the surgical room. READ HERE for more information on the differences between a midwife and a doula.

Doing a simple search online for “local doulas” can be a bit overwhelming, depending on where you live! Knowing what kind of services are generally available from a doula, and matching that with what your ideal vision is for your birth, can help you gauge, not only whether you actually want / need a doula, but what services you would like for her to offer. Then you can narrow down your doula search right from the get go!

The advantage to finding doulas in your area who offer the services you are looking for means you don’t have to hire three different individuals for services which could have been available all in one place. Hiring several people for different services adds more people to your contact loop before / after giving birth, which can honestly become a headache during a time when you are simply wanting to snuggle in with your new baby, bond AND sleep! This also creates fluidity and connection throughout your pregnancy, during birth, and into the postpartum period in your relationship with your Doula. They will be able to handle everything while you just focus on your new baby and your growing family!

Doulas provide care in many different areas and also offer an array of additional services which are cohesive to doula care and the support of families. Determining which services are, or might be, important to you, and then searching doulas in your area who offer those specific services can save a lot of time in the interviewing process of finding the right one!

Here is a handful (or two ;-)) of potential service options available to doula families…

  • Informational support throughout pregnancy
  • Antepartum care (need support while on bed rest?)
  • Education on all of the options and decisions to be made from the start of labor to immediately postpartum for both the mother and the baby.
  • Birth plan preparation & guidance
  • Natural childbirth education classes
  • Breastfeeding education, classes, and counseling / support
  • Placenta encapsulation (tincture, mother broth, smoothies, prints, cord keepsakes)
  • Lending library (guidance on book recommendations based on your needs, and then the ability to borrow those books!)
  • Continuous birth support at home, then the hospital or birth center (inclusion of partner, or in place of partner)
  • Advocacy of your birth plan (so you and your partner can focus on laboring)
  • Capturing occasional photo moments (usually non-professional) P.S. there are professional birth photographers!
  • Postpartum care (need support after bringing baby home?)
  • Extended care packages – (informational support through baby’s first year!)

 

Step 2: If so, what is most important about her?

This can sometimes be a difficult question, especially for first time momma’s who really don’t know what their specific needs of a doula may be. I mean, how do you know what you will need from a support person while in labor, when you haven’t experienced labor yet!?

I’ve broken it down into a couple of sections to help you navigate how to answer this question for yourself.

  • Consider your love language
    • Considering your own love language can be helpful in determining, not only the character qualities you are looking for in a doula, but also, the kind of connection you will want to have developed with her before your labor. It is important to know whether she is experienced enough to know how and when to change gears with you, as your labor progresses, and have discernment in when to draw into you for support, and when to draw back and allow you space to find your strength and power.
  • Consider your partner
    • Birth is not just about the laboring woman. All too often, partners end up feeling like the “third wheel,” with the primary focus on the mother and baby. But partners need support too, whether they want to be hands-on in the birth process or not. All couples function as one in a very different rhythm. This means that some partners will want to dive right in and be as much of a supportive part of the action as they can be, or maybe even catch their baby! Others want the freedom to hang back and draw in as they feel comfortable in each moment. Then you have partners who would rather be more of an outside observer (or maybe the birthing mother would rather her partner be an outside observer), if even present within the birth space at all. Knowing how the doula will support your partner in each of these differing scenarios is important to knowing the full extent of her experience and how well she will support your family dynamic and the needs of your partner through each stage of labor.

                   Dads are having a baby too! Many dads come out of their birth experiences feeling:

    • Traumatized, having had no one to communicate with them in terms they could understand (getting away from medical terminology).
    • Scared, having had no one to keep their internal thermostat in check and assured that everything is safe and normal
    • Helpless, not having anyone there to guide them in ways they can help bring comfort and relief to the woman they love.
    • Lack of Joy, as they watched the scene unfold around them, as they tried to protect, be understanding, advocate for the birth plan, process recommendations and make fast decisions. Dads are missing out on the joy of watching and participating in the births of their babies… This is not okay. You can read more about how doulas are for dads too, and how together, they make up the perfect birth team! Dads and Doulas
  • Consider the doula’s energy
    • The heart of doula care is in the connection, and the energy of that connection. You are bringing another energy into your sacred space of birth, and that energy should be welcoming of the unfolding process of birth. You should feel safe and comfortable with her and should feel confident that the advocacy she will provide represents your birth plan, and not her own.
  • Consider the doula’s experience
    • There is simply no price that can be placed on experience in this field. Of course, every good and experienced doula had to start somewhere. The wisdom that comes from their experiences can be a huge benefit to your family in navigating every faucet of this adventure. From the pros and cons of each hospital / birth center within the realm of your birth vision, to recommendations on which care provider / midwife will connect with your family dynamic and be supportive of your wants and desires for your birth experience. In many ways, your experience can be the best reflection of her experiences, as she guides you through medical field protocol. And let’s not forget how important her experience will be to you and your partner once in the throes of labor. What touch will bring relief in this moment? Which essential oil can be emotionally uplifting? Which rebozo technique can get rid of that pesky back labor (or what even is a ‘rebozo’!?)? The list really does go on here.
  • Consider the doula’s character
    • Client testimonials should play a crucial role in defining her real character and the passion she has for her profession and the families she is called into the service of. It is okay to request testimonials, and even ask to speak with a few previous clients about their experiences. Most doulas will know right away who would be willing to speak with you and share about that personal experience receiving their support. Ensuring that she is reliable, trustworthy, knowledgeable, but also, that working in this field is not just a “job” to them! All professions become “businesses / jobs” at some point. I mean we all have to make a living to support our families. But, that doesn’t mean that a business / job can’t still be full of heart! If the philosophy is “it’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” then the heart of this profession, for that doula, has been misplaced.
    • Also, consulting with your chosen care provider on whether they have had any experience working with your Doula. Was it a positive experience and would they welcome their presence back into the labor and delivery room?

