Doula work calls to the soul of many people. It usually starts with personal experiences of birth or postpartum and the issues we’ve faced alone. But when it comes to actually taking that experience and channeling it into a career it can be challenging, and most folks don’t know where to start.
Can you actually make a living off of being a doula?
Yes! You can. I personally left a very lucrative job in higher education and never looked back. I was able to completely replace my income with little downtime. However, it did take lots of flexibility on my part and sacrifice from my family in order to follow my dream. For anyone new, it would really depend on your lifestyle and how you can realistically juggle this schedule with your family and other responsibilities. If leaving your current profession is not possible, keep in mind you can also doula as more of a part time or hobbyist schedule. Only taking birth clients or assisting postpartum when you’re available. I would caution you, that because of the sensitivity of the nature of our work if you cannot swing it, save it for a season in your life when you can. Because we cannot flake on those who need us.
What’s the schedule like, really?
Well, it depends. For someone like myself who supports multiple life stages it is hectic. I usually am supporting 1 family for about 5 nights a week doing postpartum. Depending on their needs, shifts can be about 8 to 12 hours. On top of postpartum, I can support up to 2 births a month. Each one of those clients require I be “on call” for them 2 weeks before their due date until birth. Which means, I need to stay in my city and be ready to go at a moments notice. This has affected family time, other engagements, being able to be spontaneous, and being able to unplug when I want. Babies don’t really care about if you had a long night and need a nap. When they want to come – they come!
For others, you can choose to work only in one area. You can choose to work supporting postpartum families as many days of the week you’re free. Or you can work supporting only birth clients. Birth clients require prenatal appointments where you meet with them in their home, and they last about 2 hours each. The on-call period begins usually 2 weeks before their estimated due date. And count on the fact you need to be available for texts and phone calls all throughout pregnancy leading up to birth. Your relationship with your clients is so important and needs to be cultivated. By only supporting one or the other, this may help make your schedule more manageable.
How can I get trained?
Training is IMPERATIVE. In my eyes it is non-negotiable. So many people jump into this field thinking, “I raised my own babies I can do it” or “I gave birth 3 times” when yes, you have lived these experiences and have so much knowledge to pass on. However, your birth is not your client’s birth. Your experience postpartum is not theirs and you must be ready to support them no matter their choices and you must only provide evidence-based information and guidance. A lot of training will consist of not only how you can support families but also learning how to check your own biases, how to support those experiencing perinatal mood disorders, how to support families of different cultures and traditions, how to market yourself, and how to protect yourself with insurance just to name a few. Are all trainings perfect? No. I could go on all day about how some are not the best, but which program you choose depends on your outlook on birthwork and the kind of birthworker you’d like to become. There’s dozens of trainings you can choose from. I encourage you to not just jump at the most popular or biggest name and actually look deeper for other established programs. Look deep into their curriculum. What do they say a doula can and cannot do? Do they limit you in any way? Is antiracism a part of their program? How much does it cost to enroll? Is there a yearly fee? Etc.
I also am VERY aware that the investment into training can be a huge factor in being able to make the jump. I encourage you to apply for one of the many doula scholarships available for these different programs. I personally trained with Bebo Mia, and know they have several scholarships available yearly both full and partial. And I’ve heard of so many others doing the same. We need more people of color in this field!!
How can I make sure this path is sustainable?
For me, my solution has been community. We need fellow doulas to depend on. Someone who gets your life and schedule and can meet you where you’re at. We need solid back up doulas and mentorship from others who have been in the field and experienced what you have. Going it alone is not a fun time. The moment I started networking and making connections, it took my doula game to the next level. I don’t know why it took me so long to reach out. To get started you can join one of the many doula facebook groups out there. And specifically look for your city specific group. I attended in person doula meet ups and networking events to really get to know people for who they were and not just their online persona. Because just because someone’s a doula doesn’t mean they think like you and support clients the way you do. You really want to align yourself with people who will build you up.
Since I get a lot of people reaching out and asking me about how I got started, I really hope this gave you a decent starting point and helped answer any questions you had. If you are interested in more information on my life as a doula, check out our bi weekly podcast on any podcast platform. We cover this topic from multiple angles as well as pregnancy, birth, and parenting.