What is a birth doula?
She is a caring woman who:

  • Recognizes birth is a key life experience, understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists a pregnant woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for her child’s birth
  • Stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout her entire labor (no change of shift)
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective point of view and assists in gathering information to aid decision making
  • Acts as a liaison between the laboring woman, her partner and clinical care providers
  • Does not replace the woman’s partner or clinical care providers

Who relies on a doula?
Childbearing women and couples, midwives, doctors and labor and delivery nurses appreciate the resources, techniques, knowledge and continuous empathetic support a doula provides. For women laboring without partners, the labor support person may be the only source of focused, continuous emotional support throughout the labor and birth of the baby.

Historically, women have relied on many different people to provide this kind of support — mothers, partners, friends, midwives, nurses and childbirth educators.  Recent studies indicate better outcomes for babies and their mother, shorter, more comfortable labors, fewer complications, and greater maternal satisfaction when a labor support person is continuously present.

The doula’s nurturing patience, expertise and commitment to childbearing women and their partners can help women to have safe and satisfying birth experiences.

Is the doula the same as a nurse?
Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals. A doula can remind you of questions you want to ask. Nurses may need to take breaks or change shifts. A doula provides continuous support.

How can I be available all the time?
You probably can’t. That’s why most doulas make arrangements with a back-up doula to cover them when they are not available. You would inform your client of this in advance. If you can’t arrange back-up, you would let your client know of the times that you would not be available and decide together how she would want this handled. Some doulas work with an on-call group of doulas who take turns covering different days of the week. They provide their clients with this schedule. There are a few doulas who work for a hospital-based program and are on-call on certain days.

Do you offer payment plans?

Yes. Call or email me so we can plan one out.

Should I quit my day job?
Probably not. Most doulas start out with just a few clients in their first year. They allow back-up to cover them when they are not available.

How will I find clients?
At the end of the workshop I will provide a list of volunteer opportunities in Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco area.  For those coming from other places, I will do my best to help you connect with others in your area. For your own purposes, identify people in your community who have access to pregnant women. Doctor and midwifery offices, pregnancy counseling services, prisons and teen groups may be interested in spreading the word about your services. You can also publicize your services by posting flyers or speaking at bookstores, moms’ groups and childbirth classes.

Should I print business cards?
Yes, but not too many. You may want to change something on them.

What do doulas get paid?
It varies. There are doulas who charge $400 a birth (usually when they are newer) and those who charge $2200 a birth. It is dependent on your level of experience, the area you live in, and your desire to keep labor support financially accessible weighed against your family’s need for income. Most doulas who are starting out offer their services on a voluntary basis or at a very low cost – perhaps just enough to cover transportation and childcare.

What does DONA require for Birth Doula Certification?

Scroll down to the bottom of DONA’s certification information page.

What books and links do you suggest?

  1. The Doula Book by Kennell and Klaus
  2. The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin, 4th edition
  3. Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin
  4. www.childbirthconnection.org This site is full of up to date, evidenced based information about pregnancy and childbirth.
  5. www.motherfriendly.org Promoting a wellness model to improve birth outcomes and reduce costs, this group has over 90,000 members.
  6. www.lamazeinternational.org Many people don’t realize that Lamaze is no longer about the “strange” breathing.  Normal birth is the name of the game!
  7. www.DONA.org Info on certification.
Can I Be A Doula If I Have Not Given Birth?
It was my first birth as a doula and I was nervous. I had done some reading and some training, but was I really good enough to actually be of help? And to top it all off, I had never even given birth myself. Did this make me some sort of “imposter doula?”
It took me a while to feel like I had something to offer as a doula. But here’s what I learned about not haven given birth and my role as a doula. I am hoping some of what I learned will be of help to you.
1. Like many doctors, nurses and midwives – giving birth is not what qualifies you as being able to help at a birth. Training, knowledge, diplomacy, reliability, stamina and perhaps most importantly, your compassionate heart for the laboring woman are more important factors.
2. You are a “tabula rasa.”  This Latin phrase for “blank slate” means to me that as a doula who has not given birth, you have no preconceived notions about birth and what this woman is experiencing. You fully believe what she tells you of her experience. You are a blank slate.
One time I was with a pregnant person in her teens during labor. She was 2 cm dilated and rocking back and forth as she moaned in her labor bed. Rolling her eyes as she looked at me, her mother whispered, “She’s very dramatic. 2 cm doesn’t really hurt this much, does it?” I knew what I had read in books, and what I had seen at other births, but I didn’t have any personal experience of labor at 2 cm, so with an open heart I was able to say to this soon-to-be grandmother, “The pain is real to her.” 2 hours later my young client held her baby in her arms!
Because I had no personal birthing experience, I was less tied to what I thought labor “should be” and was able to validate what was actually happening. This person was moving quickly through her labor, no matter what her cervix might have indicated. Thank goodness I didn’t tell her something like, “save your energy, it’s only going to get harder.”
3. One (or two or three) births of your own don’t make you an expert. They make you knowledgeable for sure.
If you gave birth ten times you would know that every birth is different. Just because you may not have had that one experience doesn’t mean that you don’t have an understanding of what the needs of a laboring person and her partner(s) are. You empathetic heart is a greater guide. Your willingness to be generous with praise and to provide anticipatory care are of greater service to the laboring person than your own experience of giving birth.
4. If you haven’t given birth, you have no baggage. Yup. Some of us have to practice leaving our baggage at the door before we walk into the room with that pregnant person. You don’t. You are fully present. You are not comparing what she tells you to your own experience. You aren’t tempted to tell your story when really, you should be listening to her needs.
5. You have the freedom to be fully present. If you don’t have children, you don’t have childcare concerns.
I spent the first five years of my life as a doula without children. Now that I have children, sadly, there is a little part of me that is not fully present in the labor room. There is some part of me that is calculating out my child’s day. I know my mind has wandered to, “…if her baby isn’t born 12 hours from now, can my husband take my daughter to school? Should I call him now or wait? Who else can drive her if my husband can’t?…”
The biggest difference I noticed in my service as a doula after having children is not that I was a better doula. It was that my heart was in two places at once. Before my child was born my heart was in the labor room. After, it was both back home and with this laboring person. Doula work was easier when my heart was in one place!
So, are you “legit” as a doula if you haven’t given birth? Yes you are! You have training, no pre-conceived notions, and are able to be fully present. This is a valuable asset that is to be cherished, not lamented.
Was I helpful at that first birth I attended? I was helpful enough that I wanted to continue to be a doula! In fact, it’s been over 25 years now and over 800 births. I am glad that I got over my “imposter syndrome.” I hope you can release yourself from that and flourish in developing all the other aspects of yourself that make you a valuable doula.
Where can I stay nearby?

The address for the workshop is 707 Monroe Street, Santa Rosa, 95404 – it is downtown Santa Rosa. Many people have liked using Air B&B www.airbnb.com to find a room to stay in locally. Next door my neighbors on 13th street have their attached unit listed on Air B&B as “Vintage Apartment – walk to downtown.”  A few blocks away my friend on Elizabeth Way has a lovely room in her house listed as “Comfortable Room in NE Santa Rosa.” She offers it most of the year, with some months omitted. There are lots of other beautiful options in zip 95404 too.

Nearby hotels are the Sandman, Extended Stay America, Hyatt Vineyard Creek, Hotel LaRose, The Flamingo and the Hillside Inn.  You could search for price reductions on www.expedia.com, www.kayak.com, www.hotels.com and www.getaroom.com