6 Warning Signs that You’re Interviewing the Wrong Doula

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Hiring a birth or postpartum Doula? You don’t have to enter the process blind! This guide will help you anticipate some challenges that may save you a great deal of grief in the long run.

You’ll be relying on this person to assist your family during a vulnerable time, and you will need to have a good working relationship with her.

If you’re interviewing a Doula and you don’t feel confident that she can truly help your family, NOW is the time to drop her. It’s much better for everyone than trying to re-negotiate or cancel a contract.

Here are some warning signs, and what to do about each one.

Warning Sign #1 – She doesn’t return your call promptly.

If you can’t reach her before you’ve hired her, how will you be able to contact her after you’ve paid her?

Don’t be alarmed if you reach voice mail, after all she may be with a client and feel that it’s important to give her full attention to the family she’s with. That’s a good sign, it means that she’ll pay you that same respect.

But if she doesn’t return your call promptly, it means that either she doesn’t check messages often (not good in a Doula) or Doula work isn’t a priority for her.

Here’s what to do: Leave a message specifying the best time to return your call and the best method. Do you prefer that she text before calling? Let her know. Are you only able to talk after regular business hours? Tell her. If she doesn’t respect your plan with phone calls, she won’t respect your birth and postpartum plan. Drop her.

Warning Sign #2 – She shows up for the interview wearing pajamas.

I’m not kidding. There are Doulas out there who will show up at a business meeting wearing pajamas, untouched hair and flip flops. The clothing a Doula wears will speak volumes about the way she feels regarding the image of her business.

If she’s wearing pajamas, she doesn’t regard Doula work as a business. For more details about why that’s bad, see How To Hire the Best Doula in Town.

Here’s what to do: Tell her that you’ll be interviewing other Doulas. Drop her.

Warning Sign #3 – When you tell her you’re interviewing other Doulas, she responds with, “You should really interview LOTS of Doulas, because I’m not the right fit for everyone.”

Truly professional Doulas will have the skills and education to provide stellar service to ALL families because they are well versed in a wide array of birth and parenting choices. A Doula who says that she’s not the “right fit” is expressing an UNWILLINGNESS to become what the client family needs.

You’ve got a winner though if she responds with, “Certainly take as much time as you need to make your decision. I want to reassure you that I am eager to work with your family and support your goals. If there are any questions you have or any resources I can help with while you are making your decision, please feel free to call me.”

But if she doesn’t feel confident in her services and honestly believe that she is capable of serving your family wholeheartedly, then how will she reassure you when you really need her strength?

Here’s what to do: say, “Thank you for your time.” Drop her.

Warning Sign #4 – She doesn’t have a contract or charges NO FEE or a VERY LOW FEE.

Contracts are absolutely essential because they specify exactly what you can expect. They serve as a protective boundary around your care. If she doesn’t have a contract, it means that she has not invested in herself, or you. It also means that she is technically working as a hobbyist.

Ask on the phone before you even schedule an interview. There’s no point in meeting if her fee is outrageously out of your budget or if it’s unreasonably low.

Why would a low fee be a problem? Doulas who work for free, or who charge an under market fee, are dangerous for several reasons:

  1. She’s been told that Doulas who are in the certification process should work for free, or she simply believes that her work is not as good as someone with more experience. This is dangerous to her business, because it’s not sustainable – she’ll burn out. It’s dangerous to her family, because they will grow to resent her expensive hobby. It’s dangerous to you because if she’s not getting paid a fair market wage, she’s less likely to actually show up when you need her.
  2. Sometimes Doulas enter the field in order to heal from their own traumatic experiences. They may not even realize that’s their motivation. But you’ll be able to tell if that’s the case when you ask why she became a Doula. If she launches into a horror story, head for the hills. Your birth and postpartum experience should belong to you and nobody else. You shouldn’t have to be her therapy.
  3. On a more nefarious note, if she isn’t charging a fair market wage for her services, it’s more likely that she is doing Doula work as a method of activism. Which means that your experience will be secondary to promoting her agenda.

Here’s what to do: don’t even schedule an appointment if her fee isn’t in the normal range for your area.

Warning Sign #5 – She criticizes your care provider or birth place.

Truly professional Doulas are able and willing to work with ALL types of providers, and speak professionally of their colleguaes. They also realize that families come from all different backgrounds and will prefer different care providers and birth places.

If she criticizes your care provider or birth place, she’ll also criticize your choices. Perhaps not knowingly, maybe only with a side eye or hesitant frozen smile, but do you really want a Doula whose support is conditional?

Here’s what to do: Ask her if there are any providers she will not work with, or if there are any choices she might not support. If she has conditions for her support, drop her.

Warning Sign #6 – She doesn’t have, or says you don’t need to meet, her back-up.

This can mean several things, none of them good. She may have trained with an organization that didn’t emphasize the practical aspects of Doula work, which means that there are probably other holes in her education and readiness also. It can also mean that she doesn’t have a good working relationship with colleagues. Or it may mean that she doesn’t want to split the fee.

In all honesty, MANY Doulas are so dedicated to their client families that they are willing to swim through a flood, climb over mountains and hike barefoot in the snow to get to a client who needs them. That dedication is inspiring!

But she also needs to have a plan in place to cover any unforeseen challenges.And you don’t want to be left unsupported if her kids get sick, or she’s in a traffic accident or called up for Jury Duty.

Here’s what to do: If she doesn’t have a back-up, it’s not your responsibility to find one for her. That’s her job. Drop her.

Dwelling on the negative is never fun, however it is important to be aware of some pitfalls in hiring a Doula, so you can avoid them. With these 6 Warning Signs in your awareness, you’ll be prepared to breeze through the hiring process. For some tips on what to look for when hiring a labor or postpartum Doula, see How to Hire the Best Doula in Town.