 

Step 3: Know what you’re paying for! 

When first searching for a doula, they are often compared first by their rates. This is a great disservice to the doulas being compared, as well as to the families seeking care. The doula who charges $1000 (20+ years’ experience), and the doula who charges $350 (who just finished a weekend training workshop and has completed the three free births she is supposed to attend to receive her certification), should not be compared by their rates. They should be compared by what the family’s needs are for their pregnancy and birth journey, and how the doula can meet those needs to the best of their ability. The rate has nothing to do with their compatibility to the family seeking care. Hey, every doula has to start somewhere to earn the “experienced” title. While cost and experience are important, they may not be as important as the connection you share once it comes time for your birth.

Also, be mindful that the rate the doula is charging does reflect her level of experience. If the average experienced doula rate in your area is between $800 – $1000, a new doula, with less than 10 births in her experience bag, shouldn’t yet be charging between that average bracket.

Be kind, and don’t schedule an interview, on the doula’s time, unless you are willing to work out a way to pay for her services. Show your potential doula that you value her time, her profession, the services she offers, her experience, and the benefits she can bring to your pregnancy and birth journey. Most doulas who are in this profession for the heart of it are willing to work with expectant families on payment plans to ensure that every family, regardless of circumstance, can receive the care and support they need, while also establishing a mutual agreement assuring that the doula herself is compensated for her invaluable time and support. If hired early in the pregnancy, a family can have 6 months or more, depending on arrangements made with the doula, to pay for the services. Hiring earlier is often better, and also offers more time for connection and more opportunities for your doula to provide pregnancy and informational support.

I have often heard that having a doula is a “luxury”… which is such an unfathomable concept to me. When did we get so far out of reach with what the act of giving birth really is, that having a person support the mother through the most challenging experience of her life is considered a “luxury” ??? Shouldn’t it be “common place” to expect her to be supported in the best way possible? Isn’t she deserving of that? Isn’t her partner deserving of enjoying the birth process, rather than having to stand there terrified and feeling helpless? How do we even get to a place where we can put a price or a value on something this important?

Dr. John H. Kennell has been quoted, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

Doulas are not a “Luxury.” Doulas are a “Necessity.”

For a generalized breakdown of what a doula really makes after expenses such as gas, food, taxes, supplies, childcare, etc., you can check out this article, A Breakdown of a Doula’s Fees and Why Doula’s Charge What They Do.

 

Step 4: Trust her to teach you

Over the years it has become apparent that the value in taking a childbirth preparation course has been forgotten. Birth is a joyous rite of passage that a woman takes. It’s a transforming journey from maiden to mother. Taking a course which provides knowledge on the anatomy and stages of birth, preparing the mind-body-spirit for the journey ahead, options & decision, natural coping techniques, and partner engaging (just to name a few…),  reduces the fear surrounding birth in our society today and builds confidence in a woman’s ability and power to give birth, and also achieve the joy and satisfaction that can be found in the hard work that it takes to bring forth new life.

We wouldn’t set out on a voyage around the world by boat without first taking some courses on what to expect on the open waters, how to navigate the boat, what to do during a storm, and know what supplies you may need and recognize how and when to use them. Birth is the greatest and most incredible and unpredictable voyage a couple will ever embark on. Going in blind fuels fear of the unknown and leaves more space for unnecessary interventions to interrupt the safety of the birth process. Knowledge is power!

Look into starting a childbirth class between 20 and 30 weeks gestation. There are so many benefits to completing your course at least 6 weeks prior to your EDD. This allows time for the information to be absorbed. It also gives extra time to account for any potential classes which may need to be pushed out a week or two, should your doula be supporting a birthing family during a regularly scheduled class session, and you still complete the course before the arrival of your baby!

