Frequently Asked Questions
A. A doula is a non-medical professional who works with families during the perinatal period (before, during, and after birth). I offer a variety of packages to support you during each of these times.
Q. So, you're like a midwife?
A. No. A midwife is a medical professional who is specially trained to perform in a clinical role. I provide emotional, physical, and informational support. I provide information about birth options and resources, facilitate communication between your family and your care provider(s), and I use my training and expertise to attend to the needs of the labouring individual and their support person(s). Think of it this way: you are getting married. The midwife is the wedding officiant. I am the wedding planner.
Q. You don't catch babies? Like, at all?
A. Only if they are falling out of you at the side of the road. Doulas do not perform clinical tasks such as: heart rate checks, vaginal exams, caesarean sections, the administering of medication, baby "catching", or the recommending/discouraging of any medical procedures. My role is to be your walking encyclopedia of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, and to act as a support person as you welcome your new baby into the world by providing you with massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, positioning suggestions, breathing techniques, etc.
Q. Can't my partner/mother/best friend/neighbour/life coach/psychic do all that?
A. Just about anyone can harness the tools and experience to provide holistic, comprehensive support to a pregnant/labouring/postpartum person...the question is do they have them right now? It used to be that when a new baby was expected, your community gathered around you. Someone helped you learn to breastfeed, someone helped you to the bathroom after you gave birth, and someone reassured your partner that what they were watching was normal. Most of us don't have access to that ancient tradition of families serving other families now. We haven't grown up watching someone two fire pits over pushing out a baby. Many folks haven't read journal articles on delayed cord clamping for fun. Also, if your partner is trying to act as a childbirth resource as you labour, who is providing support to them? What happens if they have to go to the bathroom? What if they are feeling really emotional about the birth of their child and they need someone to look after them?
A. Midwives are wonderful health care professionals and they perform so many services for the families that they serve. A homebirth with midwives is a fantastic option for people with low-risk pregnancies looking to have a less clinical experience. However, midwives do not stay with you continuously throughout your labour. They don't set up camp at your home until you are in active labour. That may sound all well and good, but labour unfolds differently for everyone. Your midwives may be caring for more than one labouring client at a time. Also, your midwives have medical responsibilities - they have to monitor you and your baby, chart, catch your baby, and intervene in any potential emergencies. A doula will spend your entire labour with you if you wish, and is there just for you. That means that their sole focus is on making you as comfortable as possible and taking care of little things that you don't necessarily need a person with four years of midwifery training to do. Additionally, it is possible that the midwives you formed a relationship with throughout your pregnancy will not be on-call when you go into labour. You may not have the same emotional connection with your back-up midwife that you had with your primary midwife - having a doula ensures that everyone is aware of your wishes and that you have a warm, familiar voice for you and your support team. Having a doula also takes some of the pressure off of the midwives and allows them to stay "fresh" - midwives have to multitask and they work very hard. It's nice when they can catch their breath, grab a quick nap, and not have to be everything to everyone.
Q. I am not a "dirty hippie". I want to be in the hospital. I want drugs - oh, so many drugs! Can I have my epidural right now, before I even have a positive pregnancy test?
A. While the "crunchy granola" community has done a lot for bringing doulas to the attention of more "mainstream" folks, there is no need to fear that your doula will be encouraging you to birth in a field of wildflowers with only a stick to bite for pain relief (unless that is what you want!). Doulas support medicated and unmedicated births. There seems to be an urban legend that your doula will leave you if you decide to seek pharmacological pain relief. This is untrue. A skilled doula will help you to cope with labour before and after you receive your pain medication. Also, keep in mind that sometimes medication is not an option, even if you planned for it - it is good to be prepared for anything.
Q. I've heard that doctors and nurses hate doulas. My OB has tried to talk me out of having a doula.
A. Some doctors and nurses have good reason to dislike individual doulas. Unfortunately, as in any job, there are professional, friendly, respectful doulas and there are doulas who are less than spiffy. A doula bringing THEIR personal agenda to YOUR birth isn't going to be acting in your best interest. There are doulas who have wonderful intentions and who are working hard to making the world a better place - but they bring their politics into the delivery room. Being political isn't a problem in and of itself, but when it results in medical care being obstructed or conflict occurring mid-birth, it is understandable that there are OBs and nurses who are hesitant to endorse doulas. It is sad that some care providers discourage families from seeking the support that they need, especially when their negative feelings are the result of doula behaviour. This is why hiring the *right* doula is so important. An informed, sensitive care provider will want you to have an informed advocacy from a qualified, competent, considerate support person. The idea is to have a birth team, not a birth competition.
