Now that we know a little more about what a doula is, let's talk about next steps: hiring a doula.
Where to Start
On the Central Texas Doula Association's website alone, there are over 50 doulas listed. Exactly how are you supposed to sort through that? It's a lengthy process but, if you don't have any referrals from friends or parenting groups, skim through the bios and see which ones pop out to you the most. Pick out some key words in the bios or specialties that speak to you the most: certified? rebozo? massage therapist? social worker/therapist? evidence based?
You can also search through DoulaMatch.net to help narrow down your options. A benefit of DoulaMatch is that you can narrow down your search by your estimated due date and it'll pull up doulas who are available during that time frame. It also summarizes important info like their doula fee, the number of births they've been to, specific training, and specializations, etc. A drawback is that it, like Central Texas Doula Association, will not list all of the doulas in our area - these two databases are by sign-up only and not all doulas list themselves!
Narrow your search down to 5-10 from the list and then, dig through websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogs to figure out which ones speak to you the most in terms of your own personality, needs, values, price range, and sense of humor. Luckily, we have a whole community here in Austin that can fit every individual!
Try to whittle your list down to 2-4 to do a prenatal consultation with. I believe that all doulas in Austin will do a free 30 minute - 1 hour interview, in a public place, to get a feel for each other. During the interview, the doula may also be evaluating if you will be a good fit for them too. Doulas want to provide the best care for every family they serve - if there's something a little bit off and you're on the fence, you can ask for references to a different doula or doula agency (such as AustinBorn, ATX Doulas) that will better fit your needs. Doulas are pretty tough in that way!
There are several websites that will tell you what questions to ask a doula during an interview (Mama Natural, Pregnant Chicken) . While training and experience (certifications, number of births, etc.) can be important, pick the doula who you can be the most honest with. Birth can be about pushing down a lot of your own walls and boundaries, it's best to do it with people that make you feel safe and supported.
Feel free to ask them for references from other families they've supported if you're having a hard time between picking between the 2-4 you've interviewed (lucky you for having so many options!).
Congratulations! You've picked your doula! now what?
Achievement unlocked! You're a step closer to getting your birth team together!
Ask if you can sign a contract so you and your doula are on clear terms about what to do when labor starts, if a back-up doula needs to be called, in case of emergency, etc. It's best to clear that air first.
Next, arrange payment. The standard for doula payments in Austin is 50% of their fee is due upon hire and the last 50% is due close to your 38th week of pregnancy. Some doulas arrange payments differently so it's good to get clarity about these arrangements. Then you can start scheduling prenatal visits with them!
As a courtesy, you can go ahead and text or email the other doulas you've interviewed to let them know that you've gone with someone else. Doulas are strong as hell. We view not-being-hired as you picking someone who will support your personal needs best. But, it is nice to know that we didn't get hired so that we can open up our availability again for other families.
What was your process for hiring a doula? What advice would you give from your personal experience?