When expecting a child, whether it is your first or your sixth, you deserve to be informed and supported. We often hear about people who want a doula but are having a tough time justifying to themselves, their partners or their family the cost of this service. Many will try to find a doula who will work for free or at a very discounted rate, and the doula who participates in offering this are doing themselves, their profession AND the people they work with a massive injustice. Getting a doula is an investment, and when you are invested into something, you are far more likely to take it seriously and get the outcome you desire.
We can not speak for all doulas, their costs and what they do or do not provide their clients - so this article is written from our perspective and how we do things. So, let's break it down.
Investment: $180 prenatally - $600 Birth Fee ($780 total)
Cost to the Doula: $200. (at least) Childcare, Food, Gas, Handouts, Comfort Supplies (massage oils & tools, essential oils, tinctures, etc.) and Rental of our office space where we do prenatals, support groups, classes and events and even provide space for out of town clients to come and labor in before going into the hospital.
Value to the client: Having a doula greatly reduces the risk of having unnecessary and unwanted intervention, they often shorten the duration of your labor while also making the experience itself a pleasant and satisfying one for both you and your partner.
Why is this important?
First of all, having a healthy birth contributes greatly to a smooth adjustment into parenthood. When we are supported and able to deliver our babies naturally our bodies recover much more quickly and easily. Imagine having a wicked hangover and someone handing you a brand new baby that you have to care for - that's what medicated births are like. It sounds great in theory, right? Just induce when convenient, numb the pain or just get the baby "removed" from our abdomen at a pre-decided date and time...This is what our friends, family, peers and 'the system' are glorifying and perpetuating to childbearing women - yet no one seems to talk about the very real after effects and serious risks this poses to not only the birth but to the mother and baby postpartum. This is not to say that interventions do not have their time and place - but we should not be getting any of them because of fear, misinformation (or a complete lack of), or out of impatience...which contributes the most to the vast majority of interventions. Women who are having medicated births or end up with medicated births can still greatly benefit from the support of a doula.
Every intervention is a speed bump in your recovery - some bigger than others, but everything has an impact. Investing in a skilled, professional doula is by far the greatest method of putting the odds in your favor. She is not only going to educate you on all of this stuff, but, she will help you navigate through it in real time, too.
When we work with parents we are helping them prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for the birth AND parenting process as a whole. Because of how we work with people their births tend to go better, their body and mentality is prepared for and less afraid of birth itself. We help bring a mother and her partner closer together by helping them define how they will best get through this, while also providing them with the tools and knowledge they will realistically need to make it happen. If we have done our job right prenatally, she and her partner will easily work together through the birthing process and we work as an outside support - there to simply guide and encourage what they are already doing so well.
Aren't my care providers and nurses supposed to help me?
OB's and nurses are not natural birth specialists. When women get educated enough to decide they don't want to jump into a medicated birth, they also need to accept that they should not realistically expect medical professionals to help her achieve this. This is like a vegitarian going to a butcher for cooking advice. It simply isn't their specialty, and it's unfair to place this expectation on them. There is no part of the pregnancy journey where your education and support are built into. You HAVE to seek this out on your own. Period.
So many of the people who hire us are NOT first time parents. The first time, most people do not understand the value of avoiding interventions - or how difficult it will be to avoid them on their own. They trust the system and their care provider and do little to no independant research. They think "people deliver babies all the time - why would I need help through that?", yet - more often than not, something happens to those first time parents in their birth that they didn't want or that ended up negatively impacting them and they are left looking back on the experience wondering what could have been done differently. Often, what could have been done differently is they could have invested in that experience and hired themselves a doula.
What exactly am I paying for when I hire a doula?
When you hire a doula, you are supporting someone who has spend a lot of time and energy on learning about childbirth and parenting. You are paying for her education and experience, her expertise. Hiring a doula is like hiring a sherpa when climbing a mountain - she will show you the way but will never take credit for each step YOU had to take and the experience you ended up with.
A doula will spend a lot of time with you, a lot of time on her computer organizing information for you, she will do research for you, she is that person you can run to with questions or concerns and feel completely heard. If she doesn't have the answer, she will help you find it or will know someone who does because she is a plethora of resources. She has books you can borrow. She can suggest ways for you to feel more comfortable in pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
When it comes to being on call, she makes herself completely available 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after your due date. She often isn't able to have a regular job because of this, so, being a doula becomes her life and her only source of income. She goes to bed early, makes sure to stay within a 1-2 hour radius of home, doesn't drink too much, etc - all because she knows YOU might need her at any given moment. When you do need her, she is there. She will help you through your labor every step of the way, whether that takes 5 hours or 36. Your nurses will shift change, your OB AND Midwife will show up at the "grand finale", it is no one but the doulas job to support you ALL THE WAY THROUGH. When you and your partner are exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, she is still right there, supporting you both, guiding you through in your hours of greatest need. She takes time away from her family and life to provide this service because she believes in you and in birth THAT MUCH - to put a price on this is difficult, because ultimately - it's priceless.
When a mom and dad looks and her and says "We couldn't have done it without you" (which they do every. single. time.), she smiles and says "You did this, I was just here to hold space for you." She says this because it's true. We can not force people to hire us - it was THEM who chose to make this investment. A good doula will help you find your voice....but ultimately it is ALWAYS up to you to use it.
What if my partner does not understand the value of a doula, or we are struggling to afford it?
Unfortunately, the sticker shock of the cost of a doula and a partners lack of a full understanding of what we provide often keeps a woman from getting the doula she deserves. This is truly unfortunate because your partner deserves a doula, too! Sometimes it just takes some re-framing, setting up a free consultation can often provide your partner with a better understanding of how amazing - and important - these services are. This also provides them the space to ask questions about our role and inquire about payment plans and insurance reimbursement, etc. (Also, you can send him our link to "A Doula's Advice To Partners")
If you feel strongly about getting a doula, however, there are a lot of ways you can get the money you need to make it happen. For us, the only payment that is made upfront is $180 (which covers your prenatal care) and the remainder isn't due until after you have your baby. People can pay this in full or in payments as low as $50/month. Many people are putting a birth and/or postpartum doulas on their "registry", some are being gifted doulas from caring friends/family. We have seen donation sites set up to raise funds, people have bartered/traded services and or goods, etc. Doulas are flexible people for the most part - if you are struggling, talk to someone!! While we will not budge on what our value is (because we are all in the same boat, ultimately), we are open to working with people where they are at as long as they are willing to do the same for us.
The bottom line here is, women need doulas. We live in America - one of the lowest rated countries for infant and maternal care. If we want good births, if we want to start changing how birth looks for women and their babies - it starts with education and support. The question really comes down to - do you value that? What are you willing to do to make sure your experience is the best -and safest- it can be? Is this a worthy investment for you and your family? No one can answer that for you but you.