Q. Enough talk! Show me stats! Can you provide me with statistical proof that doulas make a difference?
A. Yes! There are many benefits to having a doula, including:
- 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin/Syntocinon (artificial oxytocin)
- 28% decrease in the risk of cesarean section
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal delivery
- 9% decrease in use of pharmacological pain relief (e.g. epidural)
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to special care nursery
- 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with overall birth experience
Questions About Beth
Q. Have you been trained as a doula?
A.Yes, I have been trained as a doula. While this is an unregulated profession, I believe education and experience to be vital and have made it a personal priority.
Q. When were you trained?
A.I believe in continuing education, so I have never "stopped" my training. In terms of when I began my certification studying, that was 2006-ish.
Q.Where were you trained?
A. I trained through Childbirth And Postpartum Professionals Association of Canada (CAPPA), Doulas of North America (DONA), Ontario Perinatal School (OPS), Healing Arts Learning Organization (HALO), and through specialists such as Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, and Miriam Maslin. I now design, create and implement doula training curricula and train labour and postpartum doulas, as well as childbirth educators.
Q.What is your experience as a doula?
A. I have been present at over one hundred births. I am familiar with and comfortable assisting with waterbirths, VBACs, HVBACs, lotus births, orgasmic births, precipitous births where I should have had a catcher's mitt in my doula kit, prolonged labours where I spent days away from home, epidural births, unmedicated births, c-section deliveries, vacuum and forceps deliveries...I've had quite a wide range of experiences, but I am not so naive to believe that I have seen it all.
Q.How long have you been a doula?
A. Over a decade!
Q. What is your philosophy of birth, and supporting women and their partners?
A. I think my philosophy is not as important as what YOUR philosophy is. When you hire a wedding planner, you don't necessarily need to agree with their personal convictions about marriage because you aren't marrying them. Only you can have your baby, and the best birth for you will be the one that is the one that meets your needs - not mine. I'm a facilitator. I help you to understand your options, to prioritize, and to ensure that your partner feels cared for and supported so that they can assist you in a way that you are both comfortable with. I'm also a walking encyclopedia of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding that you can access any time you need. I'm an extra set of loving hands. I am there to ensure open and comfortable dialogue between you, your partner, and your care providers. I don't speak on your behalf, but I might prompt you to ask questions of your midwife/doctor/nurse that you might not have previously considered. I have the amazing task of being your touchstone - a living resource, a friendly face, a source of endless reassurance, an experienced navigator through the healthcare system, and that tender, grandmotherly lady who wants nothing more than to encourage you, love you, and help you to achieve your goals. I think people are generally designed to give birth, and that more often than not, this process unfolds as it should. Like with most things, if it isn't broke, you shouldn't try to fix it...but if something isn't going well, you should use the tools available to you. I don't take a hard line about home or hospital birth, pain medications or not, doctors vs. midwives, etc. because what might make me feel comfortable may not make you feel comfortable...and your birth experience is about you and your partner, not about my comfort. Of course, I am happy to present you with all kinds of possible options and the research that comes with them - informed choice and informed consent is paramount.
Q. How many clients do you support per month?
A. The amount of clients I take on a month varies. Some months I have none, some months I have one or two, some months I have more. Doula work is my primary profession and not my hobby, unlike many other doulas. As such, I have a choice: jack up my prices in order to pay my bills or take on clients when I can. That being said, I am not ridiculous about booking clients. I've been doing this for many years now and I have yet to have a birth conflict (it will happen one of these days, I'm sure, but the odds have been in my favour). I am always honest about my availability when I book people as clients because I am aware of my responsibility as a professional and it is important to me to know that my families know that they are my priority. Missing a birth or failing to serve someone in a way that they would need would be devastating to me - I see doula work as my calling, not as a "job", and the essence of that is being present above all else.
Q.What do your services include?
