Choosing a doula is a bit like dating. There needs to be a connection between you. After all, this person is going to be with you during your most vulnerable moments. You need to feel comfortable around her (or him in case you hire a male doula!), feel protected, cared for and draw emotional support from her. Naturally, sometimes it takes a few tries to find a person that will give off those vibes. So, do yourself a favor and interview a few different candidates before settling on the one you like.
Now, it doesn’t matter whether you go through an agency or deal with an independent doula. Although there are benefits to doula agencies that appeal to some: Access to multiple doulas in the same experience and fee category and the convenience that comes with it; having a middleman handle financial and legal side of things should anything go wrong and you need mediation. More than that, most agencies prefer working with only certified doulas, if that is important to you.
To get the ball rolling, schedule a phone call, meet in person in an informal setting and have a chat, preferably with your partner present. Both of you need to be comfortable with your future doula. If there is no spark, keep interviewing. Doulas are people and they all have different approaches and personalities. Some are quiet, some are bubbly, and some are straightforward and not very emotional. You need to find the one that matches you and your partner.
Experience and credentials matter of course. Make sure that the person you are interested in hiring is well educated and knowledgeable. It’s an advantage if she has additional certifications in other areas of expertise such as breastfeeding, massage, reflexology, Rebozo, HypnoBirthing, etc. The more a doula knows, the more assistance she can provide.
Is it a problem if the doula is not certified? It’s up to you. She could be working toward her certification or she might have had training and decided not to get certified for her own reasons. There are plenty of brilliant uncertified doulas out there.
Does it matter is she has children or experienced a natural childbirth? Guess what? It‘s up to you, too! But one thing to remember is that doula work is that of empathy. A woman (or a man for that matter) doesn’t have to have her own kids to know how to coach you through your birth. Besides, every birth is different. Having my two kids by itself doesn’t necessarily prepare me for each individual client that I may help. What does prepare me is training, understanding of the birth process, experience and being good at empathy.
Does the number of births matter? Yes and No. It really depends on how you and your partner feel about it. If having a very experienced, seen-it-all-doula is important to you, then look for one. They have lots of tricks up their sleeves, and inspire the kind of confidence that can only come from years and years of experience.
On the other hand, if you click with a doula who is less experienced, don’t let her number of births discourage you from hiring her. As a former client and a doula, I value having the right connection over the long resume. Doulas go into the birthing field because they are very passionate about it, and they study a lot. If a novice doula sounds confident, knowledgeable, well read, and otherwise theoretically prepared for births (or has only had a few under her belt), and makes you want to share your most vulnerable moments with her, trust your gut and give her a chance.
Logistically, there are many ways to get in touch with doulas and doula agencies.
Here are some valuable sources:
- Word of mouth and parent groups on social media
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