Why Doulas Deserve To Be Paid For Their Work (How Is It Even A Question?)
Doula is a job. Just as hairdresser is a job, or accountant is a job, or chef is a job.
Someone is offering up their services to you, including their time, their knowledge, and even their heart & soul. They deserve to be compensated for their hard work.
Now, some of you may be thinking, "well of course, isn't that obvious?". You'd think so! However, reading forums and different articles online shows that not everyone thinks this way!
There are some doulas who doula as a hobby. They provide their services for free.
And I'm sorry ladies, but you are hurting our reputation which is that being a doula is a legitimate job that involves contracts and reimbursement.
There are going to be families & women out there looking for a doula. They'll see one charging, let's say $800 (a very reasonable price), and another doing it for free. They'll think "well why should I pay that $800 when I can just get one for free?".
Ooh ooh, I know why!
Two main reasons:
1. Because a person is taking time out of their day, away from their families, to help you. They are going on call (which is a difficult lifestyle), potentially missing important events, and supporting you wholeheartedly with their body & their mind no matter how long it takes, and birth as some of you know, can take a long time.
2. Quality. When you get something for free there is no telling how the quality will be, and you're much more likely to get more out someone you pay, because it's sort of like a trade.
My boyfriend for example, years ago, had a friend who said he would give him a tattoo, free of charge. Part of the way into doing it, Mike made the guy stop, the tattoo was looking terrible. He then went to a professional, whom he paid, and had it covered up with something really beautiful. Tattoos are permanent, so it's a pretty important decision which tattoo artist you pick. You know what else is important? Your labour & the birth of your child. The doula you choose will help impact this.
I don't mean to insult any free doulas, but it does make a fair bit of sense that the more you pay, the better quality you get, for the most part.
Wedding Planner Analogy
For sake of argument, let's compare a doula to a wedding planner.
You hire a wedding planner to help you out leading up to, and on, your big day. They help you coordinate the venue, the different factors contributing to the day running smoothly, connect you to resources related to the day, and keep you calm & not stressed out.
Very similarly, a doula helps you on and leading up to the day your baby is born! (Which in my opinion is an even more momentous occasion.) We help you create a birth plan and make sure you know all of your options, we connect you to resources such as lactation consultants, massage therapists, etc., we make sure you feel heard, respected, safe, and calm, because this is YOUR day, we don't make it about us.
Wedding planners can charge anywhere between $1,500 and $10,000 (depending on experience). Doulas charge a fraction of that. Why would you choose to pay good money for one and not the other? It makes no sense.
What About Doulas Who Are Just Starting Out?
You may ask "what about new doulas, or doulas in training, who need to attend births for certification? do we have to pay them?".
Okay, so my views on this have changed slightly from a few years ago, because when I was starting out, I didn't feel right to charge anything.
The first few births I did were free and some of them were very long and labour intensive.
I recall bending over a bathtub, doing the double hip squeeze during each and every contraction my client had because it was the only thing that offered her some relief. I was happy to do it of course (because I care about my work, and this is part of it), but looking back I can't believe I did that unpaid.
"I'm getting paid in experience" I thought.
Experience doesn't pay the bills.
New doulas are still putting in the time, and effort, and being on-call, that experienced doulas do. Of course they deserve to be compensated. They just wouldn't charge as much as a doula whose been in the business for say, twenty years.
And hey, new doulas, listen up. Even if you feel uncomfortable charging for something you've never done before outside of a classroom setting (believe me, I know the feeling), at the very least, talk about payment for transportation, and childcare if necessary! If you don't you could end up losing money over doing free births, otherwise.
This is something I feel very strongly about because in order for the business of doulas to keep growing, and for us doulas to keep encouraging birthing women & actually change birth for the better, we need this job to be seen for what it is.
A wonderful, difficult, awe-inspiring, messy, beautiful job.
That we deserve to be paid for doing.