A. A list of my birth and postpartum services is listed here: http://www.freewebs.com/bethmurch/birthpostpartumservices.htm and my complementary services are listed here: http://www.freewebs.com/bethmurch/otherservices.htm . If there is something that you need that isn't listed, just ask me - I can usually create a personalized package that meets your needs.
Q. Do you have a back-up doula?
A. I always work with a back-up doula. Who this is depends on who is available at the time, but you will always know how to reach them and you will always have the option of meeting them. I take choosing my back-up doulas seriously because they are representing me and because I am conscious of the fact that they will need to step into a situation where you are vulnerable.
Q. How do I keep in contact with you?
A. You can keep in contact with me via phone (I use a cell phone, so it is usually pretty easy to reach me), text, and e-mail. In emergency situations or with urgent/time-sensitive moments, I recommend calling me vs. texting or e-mailing, especially at night. I try to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout your pregnancy, and I am always on-call for you two weeks before and two weeks after your due date. If you ever need an in-person meeting, simply let me know and we will set one up. While my support packages list a certain number of visits, they are suggestions, not hard limits. I am flexible, and I understand that some people need more and some people need less. If I feel that your needs might be exceeding the package you have chosen, I will suggest other options that might work for both of us.
Q. What is your fee structure?
A. Generally, I ask that half of the fee be paid when a service agreement is signed, with the remaining balance due at the meeting where we discuss your birth plan. I do offer payment plans if that set up doesn't work for you. In a situation where a back-up doula is used, I would make payment arrangements with them myself, so you would not have to worry about negotiating with them.
Q. Do you charge for doula consultations?
A. Our first meeting, where you interview me as a doula to see if I am the right fit for you, is always complimentary. There is no charge.
Q. Do you charge extra for births that last longer than 12 or more hours? Will you leave after 12 hours if I don't pay you overtime?
A. No. I accept that my profession does not entail a "typical" work day, so I don't expect my clients to pay me overtime because they can't birth "on the clock". While I will need to take periodic breaks to go to the washroom and nourish myself, I am with you until the end of your labour and up to two hours after your baby is born. We work together!
Q. How many prenatal and postpartum visits do you provide?
A.Typically, for labour doula clients, I provide one-two prenatal and postpartum visits, but as I said, I am flexible. Everyone has different needs.
Q.When do you join us in labour?
A. I join you in labour whenever you need me to. For some people, that is after they have their first contraction, and for others, it is when they move things to the hospital (or they send for their midwife). All I ask is that you keep in mind that I will need time to travel to where you are, so if you leave things too late, we'll both be anxious. Usually, I ask for you to let me know when you feel like things might be happening and we'll be in touch as things progress, so neither of us will be surprised.
Q. Where do you join us in labour?
A. Wherever you have your baby is where I will be! Home, hospital, commune, elevator, side of the road, park, hot tub, swimming pool, zoo...it's all good...although some of those are more preferable than others.
Q. Do you have experience supporting families through stillbirth and miscarriage?
A. Yes. I feel privileged to provide loving, personalized doula services for anyone who is anticipating saying hello and goodbye to their baby at the same time.
Q. Do you have experience with high risk pregnancies and/or pre-term births?
A. Absolutely! I have supported many families with unique and diverse challenges, including pregnancy/birth complications and special needs babies.
Q. Have you worked with HIV positive families before?
A. I have - and it was delightful!
Q. I'm a member of the LGBTQ community. Will this be an issue?
A. Absolutely not! My article "Queering Childbirth" was recently published in Proud Magazine and I was interviewed by OutVisions magazine for my work with transgendered folks. You can find my business listing in The Rainbow Pages of Waterloo-Wellington here: http://ourspectrum.com/Comm/TheRainbowPagesEdition1Suppl1PrintingShop.pdf
Q. My situation is...complicated.
A. I got my start in doula work by taking on the clients that no one else knew how to help. No situation is too complicated for this doula! I've served clients involved with FACS, who are making adoption plans for their babies, with addiction issues, who are involved in sex work, who have legal challenges, who are without citizenship status, who did not speak English, with complex relationship dynamics...I'm very down-to-earth and I understand that each person's life experiences are unique. I strive to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and love - regardless of how "complicated" their situation is.
This little girl was born into my own two hands lickety-split! She was in a hurry to be earthside.
Didn't get your question answered? Please feel free to call me at 519-998-3204 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org