Editor's note: Ashley Collins, a birth doula with Little Bee Birth Partner, shares these tips for selecting a doula. Collins is part of a group of doulas who will gather Sunday at the Babies 'R Us in Durham for a Doula Speeding Dating event.
When it comes to looking for a perfect fit between your birth goals and a birth doula, asking a few pointed questions during an interview can be the quickest way to assess whether she’ll be the best match for your needs. Whether you’re thinking of attending this weekend’s Doula Speed Dating event, or you’re planning for your own doula interviews, here are a few questions you might ask to help guide your discussions.
1. How will you work with my partner/birth team/care provider?
A doula should never attempt to replace your partner. Instead, she will work along side of them, providing an additional layer of support for you and care for you both during birth. Ask for examples of how she will involve your partner or other family members or how she might work with them to ensure you feel supported in every way. Likewise, professional doulas have experience with most of the area’s hospitals and practices. Making sure any doula you’re considering is familiar with your hospital or birth center’s procedures and location will be a big advantage on your Big Day. Plus, if she’s knowledgeable about your provider’s common practices, she may be able to offer insight or prompt you to ask questions of your care, ensuring that there are no surprises on your baby’s birthday.
2. Do you work with a back-up doula and can I meet with them prior to birth?
Due dates are a fickle business. Most moms will not go into labor on their due date. In fact, lots of moms give birth well before or well after that date! So, instead of asking if your doula has other clients due on the same day as you, ask what her back-up plan is. Even if your doula had no other clients, she could get sick or have a family emergency. Knowing who your doula uses as a back-up and that she has a solid plan in place should she ever need to use a back-up is very important! Again, no surprises on your Birthing Day!
3. Tell me about a time when a mother’s birth went differently than she hoped for. How did you respond?
Birth never goes according to anyone’s plan, except for your baby’s. Helping mothers and their partners adjust to the inevitable twists and turns of the experience, a doula helps you remain an advocate for yourself and your birth goals. Get a feel for how the doula you’re interviewing might respond to change or unexpected interventions (especially if it’s one she may not personally agree with) and see if it will jive with what you’ll need emotionally. Birth is a really vulnerable time in your life, you deserve to be cared for with kindness, and you should never feel judged or shamed for your decisions.
4. What trainings or continuing education opportunities have you taken?
There are so many different certifying organizations and specialties for doulas. Ask her to describe her training and why she chose that organization. Likewise, ask your doula about any opportunities she’s had to enrich her basic training through advance courses or continuing education opportunities. From rebozo work to massage techniques, bereavement services to mindfulness and meditation workshops, these advanced trainings are where doulas can set themselves apart in their interests and experience.
5. What tools do you use the most at each birth?
This is actually a trick question. Nearly every doula I know comes to each birth with a “Doula Bag," and as our experiences grow we tend to use the contents of that bag less and less. Most doulas will become skilled at using their hands for assurance and comforting touch, their voices for quiet encouragement and suggestions and their steady presence to help both you and your partner remain calm and confident during birth. OK, sure, I also carry a strand or two of Christmas lights to help set the space; a rebozo to help with positions; and a few practical things like hair ties, honey sticks and breath mints. But, make sure that any doula you’re considering can confidently help you through the experience without all the bells and whistles, tools and tricks.
Regardless of all these questions, hiring a doula is a decision that comes from your gut. You’ll be spending very intimate time with this person, so be sure you’re comfortable around them. You should feel free to be however and whoever you’ll need to be during birth and your doula’s presence shouldn’t interfere with that.
You can meet and greet lots of the area’s doula community in-person 3:30 p.m., Sunday, at Babies 'R Us in Durham, at the area’s first-ever Doula Speed Dating event.
Both birth doulas and postpartum doulas will be present. For more information about postpartum doulas, read our earlier feature on Durham mom and doula Suzanne Lee.
Ashley Collins is a Durham mom of one and owner of Little Bee Birth Partner.