If your Doula teaches a childbirth education class, take her class. You are getting many additional hours with your doula to connect over the birth process. This builds confidence for both mom and her partner in their trust relationship with their doula, it builds a stronger connection, it means that the couple and the doula speak the same “birth language,” and the couple themselves have a much greater understanding of their doula’s vast knowledge base surrounding the unfolding of the birth process. Be sure the class you choose supports how you want to birth and includes education around the stages of birth, coping techniques, as well as partner engagement and preparing the mind, body, and spirit for the journey ahead.

If this isn’t your first birth, but it will be your first birth accompanied by doula support, taking your doula’s childbirth class can bring a refreshing of the soul and even help you bring your vision for this birth to the forefront.

 

Step 5: Pick 3

Meeting with several doulas means a better chance of finding the perfect doula for your family! So pick 3 doulas who match your criteria from above and schedule interviews.

Doulas offer a ‘free consultation’ to get acquainted. This ‘double interview’ time allows for both the expectant family and the doula to interview one another to see whether they are a right fit.

It is important to see if there is a connection and positive energy, and give you a chance to get a sense of whether you would feel “safe” and “comfortable” to birth with them by your side. Ask questions you have about their profession, business, character, experience, rates, etc.

The doula also needs to ‘interview’ the expectant family to determine whether they feel that they are the right support person to meet your family’s individual needs and vision for your birth experience. Whether they feel comfortable with both the mother and her partner, as well as the chosen care provider and birthing location is important to the kind of care and attention she can devote to that family. Checking in with your care provider and knowing that they are in favor of you having a support person present, and whether they have any doulas they are not comfortable working with. After all, you don’t want to be caught between your doula and care provider! So make sure that the doula you choose feels comfortable not only with your birth setting and provider team, but that your care provider team also respects your doula.

Your doula should be interested in what your vision is for your ideal birth, and they should desire to support you in striving for that vision, as medically feasible. This is your body, your baby, and your birth!

While meeting with 3 is ideal, there are those occasions when you just know right away, in the first interview, that you have found her! … and the feeling is usually mutual! Everything just fits and you know that she is the one that you want to welcome into your birth space, and support you during this miraculous journey!

 

Step 6: Use her!

You now have a support person whose entire profession, expertise, and knowledge base revolves around pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, newborn care, sleep cycles, etc. Use that resource! Reach out! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request guidance. This is what they are here for!

Hire early! Repeat hire, early! Hiring before 16 weeks means more pregnancy support and more time to develop a close connection. It also ensures the doula’s schedule doesn’t fill-up without you!

Many doulas offer extended care packages during the postpartum period which gives the family access to the Doula’s educational knowledge base for guidance on sleep issues, teething comfort, sleep pattern guidance, breastfeeding support, referrals to outside resources as a need arises, and so much more, all accessible through baby’s first year of life! This is an incredible blessing, especially for first time parents. This gives continuity of care that doesn’t just end after the baby arrives. Babies don’t come with a manual, and having someone at your fingertips with evidence based information, rather than “forum opinions,” is such a blessing!

Dad’s and Doula’s

Dad’s & Doula’s

Preparing for childbirth is much like preparing for a voyage around the world by sea.

If you have never taken a voyage by sea, and have no experience sailing, it would be nearly impossible to set out without an experienced guide and know that you are going to have a smooth voyage from beginning to end, that you are going to arrive at you intended destination point having met all of your goals for the planned journey.

A doula is your guide to understanding the birth process, knowing where you are in each moment, what to expect around the next corner, how to handle each wave as it comes crashing your way, how to be supportive, how to meet the changing needs of the laboring mother as the weather out to sea changes and intensifies.

A doula is the voyage guide … the lighthouse on the shore … the whisper through the winds of change

Mom + Baby + Dad = “The Birth Team”

A Doula = “The Nurturer of the Birthing Process”

Giving “The Birth Team” the physical, emotional and informational support needed along the way.

A Doula is not only support for the birthing mother, she is also support for the birthing father.

This is a journey that mom and dad are taking together with their baby.

A Doula’s role is to facilitate that journey and protect the bond between “The Birth Team” as they work together.

A Doula is not a replacement for a dad’s role in the birth process. Quite the opposite in fact.

