Doulas Deserve a Living Wage, Too

DoulasDeserveLivingWage

I participate in plenty of online forums/groups, mostly through Facebook, that deal with pregnancy and birth. These groups feature a wide range of individuals, mostly women, looking for support and answers to their questions. They cover most demographics, areas all over the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world, all ages and family sizes. There is a wide variety of experience.

What I see almost every day is someone asking for information about doulas – Should they hire one? What should they ask the doula at the interview? What makes a good doula? How can I get one for cheap?

This post is mostly for you doulas, but I’m trying to aim it toward the pregnant mothers who might stumble upon this blog.

Doulas deserve a living wage, too.

What does that even mean? What is a living wage? Simply put, a living wage is “an amount of money you are paid for a job that is large enough to provide you with the basic things (such as food and shelter) needed to live an acceptable life.” (source) This is why we have a government-regulated minimum wage, so that people will be paid fairly for the job they do, so that they can live and support themselves and their families.

There is a common myth among new parents that the role of a doula should come at an inexpensive cost or free of charge. I can see how that comes about: Doulas are seen as quiet helpers who sometimes “don’t do much,” that they aren’t medically needed for a birth, that they stand in for the mother, grandmother or sister of the birthing mother.

Doulas still play an important role in the birthing room, as important as the midwife or the nurse, just in a different capacity. Just as you wouldn’t expect to have a midwife attend your birth for free, you shouldn’t expect a doula to do the same. I understand that birthing can cost a lot of money, especially if your insurance won’t cover certain aspects (like a doula.) However, understand that the cost of a doula is worth it. Worth every penny.

Becoming a doula isn’t free, and neither is maintaining the job of a doula. Let’s look at a basic breakdown of my own expenses:

Training/Certification: $700+
Materials: $75, ongoing
Childcare: $8-10 per hour
Travel: $20+ per birth

Even a doula who doesn’t participate in a training program and gain a certificate, or has childcare issues, still has expenses with every birth. Not to mention the time spent with each family. Let’s look at that:

Interview: 1-2 hours
Prenatals: 1-2 hours each (at least 2)
Birth: 1-24, or more, hours
Postnatal: 1-2 hours
Total: 4-30+ hours

Imagine you spent 30 hours working at your job… what would you expect to be paid?

Living wage is dependent on a lot of factors, that’s why you will find doulas of ranging prices. You have to take into account the area you live in (cities generally are more expensive), the economy of the area (rent, gas prices, so on), the doulas experience**, and the doulas availability. Of course, as a client searching for the doula, these aren’t your issues to be concerned about. As a doula, you need to look at these factors when determining your pricing.

**I don’t believe a doula fresh out of training should be offering free services to work on her certification. However, a bit of a discount is appropriate, but not necessary. I offered my first few births at a discounted price. This is an individual decision. You’ll find more experienced doulas will charge more, which is perfectly acceptable.**

Lastly, own your pricing. Don’t make apologies for running your business. If a potential client asks how much you charge, don’t be sorry for naming your price. Don’t feel like you need to offer discounts for everyone. If this is your job, then work it like a real job. Lawyers don’t feel bad for their prices, doctors don’t either, neither should you apologize for the service you provide.

What are your thoughts on living wage?

{Birth Photography} Jennifer

Sometimes, births take a different turn than what you expect.

I met this lovely couple weeks before the birth, and with a couple prenatal appointments, we were ready to rock it! However, Jennifer’s due date came and went, and eight days later the hospital was concerned for the baby and an induction was in place. Jennifer was positive through the whole experience! I was glad to be there to help her through.

Hours passed and suddenly, Sam’s heart rate dropped and did not pick back up, so Jennifer was rushed back for an emergency cesarean. Thankfully baby Sam was in perfect shape! He has a special birthday now, November 11th, Veterans Day.

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Dear First Time Mom

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Dear First Time Mom,

You’re finally here, you’re going to be a mom. Isn’t that such a terrifying and exciting notion? You’ve surrounded yourself with baby books, shopping lists, and name ideas. You’re designing that perfect nursery for your baby. You’re daydreaming over what that little baby will look like – will he have your ears? Your partner’s hair color? What will be his favorite color, or food, or book? I remember being there, pouring over the books and opening up the pregnancy apps countless times a day. The anticipation is

Can I just give some advice? Now that I’m on the other side of motherhood?

Educate yourself about birth.

