So you've decided to hire a doula! Next, you'll arrange for a consultation aka an interview. This interview is a great opportunity for you (and your partner!) to not only get to know the services the doula offers, but also who the doula is and how well they will work with you through this very special time. As with any interview, it's great to have questions prepared in advance. Although you can ask anything you need to know, here is a list of 10 questions that might need to be on your list!
1. Why did you decide to become a doula? For some, it may come to a surprise that not all doulas are mothers and not all doulas have given birth themselves, nor do they need to! Just as every birth is different, every doula is different and has their own story and their own journey to tell. What fuels their passion and drives them?
2. What kind of training have you received? There are several different ways to become a doula and several different organizations that offer doula training. Some doulas train online while others train in-person. Some doulas have other specialties that they have trained in such as childbirth educators, lactation counseling, prenatal yoga instructors and more. How does the doula incorporate this training and any specialization training into their services?
3. What if something unexpected happens and you are unable to attend my birth? Does the doula have a back-up to take their place? What if the doula has a personal or family medical emergency the day you go into labor? What if you go into labor on the highway – can they attend a birth if the medical professional isn't there? Life is unpredictable even when you're in labor!
4. How do you support my partner? Whether it's your spouse, significant other, your mother or a friend, it's important to know what the doula will do to prepare your support partner and then to support that partner during labor. If your partner is an important part of this birth event for you, then they should be equally important for your doula.
5. Do you have any restrictions to your services? Some doulas will not attend planned unassisted births. Some doulas have time-limits on their services during your labor. The doula may only come to your birth at a certain point during labor. Ask for all of these restrictions up front so that you and your partner know what to expect when the big day arrives.
6. Do you have experience with my care provider and/or birth location? This could be a comforting question to ask if it would help you to know that your doula has had previous experience with your care provider. This may help them to have more insight on how your care provider operates during the big event. Is the doula familiar with the birth location and how to best arrive and check in? If you're having a home birth, has the doula attended a home birth before or do they attend them at all?
7. What do your services cost & what do they include? In some areas the cost of a doula can be a wide spectrum. This can be due to doulas on different experience levels, those that offer different kinds of services or classes than others and more. Some doulas have flat rates, hourly rates, multiple packages, discounts and payment plans. It's important to not only know the cost of the investment up front but what's included in that investment. This is also why the initial consultation is key – you may find a doula that is in your perfect price range but that you don't mesh with in the consult or that doesn't offer some services you were hoping for.
8. What is a challenge you've met in birth and how did you handle it? Every birth is new. They all come with their own challenges, big or small. Some doulas have faced larger challenges than others. This question is not to determine which doula has experienced the greatest birth challenges, but rather to determine how the doula handled the challenge. This can help you discover their strengths, weaknesses and determination – all of which every doula has. We aren't miracle workers or wonder women – we are human.
9. How do you support and comfort me and my spouse during pregnancy, labor and postpartum? Most likely some of this will be mentioned in the "fees & services" part of your consult but if it hasn't already been addressed, then it's good to bring it up. Some support and comfort measures may be things you don't find supportive or comforting. Will the doula be teaching you how to support and comfort each other? Is there special postpartum support given other than a general "how are you doing" visit? Is the doula more of a "hands on" support person or more of a "mental" support person and which one would you find most helpful?
10. Who are you? You may be thinking this is a loaded question that could lead to a rabbit hole or a response like "how do you mean?" but in reality, it can act as an ice breaker to get to know the real, weekend-life side of your doula. What are some of their passions outside of being a doula? How do they occupy their time when they aren't reading a birthing book? This is a great way for you to discover their personality in a raw format which can also help you to bond with them on a level other than the "so what if I poop" level.
After interviewing your perspective doulas (yes, you should interview more than one), how do you and your partner feel? Do you feel confident that the doula will take care of your unique needs and support you both in an unbiased fashion? Do you feel comfortable and excited to have that person in the birthing room with you? Always remember that this particular birth will only happen once – you should feel confident, supported and cared for by everyone in the birth room.