Thursday, June 28, 2012

Finding, Interviewing & Choosing a Doula

We did it! After 30+ inquiries, six interviews, and countless emails later, we finally chose a doula! Although daunting and foreign at first, we figured it out and I feel like I have some great wisdom and advice to share with you. Here is a bit about how we went about finding a kick-butt doula.


First, maybe some of you wondering what the heck a doula is. Don’t feel dumb; you’re not alone. I think this is a great article that describes the role of a doula, but in a nutshell, a birth doula is a trained support person for the laboring mother and often, her partner. Some of the roles of a doula are to provide continuous emotional support, aide in breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning, help a mother become informed about various birth choices, advocate for the mother and help facilitate communication between the mother and care provider, and support and give breaks to the partner. Doulas are not medical professionals and do not perform clinical tasks like vaginal exams or delivering the baby. They are generally paid out of pocket, although I’ve heard that some insurance companies might cover doula fees with the right submission process. I’ve found that doula fees range from $400–$2000+, depending on how many births they have attended, what certifications they have, and their general reputation. Postpartum doulas are also common, but are very different from birth doulas.

I guess it started with recognizing that having a doula at our birth was an option. Honestly, I can’t even remember where or from who I first heard about doulas, but the seed was planted in my mind. I knew I wanted to at least research the possibility. So I began reading articles and talking to friends about doulas. It quickly became clear to me that this was definitely something I was interested in and wanted to try interviewing some doulas. But first I had to convince my husband. Frankly, it didn’t go over well. He wasn’t opposed, but he just didn’t understand why we would need to PAY someone to “take on his duties” during our labor and birth. He was seeing dollar signs and feeling infringed upon. I got it, but was annoyed that he wasn’t pumped at the idea. He agreed to do interviews though, knowing that at this point there was no commitment.

So, I began where most quests for knowledge begin—Google. I Googled the heck out of Seattle doulas and just began sending inquiries to anyone in our price range that didn’t have a sketchy website. I would simply write, “Hi there, I am pregnant with my first baby—due October 25—and interested in learning more about your birth doula services. My husband and I are doing our prenatal care through and planning to deliver with the Swedish Ballard Midwifery. I look forward to hearing back. Best, Kelsey.” I think my goal at this point was to contact everyone I possibly could, see who responded, and take it from there. I also contacted every doula who served Seattle via the website. And later found, which is where I would recommend anyone start. Unfortunately, I had already contacted enough people once I found Doula Match and wasn't interested in looking any further.

Much to my surprise, only about 40% of the doulas I contacted got back to me. What’s up with that? Even so, I was asking God to put the right person in our path, and trusted that if I didn’t hear back from someone then they weren’t the right match. After all, this person would be with us during some of our most intimate moments, moments that we are asking the Lord to be boldly present in. He gets to decide who is with us. I was not taking lightly the idea that our labor and birth could be a powerful ministry opportunity.

I began scheduling interviews, but hadn’t felt like I covered all my bases just yet. So I put out an SOS to my Facebook buddies and also my church’s online marketplace and was able to gather a few more recommendations. I was also given a personal recommendation from one of my co-workers for a friend of hers that was a doula and “gave amazing massages.” I sent a few more emails, scheduled a few more interviews and started thinking about what the heck I was even going to talk to these ladies about. I barely knew what a doula was, so how was I supposed ask them all the right questions?

I came across this helpful article with suggestions of what to ask a prospective doula. It seemed well rounded, so I copied and pasted it into a Word document and began editing to my needs. Some of the modifications I made were asking such things as, “Have you had any births with the Swedish Ballard Midwives?”, or, “How would you work with and involve Arthur?” I also wanted to make sure they were comfortable with prayer, scripture reading and talking about the Lord, so I asked each of them that too, but told them it wasn’t a requirement that they be Christian. I just needed to know that they would support us in our faith, even if they wouldn’t participate. The document looked good and I couldn’t think of anymore questions, so I printed a handful of copies, clipped them together and waited for our first interview.

The doulas are so sweet, they all want to come to your home, or at least offer to meet at a coffee shop by your house. I really appreciated this since we are so busy and it would have been a big hassle to have to drive all over the city during rush hour night after night. Our first interview was at our home. We started off each interview by greeting the doula, offering her water (although I kept forgetting to), and telling her that we had a set of questions we were asking everyone and would love to get started if that was okay. In addition, we also asked her to elaborate on anything she wanted to, fill in areas we might have missed, and ask any questions of us. The first woman was a hit; a total 10 out of 10! Arthur was sold and I was relieved that if no one else seemed fit, she would be perfect. He agreed.

I think Arthur's change of heart happened by actually meeting the doulas and getting to hear them respond to our questions. I would always kindly ask him in front of each woman if he had anything further he wanted to add or ask. Sometimes he would have a thought or question, sometimes not. It was essential that he participated in these interviews. Not only so he would be fully on board, but also so he could have a say in who he connected with. My intent is for our doula to be just as much of a support to Arthur as me, even if it's a less direct form of support. His opinion mattered immensely to me. It was also helpful for him to talk to friends and co-workers who hired doulas. Neither of us have come across anyone who regrets having hired one. Learning this was a huge push for him in the pro-doula direction.

We finished out our interviews over the course of a couple weeks. I didn't want to wait too long between interviews so everyone stayed fresh our minds. We had a goal of deciding by the end of June, which we have. I was told by one woman that I was definitely ahead of the game time-wise (just for reference). I would say anywhere between 20–30 weeks is a good time to choose a doula since most doulas hope to schedule their first prenatal appointment with you around 34 weeks, with another a few weeks after that.

Settling on one was a really tough decision, and we actually ended up vacillating between two doulas for over a week. Arthur made a really poignant statement one evening when he said that each woman we interviewed was so qualified and would make an amazing doula, but we needed to decide who we connected the most with on a personal level. I also had another conversation with a friend who encouraged me to think about who I felt most comfortable being vulnerable with and who I trusted the most to take care of me. Arthur was leaning toward one person, and me the other, although he was happy to defer to whoever I decided.

In the end, I decided to choose the doula who felt like a go-getter and had a really upbeat attitude about her work. She seemed like she won't be afraid to step up in the thick of labor, but is also flexible enough to step back during the times that Arthur is coaching me. She was the one that Arthur was pulling for, which was really settling to my heart, and also the one my co-worker recommended that gives amazing massages. It was such a joy to deliver the good news to her earlier this week, and now we are in-process of filling out paperwork, sending the retainer fee, and scheduling our prenatal sessions. I've always been excited for labor and birth, but now I'm over the moon and can't wait!

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  1. Did you end up finding a Christian doula? Because that's what I'm looking for :) If you can give me any names, I'd appreciate it!

  2. Hi! Could you please share the name and contact information of the doula you chose? I am also looking for a doula that will be supportive of prayer and my Christian faith surrounding labor and delivery and the person you chose sounds like exactly what I am looking for. Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi there! The doula that I chose for my first birth (from this post) wasn't Christian, but she was supportive of our faith. My doula for our second birth last summer was a Christian who loves Jesus a lot and was a huge support spiritually during my labor. Her name is Melynda O'Brien. Here is her contact info: Best wishes for your pregnancy and good luck finding an awesome doula!


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