1. It’s been so long since I’ve been around babies. The last time I had consistent interaction with them was when my cousins were little and they are in their early 20’s now.
2. It’s a fact that there is a huge disparity in the treatment of black pregnant women. And this is a problem that even money can’t solve. I’m sure you’ve heard about Serena Williams, that if she did not advocate for herself and the pain that she was in during childbirth – she would’ve died.
3. Mine and my husband’s mothers are hundreds of miles away.
For all these reasons, we knew we need someone to come alongside us to be our sherpa during this pregnancy journey. So we were introduced to the concept of a doula.
A doula is also known as a birth companion, birth coach or post-birth supporter, who supports a birthing woman by providing continuous care before, during, or after childbirth in the form of information, physical support, and emotional support (Wikipedia).
So, if you’re a mama-to-be or know someone who is, I’m going to share what I’ve learned and how we went about securing our doula.
What a doula is not
My family thought I lost my mind when I mentioned working with a doula. But it’s because there are many misconceptions on what they do. A doula is not a medical professional, they don’t give out medical advice and they don’t deliver babies. They work alongside your birth team, whether you plan on giving birth at a hospital, birth center or at home. A doula provides education, guidance and support and unlike the doctors and nurses, they stick by your side the entire labor and delivery process.
What we were looking for in a doula
My husband and I discussed our needs, our personalities and expectations, in order to have an idea of what we wanted in a doula. We wanted someone who has experience with high risk deliveries, someone patient and has a calming and loving spirit. And truthfully, because we know we can drag our feet on decisions sometimes, we needed someone who would give us that push to get things done.
We wanted someone who really understood what it means to be a first time, black mother. So we did intentionally look for black doulas to be able to speak to us from a level of understanding only they could know.
There also had to be a connection with me and with my husband. Be sure to involve your partner in the process because they will be working together to support you and if they don’t get along, that is going to be a problem. And, you have to be comfortable with this person spending many hours at your home, witnessing you in your most intimate and vulnerable moments.
How we found our doula
We started with recommendations from our obstetrician and friends but those didn’t work out, so we turned to old faithful…Google and ran a search for doulas in Harlem.
Doula interview advice
Since you will be paying this person for a service, you need to vet them. Be sure to schedule interviews with your doulas in a place you feel comfortable. The questions you ask should be tailored to what your needs are. Do you want someone more hands on, someone laid back, someone with experience in natural birth? That is up to you but make sure you write them down so you don’t miss anything.
Some questions we asked were:
– How long have you been practicing?
– What is your philosophy on birth?
– What do you see is your role as a doula?
And while you’re going through the questions, pay attention to the other cues. Do they listen to your concerns, did they cut you off? Are they too loud, too quiet, too aggressive? No matter how experienced they are, if their personality gets on your nerves, move on to the next one.
Be sure to ask for references
We had 2 amazing doulas to choose from, honestly I don’t think we could have gone wrong with either one, but it was the references that sealed the deal. Both had excellent references but with the doula we chose, her reference describe her experience in a way that spoke to exactly what we needed.
Is a doula worth the money?
The million dollar question.
There are some programs that provide doula services at a low cost or even free for under served communities, but if you don’t fit that profile a doula will be an investment – if you know what I mean.
Prices range and a more experienced doula will be more expensive. My doula was more on the pricier side but for my sanity alone, having the right help outweighed my need to save a buck.
I hope this helps! And I will continue to share more as I progress through my pregnancy journey.
But if you have any questions for me in the meantime, let me know in the comments below.