"If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it." —John H. Kennell, MD
A doula is your advocate during labor, an emotional support for you, and a second pair of hands for your birthing partner. She informs you of your options before you give birth, comforts you during the process, and follows up to make sure your family's adjustment is going well.
A doula does not replace a loving partner. Instead, she supports both you and your partner, and serves as backup when the partner needs a break. She offers long experience with the birth process and birth settings, reminds you of what you've learned about interventions when you are focused elsewhere, and provides a calm, reassuring presence when you are anxious.
What can you offer me?
I will join you in active labor, accompany you to the hospital or birthing center if you are birthing away from home, and stay with you for the first hour or two after a normal birth (longer if birth ends in surgery).
During labor, I can help you with position changes; breathing, massage, and other relaxation techniques; remembering options you have planned for your birth; and evaluating procedures offered by your birth team.
If a surgical birth becomes necessary — or you need to schedule one before labor begins — I will support you in the OR if your providers and hospital allow. Whatever your birth experience, I can be with you.
If you arrange this in advance, I can provide pictures or a written account of your baby's birth.
And once your baby is born, I can help you get nursing off to a good start!
And all this helps me how?
People who hire doulas (says a Cochrane review updated in 2017) have lower Caesarean rates, fewer operative (forceps or vacuum extractor) vaginal births, less desire for pain medication, slightly shorter labors ... and greater satisfaction with their births. They're also more likely to be breastfeeding successfully later, and are generally happier moms.
What won't you do?
I cannot make decisions for you; I can, however, remind you of your choices and help you express them effectively. I will almost never speak directly to your birth team; I'll talk with you about your questions or concerns, and encourage you and your birth partner to relay them to the staff. Also, while I am trained in midwifery I am not a midwife, so I do not offer physical examination or diagnosis.
How were you trained?
I accepted invitations to attend births of students years before training as a doula. But I received my formal training at a workshop held by ToLABOR (the Organization of Labor Assistants for Birth Options & Resources).
ToLABOR is an international organization dedicated to supporting those giving birth, using evidence-based practices. It does this by training and certifying birth assistants who provide physical and emotional support, as well as prenatal education, for pregnant people and their families.
I am trained to be a professional care provider who understands and trusts the process of birth, who respects its physical and emotional aspects as well as its transcendent and sacred aspects, and who helps to facilitate the birth experience for parents, baby and primary care providers.
Do you have anything extra to offer?
A solid education: I have a degree (including some graduate-level work) from the University of Chicago, followed by a year of academic training in basic midwifery, through the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance. I am trained and certified in Adult/Infant/Child CPR and in Neonatal Resuscitation, and have completed Birth Emergency Skills Training.
Childbirth knowledge and experience: I've spent most of two decades as a teacher of natural childbirth. (I'm familiar with most of the major institutions in eastern Massachusetts.) I have given birth myself in both a major teaching hospital and in a standalone birth center; I know what can be done to achieve the optimum birth in both settings. And as someone trained in homebirth midwifery, I'm familiar with the very different environment of birthing at home.
Languages: I have conversational skills in Spanish, German, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish, Italian, and American Sign Language.
What can I (we) expect?
When you first get in touch with me, we'll arrange an interview in my home or somewhere nearby. While this interview is covered in my overall fee, you are under no obligation to continue with my services or to pay for the interview if you decide we're not a good fit!
(Although I can travel to an interview outside my immediate area, I'll need to charge a $50 fee to cover time and fuel costs.)
At the end of the interview, if we decide we're a good match, we'll negotiate a fee. This covers:
Then we'll decide on a time and place for your first prenatal appointment, and proceed from there!
Do you have backup?
When you hire me as a doula, I am on call for you nearly 24/7 for an entire month (excepting dates that I go off-call). For my off-call dates, and in case of potential illness or other emergency, I arrange for a second doula to be on call as backup. You can consult with my backup doula by phone or email, and arrange a meeting with her if you prefer. (You are not responsible for paying her; those arrangements are worked out between primary and backup.)
If your (active) labor is very long, I reserve the right to call in my backup to step in and support you while I get a nap and shower; I cannot be an effective support for you if I can't keep my own eyes open! (If this becomes necessary, I'll add a surcharge to cover the time of the backup doula.)
Tell me about money:
As a longtime teacher of natural childbirth, I prefer to offer intensive education to doula clients; this is reflected in my rates. I do discount my fee for students already in my childbirth classes, and for women planning home births — both make my job easier! I will also negotiate lower fees for women facing financial hardship, such as unemployment.
Here's an an explanation of what makes up a doula's fees — one so good I can't easily improve upon it. The author is a working doula who discusses hours, clients per year and per week, self-employment issues, the sacrifices of being on call, experience, the undervaluing of birth work, and advocacy suggestions. Highly recommended.
With all that said, here's my financial page.