How do I become a doula?
This is a question we hear often! So often, I decided it was worthy of a blog post. There is a huge commitment involved when becoming a doula, and lots of research to be done when deciding what organization to certify through, and how to practice. Here are 5 tips that help answer the question, “Where do I start”?
Are you ready for the commitment?
Birth doula work involves a serious commitment of time and energy. You must understand what it’s like to be on call, all the time. If you only take a few births here and there, your on call time may be less, but you must understand–you WILL miss birthdays, holidays, first days of schools, parties, special events, anniversaries. You MUST be ready to drop what you are doing, where ever you are, and head to your client’s side. This often means taking a separate car out to dinner or the movies, having your doula bag prepped and ready at all times, and be prepared to have your cell phone glued to your hip! When you leave your home to attend a birth, you might be back in 8 hours or you might be back in two days. It’s imperative that your family be able to keep running on their own without you during this time. Support at home is a must! If you have children, you will need to have strong child care in place. And a back up for that childcare. And another back up for that childcare. And one more back up for that childcare. (And another back up wouldn’t hurt either)
Can you be non-judgmental?
As a doula, you will support all types of births. You might support everything from a planned cesarean to a water birth. Your thoughts and feelings about birth need to remain just that—YOUR thoughts and feelings. Can you happily support a client who wants to utilize epidural pain relief as soon as possible? Can you support a VBAC client who then decides to have a repeat cesarean birth, without judgement? The public often believes that doulas only support and advocate for natural birth, which couldn’t be further from the truth. (At Piedmont Doulas, we strongly feel all types of births deserve support, and serve any type of birth with no bias or judgement)
Choose a certifying organization
There are a zillion different birth doula certifying organizations out there! Ok, so maybe not a zillion, but there’s a bunch. Do copious amounts of research on these organizations. Read their philosophies, ask questions in online doula groups about their experiences and opinions of these organizations. Find out what their certification requirements are, and how those compare to other groups. Ask about re-certification. What are the year membership fees? How long have they been in the business? What do their workshops and trainings consist of? Can you keep in touch with your trainer after you’ve completed your workshop, and ask them questions if necessary? What is their reputation in the professional birth community? How in depth is the training? Ask lots of questions. Don’t just look at what’s cheapest! If you are turning this into your career, don’t think cheapest and fastest. Invest in a good, solid organization. Here are just a few of the certifying doula organizations that are out there. Do a search, there are many more.
Ready, set, go!
You’ve taken your workshop, you’ve studied, and are working towards certification. It’s time to set up shop! What many new doulas don’t realize is that you are now a small business owner. You might want to take some courses at your local community college to help better understand building a business. You’ll need a logo, a website, business cards, social media presence, and you will need to NETWORK! This will be very important when it comes to finding a back up doula for your clients. (Always have back up doula support) Network with other local doulas, birth professionals, physicians, midwives, even your neighbors and friends. Building a doula business takes time and effort, like any business does. It will take a monetary investment as well. Clients will not come running to you, just because you’ve become a doula. You will have to dedicate time and energy into building your new business. You will also want to make sure you are charging an appropriate rate for your services. (It’s a myth that doulas working towards certification must work for free). You can expect to spend much more time building your business in the beginning, than actually doing doula work. Alternatively, you can see if there is a local doula agency or doula practice that you can join. Read carefully any contracts that are presented to you if you decide you would like to work for them, and make sure you understand their philosophy and also how they work. Ask lots and lots of questions before you sign on the dotted line.
Stay up to date
Keep current with studies and information. Look for trusted sites with evidenced based information about pregnancy and birth. Attend conferences and workshops, so you are continually learning and improving your skills as a doula. Ask if you can tour your local labor and delivery units at hospitals to learn more about them, as well as local birth centers. Always keep improving! There are many opportunities to learn and improve.
I personally can’t imagine a more rewarding career that being a doula. I absolutely love what I do, and am so happy to be able to do what I love. This job takes hard work and dedication, and is a job like no other. Good luck to you on your journey!