Work for free? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

21 Jun
I haven’t been a doula for all that long, a couple years, give or take.  There’s been a common theme that I have noticed; Free or Low Cost births.  Moms want them, and Doulas are offering them.


I happen to live in a large metropolis, where there is a ton of options for the birthing mother, and there are a ton of doulas.  There is a doula out there for every woman, and that is never so true as it is right now.  There are doulas to meet religious requirements, doulas to meet distance requirements, training requirements, birth history requirements…you name it!!


Now we have seen a huge increase in the amount of doulas over the last few years, probably worldwide, nationwide and definitely city-wide.  Doulas are popping up everywhere!  They all have a different history, and reason for wanting to get into doula work.  And each and every one feels like offering free or low cost births is what will be best for them as they get started.


Ok, confession time! I did births for free, and I did births for low cost.  I did it! I know! But now I am a couple years in, I have some really great experience behind me, and I am having a hard time finding clients.  Me! The doula that everyone says is awesome. Me! The doula that the new doulas come to for advice.  Why am I having a hard time finding clients? Well it would be my guess that since a huge amount of the doulas in town are doing my job for free, people just aren’t really ready to pay me for it.


Because here is the reality.  Money is tight, for a lot of people.  That’s reality.  So why would they pay for services that someone beside me is giving away?  If I had to get my oil changed and I had a choice to take it to a mechanic with 20 years experience and pay like $50 or I could take it next door to a new mechanic who was doing it for free, who would I choose? Who would you choose?


Doulas are worth every penny they charge, most of the are probably worth way more than they charge.  We are trying to make ourselves a respected part of the birth team.  We can’t do that if we are doing our job for free.  And we certainly can’t do it, if the doulas who have experience and who do charge can’t get clients.  New doulas are just that; They’re NEW.  They don’t have experience, some haven’t taken training, or ever seen a birth.


So here is the main point to this whole thing.  STOP! Stop running yourselves around stressing out, paying for expenses out of your own pocket to give a service to a woman for free.  The women who really benefit from a doula are the ones who pay for it.  The ones who are invested in it.  When I did free and low cost births, I had more moms getting cesareans, more moms getting induced and less respect.  I can only say that’s because once I started really getting in there, finding people to pay for my services, getting more educated on how to be helpful in situations, my clients listened to and valued my words.


Doulas need to be valued, if we aren’t then we aren’t making any headway here.  We aren’t going to make changes.  The only way we are going to make an impact on birth is by recognizing our value.  Now I told you already that I did free births. I did low cost births, so I get it.  I get where the thinking is.


My thinking  as a doula with experience is that, while you are out there getting your experience for free, are the women who truly needed a doula getting the care they need?  Is that mom going for a VBAC really getting a doula who can help her achieve that?  If that woman who ended up with a cesarean for exhaustion, gotten a vaginal birth if an experienced doula worked with her?


I understand that sometimes shit happens.  I get that.  But don’t let your need for experience interfere in a woman’s true need for a doula.  I have put a lot of time and money into training, and learning and asking questions, and walking through each birth, step by step, with doula’s who have more experience than me. I still do that.  I still question whether I missed something or could have done something different.


A lot of women are brought to this work after having a really great birth. That’s great! I love when women get really great births, it makes me smile.  What doesn’t make me smile is when that woman who had a really easy, really great birth, ends up with a client getting a cesarean because she thinks that everything that worked for her will work for this woman too.  It doesn’t work like that.  You need to know when a woman needs to rest and when she needs to work, when she needs a rebozo and when she needs some time alone with her partner.  You need to be able to take a step back, accept that sometimes women make choices we don’t agree with.  You need to know how to help a woman after she’s decided to get an epidural, even after you had a really awesome home birth.  This is hard work! It’s unpredictable, and it really sucks sometimes.  You need to be ready for that.


So to all the new doulas out there, to all you eager, sweet women with your empowered births.  Know your boundaries. Know when you have taken on more than you can handle.  Know that this work is a family sacrifice.  Know that when you are starting out, a woman with a huge amount of emotional baggage, who is suffering from birth trauma, who needs to have a healing birth, needs a doula with experience.  Let your own needs go.  Put that woman’s need for a good birth be more important than your need for experience.  Maybe suggest she hire an experienced doula, and you can shadow, be a part, without being in charge.  Know your limits, your families limits, and know that you are worth it.


by Robin Sparkles

One Response to “Work for free? Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

  1. Zara de Candole at 8:51 pm #

    Three cheers for this awesome blog! Like you, I have been doulaing for around three years and when I look at the experience I have now versus back then, well it is jaw dropping what I have learned and how I have grown. Each and every client and each and every birth teaches us more about doulaing, birthwork and ourselves. I have hit emotional highs and had very low times. I have doubted myself and felt about as fabulous as fabulous can be but through it all, I know that right here and right now, I am worth every darn penny I charge and am learning to feel confident about it. The new doulas are coming through thick and fast and yes charge nominal amounts but I know that there are definitely clients out there who first and foremost want the experience a recognised doula has to offer.

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