So you have done the research and know what a Doula and you are now trying to figure out how to find the right person, what their fees are and how you are going to afford their services.
Don't fret! Most parents have this moment of overwhelm that comes with being a new parent and now this. So let's break the process down just a bit so that you have some guidance around your Doula hunt.
Imma start with the good news. I began my Doula career back in 2007 when most people had no idea what a Doula was. Since then the practice has grown and there are resources abound for who we are, how to find us and more. The downside to that is there is so much information and can be difficult to decipher what is best for your family. I can't tell you exactly what is best for you but I can point you in a few directions that may help.
Finding a Doula
The time has finally come where you are deciding to find the person who is going to be the best fit for your birthing journey. The first place one can go to is Google. Typing in Doula and the city/state your are in will give you some of the names of Doulas in your area. Yelp! is also a great app to find out who is working in your area. I find it difficult to get reviews because well, new parents running after new baby, but you can at least see who is around. You can also look up any Doula collectives or groups that may be in your area; in Sacramento we have Capital City Doulas which has a website and events to meet local Doulas.
For Black families there is Sistamidwife and National Black Doulas Association which has list of Doulas all over the country who are Black. If you are POC there are also list but really you may have to dig through the names you find on Google.
You can also ask people in your community like: friends, family, and co-workers if they may know anyone who you could contact. Sometime your healthcare provider may even have a name or two of people they like. Because finding the right Doula for you takes time and because may Doulas fill up quickly I would suggest beginning your search for a Doula 3-6 months in advance. That way you have plenty of time to interview, get to know your Doula and pay your Doula's fee; plus you won't have to worry if your Doula may already be booked up.
Choosing your Doula
So you got your names of people to contact; now what? I would suggest talking with more than 1 Doula but keep it to a limit of 3 or 4 so that you don't overwhelm your schedule. Go to the Doula's website and get a feel for their philosophy, other services, skills and more. If they have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or Youtube account make sure to take a look at them as well. The goal is to feel pretty sure you would like to hire this person once you have seen their online presence. If you want to continue with an in-person, video chat, or phone interview I say go for it but you want that consultation to just confirm what you already feel .Go in prepared to hire who you like/love and to make a deposit of at least half your Doula's fee. This is a way to honor your Doula's time and business.
If their online presence doesn't tell you about their philosophy around birth, their training, their experience, or their services feel free to ask. Not all Doula's are certified but you want to work with someone who has had training. Ask them who they trainined with and what the curriculum was like; that way you get a sense of what they know. You can ask how many births they have attended and in what settings they feel comfortable practicing in. Ask about how they work with other health care providers in the room. You want a Doula who knows how to be a team player. Ask about backup Doulas and if they employ them. Feel free to ask questions that pertain to your birth, the Doula's skills and just get to know you things like: where they are from. You want to feel like who you choose is someone you can connect with and trust during your most vunerable time. As a Doula I am asked to tell people to leave the room, I see birthing parents naked, people vomit, people may even argue or have fun together but birth is very intimate. Each client I have worked with I work hard to build a foundation of trust, understanding, and rapport. You want you and your partner to feel good about your decision but ultimately you, the birthing parent, need to be the most comfortable.
How much does a Doula cost?
You found some names, you have intreviewed some Doulas and you have chosen the person you want to work with; now the fee. Doulas have a huge range of what they charge depending on their experience, location, number of births they take a month and other services. In the US the range is $0-$3000 approx. Those are the lower end tend to be less experienced Doulas and/or they live outside of metropolitan areas. There are also many Doulas who have sliding scale, barter or provide payment plans so don't be shy to ask if you need help. A Doula's fee should be set keeping in mind all she will have to do for you before, during and after your baby is born. Our lives don't stop for birth work and Doulas have families, bills, medical concerns, vacations and more. So please respect what their fees is and stretch to meet them and if that stretch will cause you to break ask about what that Doula may offer. So long as you are paid before your baby is born you should be ok. You may want to also ask what other services your Doula provides. Many Doulas are massage therpaist, Placenta Encapsulist, yoga instructors, postpartum Doulas and more. They will sometime create a package for you or you can utilize another service of theirs if they are booked or their fee is more than you can hold at this time.
How can we/I afford a Doula?
Doulas are usually not covered by insurance and therefore you will need to pay out of pocket. Some have insurance that will cover out of network practitioners and with Doulas being more recognized it is easier now to be reimbursed than before but believe me the process is still difficult and not guaranteed. To afford a Doula I have seen some amazing creativity and generosity from people. You just want to know what you have access to and go for it.
You can ask family and friends to put monies toward half or all of your Doulas fee instead of baby shower gifts or along with. Some other ideas:
Crowdfund with sites like Gofundme
Sell a product or service to raise money
Create a payment plan with your Doula that you all have arranged
Work with a inexperienced Doula who may be low to no-cost
Make an announcement on Social Media that your are fundraising for a Doula and where people can donate.
Have your Co-workers collect funds in your name for a Doula
I will be honest that for many of us affording a Doula will be and is a struggle. Without larger institutions supporting Birth Workers we can't offset cost are are left to pass the entire expense to you. Many of us are working to change that and in the meantime this is what we have. Remember to talk with your Doula because most of us just want to see families receive excellent care no matter who you choose.