You've decided to hire a doula, which in my opinion is great news! However, you may have no idea how to find the doula that is right for you and your family. Interviewing potential doulas is a great place to start, so here are some questions to get the conversation rolling.
Note that these aren't the only questions you can ask, but I find that these are a good place to start and open up conversation. Feel free to let that flow organically, and ask any followups that may come to mind while you are talking.
What brought you to doula work?
Being a birth worker is a calling, and takes a special kind of person to give all of themselves to others, often at a moment's notice. Asking about why they decided to become a doula will give you some insight into the doula as a person. In my experience, this question often prompts a passionate answer that reveals how they feel about birth itself.
What kind of training have you gone through?
It's important to know as a consumer that doula work in an unregulated profession. What this means is that anyone can call themselves a doula and create a business as such. So, if it's important to you that your doula is certified, this the question for you. It's also worth mentioning that there is a wide variety of certifying organizations, and they have very different values and guidelines that they expect doulas to follow, so you may want to do a bit of your own research, or have the doula explain why they chose that organization. In addition, as doulas progress, learn, and evolve, they may feel that their values no longer align with their certifying body, so they may decide not to renew their certification, or to work with someone else. Either way, their experience level may satisfy this response for you, and that's absolutely ok!
What do your services include?
Most doulas have a standard package that includes a set number of prenatal visits, support throughout your labor and birth, and varied postpartum hours. You'll learn what they offer, as well as if there are opportunities to add on additional support. It's important to ask if the doula you are talking to has a cap on the amount of hours they support a labor before switching to an hourly rate or calling in a backup, as well as to inquire about when they start being on-call for you, and if they welcome texts or emails if you have questions before or during that timeframe. In addition, many doulas offer services beyond labor and birth support, such as childbirth education, lactation education, and niche skills that they have been through training for, either as add on services or as a part of their normal package.
Tell me about your doula style.
Some doulas are more hands-on, some are more encouraging, some resonate with the spiritual side of birth and work more energetically, some really prefer handling the 'logistics' of birth, and some are a combination and more! There are so many approaches to birth, and its important to find a doula that can bring the energy that you are looking for while your baby navigates their journey. While you may not know exactly what you will need or want during your baby's birth, the answer to this question is a good one to meditate on or think about while making your decision.
Have you ever supported families at the place I intend to give birth?
Asking potential doulas if they are familiar and comfortable supporting births where you plan on having yours is an excellent question. Some doulas have their own boundaries surrounding where they will support births, and this is one of the core elements of finding someone that is right for your family. If they haven't supported a birth where you will be, but are excited about the possibility, ask if they have a network of birth keepers that can help them become more familiar with that space if they feel they need it. Doula work is more about the connection between you and them than it is about the space, so if they haven't experienced a home birth, for example, it's ok to still hire the doula that feels right for you. Birth unfolds the way that it will, and most doulas are trained to adapt and go with the flow.
How many clients do you take in a month?
And as a followup, how many clients do you have around my due date? Every doula has their own unique circumstances. Some have no children, or grown children, and are comfortable taking 4,5 or 6 birth clients in a month. Some have their own young ones at home, and stick to 1 or 2 birth clients in a month. If you really resonate with a doula that takes on more clients, you could always inquire about their backup doula and how they handle a situation in which they have to miss the birth. All doulas should have backups they can use, so feel free to inquire about that with whomever you talk to.
What are your fees?
Talking about fees and money may feel uncomfortable during your first meeting, but most doulas are prepared and ready to discuss this option. We'd much rather be upfront and allow you to decide if we are in your budget from the start, so there is no ambiguity moving forward. In addition, you may want to ask how they handle payments, as in if the full fee is due when you sign the contract, or if they require a deposit with payment in full at a specific point in your pregnancy.
After the interview, I would encourage you to take a day or two or three and really tune into what your gut is saying about this decision. Whether a doula had all the 'right' answers, or appeared nervous and excited, your intuition will tell you more about what you need to know than all the questions in the world. You are inviting someone into your space during the most life-changing, vulnerable, exciting, emotional time of your life. If you can be completely comfortable, safe and feel like you can let go and be totally yourself around who you've chosen, more than likely you will not regret it.