  • A Doula is an extra pair of hands in many laboring positions which require more than one support person attending to mom
  • A Doula is an extra pair of ears in recognizing the changes in the progression of labor and keeping dad informed along the way
  • A Doula is an extra pair of eyes in assuring proper advocacy of the desires and wishes of your birth plan, so dad can be completely focused on mom
  • A Doula speaks the language of birth and keeps mom and dad well informed about the stages of progression and the changes in care that mom and baby will need throughout each stage
  • A reduction in the amount of stress and confusion which can be caused by an often intimidating hospital room and staff who are not always available to answer immediate questions
  • The Partner doesn’t have to worry about remembering everything learned in the childbirth class because the Doula is there to provide guidance, reassurance and provide information on the ‘normalcy’ of the birth process
  • With a Doula present, dad will have his emotional needs met (ie. stresses, worries, concerns, etc) so dad can remain positively focused on mom and his baby and his role in “The Birth Team”
  • Having a Doula means dad can step away for a spell to use the restroom, have a light snack, take a brief power nap, or just catch his breath and have a moment to reflect, with peace of mind that mom and baby are being well supported in his absence
  • Doula’s provide comfort to dad’s and help them remain calm and collected during a time that might otherwise have felt stressful
  • Doula’s provide heavy doses of guidance & encouragement keeping “The Birth Team” feeling confident in themselves and the birth process
  • A Doula can help you and your partner have a more intimate birth experience by helping to set the tone in a non-intimate setting, such as in a cold hospital room, and help to protect the intimacy desired in a hospital birth

 

Quotes of the Soul

Quotes of the Soul

“If I don’t know my options, I don’t have any.”
~ Diana Korte

“Birth is powerful… Let it empower you.”
~ Unknown

“Just as a woman’s heart knows how and when to pump,
her lungs to inhale,
and her hand to pull back from the fire,
so she knows when and how to give birth.”
~Virginia Di Orio

“Only with trust, faith, and support can the woman allow the birth experience to enlighten and empower her.”
~ Claudia Lowe

“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful.
It’s that women are strong.”
~ Laura Stavoe Harm

“You are constructing your own reality with the choices you make…or don’t make.
If you really want a healthy pregnancy and joyful birth, and you truly understand that you are the one in control,
then you must examine what you have or haven’t done so far to create the outcome you want.”
~ Kim Wildner

“The need to pursue healthy birth options and birth rights for women and babies doesn’t end with our own births;
for women will always birth after us.”
~ Desirre Andrews

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”
~ Mary Manin Morrissey

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
~ Marie Curie

“Those who fear birth, also fear those who don’t fear birth.”
~ Angela Woerner

“The best way to avoid a cesarean is to stay out of the hospital.”
~ Brooke Sanders Purves

“I am the hero of this story”
~ Regina Spektor

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do…
It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”
~ Rikki Rogers

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“There may never be a baby book that offers the conclusive answer to every question,
but it’s possible to extract some wisdom from the suffering of past generations of parents.
Does the book you’re reading contradict itself repeatedly,
require you to override all your parental instincts,
or send you into a panic over your own inadequacy?
If so, burn it.”
~ Libby Copeland

“Childbirth provided the drama I craved,
the thrill of peeking over the primal edge of creation,
the rush of the unexpected.”
~ Peggy Vincent

“Birth isn’t something we suffer,
but something that we actively do and exult in!”
~ Sheila Kitzinger

“For far too many women, pregnancy and birth is something that happens to them rather than
something they set out consciously to do themselves.”
~ Sheila Kitzinger

“The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you,
because it is you.”
~ Unknown

‎”Rain, after all is only rain; it is not bad weather.
So also, pain is only pain; unless we resist it,
then it becomes torment.”
~ the I Ching

“The knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman.
Successful childbirth depends on the acceptance of the process.”
~ Suzanne Arms

“Birth is not only about making babies. It’s about making mothers…
strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their inner strength”
~ Barbara Katz Rothman

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing.
She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination,
prepared to be herself and only herself.”
~ Maya Angelou

“The same movements that get the baby in, get the baby out.”
~ From Birthing From Within

“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear.”
~ Jane Weideman

“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
~ Marie Mongan

“A healthy woman who delivers spontaneously performs a job that cannot be improved upon.”
~ Aidan MacFarlane

“Life only demands from you the strength you possess.”
~ David Hammarskjold

“All natural birth has a purpose and a plan; who would think of tearing open the chrysalis as the butterfly is emerging?
Who would break the shell to pull the chick out?”
~ Marie Mongon, Hypnobirthing

“Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect.
For what has happened? A miracle.
You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.”
~ William MacNeile Dixon

“It seems that many health professionals involved in antenatal care have not realized
that one of their roles should be to protect the emotional state of pregnant women.”
~ Dr. Michel Odent

“Call it “womb awe” or even “womb worship” but it’s not simple envy.
I don’t remember even wanting to be a woman.
But each of the three times I have been present at the birth of one of my children,
I have been overwhelmed by a sense of reverence…
It was quite suddenly, the first day of creation; the Goddess giving birth to a world…
Like men since the beginning of time I wondered:
What can I ever create that will equal the magnificence of this new life?”
~ Sam Keen

“The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source.
She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power.”
~ Heather McCue

