Here in Colorado Springs we have a very high concentration of doulas. To my knowledge there are somewhere in the range of 25-40 labor doulas and a handful of postpartum doulas. Regularly, these doulas quit or go into other professions within 2 to 3 years. It’s a demanding job, one that many are not prepared for.
If you’re reading this blog right now and you’re looking for a doula for a second or third time because your old doula isn’t around anymore, you know exactly what I mean.
If your last doula was a free or low cost doula, that’s probably exactly why they aren’t around anymore.
Let me explain.
Being a doula is a career. It takes a lot of time and money and continued education to do this job well.
Naturally, what we do comes with a passion to help families. We truly want every family to have the most fulfilling, amazing birth and postpartum experience they can. This is who we are at our core, but just like teachers and nurses and EMTs, loving what we do doesn’t mean we should be expected to do it at a cost to our own families.
If you are a professional in any service industry, you probably know exactly what I mean.
“Hey cousin accountant, can I ask you about XYZ on my taxes? I heard that ABC is true, but I don’t want to make a mistake, can you help me out?” For free of course, because, well, we’re family right? And family helps family.
Now let’s say there is an accountant office down the street from you that just opened up. You heard this guy is fresh out of school and just getting his business on his feet. Do you walk into his office and ask for free advice? Why not? He’s new in town, he probably can’t WAIT to get started crunching numbers. He probably needs the experience to get himself better known in the community. He should be happy to do your taxes for free or next to nothing to get his foot in the door.
It sounds silly, but it happens to doulas all day every day. It is assumed that new and certifying doulas work for free or for very low cost. They are seen as being “doula in training” or a “student doula“. These things do not exist.
“There is NO SUCH THING in Colorado as a doula school. Therefore you are NOT an intern doula, student doula, or a doula in training, except for the literal, physical time you are a training with a trainer in a classroom. These are myths perpetuated by out dated training, and people who do not value the work you do, looking for a deal.” -Jenn Leonard, Owner, Colorado Mountain Doulas LLC
Because doula school does not exist, when you look for an intern doula, you are not actually looking for someone who’s schooling requires that they intern to get certified. Instead, you’re asking a small business owner, who has just made large investments of time and money to work for you for free, with nothing in return.
If you go to the ER, and an intern takes care of you, you or your insurance still pay the bill. If your child goes to private school, or daycare and they have an assistant teaching them, you still pay tuition. So even in the event that a doula WAS an intern, which does not exist, the person receiving the service, should still pay for the service.
It is extremely rare for most professionals to go directly into business for themselves unless they are already independently wealthy. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, anyone who works in any field that requires an internship is paying through their school and getting credits from the school for the education they receive from the internship. Also, interns….often times don’t actually DO the job they’re going to school for. Interns are gophers. They get coffee, and file paperwork, and answer phones. They aren’t being a doctor, nurse lawyer or teacher. In all of these circumstances, the customer/client still pays for services at the business where the intern works.
While doing some research for this blog post I came across an article titled Let’s Get Legal: Guidelines for Paid or Unpaid Internships. The article states that ALL SIX factors must be followed to qualify as an unpaid internship. Not one of these factors works when we talk about doulas in the US.
Doulas don’t have employers, they work for themselves. They are small business owners with all the expenses of said business right from the start. No one is backing them or paying them to do the job if the client doesn’t pay. If doulas work for free or low cost, it is their families that take the loss. There are MANY articles out there about this subject, so I won’t go into more detail on that.
Doulas are on call 24/7 for up to a month at a time. While they should have backup, they only use that backup in case of an emergency and they leave their homes, family, pets and day jobs at any time of the day or night to help clients navigate one of the most important times in their lives.
Doulas are prepared to do the full work of supporting clients as soon as their training is over. Reading books, taking open book tests and attending a certain number of births (The actual WORK of a doula) are all just check boxes required to get a piece of paper (certification) in the mail to be official. No one is evaluating them except their own clients. No one is giving them feedback and telling them how to improve, except their own clients. They WORK for the clients and only the clients. They don’t work for the certifying organization, the hospital, (there are a few exceptions) the midwife, or the OB. They do the job without supervision because they are ready to, and they should be fairly compensated for their work.
Doulas being paid a living wage for the work they do is the answer to the 2-3 year burnout too many doulas succumb to. If you would like a professional doula to attend your birth or support you during your postpartum period, and be around for you the next time you have a baby, consider paying them for their knowledge, education and time away from their families.
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