There’s lots of things to consider when hiring a doula; experience, price, vibe/energy, approach to birth, etc.. While all of those factors are a huge part of your decision (and you can find a great article about what to ask when interviewing a doula HERE), we’d like to encourage you to also consider whether or not your doula has an established and reliable back-up in place...
… because life happens sometimes. Sometimes, doulas get the flu. Or their kid has to go to the emergency room for stitches. Or there’s an out of state funeral. Or every once in a great while, two clients will labor at the same time, and as much as your doula will WANT to be there with you, she just won’t be able to leave the person who labored and needed her first. Sometimes, doulas need a break and will have vacation scheduled during a portion of your “on call” period (usually from 38 weeks until you give birth), but you feel a strong connection and feel comfortable with them being unavailable for a predetermined amount of time. When these things happen, it’s incredibly important that your doula have trusted, reliable back-up in place. Not doing so is plain old irresponsible.
Your doula’s back-up should be able to meet certain criteria: similar training, comparable experience, and the same philosophy regarding birth and birth support. You want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that if the doula of your choice can’t make it, it’s a lateral move from her to her back-up.
Ideally, you should have the opportunity to meet your back-up doula. At the least, you should know who your doula works with, and have their contact info in case you need to get in touch with them fast.
When interviewing, ask your doula:
Who is your back-up? What training/experience do they have? When can I talk to them?
How many clients do you take on every month/during any given period?
Do you have any travel planned near my due time?
Do you often travel during your “on-call” period?
How often do you have to call in back-up?
When you’ve called in back-up previously, what were the circumstances?
And while you want to know who the back-up is, and that they’re waiting in the wings should you need help, you should choose a doula that actually plans to be there when you give birth. Over the course of your pregnancy, your doula will be building a relationship of trust and an accord with your birth goals. This process requires a level of vulnerability on your part that should never be taken for granted or treated casually.
In most scenarios, people giving birth won’t know which provider will be on call or which nurse they’ll have; along with your birth partner, the presence of your doula should be one of the constants in your birth team. When you contract with a doula, you are paying for their expertise, support, and availability, and you can reasonably expect to have all of those needs met!
As a birthing person, you deserve a doula that is invested in your satisfaction, safety, and wellbeing; part of that investment is their ability to be mentally and physically present when their clients need them most. Hopefully, when added to your initial doula conversations, these questions can help you make a confident choice regarding which doula you will choose to support you through your birth journey.