“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.”
~ Gloria Steinem

“The effort to separate the physical experience of childbirth from the mental,
emotional and spiritual aspects of this event has served to disempower and violate women.”
~ Mary Rucklos Hampton

“Deep within each woman, lies the Knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions.”
~ Unknown

‎”The wisdom and compassion a woman can intuitively experience in childbirth
can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women.”
~ Stephen Gaskin

“The instant of birth is exquisite. Pain and joy are one at this moment.
Ever after, the dim recollection is so sweet that we speak to our children with a gratitude they never understand.”
~ Madline Tiger

“It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labor, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further.
We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as a physical, achievement.
The birth of a child is the ultimate perfection of human love.”
~ Dr. Grantly Dick-Read

“No other natural bodily function is painful and childbirth should not be an exception.”
~ Dr. Grantly Dick-Read

“Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting,
the power of which they have never previously been aware.
To such a woman, childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”
~  Dr.  Grantly Dick Read

“Fear can be overcome only by Faith.”
~ Dr. Grantly Dick-Read

“Mothers need to know that their care and their choices won’t be compromised by birth politics.”
~ Jennifer Rosenberg

If in doubt, breathe out.”
~ Cathy Doberska

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown,
FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”
~ Patrick Overton

“30,000 women will be giving birth with you today.
Relax and breathe and do nothing else.
Labor is hard work and you can do it.”
~ Unknown

“Focus on what you can do, then do it with all your heart.”
~ Lois Wilson

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
~ Winston Churchill

‎”No amount of prenatal blood sampling, uterine testing, ultrasounds, amniocentesis,
or other physical evaluations can substitute for good maternal nutrition.”
~ Dr. David Stewart

“It does a man good to see his lady being brave while she has their baby… it inspires him.”
~ Ina May Gaskin

“Life only demands from you the strength you possess.”
~ David Hammarskjold

“If I had my life to live over, instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy,
I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.”
~ Erma Bombeck

“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies,
and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth”
~ Dr. Christiane Northrup

“Birth is an experience that demonstrates that life is not merely function and utility, but form and beauty.”
~ Christopher Largen

Birth Poetry

Poetry

“Where the essence of our strength is found,
the limits of our weaknesses are discovered,
and who we once were is lost forever.
For with the first breathe of this ever so tiny one,
the marrow of our soul… finally lives.”

~ Shelby Miller

The Rose

My cervix is like a rosebud
Ready to Open
I am nurtured by those around me as the rose is nurtured by the soil
The rosebud gradually, ever so softly, opens and blossoms.
I open and blossom.
My cervix is soft and ripe like a rosebud.
I see the outer petals of te rose falling away
I see my cervix yielding like the outer petals of the rose.
Every contraction opens another petal of my rosebud cervix.
I welcome each contraction, which helps me open my rosebud cervix.
I welcome and receive all the nurturing around me, which helps me open.
Just like the warm sun opens the rose, the warmth I receive opens my cervix.
I yield and open.
The rose does not resist.
I open and blossom.

~ Barbara Harper “Gentle Birth Choices”

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_______________

If we hope to create
a non-violent world
where respect and kindness
replace fear and hatred…

We must begin with how
we treat each other
at the beginning of life

For that is where
our deepest patterns are set.

From those roots
grow fear and alienation….
~ OR love and trust.

~Suzanne Arms~

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The Candle

Imagine that your pelvis is a candle with a flame in the middle
As my contractions come, the flame burns brighter.
My body is the wax of the candle, warming and yielding to the flame.
The more I breathe, the brighter the candle burns.
The wax melts and drips with each contraction.
My body becomes looser and opens to the flame.
I see my pelvis becoming soft and warm and pliable.
I breathe. With each contraction, the candle becomes softer.
I melt with the candle.
My breath helps the candle burn brighter, melting quicker.
I remain soft, warm, and yielding.

~ Barbara Harper “Gentle Birth Choices”

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Slow down mummy, there is no need to rush,
slow down mummy, what is all the fuss?
Slow down mummy, make yourself a cup tea.
Slow down mummy, come and spend some time with me.

Slow down mummy, let’s put our boots on and go out for a walk,
let’s kick at piles of leaves, and smile and laugh and talk.
Slow down mummy, you look ever so tired,
come sit and snuggle under the duvet and rest with me a while.

Slow down mummy, those dirty dishes can wait,
slow down mummy, let’s have some fun, let’s bake a cake!
Slow down mummy I know you work a lot,
but sometimes mummy, its nice when you just stop.

Sit with us a minute,
& listen to our day,
spend a cherished moment,
because our childhood is not here to stay!

~ Rebekah Knight

_____________________________________________

We’ve all been waiting for you.
For you.
Your arrival has been marked, has been recorded
on earth,
in the universe,
in the galaxies,
in all of space,
in all of time.
You come with a birthright, written in love and sung
through all Creation in words which promise
that no matter where you’re at,
you’re home
that no matter who you’re with,
you’re welcome
that no matter who you are,
you’re loved.
Welcome.

