I've had some interesting discussions lately about hiring doulas, and the criteria parents consider. Here are some of the questions I've heard pondered:
* Would you hire a doula who was not a mother?
* What about her birth history? Is it important that she have births similar to yours, or similar to the type you are going for? (Hospital, natural, vaginal, cesarean, VBAC?)
* Would you hire a mom who only had vaginal births if you've had (and were planning to have) cesarean births?
* If you're going for a VBAC mom would you want your doula to also be a VBAC mom?
* When having an out of hospital birth (home or birth center) do you care if your doula only had hospital births?
* You want a natural/meds free birth, your doula has only birthed with the epidural/meds - does that matter to you?
* Would you hire a male doula? Would you hire a male OB?
It's been thought provoking for me to consider types of birth and how they influence our choice of doulas. When we interviewed doulas for our fifth birth we chose someone who had one natural, hospital birth. It didn't matter to me that she hadn't birthed out of the hospital or experienced a cesarean birth and VBAC. She was the right fit for us. However, it was important to me that she had experienced a meds free birth because I felt that meant she would better understand what I was going to be feeling and how to better support me. I wanted her to know the intensity, and how to connect to me in that moment.
Sometimes a doula's birth history really matters to a couple. I've heard of some moms looking specifically for a doula who had a cesarean and VBAC as the client prepared for their first VBAC. It was important to them that their doula had firsthand experience with the emotions involved and that extra level of concern.
I underestimated how relevant my own birth history has been to clients, but without fail it's been brought up by parents at prenatal visits, and sometimes at the births themselves! I've experienced a variety of births, both in and out of the hospital, vaginal, cesarean, VBAC, epidural, and finally a waterbirth. My six births have varied dramatically! I'm thankful for what each has taught me, and humbled when my own experiences can help me better connect and serve parents. I do think our births influence our work, and I hope it makes me a better doula.
So as you choose your doula, consider what feels right to you. Do you care if your doula's birth experiences are similar to yours? What if she's worked with clients in situations like yours, but not personally birthed like you? Ultimately I think it comes down to what feels best to you and your partner, and finding the doula who you feel is the right fit. While that may be a doula with very similar experience to your own, you may find your perfect doula has birthed in ways completely different from you - or never given birth at all!
And for the record, I've heard of some incredible doulas who are not yet mothers, and one birth attended by a male "doula" who was apparently quite amazing! While firsthand birth experience gives us one type of knowledge to draw from, the hands on work of doulas and intuition are also crucial contributors to a doula's skill set. The free, in person consultation with a doula is an important way to determine who will be the best doula for YOU.