Monday, July 6, 2015

What to Ask Your Doula: 10 Interview Questions for a Doula, by a Doula

So, you've decided to hire a doula.  We're lucky here in the Fort Worth area as we have a phenomenal birth community- doulas, midwives, birth centers and excellent hospitals galore- so the odds of you finding one you love are pretty high!  You've read the research on doulas, you've asked around for referrals, visited and you've whittled down your list to interview.  Now what?  

As a doula that has used a doula (two, actually) at her birth, I've got some unique perspective to share. 

1. Are you available for my due date?
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's often overlooked.  Actually, this question should be asked before you even schedule an interview- there's no sense wasting everyone's time (and risk falling in love) with a doula that isn't available.  Ft. Worth doulas fill up quickly so start making those phone calls!

2. Tell me about your most difficult birth.
This is a good opportunity to get a peek into her experience and also to hear about her perspective/philosophy regarding birth.  It's an open-ended question that will allow for some good back and forth between you and her.

3. Tell me why you became a doula.
Again, a great open-ended question that has the possibility to spark some great dialogue.  It will also let her share some of her own personal experience and birth philosophy.

4. Talk to me about the care providers you work closely with?  Do you have experience with my care provider?  Why or why not?
Experience with your care provider isn't necessarily a make-or-break point BUT a good relationship between a care provider and doula is certainly helpful.  And, allowing her to explain why she does/does not have a relationship with your provider may give you some feedback and insight to your choice in OB or midwife.

5. Tell me about your training.  Who did you train through?  Are you certified?  Why or why not?
Training is SO important (notice I didn't say experience- we'll get to that in a minute).  Certification is less important although I personally feel it conveys a commitment to professionalism on the part of the doula.  In addition, knowing that your doula is being held accountable by her certifying agency and works within a clearly defined scope of practice is very helpful.

6. How many births have you attended?
Here is the experience question- BUT experience isn't the end-all, be-all.  A doula that has attended 100 births, but did so as an adversarial part of the birth team ISN'T better than a doula that has attended 10 births but did so watching, learning, and growing.  Experience offers us, as doulas, the opportunity to take from each birth what we will- we gain knowledge, tips and tricks only if we actively seek them out.

7. Do you have any formal breastfeeding education?
If you plan to nurse your new baby, this is definitely a question you should ask your birth doula!  Most doulas stay a couple of hours past the delivery to assist the new mom with the initiation of breastfeeding.  This is a CRUCIAL time and your doula must be educated appropriately.  And, no- the fact that she has nursed her own babies doesn't count.  Look for some sort of professional training; the more the better!

8. Do you offer any additional services?
Let's face it, one-stop shopping is incredibly convenient.  If you're wanting, or even think you might want childbirth education, placenta encapsulation, breastfeeding support, or postpartum doula services...why not hire a doula that can help you out with any and all of those?!  And, you'll usually get a price break when you bundle services so it's a win-win!

9. How many clients do you take a month?  How many times have you missed a birth?  Do you have a back-up doula(s)?  Why did you choose her as your back-up?
I don't believe there is any magic number of clients a doula should take per month BUT you want to feel confident in her ability to attend YOUR birth.  You don't want someone who takes 10 births a month but regularly sends a back-up in her place.  As a doula, I've seen it many times: a frantic post on a doula forum asking if anyone is available as a "last minute back up".  I don't know about you, but I want my doula to have a great working relationship and thorough knowledge of the personality and skills of the doula she has chosen to send in her place.  When I choose back-up doulas for my clients, I do so based on their personalities and I only choose doulas that I know and trust.  You should expect the same from your doula.

10. What is your favorite "tool"?  Why?
Here's the thing: most doulas have some sort of bag that they carry to the births they attend.  Many of them are packed FULL of gadgets like back massagers, mini rolling pins, head scratchers, eye get the idea.  I, too, started out with a bag crammed full of tools to "help" me do my job.  I've come to learn that most of that is un-necessary.  Now, that's not to say I don't carry some of my favorite essential oils, a rice sock and a rebozo but my bag is nowhere near as heavy as it was 3 years ago.  You want to know my favorite tools now?  My head, my hands and my heart.

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