Put down the baby name books and pick up a childbirth book. Close those pregnancy forums and open up a webpage about what to expect during labor. Save that document about the baby gear you need and start thinking about your birth preferences.

The birth of your child, the first or the tenth, is going to be such a significant moment in your life. You will remember every detail. You will analyze the decisions you made and the words your care providers said. You will recall the feel of those early contractions and the rush of the pushing stage, or the way your body is numbed from chest down before you give birth by cesarean.

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You should spend as much time and effort into planning your birth as you would into planning your dream wedding. Just as your wedding is a significant moment in your life, so are the births of your children. I would actually wager to say that the births you experience will have a bigger impact on your life than a thousand weddings you plan.

Birth education starts with you. Start reading as much as you can (visit my Resources page for my favorite books), all sorts of books, medical and philosophical. Read blogs about childbirth. Talk to people who have had babies all sorts of ways (no interventions, induced, cesarean, you name it). And then go talk to your care provider. Learn about their policies and procedures. Ask them the hard questions: Do they frequently perform episiotomies? What are their cesarean rates? What are the policies regarding VBACs? What are the newborn procedures? Etc.

Learn about every procedure so that, in the heat of labor, you won’t be scrambling to try and make a decision based off of limited knowledge. Learn about the pain medications offered, the risks and benefits, and which you would prefer, if you are leaning toward that. Learn about induction methods. Learn about the stages of labor, how different positions affect your outcome, and the optimal pushing positions. Learn about relaxation techniques. Learn about how a cesarean is performed, if your birth comes to that. Learn about recovery and breastfeeding.

Just load yourself with knowledge. You can never have too much. Even now, as a doula, I’m learning something new every day.

And better yet, attend a childbirth class. Not the one-hour kind offered through the hospital – you want a comprehensive class that covers all these topics and more.

Make yourself a Plan A: Your dream birth. List out the most important things you want in your birth and make them clear to yourself and your care provider. Really think hard about how you envision your birth going. Get it down on paper and focus on it. And then sit down and make a Plan B, and then a Plan C. Because, just as with dream weddings, birth might not go as planned.

I’m imploring you to make this birth the best you can. Don’t fall into the trap that, since your care provider is the expert, you don’t have to do any research on your own. Remember that, as the patient, you will help call the shots. All too often, first time moms go into their birth without the proper education, and sometimes they come back out disappointed at the outcome. Don’t make your second birth the best one, start with your first. Know that every decision made during the birth was within your control and you will most likely be satisfied with the end result.

With all love, hope, and excitement for your future,

Chantal

{Birth Photography} Anne

This job was unusual, only because of the timeline. I met this lovely couple four days before her baby came! We managed to get an interview and a prenatal in, and then Anne went into labor the next day. Amazing!

I spent a lovely six hours in the early morning with Anne and her husband, working through contractions in a lime-green Korean hospital room. Anne had a tough spirit about her and knew what she wanted: an unmedicated birth. We had some tense moments, but with different positions, she got to the pushing stage in no time.

Anne chose to give birth in the big tub sitting in the middle of the room, and it was wonderful to witness! Their baby girl was born early on October 17th.

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So you want to be a doula?

So you want to be a doula

I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to become a doula. Sometime in the year after my daughter’s birth, the idea was planted in my mind, as I wanted to help others with the knowledge and passion that had grown inside of me. In her second year of life, I decided I should pursue it, but it took me months to actually take the plunge. I know waiting for good for me and my circumstances, because I became a doula when I was ready.

Choosing this path hasn’t been without its fair share of work. I think before anyone decides to pursue work in this business, it’s important you sit down and really think about some things. Your life will change, but hopefully for the better.

Are you ready?

Being a doula takes incredible mental, emotional and physical strength. Mentally, you need to be sharp and ready to act at a moment’s notice, armed with your information arsenal. You will be facing some tough challenges – births that didn’t quite go as you planned (even though the parents might be happy), care providers that you butt heads with, and possibly even difficult clients. Anything can happen in a birthing room! Emotionally, birth can have you all over the place. From a beautiful birth that brings you to tears to one that breaks your heart. Attending the birth of another woman can bring up feelings over your own births, whether you perceived it as good or bad, and you have to be able to control those emotions somewhat to get the job finishing. And physically? Well, you will be up and down, on your feet, squatting, rubbing backs, massaging, and awake all night long. Can you handle it?

