Questions to ask a potential doula at an initial consult:
You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your doula. Actually, maybe don't kiss frogs, but DO interview several doulas to make sure you have the right fit. Here are some ideas for questions to ask as you prepare for your interviews...
How many births do you attend every month?
It is important to know that your doula will be able to fulfill her commitment to you at the time of your labor, and taking on several births every month may be a sign that she is overcommitted. However, some doulas take several births every month and are able to dedicate their schedules in that way. Balance is key, and you will only be able to know the right answer to this question on further inquiry during your doula interview.
I attend one to two births every month. I find that more than two takes away from my ability to focus on each client as she nears the end of her pregnancy. I like to be fully available to each mama as the need arises and as the big day draws near.
Do you have a back up doula, and can I speak with her before the birth?
A competent doula has a contingency plan should any emergency arise for her at the time of your labor. By hiring a doula and signing a contract, you should be able to rest easy that you will have the support you are planning on during your labor.
While doulas are very dedicated to their mamas, unforeseen circumstances can occur. In the event of a family emergency or illness, I have a back up doula on my team who I coordinate with for every job I take.
Did you train with a mentor?
Like most things in life, the most valuable education can't be learned from a book. Working under an experienced mentor can provide knowledge and guidance to help support a new practitioner.
I trained with Sheryl Grunde, LMT, CDDONA, in Ashland, Oregon. Attending her prenatal and baby yoga classes, as well as assisting at births helped me to understand a multi-dimensional approach to labor and birth. Sheryl’s depth of knowledge, nuanced approach, gentle but supportive presence, and sense of ease provided invaluable lessons for me during my training.
How many births have you attended?
This can help you to understand your potential doula’s level of experience, though there are many factors that will go into determining this. Additionally, asking about previous training and work with a mentor will be valuable information.
As of May 2014, I have attended 12 births, including at hospital, birth center, and home settings.
Are you comfortable supporting me if my labor and birth choices vary from your own personal beliefs about birth?
While everyone has an opinion about how (they think) they would handle their own labor, a professional doula should be able to provide a neutral, supportive perspective for your labor and birth choices. Sharing some of your ideas about your hopes for labor and delivery during the interview is a good way to determine if your potential doula is on the same page. In my opinion, the answer to this question may be all you need to determine if a potential doula is the right fit.
With every birth I attend, I strive to provide parents with resources and information about expected and unexpected choices as they come up during labor and delivery, while staying out of the way of the decision making process. Also, I work to make sure I am aware of your choices before the big day, so that I may advocate for you if things steer off course. When you are informed, you are empowered, and when you empowered, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your experience in labor and birth.
What is my partner’s role if we choose to hire a doula?
Your partner may be hesitant to allow another support person in the delivery room for fear that they will be overshadowed or pushed out of the process. After all, only one person is having the baby, and with nurses and doctors, or midwives and assistants, what could another person possibly do in the delivery room?
Here’s the thing: labors tend to last a while, and nurses (while totally awesome) are usually very busy with several patients during their shift. And when their shift is over, they leave. Your doula stays with you and provides continuous support until the birth of the baby; her shift is not over until the baby arrives. That means if Partner needs snacks, Doula can be the runner. If Partner needs a nap, Doula can take over the direct support role. If Partner is unprepared for any of the infinite possibilities of directions a birth could take, there is another constant support team member to walk both parents through possible options and outcomes.
I find that my role ebbs and flows during the stages of labor. I strive to give you and your partner space during this intimate process, but I am always nearby to provide support when it is needed. Before the big day, I discuss this topic with families so that we are on the same page about what level of support you are looking for.