I'm sure I'll add to this as more come to mind or are asked again!
These are questions I receive both from prospective clients and from prospective doulas. You can read my Tips for Doulas posts here and that goes into more depth with some of these questions.
* How do you manage childcare with six children and being on call for long stretches of time with unpredictable absences from your family?
Kit. He's my husband and the most amazing dad you can imagine. His work schedule is such that whenever I need to be at a birth he can be home within half an hour (IF he's at the office) and he can work from home as long as needed if I'm at a marathon birth, or recovering from one. Whenever a client gives me a heads up phone call that things are warming up then Kit just stays home to work that day so I can leave quickly when I'm needed. I could not possibly manage the logistics of being a doula without his constant encouragement and unconditional support. I'm also thankful for his VERY wonderful employer, as they take my crazy schedule in stride even when it interrupts work meetings and bumps deadlines for projects.
For many doulas childcare is the largest expense associated with their work. As you can imagine, finding someone to be on call for 4 weeks at a time, 24 hours/day, and needing to be ready to take children for hours (or days) at a stretch is a challenge.
* Did you certify/is certifying as a doula necessary?
I think it's important to certify as a doula because it does show a commitment and basic level of training. I chose Birth Arts International but there are MANY options available with varying requirements and fees. My training included about 10 books read with written reports, attending 3 different types of childbirth classes including one with the full series, touring hospitals & birth centers, numerous interviews with moms experiencing various types of births, creating a resource guide, attending five births with evaluations, and around 30 other assignments with readings - comparable to a graduate level class. Most trainings give you around 2 years to finish, mine worked out in such a way that I was able to complete it within 6 months.
There is not one central certifying organization so you can find the one that best fits your philosophy. Some programs require ongoing re-certification, others do not and I don't think it's important. I do think ongoing education and training is important, but I don't think paying a fee to re-certify is necessary for someone to be an amazing doula.
* How many clients do you take a month?
That number has varied as I find the right balance for my family. I'm a midwife assistant at a local birth center, I teach a childbirth class weekly, and I'm homeschooling five kids grades K-6th (with a toddler to also keep entertained.) The most I've taken is 5 within a month, and they all birthed within 13 days. It was a lot. 🙂 Currently I'm trying to not take more than 1 client due within a 4 week stretch so that my on call times don't overlap. I've heard from other doulas and discovered for myself that having clients due two weeks apart means they'll birth very close to each other - having clients due the same day means they'll probably birth two weeks apart! So sometimes I'll take two clients with very close due dates then leave myself a few weeks before/after for recovery time. I have made exceptions when it's a repeat client, or a special situation. In those cases I make sure the parents are aware I have other clients due near them and explain my back up situation in detail. I've not had to miss a birth because of another birth, and I hope to not ever face that! But I've had a couple close calls that made me nervous, including one client calling me in labor as I was holding a one hour old baby at a previous birth. It worked out beautifully, but I don't want to stress out the clients or myself.
I've asked this question of my doula group - most take between 1 and 4 births a month, though some of them have done up to 9 births within a month and said it was quite a wild ride! 🙂 Four seems to be a full time workload for doulas.
Between my doula, photo, and midwife assisting I attend 2-3 births a month which seems like a good balance with my work and family situation.
* Do you have back up arrangements?
YES, though as I said above I've thankfully not ever missed one birth because of another. Once I came down with a nasty cough and passed a photo client to another photographer about a week before the birth to ensure I didn't risk getting a mom or new little one sick. Another time we had a family emergency that necessitated me missing a birth, but was able to give the parents warning time and work out arrangements. Because I offer photos and many of my back ups do not I let parents know that in the rare case of an emergency and me missing a birth I send my back up doula and as soon as I am able I join them to do a First Day Photos session. I handle payment arrangements with the back up, the parents' fee doesn't change. If at all possible I also have the mom speak with the back up before the birth.
More to come!