Being a doula is also time-intensive. Not only could you be at a birth for any length of time, you will also schedule one to three prenatals with the couple, plus a postnatal visit, not to mention the initial interview. There’s also the advertising, the trainings, and maintaining your website, if you choose to have one. Taking any number of clients per month could be almost a full-time job!

Do you have the right support system?

The biggest challenge I faced wasn’t in the birthing room, it was at home arranging childcare for my toddler. The on-call life isn’t a forgiving one and you need your support system of friends, family, and others, behind you. Is your partner supportive of your new career path? Will your children be alright if you’re gone for 24+ hours? Do you have friends and family you can rely on to help out at a moment’s notice? The simple way to know is to ask people for help. You might be surprised as to who is willing to be there for you! But having that support behind you is key.

What sort of doula do you want to be?

I chose to be a labor doula, because I wanted to be in the birthing room and helping the new families. There are also postpartum doulas, who specialize in family and newborn care after the baby arrives. If, after doing some careful thinking, you realize you don’t want to be a doula but still want to impact the birth world, there are other paths to take: A wide variety of breastfeeding opportunities, childbirth education, and pregnancy fitness and nutrition, to name a few.

Will you certify or not? Where?

You do not need to be certified to practice as a doula, however it is highly encouraged that you take a training and certify through an organization. Obviously, this is a decision you have to make after doing your research. Some of the most popular organizations are:

CAPPA (where I did my training)
 DONA
CBI
BAI

Just to name a few. There are countless organizations you can train through that offer a wide variety of options. No matter where you go, you will be ready to attend a birth and use your skills wisely, and have that support system of other trained doulas behind you. The major differences in organizations would be their policies (such as regarding attending home births) and how they approach their certification process, as well as pricing and location. Look at each organization, ask others, and weigh the pros and cons. You will find your right fit.

So you want to be a doula?

That’s AWESOME! Welcome to the club! There is still such a need for doulas out there in the world. Start talking to people and network. Get a feel for the business. And then… take the plunge. It’s worth it!

{Birth Photography} Mina

I have two words to describe Mina’s labor and delivery: Fast and furious.

I visited her that morning and even attended an appointment with her, though she was in the early stages of labor. Later that evening, I was called as they left for the hospital, as labor had picked up quickly. On the way there, she even felt the urge to push! I arrived at the hospital minutes after they did, and less than forty-five minutes later, their baby girl was born. Wow!

Quick births like this aren’t the norm, but they sure make the doula and photography life exciting. I hardly had time to whip out my camera, especially during the labor portion. Here are some photos I managed to snap.

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{Birth Photography} Stephanie

I had the honor of being both doula and birth photographer for this lovely birth. These new parents were welcoming their first child, a baby boy, into the world with love and peace. I can vividly remember how calm the room was, and how sometimes I felt like I didn’t even need to help because the mother was so in control of herself and her body. It was magical.

I was called around 7pm on a Monday night to come help at the birth, and when I arrived at 8pm I was shocked at how quiet the room was at the birth center. This couple had it together! Over the next nine hours I helped her keep relaxing, moving, and breathing. We went from the bed to the wall to the tub. Stephanie had studied HypnoBabies and that kept her focus inward. It helped tremendously.

Around 5:30am on Tuesday July 22, their baby boy, Shea, was born. It was a beautiful experience and I’m grateful to have been there!

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{Birth Photography} Troye

I previously wrote about Troye and her maternity photos, and now I’m back to share some of the birth photos I took for her and her family.

It was a pleasure to be able to snap some photos during her labor. Even though it ended differently than what she had planned (she gave birth via cesarean), it was still beautiful to witness everything beforehand. It’s always an honor to be able to be there with families during this special time.

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{Maternity} Troye

There are some people in life that you just click with, and one of those for me is my friend Troye.

I met her when she was looking for a doula for her upcoming birth, and while she went with another doula, she did ask me to be at the birth and take photos while I’m there. What an honor! She then asked if I wouldn’t mind coming over and snapping a few maternity photos. I was terrified, no lie, because I had no idea what I was doing. Buuut I think they turned out great and she loved them too!

Here’s are a few of my favorites, and I can’t wait to show you the birth photos as well!

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{Birth Photography} Baby Caroline

On March 2-3, I got to attend Baby Caroline’s birth as a doula and photographer. It was such an honor to welcome this little girl into the world. The room was filled with such love and excitement for the birth of this baby. I loved taking photos in between my doula duties. Such great memories and now I’m sharing them with you!

Here is a selection of some of my favorites. Interested in having me at your birth? Check out my services above. ^^^

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