You leave a first-time mom when she chooses to get an epidural.
The doctor or midwife spends more time with your client than you do.
You charge extra when a woman labors longer than an allotted time.
You require the client to pay your back-up doula if you have to leave.
You charge extra for “false alarms.”
You are hired by the client but really you are the midwife’s apprentice/assistant disguising yourself as a doula (so that you get paid.). Of course, this is fantastic if you are truly working for the client. But it can be easy to focus too much on pleasing your preceptor and not as much on serving your client.
You tell the client you’re on your way to the hospital and inexplicably fail to show up.
You bring your children to the hospital and ask the client’s family who are in the waiting room to watch them.
You promise to back up a fellow doula but when she calls you have excuses why you cannot. And so does her other back-up. And even her THIRD back-up.
I am sure this offends some of my fellow birth workers and this post won’t win me any popularity contests. We are only human and sometimes there are unusual circumstances beyond our control. But these are real stories I’ve been told in the last few months by women and doctors/nurses who were disappointed by a doula. In my town. A place where the natural birth community is making headway in creating change. Scenes like these send us three steps back.
Birth is sometimes long. It is (usually) inconvenient. Yes, we don’t make as much money when we have to pay a back-up or a birth is long. But at the end of the day, remind youself that you also had some short births (I have many more now that I take Hypnobabies clients!) and scheduled births (thankfully these are rare). These births “subsidize” the long ones. Figure that factor into your fee. Consistently, at the end of each year, when I add up all the hours I spent at births, it averages out to around 12 hours per couple.
Please, dear doulas, stay with your client. Serve her well. We offer continuous care. What kind of message does it send when her doula leaves? Wow, my doula has even given up. Defeat.
We have been honored with an invitation to grace a sacred space. It is a timeless space. We do not punch a timecard. Our shift is not over until our healthy client is nursing her baby postpartum. This might be two hours after the birth or several weeks later. My summer client who birthed prematurely was finally able to nurse her baby after weeks and weeks of coaxing. Only now do I close the file.
I know it is a tough job. Burnout is high. Please weigh the cost of your commitments and represent your birth community with integrity.
And to the moms looking for a doula: read the contract carefully. The doula should list any extra fees and discuss refunds if she misses your birth. Ask how she handles long births and what her definition of long is. My contract, for example, states that after 24 hours, I might call in a back-up doula so that I can rest and return. I’ve never done this but my contract allows it if I must. Knock on wood.