My very first doula babies are turning one, and I am just loving being a guest at their very special birthday parties! How much they have grown and changed in just twelve months; as have I as a doula and childbirth educator. After being a doula for over a year now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the doula-client “fit” and how best you can go about finding the right person for you. That special someone who combines professionalism and experience with a warm heart and gentle hands. These are some ideas:
Finding a doula
Probably the best (and easiest way) to find good doulas in your area is to ask around. Ask your friends and colleagues first. Did they use a doula and did she add value to their birth? How so? If you don’t know anyone who has used a doula (not uncommon in this part of the world), ask other pregnancy/birth professionals. Most gynaes don’t know or recommend particular doulas, but your antenatal class teacher, chiropractor or homeopath might be able to make a referral. You can also ask on local Facebook forums or use Google. Hopefully, this process will net you the names and contact details of at least two doulas in your area that you can then go ahead and organize an interview with.
Choosing a doula
All good doulas will offer a free no-obligation meet and greet for you and your partner to get a chance to chat to them (and for them to check that they can offer you what you are looking for). Before you set up a meeting, make sure that they are actually available around your due date, and that they work with your gynae/midwife.
When you meet a prospective doula, you may want to ask her some of the following questions:
- What are your qualifications and experience? How long have you been a doula?
- Are you a mother yourself?
- What kinds of births have you attended?
- What do you love about being a doula?
- Do you have any other related skills (as some doulas are also massage therapists or lactation consultants for example)?
- What are the logistics of hiring you? What are your fees, what does that include and do you have a back up doula?
More important than what she says though, is how she makes you feel. Does she listen more than she talks? Does she take the time to understand what your hopes and fears for your birth are? Do you feel calm and at ease with her, or does she make you feel nervous? Do you get the feeling that she knows what she is talking about? Does she seem over-eager or desperate (eek, always off-putting!). I truly believe that the interpersonal fit between you, your partner and your doula is far more important than the number of births she has behind her.
Getting the most out of your doula
Remember that while your birth doula will certainly be at your birth (or her back up doula will), she is on hand from the time you hire her to long afterwards so USE her. Most doulas will welcome calls, e-mails or texts at anytime during your pregnancy. They may be able to recommend other pregnancy or birth related professionals or classes in your area, and many also have a lending library of great childbirth and pregnancy related material. They can keep your spirits up when you are feeling nervous or despondent and can help to provide you with evidence-based information if you are facing a medical decision, or creating your birth plan. After your birth and the postnatal visits in your package, they will happily offer advice on breastfeeding and newborn care, and refer you to a medical professional if it sounds like you may need more specialized help than they can give. They may hold mother and baby meet ups where you can meet other moms with babies of a similar age or even offer specialised paid classes on a number of subjects. Doulas love staying in touch with their clients so enjoy the very special relationship you will share and get the most out of it.
A good doula is one of the best investments you can make in your baby’s first year. Choose wisely.
If you are looking for a doula in the Durban area, I still have openings this year from mid-October. I work with homebirth clients as well as moms birthing at Hillcrest, Crompton, Westville, Parklands and Umhlanga.