I’m Pretty New at this ‘Doula’ Stuff
Being a new doula is a tricky thing. On the one hand, I studied at Doula College, I’m always learning more, I feel like I know stuff! – but on the other, I’m only scratching the surface. – but I probably know more than most birthing mums! – but not as much as an experienced doula,……
This is what we call ‘impostor syndrome’: we kinda belong, and we kinda pretty much feel like we don’t. This is why I started out only charging student rates, after I graduated: even though I had the certificate, I didn’t feel like I could, in good conscience, charge full fare when I felt like I was only delivering half (if that!). – So I only charged about a third of the fare that I ultimately expect to charge. My peers thought that I was crazy to do this! Fellow doulas urged me, one after another, to “Charge what you’re worth!” Well, yes, certainly, I agree with that sentiment! And I will, eventually. It gave me much peace of mind to be able to charge less and be up-front about still being wet behind the ears. My plan is to increase my rates every couple of births, until I reach that sweet spot….. but how will I know where that is? I have a number in mind, but is it realistic? I know that it’s competitive with some other doulas, but not all of them.
A Doula’s Worth
I’m not in this line of work for the money, goodness knows. And I’m blessed to not neeeed the money! – But if you consider how much time I put into this work – into actually being with a client, for starters: three to four prenatal visits at 2½-3 hours each + labour and birth (which could be anywhere from 6 hours to 41, for me, so far!) + two postnatal visits at 3-4 hours each – then add on drive time (my closest client, so far, lives half an hour away) plus time spent on administrative tasks (plus learning! plus advertising!),…. PLUS all the additional expenses: tolls, hospital parking (or in the family’s neighbourhood, if they live near Bondi Beach, for example!), doula bag supplies,…… It adds up quickly. All this to say, I’m still figuring out how much to charge. I want to charge more (I am human and have an element of greed, I’m sorry to confess), I need to charge more than I currently am (practically speaking; I can’t keep this up forever), I want to offer free services because I realise that it’s an added expense for mum, in an already money-stressed world,……. However, I stand by my claim that it is a worthwhile investment.
But I digressed.
New Doula Trials, Exhibit ‘A’
A classic example of my new-doula trials: my first client after graduation had borne her first child via caesarean section, and she was shooting for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) with this, her second baby. I was behind her 100%!! I truly believed in her ability to carry and birth this baby when her body and her baby were ready to go. ……I just didn’t have the experience to help her fight her doctors ((that anyone should have to fight their doctors is just…. sigh)), nor did I have the medical expertise to truly KNOW that baby would be ok – and I certainly didn’t want to naïvely, egotistically mislead her down a dangerous path! She ended up choosing to have a repeat caesarean, in large part for the peace that she counted on it bringing to her marriage. She expressed relief when bub came out at 4.5kg! – But I know that she yearned for her VBAC and still wonders, “What if?”. (And, by the way, I wasn’t worried about baby’s size; the Lord almost never gives us a baby that our bodies can’t birth! I’ve since heard many mums say that their biggest babies were their easiest. (..Don’t ask me about the physiological logic behind that, I don’t know. I reckon it was more about the circumstances surrounding her birth, mind you.))
So, yeah, I feel badly that she didn’t get her VBAC; I feel like I failed her. Mind you, she did get to 41 weeks! – as opposed to the ‘recommended’ (hospital-requested) 39 weeks at which they had wanted her to have her caesarean. ((Plus, she only paid student rates – and that’s essentially what she got! 😉 ))
Regardless, part of the magic of having a doula at one’s birth is her mere presence in the room, the support she offers the birthing mum; so although I’m still pretty wet behind the ears, I remind myself to be gentle on myself. I’m better than nothing! 😉 – and by a vast margin, at that. And, I’m learning; I’m getting there. There are no coincidences: I support the mums who need me to support them. And, everything is as it should be and happens as it needs to happen…. in due time. ♥