~ Rita Ramsey

________________________________________________

Through pain find strength
Through birth find healing
It is never easy to keep reaching for dreams
Strength and courage can sometimes be lonely friends.
But those who reach, walk in stardust.
~ Flavia

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They Invite Us In
women
who trust us
inviting us in
to share their secret passage
we count their moons with them
waiting for a pause
and in that suspension
we wait with them
fingers granted privileged entry
into innermost recesses
secrets shared
stories heard
lessons learned
they invite us in
to help their babies out
we dance with them
slowly
as they grow and wait
each day a little larger
new life jostling their ribs
until its stretching
threatens to burst
her fleshen bubble
and
at last
she is ready
taking your hand
she flows in and out of
the deepest shadow places
love and terror
the waves grip her
and
release
until she is ready
also
to release
you sing to her
breathe, my dear
hold her close
relax now, it’s over
help her see
she will not die
not today
at last
fire
then
water
and
for the first time ever
air
into tiny pink balloons
their love made
earth
elements
into a body
your hands felt it first
still one with her body
as it grew
ripened
and fell out
into
your waiting palms
you love this moment
this woman
this baby
then you entrust her back
into the arms of her mate
hoping he’s learned
even more
how grand she is
this bearer of life

~ Judy Edmunds (1997)
from Midwifery Today

________________________________________________

Birth

This exaggerated hip swing,
The rocking of my own cradle;
Relaxin relaxes my joints into soft sensual submission,
Allowing me to open, open, open.

How did I get here?
Oxytocic orgasm,
Estrogen and Progesterone, mounting, mounting, mounting,
Leaving me cry, cry, crying, over spilt milk.

How did I know I was here?
HCG whispered it in my ear
Two blue lines, in parallel
The tell tale sign, that every woman anticipates and fears.

Oxytocin awakes me at 2am,
I feel the pulling
The downward force
My body is moving
…without my permission.

Still, it says yes, and asks for more.
More oxytocin… more….
More pain, more force.

The hours go by…
I pace and dance
With my relaxin hip swing.

I feel the baby drop down

Down

Down.

Prostaglandins are massaging my cervix,
Softer, thinner,
Creating gentle passage for my child.

Down and through he slides…

Just when I think I can take no more,
When I can do no more to birth my child.
Endorphin release…

Things get less sharp…
The sights, the sounds, the pain.
Suddenly it is just me
And this child… Working together, a team.

Finally the time is coming
Rushes of oxytocin are overwhelming
I feel a rush of urgency and fear
Catecholomines.

Noradrenaline is telling me to get this baby out…

So I push…
My heart pounds and I push….

And I push…
And the child bursts forth, and lies before me…
Shakes its head and begins to scream.

I feel something come over me,
Something I never knew I could feel
Overwhelming love, intoxicating….

I hold my child on my chest,
He slowly bobs towards my breast.
I watch him with tears in my eyes.
Prolactin and oxytocin bring me so close to my child.

These hormones have made me a mother today.

~ Stephanie Elliott

________________________________________________

The Birthsong

The night is still, the moon full and bright
She feels it approaching, her belly once again tight
All is in ready the time’s finally come
She’s hoping her baby will be here by the rising of the sun.

The song begins gently, moving slowly at first
The courage, the fear, the love, the hope and the mirth
Some sing quite softly and some loud and strong
Their babies emerge as they sing the Birthsong

Time becomes frozen as woman by woman, birth by birth
They’re all connected through their bodies & songs
It knows no boundaries, no color, no races
It fills all their bodies, their hearts, souls and faces.
The sounds of each woman as she sings the Birthsong

Her breathing grows faster as each new wave moves within
She remembers to let go, to surrender again
She opens her eyes and sees her partner, her lover, her friend
Remembering with tenderness their choice to begin

The song begins gently, moving slowly at first
The courage, the fear, the love and the hope
Some sing quite softly and some loud and strong
Their babies emerge as they sing the Birthsong

Time becomes frozen as woman by woman, birth by birth
They’re all connected through their bodies & songs
It knows no boundaries, no color, no races
It fills all their bodies, their hearts, souls and faces.
The sounds of each woman as she sings the Birthsong

The songs been completed the babe’s in her arms
Both teary eyed parents are moved by it’s charms
The song appears ended at least in this room
But I’ll hear it eternal with other bright moons.

