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Monday, 10 March 2014 03:00

How to: Contact a Doula

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?


Published in Birthing Assistance
Monday, 24 February 2014 09:31

Birth Partner No-No's

As a doula, I have had the privilege of witnessing so many beautiful moments during labor. From loving embraces to funny (but appropriate) jokes to lighten the mood, a woman’s birth partner can most certainly be her rock during labor. But I have also observed those moments where someone says the wrong thing or eats the wrong food that people in the Twitterverse like to call #epicfails.

It really doesn’t take much to anger or upset a laboring mama, so here are some tips to help you stay on her good side:

  1. This first one is a biggie, but it can be a tough one to master, especially for all you men out there (sorry, but it’s true). Try not to say anything stupid. In case you don’t know what would constitute a stupid thing to say, here are some examples: “does it hurt?”, “are you okay?”, “how long is this going to take?” or “I can’t believe I am missing the big game”. Do not say any of these things. And keep in mind that these examples are far from extensive, so think before you speak.
  2. General complaining is also a BIG faux pas. I do understand that it has been a long night/day/days. You have every right to be tired, hungry, sore and anxious. But for the love of bananas, act like you are perfectly fine! Your partner doesn’t need to hear you whine. Nothing you are experiencing is as uncomfortable as what the laboring mom is going through, so suck it up, buttercup.
  3. A laboring woman (or women in general, really) can quickly tune into how others are feeling and acting, so if you think you aren’t coping well don’t let her see it. If you can, leave the room until you feel more composed.
  4. If you are having a hospital birth it may be hard to turn away from the super cool mountain drawing machine (AKA contraction monitor). Those things are borderline hypnotic, but ignore that pesky monitor! All of those beeps and buzzes mean nothing of consequence and distract you from mom. In fact, I feel like they give partners a false sense of understanding what the laboring woman is going through. Avoid comparing the monitor to her pain level, and steer clear of phrases such as “these contractions aren’t nearly as big as they were two hours ago” or “here comes a contraction”. Trust me, mama knows what’s going on with her body way better than the machine attached to her does.
  5. Don’t interrupt a woman who is coping well with a technique or idea. Encourage what is working for her instead of trying to introduce new ideas or tips.
  6. Sense of smell is heightened during labor and many women become nauseated. Avoid eating in front of her (unless she is okay with it) as the smell of food might be a big turn off. And you never know what smell mama may find offensive…during the birth of my first son I became very agitated when the smell of cucumber wafted in my direction. If you do step out for a bite to eat then brush your teeth before you return. And most importantly, if mom has medical circumstances that do not allow her to eat food, then eating in front of her would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
  7. Try not to be preoccupied with other thoughts such as getting the car seat installed, getting to the coffee shop before it closes or calling your mom. Your partner is your main focus, and being overly concerned with anything else will earn you some evil stares.
  8. As labor progresses, mom will likely want the chatter toned down a bit. Follow her lead. Be silent if she is being silent. Bring a book to read in the corner or nap if you can. Don’t ask open ended questions, especially late in labor. Stick to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. And most certainly do not ask any questions during a contraction. I’ve witnessed this occurrence on several occasions and it is never pretty.
  9. Do not encourage mom to do things that do not fit into her birth plan. For example, if mom desires to avoid pain medication do not suggest it because it is hard to see her in pain.
  10. Don’t ask her what you can do to help. She is likely too exhausted to come up with an answer, or she simply just doesn’t know. Instead, just try things that you think might help. She’ll let you know if she doesn’t like it and if she does let you know, don’t take it personally.

Above all, women in labor need love and support. When all is said and done, even if you make one thousand “mistakes,” she will remember that you supported her, and that is all that matters.

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 12:48

Home Birth Step #9: Birth Support

 Birth support? Isn’t that what my care provider is for? Well yes, however in some instances they are there to make sure nothing bad happens and recognize when a labor is not going right. Additional birth support can be helpful; they can remind you of things you wanted and make sure that you understand what is going in. What is the name of this support person? A Doula.

A doula is someone you can hire for the birth and/or postpartum care. They can help your partner or family support you as you are laboring. A doula is someone you hire to be there for the entire labor (a midwife might be called during your labor to another mother who maybe closer to birthing baby than you) and will not leave your side. She can be a great interpreter for you and your care provider especially in a case of transferring to a hospital for any reason, since some midwives do not have hospital privileges.
For postpartum care, she can help you with simple breast feeding issues, do household chores, hold the baby while you and your partner get some much needed rest, and make sure you are not having any postpartum complications or mood disorders, like postpatrum depression or childbirth PTSD to name a couple.
If you are not sure a doula is someone you want to have at or after your birth, a great book for your partner or family to read is The Birth Partner by Penny Simpkin. It has a great easy layout for understanding what is happening during your labor physiologically, emotionally, and mentally. There are instructions on counter pressure, massage, and breathing techniques to help you handle your contractions.
Published in Birthing Places

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