Once you've found a doula whose availability, area, and available information looks like it might fit, Your next step is making contact. What follows are some rough guidelines for how to do that in a way that will help you gauge early on if you’re a good fit for one another.
Most of the time, your initial contact with a doula will be through a contact form, by e-mail or phone. In either case, you want to cover your basics—usually focusing on availability and setting up a consultation. Your first contact isn’t about whether or not you want to hire them. It’s about whether you want to set up an interview to get to know each other further.
E-mail gives you a little bit more room to explain what you’re looking for than a contact form, but your first e-mail should usually still be fairly concise. I personally find it difficult to have in-depth conversations by phone in a world where mobile reception on both ends is often a very real barrier to communication, so I often ask that people who’ve contacted me by phone first follow up with me by e-mail.
Things to Include in Your First Contact by Phone, Contact Form, or E-Mail:
- Your estimated due date. Even if you’re choosing not to consider a due date very firmly, which can be wise, we need some idea of when you’ll need us so we know whether or not we have other clients expecting around the same time.
- Your home location—be specific. Whether or not you’re planning to birth at home, most doulas will meet you there for early labour. You probably don’t need to give your exact address, but I usually ask for post codes or neighbourhoods to make sure I can get to you.
- Your planned birth location, and if you’re planning a home birth, the hospital where your midwives have admitting privileges for you in case you require a transfer. We need to make sure your birth location is also accessible to us, as well as confirming that there are no restrictions or special requirements for doulas supporting clients in that location.
- What kind of medical support do you plan to have? Most doulas support births attended by either midwives or doctors. Some will support otherwise unassisted home births, but if that’s your plan, you’ll want to be up-front about it to avoid surprises later on.
- Do you have any special concerns? Things like multiples, VBAC/HBAC, or other particular needs are worth mentioning right away. Some doulas may refer you to someone with more experience with certain kinds of births.
- Any particular birthing method you plan to use, if you’re hoping the doula will be able to help you with it. For example, if you’re using hypnobirthing, you want a doula who is, at minimum, familiar with the basic concepts of that plan.
- Questions about fees, if this is unavailable on the doula’s website. If you see fees listed, assume those are her starting point, and if you don’t know if you can afford them…
- Any concerns about your ability to pay her fees as listed. Just asking about fees will usually only get you the same summary she gives anyone and has listed online. If you’re concerned you can’t afford her, say so. Ask if alternative payment schedules are available, or if she accepts alternative forms of compensation. See this post for more on affording a doula on a tight budget.
- Ask what the decision time will be following your consultation, especially if you plan on interviewing more than one doula; you'll want to know what your time frame is for getting all your options before you have to decide.
Leave These Topics for Your Consultation
Although most doulas will happily answer the following questions, they’re usually best left for a time when you have an opportunity to discuss them at length, with time for follow-up questions as they arise naturally. They’re important questions you’ll probably want answered before you hire her, but they’re not usually the best for your very first inquiry. You'll also be better able to evaluate what the answers mean to you after you've spent some time together.
- What is your philosophy?
- What is your experience?
- How many clients do you take at once?
- Do you arrange back-up?
- Can you give a basic outline of what your packages look like in terms of services?