The song begins gently, moving slowly at first
The courage, the fear, the love, the hope and the mirth
Some sing quite softly and some loud and strong
Their babies emerge as they sing the Birthsong

Time becomes frozen as woman by woman, birth by birth
They’re all connected through their bodies & songs
It knows no boundaries, no color, no races
It fills all their bodies, their hearts, souls and faces.
The sounds of each woman as she sings the Birthsong

~ Dana Beardshear

The Birthing Dance

Come to me, My Child
Secret longing of my inner heart
Breath of spirit
Wandering the cosmos
Choosing your next lifepath
Seeking sanctuary in my womb
Visions of you stir my dreams
Your gentle essence drifting inward
Merging into matter
Coming into consciousness
Birthing into being
Your tender wisdom speaks
The ancient knowledge
of a mother’s power
Our bodies grow together
Two as one
Turning round, in birthing dance
You lead me
Opening the circle corridor
Descending into unhindered ecstasy
Into my arms.

~ Judie C. McMath

A Breakdown of a Doula’s Fees – Why Doulas Charge What they Do

Attending births and providing support to expectant Momma’s is one of the greatest passions in my life. Being in a position that positively encourages a Women’s desire to have the birth she wants while supporting her journey is one of the most humbling honors… educating, enlightening and empowering…

There are some AMAZING Doula’s from San Antonio to Austin. From the ones just starting out to the ones who have led the way for people like me, and even those who have taken the next step and passed over into Midwifery. It is such a blessing to be in the company of such incredible Women.

One of the biggest and most pressing questions potential clients want to know from the start is how much I charge for my services. There is always this lingering sense to me that Doula Services are just lined along the driveway of a garage sale and the one with the cutest look, lots of miles and cheapest price is the one that people are looking for. Lets examine that for just a moment.

Cutest Look

  • Okay, let’s be honest here. Everyone judges a book by it’s cover whether meant to or not. The look is the first impression. But what does the look really say about the care and dedication that will be provided when it really matters? No Doula is going to show up to a birth looking the way she did in the initial meeting anymore than she is going to expect her client to look the way she did after 10+ hours of intense labor. There is work to be done. Take the time to really search out the heart of the Doula, interview several, even the one you might consider to be the least compatible at first glance, and find the one that is right for you on every level, not just one or two. Also consider who their back-up Doula is, or their partner Doula, and make sure that falls in line with what you are seeking as your support system as well.

Lots of Miles

  • The Experienced Doula – I am not in any way knocking experience here! Not for a moment. I personally have 15+ years of experience working with expectant Mother’s. I am comfortable charging for my services and knowing that the care I provide is well worth above and beyond what I charge. I also want my services to be affordable to families. Every family deserves support and care, regardless of circumstance. The Doula with a great deal of experience is often scrutinized for what appears to be such a high fee range without really taking into consideration her training, experience, or how the individual services might add up.
  • The New Doula – When you move or take a break from Doula-ing to have more children and then begin to offer care service again, you often end up back at square one on the “New Doula Block.” It takes a lot of time and investment to get the wheels rolling. For the New-new Doula’s, It does sometimes hurt my heart a bit when I see new Doula’s cast aside for lack of experience. There is something to be said for the spirit of the new Doula, the tenacity, the excitement, the eagerness to learn. This should be bottled and used for every ounce it is worth! This eagerness is often taken advantage of by her feeling obligated to offer services for FREE, or at extremely reduced rates, regardless of training or her expenses to provide care services from pregnancy, through labor & birth and into postpartum. While I understand the viewpoint on this, (She can do the birth for free and gain experience), I also understand the cost of volunteering to be ones Doula. The time and the financial investment of that new Doula. In all honesty, the Doula’s with more experience and a greater client base are the ones who have much more wiggle room to volunteer services on occasion, often without such a pinch to themselves financially. Be understanding that while a new Doula is willing to trade the service for free to gain the experience, what she is really doing is paying to learn from that experience and then also providing you with a valuable service that she is also paying for. Yes, this means that the Doula is paying to be your Doula. New Doula’s who set a minimal fee are often just asking to break even and not really profiting at all.

Cheapest Price – The cheapest price really does not mean the best value with this kind of service. We are talking about birth here and the person you are entrusting to provide support and guidance through that journey, not the greatest bargain on the dollar shelf. It really comes down to understanding the in’s and out’s of the cost of Doula Care for the Client and for the Doula.

“Why do Doula’s charge so much?”

I think that when people often look into Doula Care, and are shocked by the cost, they are only considering the reflection of that cost as it pertains to the Doula’s presence at their birth ONLY. Not realizing the other services which are included in that cost. Let’s break it down.

Aside from the cost of education, books, workshops, continued education, and advertising (website, cards, brochures), we also take into consideration the time that it takes for all of these, as well as out of pocket expenses.

