Recently a pregnant mama told me about a facebook conversation she had with a doula and it bothered me enough to address the issue. Below is some actual text from the response she received when asking if there were any Doulas near her that would serve either at a significantly discounted rate or for free.
“Most Doulas in training and experienced Doulas would be open to payment plans and some might consider lower fees to cover childcare and mileage costs. To seek out a free or under paid doula or to be a free or under paid doula I believe we are making labor support an underpaid profession that cannot attract or keep talented, skilled individuals if you end up selecting a doula who is under charging for her services I strongly encourage you to pay her more than she is asking; otherwise she may not be able to be around to help others in the future.”
This young mother responded politely but told me she felt guilty for even asking, but her family is literally living pay check to paycheck and has not one but two broken vehicles to fix. She considered doing her vbac at home but insurance wouldn’t cover the midwife and so they must fix one of those cars to make the drive to the hospital when the time comes. My point in sharing such intimate details with you is to say that though a lot of us feel strapped for cash we can actually find the funds we need somewhere, but there are those who simply can not and that it isn’t nice to be hard on them and you should never assume you know a person’s financial status. Now onto the true reason for my post.
I have strong words for both Doulas and Mother’s seeking Doulas. First for the mothers.
If you can afford a doula don’t ask for a discount it really is a lot of hard work we do for you and there are people out there who cannot afford it. HOWEVER if you cannot afford our service DON’T BE AFRAID to ask for a discount or even free service (especially from a doula in training), as one doula put it “we know what we are getting into” when we offer you these rates.
It is the opinion of most doulas that all women should have labor support, and statistics suggest that the mother who can not afford a doula might benefit the greatest from having one, so ask and don’t feel bad for it. If the Doula you are asking has to say no she will most likely know of another doula who could say yes. It doesn’t hurt anyone to ask.
If you do receive a discounted or free rate from a doula write her a thank you note at the least, she deserves that and you should be able to find a scrap of paper somewhere. .. That or send a nice email. Costs you nothing but can mean a great deal to her especially since she may then with your permission use your Thank you note to promote her business further.
Now for the Doula who shares the opinion of the woman I quoted above. Please consider before responding to people in this nature, are you speaking to a mother expecting a new baby and worried about the outcome of her upcoming birth, or to a doula who is charging to little for her service and can not sustain her business this way? It is great advice to give a doula but harsh and rude to say to a mother if you do not know intimately her finances. Instead of promoting the services of a doula you have alienated the expecting mother and made her feel she is unworthy of her dream birth and the service of a doula.
The financial business practices of a doula should never be the concern of a mother looking for her service. She should be able to barter for the cost of the service without feeling guilty about it. Little known secret even doctors will barter their fees, either with the insurance company or with the uninsured individual, so what makes a doula better than a doctor that she won’t raise and lower her fees depending on situations involving her clients?
The last person I want to address here is the doula offering these services at discounted or free rates. Please look at your business carefully before making your rate, how far are you willing to travel? How much are you going to have to pay your babysitter if one is needed? How many meals do you eat out on average per client? How much are you spending on printing costs or website fees? Add these things up and consider the average amount of time you spend in meetings or at a labor with a client and then determine your fee, it helps to consider the amount other Doulas are asking but if that amount doesn’t cover your cost you either need to cut your own cost or raise your fee. Then when it comes to a discounted birth you won’t feel the financial pressure so badly.
Also when your clients are interviewing you, you also are interviewing them. Put your head on straight. Some women ask for discounts because they are bargain hunters and figure they won’t get the bargain if they don’t ask, some women truly cannot afford your service, it is your job to sort these women out. Recently my husband and I joined a gym, while discussing the payments they asked us how much we spend on alcohol on an average weekend (we laughed because we don’t buy alcohol but the question is valid) if you add the doula could help the client discover somewhere in their budget that they can cut back to help them afford you then you don’t have to offer a discount. If you discover there is no wiggle room in their budget then you know they need the discount and can determine how much of a discount to offer and or if the discount is something you personally can afford to give. Be honest don’t run your own business into the ground because you want to help them. You could help them by finding another doula that may be able to take on their case. In that case you have helped a family find a doula, and they are thankful, and you have helped a Doula find a birth and she will be thankful and both may in return refer others to you in the future.
In short just be smart, this is your business, we want you around to serve women, you are good at what you do and deserve to be paid for it, but volunteer work has its reward to so if you can swing it offer that service where it is needed.
The financial burden of making our businesses bloom is not the mothers concern… Please Doulas; don’t push that responsibility on them. They want our service not the burden we bear of making our businesses prosperous.