Saturday, August 20, 2011

All About Our Doula

I was looking over my recent posts and realized that I never devoted an actual post to our doula…and our process of hiring her.  I had promised I would and so today that is what I will talk about.

My initial plan was to find and interview three doulas, and then to choose which was the best fit for us.  I scoured the internet, reviewing profiles and pricing for local doulas and reading reviews where they were available.  I sent emails to my three top choices.  Choices #1 and #3 didn’t work out well…before we even got to an interview.  But my #2 choice – Jean – was great over email and set up an appointment with me, for an interview, right away. 

Here is a little bit of information about Jean.  Jean has six children– all born naturally and some over 10 pounds at birth.  Her youngest child is 9 years old and the older siblings look after the younger siblings if Jean needs to be with a client.  Jean is married and has 4 small dogs (which is good…because she doesn’t mind my pugs sniffing and licking her when she comes in the door).  Jean thinks it is important to always meet in my home (especially when going over labor and birthing techniques) and to allow the dogs to do what they need to do when she is around, so that they will not be unnecessarily stressed when I am in early labor (which likely won’t happen for us…but we will act “as if” anyways).  Jean has been a licensed doula for three years but has been attending births in a professional capacity for six years.  Since being licensed, she has attended over 50 births and has covered all of the area hospitals, as well as a couple of home births.  Jean has a “back-up” doula that she works with (who, coincidentally, was #4 on my list of doula’s to interview) in case of emergencies, and the back-up doula will come to my labor preparation meetings so that I can get comfortable with her before the big day, too.   Jean became a doula because she thinks that the birth of a child is the most precious experience any woman can have and she thinks every woman deserves to go through that experience surrounded by love and without fear.

Jean’s fee is $400.  For that fee, Jean will meet with me to discuss nutrition, my birth plan, pregnancy issues as they arise, etc., no less than 4 times.  Then, we will begin labor preparation “classes” in the home, with The Prince.  Three or four focused classes should get us prepared by week 36.  Because of my situation, Jean will also devote an additional meeting to the experience of a c-section and exercises and household modifications that will help to prepare me for a c-section.  If I go into labor on my own, Jean will come to my home or meet me at the hospital, whatever I prefer, to assist in labor…for as long as it takes.  Her focus will be on me and my well-being and comfort, but based on her experience, she will also be able to tell when certain transitions are coming.  She can advise The Prince about when he should consider taking a “final bathroom break,” when he should go get a snack or something to drink, and when it is a good time to let family know that they won’t be getting updates anymore…because he will be staying in the room with me.  By helping The Prince with the timing of doing what he needs to do, Jean can help him be ready and strong for me when I need him the most…at the end. 

After the birth, Jean stays as long as I want her to.  She will make sure that I am able to breastfeed…or at least that the baby is able to latch on…before she leaves the hospital (assuming there are no unforeseen complications).  She’ll then come check on me at home a day or two after the baby and I are discharged from the hospital, to address breastfeeding issues and/or anxiety issues.  In Jean’s experience, new mothers (especially those who have conceived with ART) become overwhelmed when they take the baby home.  The dream has been built up for so long, but the reality is very different from anything that anyone can “prepare” you for.  Jean does as many follow-up visits as it takes to make sure I will be confident moving forward with parenting.  She also remains “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout my pregnancy.  And all of that is covered under the $400 fee.  By my calculations, gas prices alone will have her losing money on this endeavor.

In fact, The Prince (who had been quite anti-doula) said, after Jean left, “Is she crazy only charging $400.  She’s going to lose money.  She should be charging way more than that for everything she is doing!”  His reaction to Jean may have been the factor that tipped me over the edge on hiring her.  When dealing with The Prince, she explained that her role is to educate and empower The Prince and I to advocate for ourselves.  She will not interfere with any medical treatment or decisions.  She may remind us what our initial birth plan is and why we made the choices we did initially, but she will support any changes we want to make (ex.- me wanting pain medication five minutes into contractions).  Jean told The Prince that there is no universally “perfect” way to birth and that having a healthy baby at the end is always the goal…not the “experience.”  As Jean talked, you could see The Prince drop his bias that a doula was going to be a pushy hippy type.  In the end he said that he felt like he would be comfortable with Jean “helping him” to help me.

Jean is a little younger than my mother and in some ways resembles her physically (mainly her build).  That is where the similarities end between the two of them.  Jean is very soft spoken and mellow.  She listens much more than she talks (which is good…because I talk much more than I listen).  And now that we have hired her, Jean sends me emails every couple of days to let me know that she is thinking of me, is there for me, and that she has total confidence in my ability to make it through this pregnancy and to birth a healthy baby.  Even though she is a stranger, and it is her job to make me feel empowered, I believe her when she tells me that I am a very strong woman and I can do this.  I could not be happier with our choice to use a doula…and I could not be happier that we found Jean. 


Kristen said...

She sounds fabulous and makes me want to consider a Doula when I conceive. Thanks for the update, so happy that the prince is feeling a little more settled on the idea of her being there.

China Doll said...

Hi - just catching up on all my blog reading! The price for your Doula is amazing!! I can't believe she only charges $400... and she sounds so awesome :) xx