So you have births on the brain. That unmistakable desire to become a doula.
We get it, we have totally been there. The pull towards birth work is a strong one, akin to ‘The Force’!
Reading all the birth books, spending all day watching birth videos, asking your friends to attend their births, all the things that will get you closer to the feeling that only comes from watching a baby join us earthside.
But what is next? How does one go from dreaming about it to doing it? We can guide you along the way:
1. Get clear on your WHY & what
Why do you want to become a doula? Do you want to help young mothers/birthing persons through the birth process? Do you want to help couples move into parenting without sabotaging their relationships? Do you want to work towards impacting change in what is a broken system?
There are many different types of doulas, and the idea of having physical, emotional and educational support through times of transition is growing more popular each day. There are many in our community who are even moving into death doula-ing. Here are some of the most popular doula services you might see:
Fertility Doula: Navigating the options a person has while struggling to conceive can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with the grief of trying each month to start your family. Like any doula, a fertility doula is there to provide unbiased information to help a family make the right decision for them. Some fertility doulas may specialize in alternative therapies such as Reiki, yoga, meditation and/or may join you during the countless number of hours at the clinic.
Antepartum Doula: Typically this doula works with a pregnant person who is high risk, feeling sick, or on bed rest. If you have ever been on ‘bed-rest’ you know it is anything but rest. There is so much worry/fear that it can really take an emotional toll. Doulas are there for that emotional support and often help around the home as well.
Birth Doula: One of the most amazing features of a birth doula is that they are the one professional constant for a birthing person and their partner (if they have one). During the course of a client’s pregnancy and birth, there will be shift changes and different doctors on call, the doula will be there throughout the pregnancy and birth process.
Postpartum Doula: Knowing what is ‘normal’ behavior for a baby and having tools to help with the demands of a new infant are priceless. Providing this support is exactly what a postpartum doula does, as well as offering physical support around the home and some much needed emotional support. With so many families living away from their “hometowns”, postpartum doulas provide that ‘village’ that all parents need.
2. Your values
There are so many reasons to become a doula, and most doulas want to be the very best support for their clients. We have noticed, as doula trainers, that many people come to us because they either had an amazing birth and want to help others have this experience, or they had a very traumatic birth and they want to help others avoid this experience. Both reasons are incredibly valuable in this world and will serve you while you are studying and completing your training. And while these motivations are beautiful reasons to start your doula career, you will need to check your own agenda at the door so that you can support your clients and what is truly important to them.
As a doula, and as a business owner, it is important to know your own values so you know exactly where your skills and passions can best be utilized. This will also help you create branding material that will call out to the clients who you are most happy to work with, and who will benefit most from your care. For example, at bebo mia, we have always valued and fiercely protected our clients’ right to make their own decisions during birth and as parents – based on the latest evidence, we are equally as passionate about supporting an unmedicated birth at home, an epidural birth at the hospital or a planned cesarean.
Your values may be different, and therefore the clients you work with will be different, and that is OK! You be you!
3. Get trained
First, we highly recommend you grab yourself a formal training. Don’t just jump into the training closest to you. Spend some time researching what is best for you and your values specifically. There are quite a few organizations to choose from and they all come with their own set of values, philosophies, and style. Depending on your why and your learning style you will be able to find the perfect training for you!
Another thing to consider is the depth of the program. What topics does the training cover? How long will you be learning? And how long will you have access to your teachers and community? You want to be sure that the organization you use is there to support you, mentorship and support should not stop with the training. The real learning begins when you start attending births and running your own business, and you need to be sure you have the support you need.
An in-depth program will likely cost upwards of $500 – $1200 (sometimes more depending on the training organization), but don’t let the cost scare you away. Many organizations offer payment plans and scholarships, if you really want it, you will make it work!
4. Get certified
So, this has been a hot topic in lots of Facebook Groups and on lots of social media channels. There is a strong argument being presented that a lot of doulas have rejected the certification process. While getting a formal certification is not necessary to work as a doula it does help when interviewing with potential clients and allows you to apply for insurance. To become certified you will likely need to complete a number of practical hours, often including reading, attending births or supporting new parents, and a final exam. At times it will feel like a lot of work, yes, and there’s something incredibly magical and special inside the feeling of finishing something right to the end. Completing your hours and holding that certificate in your hand is a pretty powerful reminder that you are strong and intelligent and resilient. You will have an integral role in a person's birth and/or early parenting days, and if you are choosing to work with an agency, most organizations will want to see that you are prepared!
5. Build your community
Ok so, assuming you’ve become a trained doula and you’re ready to take on the world, only to find yourself with a major case of ‘impostor syndrome’. You don’t feel ready and/or you don’t have the systems in place to make it happen. We totally get it, and sadly we have seen too many doulas turn away from their passions because of this. Make sure you are choosing an organization that sees the value in continued mentorship, especially after the training is over, and the importance of community.
You will want to resist the urge to launch your birth business and wait for clients to come flying in and/or your family to suddenly get on board. It doesn’t work that way. You will need to make it happen. Use the support of the doulas from your training, get out there and meet the doulas in your community, and don’t forget the other businesses in your community who work with birth/pregnancy. You will also want to find out who will be there for you when you begin working with clients? Who will help with small kids (if you have them) when you are at a birth? Who will give you some hands-free hours so that you can work on your website?
Being a doula is intensely rewarding, but it comes with emotional and physical challenges. Build your village just like you encourage your clients to do.
6. Get clients!
The doula organization you choose should be training you properly in business skills so that you can start taking the number of clients that you need, to build the life you want. Knowing who your ideal client is will help potential families connect with your website/social media. For example, if you are a doula who is also a fitness instructor, you might want to focus on working with clients who want to maintain their fitness level throughout their pregnancy. A website that showcases an active pregnant woman will let them know they are in the right place.
Once a potential client contacts you, then the next step is often the interview. This is another, sometimes scary first step for a doula, but it gets easier with practice. Again, your training organization and the support network you have built will be able to help you with this. Practice some of the frequently asked questions before the interview and walk in with confidence!
For us, following our passion and becoming a doula was the best thing we ever did for ourselves. It didn’t come without its ups and downs but there really is no place we would rather be. If you are considering becoming a doula we highly recommend you start looking around to see what organization is the right fit for you and see what their values are and if they align with yours. You will be surprised how quickly your life changes when your actions line up with your dreams; we call this closing the gap between your lived values and aspirational values.
bebo mia is an online training organization that educates and supports birth workers around the world. Woman-identified entrepreneurs in the pregnancy, birth, and mama market connect to and engage with bebo mia through online doula trainings, continuing education and business growth development. If you have questions or would like to know how we can help you become a trained/certified doula, please email Toni, the one with the curly hair!