Let’s just break down one of my packages in terms of time that I spend with my clients during the course of their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum:

Pregnancy, Labor & Birth Package §

  • Initial consultation meeting – Approximately 2 hours (plus gas and drive time)
  • Two prenatal meetings (One can be at a prenatal appointment to meet your caregiver.) Approximately 4 hours (Plus gas and drive time)
  • Birth Plan Assistance – Average, off and on, 1-2 hours
  • ASAP telephone, text, and email support during contact hours (8am-8pm) Average 4 hours
  • 24/7 On-Call period 2 weeks before/after your estimated due date – Typically 38-42 weeks gestation

This can be a 4 – 5 week On-Call 24/7

Can you really put a time on that?

Would you really want a Doula to put a price on that?

  • Around the clock Labor and Birth support once labor has begun – 10+ hours 

This is a VERY low estimate. The duration of labor can vary drastically. While a comfortable average can be estimated at about 10 hours, there is no extra charge for labors which are 36+ hours, just as there is no less charge for a -2 hour labor.

  • Immediate postpartum support of approximately 2-3 hours, or until the baby has nursed successfully and the family is settled – 2-3 hours
  • Two postpartum visit to discuss your birth, share photos, dote over your new arrival, discuss options for additional support (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, etc.) – Approximately 4 hours (Plus gas and drive time)

With these approximations, we’re looking at about 25-30 hours, in the least, just for interaction with my clients, If you add in another estimated 3 hours for research, paperwork, etc., that goes into setting up each client, we’re well over 28-32 hours.

Travel

The average trip I make to meet with clients is approximately 30-40 miles one way.  These estimates are based on this Miles Per Dollar Calculator and my vehicle.

  • Trip time (based on 5 trips) – 7.5 hours
  • Gas costs (based on 35 miles one way – 5 trips) – $94.34

Childcare & Food Costs

  • Childcare – Approximately $100 per client including visits and birth
  • Food During Birth – Approximately $10 depending on the length of birth

Miscellaneous Costs

  • Hospital Parking and tolls – Approximately $10
  • Materials for Clients – Approximately $5
  • Credit Card or Paypal Fees –Approximately 2%-3%

Total Time and Out of Pocket Expenses

  • Time – 38 hours
  • Childcare – $100
  • Food – $10
  • Gas – $94
  • Misc – $15

Total Out of Pocket Expenses – $219

Let’s do the Math

Remember the Taxes
Don’t forget that you’re looking at state or federal tax (depending on where you live and what bracket you fall into) and you also have the 13.3% Self Employment Tax (that’s the state of Texas – 10.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare).This is figured for the State of Texas and DOES NOT include Income Tax because that would depend on your tax bracket.

Doula Fee –  $400

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $181

Approximately $4.76 per hour (not even minimum wage) – $53.20 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $500

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $281

Approximately $7.39 per hour – $66.50 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $600

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $381

Approximately $10.03 per hour – $79.80 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $700

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $481

Approximately $12.66 per hour – $93.10 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $800

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $581

Approximately $15.29 per hour – $106.40 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $900

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $681

Approximately $17.92 per hour – $119.70 Self Employment Tax

Doula Fee –  $1,000

Less Expenses – (-$219)

Remainder applied toward hours of work (38) – $781

Approximately $20.55 per hour – $133.00 Self Employment Tax

Again, this is based on my personal time and expenses. Of course, over the duration of my time with a client, I can spend more or less one on one time.  This is all approximations.

In the grand scheme of things, you’re paying for an invaluable service during your pregnancy, labor, and birth. The difference a Doula can make during this time is often priceless. The least that can be done is to pay her asking fee.

Do you think that an OB or Midwife would lower his/her costs if a mom told him/her that the fees just are not in their family’s budget? This does happen on occasion with Midwives who are blessed with the ability or position to be a bit flexible, but you would never see this with an OB. Doula’s are a valuable asset to a mom’s birth team. A Doula stays at your side from beginning to end, while your OB watches from afar and only comes in right before baby is preparing to make their grand appearance. We Doula’s have bills to pay and responsibilities just as every other family. The electric company is not going to waive or reduce our monthly bill because it doesn’t fit into our budgets! Our time is valuable and we selflessly give of it to our client’s – just ask our Husband’s and children whom we have missed Holiday’s, birthday’s, and even High School Graduations to be with our client’s, selflessly. Mother’s labor in love for their babies and Doula’s labor in love for their client’s.

A Special Thank You

I want to take a moment and thank the very brilliant Doula, Lisa Johnston of “In The Beginning Doula Services,” for the time and effort that she put into putting this statistical information together for Doula’s to use as a resource for themselves and their clients. It has reminded me that I should not undercharge myself for all of the work which goes into what I do to provide the best of care to my clients and I hope that it will open the eyes of expectant families, to see clearly how and why Doula’s set their rates the way that they do, and the value of the care provided to them, even though a time clock is not punched.

This information was changed and altered to accurately reflect my personal time of investment and expenditures, as well as my own personal viewpoints.

 

Reference Resource

In The Beginning Doula Services

Recommended Additional Reading

What Makes Up a Doula’s Fees?