Doula care is, by nature, a custom-made service. Each client has different goals and needs, and so care for each client might manifest differently. This fluid and flexible process can make it somewhat challenging for someone considering doula care to get a concrete idea of what hiring a doula might look like. Expecting parents might ask, How can I invest so much money in something so nebulous?
Enter: this blog post series. Over the course of three posts, I hope to lay out what a prospective client might be able to expect in hiring me (Rebecca Haley). Please keep in mind that flexibility is one of my strengths, and I am here to customize my care to your needs. That said, this can give you a basic framework to riff off of when explaining your personal goals.
The first portion of my time with a client consists of two 2-hour meetings, typically around 34 and 36 weeks gestation. These meetings can include a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or other support person – someone who will be an intimate part of the birthing process. These meetings usually occur in the client’s home.
The first meeting is a chance for us to get to know each other. For the client and support person(s) to ask any specific questions they might have. For us to talk about birth preferences and how such documents might be structured and shared with a client’s care provider and nursing staff.
Many clients plan for their births but would appreciate more information on how to prepare for the postpartum period. This isn’t often something many care providers necessarily discuss with expecting parents and it is certainly not something that our culture puts a great deal of emphasis on, aside from buying things for baby showers.
It is my preference then, to also use this first meeting as a chance to briefly discuss ways to prepare for the arrival of this new person into a client’s life. While we may not be able to discuss in detail everything a person might need to expect, we can explore the basics of newborn care and personal postpartum care for parents (especially for the birthing person), as well as resources for further preparations. One advantage to this meeting taking place in a client’s home is that we have the opportunity to get out a client’s baby carriers and other baby equipment to practice with them, as well as discuss plans for sleeping arrangements, nursing stations, etc. I thoroughly enjoy hands-on, interactive learning and love discovering the unique strengths and styles of each parent.
Since we will go over a fair amount of material in this time, I make sure to have notes with multiple references for expecting parents that I email to the client after this first meeting. I find it helps to have a written reference for clients to review at their own pace. This also provides the client an opportunity to consider additional questions and facilitates further discussion.
During our second 2-hour meeting, the client and support person usually share with me their birth preferences, and we discuss any questions or clarifications they or I might have. Then we put down the paperwork and spend the rest of this meeting on more experiential learning! This is a great time to get active and practice various labor positions and comfort measures that the client and support person(s) might consider during the various stages of labor. This is tailored to each client and their goals for pain management, meaning that we can discuss options for both incorporating or avoiding pharmacological pain relief methods, as well as using a client’s endogenous pain coping mechanisms to their advantage.
Every client and support person(s) are unique. They each have different strengths, needs, goals, and each birth and postpartum period will be unique to them and to their babies. These two prenatal meetings give me as the doula the chance to get to know my clients and their support teams, to learn with them in an interactive way, and to give them a hands-on knowledge and understanding of labor, birth, and the postpartum period that can help them to enter these phases with confidence and the ability to find additional support as new questions arise.
Next up….what does doula care look like during the on-call period and during my birth?