If you are currently expecting, or plan to be in the future, you may consider hiring a doula. Fantastic! Doulas are great, and I don’t just say that because I am one. I admired and respected the doula profession long before I made the move from supporting my friends (and their friends) to training as a professional doula. Doulas can be a great asset to both parents during pregnancy and labor.
So how does one go about hiring a doula?
Well, Google will provide you some lists of the Top 10, Top 5 or who knows how many other ‘Top’ questions to ask your potential doula. I have a pro tip for you though…there are only 2 important questions to ask your potential doula.
Before we talk about the 2 important questions though, let’s talk about what a doula, YOUR doula, should be doing for you during your pregnancy and labor.
Support during your pregnancy can be emotional and educational. If you have a question about your hospital’s protocols, the Newborn Screening test, or how to stay positive at 41 billion weeks pregnant, your doula needs to be available to you to provide that support. I don’t mean that they should be following you around or initiating daily phone calls, but they should be responsive to any communications from you and they should have set the expectation when you hired them of when and how they will respond to your communications.
This visit should last at least an hour and should be an opportunity for you and your partner to discuss any desires, goals or fears about labor. This visit should be led by you and the information that you are asking for. Your doula should discuss with you how to recognize early labor and how to manage it, and there should be a discussion about what happens when you call your doula to be with you: where will your doula join you (at home or the hospital), how long will it take for your doula to get there, and what support will look like after they arrive.
Labor is different for everyone. Needs are different for everyone and they can change for an individual multiple times throughout the process. Your doula should be present, attentive, and professional. Predicting or managing labor to a specific outcome or schedule is impossible. Your doula's job is to offer physical and emotional support throughout your labor, answer any questions you or your partner may have, and help you both communicate with your medical team.
Doulas cannot and do not make medical decisions or speak on your behalf, but we CAN help facilitate productive conversations between patient and provider, we can be a sounding board to discuss options that have been presented to you, and we can be your reminder that you are powerful. Because you are!
So back to those 2 important questions…
1. Can you support me without judgment?
I have yet to find an area of life that comes with more judgment than pregnancy and parenting. There are so many different birth philosophies and options out there, and most people think that what is right for them, is the best and is therefore right for everyone. Well, I feel qualified to say that this is absolutely untrue, and that there is no right or wrong way to give birth. Your doula should offer support, reassurance, and information that you request, NEVER judgment.
2. Do you have a back-up, and can we meet them?
Life happens. Baby’s come when they want to (or need to) and your doula has a life to maintain. There needs to be a plan in place so that no matter when you give birth, you have the support that you have sought out and paid for. This is only guaranteed if your doula has a reliable back up. If they do have a back-up, I would ask to meet them. It would be great if the person that shows up for your birth is a familiar face, don’t you think?
In my work as a labor doula I prefer to operate under the team model. Our agency, Potomac Birth Services, offers doula teams so that when a client hires us, they are getting 2 doulas. We share an on-call schedule, attend the initial consultation and prenatal visits together, and our clients have access to both doulas for support leading up to their baby’s birth. This model allows us to be on call from the moment we are hired AND offer optimal support to our clients, which is of the utmost importance in our role as doulas.
While it is great to know what other skills and experience your doula has, the support you need from them is most dependent on those 2 important questions. So, if you connect with the doula you are interviewing, you feel comfortable with them, and they can answer these 2 important questions to your satisfaction, they are probably the doula for you!