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Doula-ing

What do doulas charge?

This post has been brewing for a long time. I’ve ummed and ahed about it, started typing, deleted everything, and the topic still kept niggling away. Then I read Rebecca Wright’s story, A Doula Doesn’t Run a Business over on Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ website, and hey presto, the words just started flowing:

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of what doulas, and more specifically, I charge, I want to ask you about what you would charge for doing whatever it is that you work as, if …

  • You were in contact with each client by phone or email for an average of six months, not constant contact by any means, but it’s a long time to commit to supporting someone for.
  • You spent a minimum of six hours with them in antenatal sessions … and a further five hours during optional treatments.
  • You were on call for each client for roughly a month, and most of the time worked with one client at a time.
  • During that month of being on call you were never more than an hour away from your client, you always had your phone with you and fully charged, and couldn’t drink more than one alcoholic drink at a time in case they called.
  • You knew that they would most likely call you between 1am and 3am.
  • That you would have to cancel or reschedule the rest of your life at the drop of a hat; miss out on gigs or trips to the theatre, cancel appointments, arrange last minute childcare … walk out of a VERY hot date.
  • You might be with your client for ten hours, or 52. Yup, 52. It happens.
  • You had to plan your life six months in advance, which would mean not be able to celebrate your friends 40th birthday party in Paris, your other friends hen do in Norfolk (just as exciting!) because you had already committed to your clients.
  • Finally, what would you charge, knowing that doing this job made it very hard for you to earn money in another way, so it’s likely to be your sole or main form of employment.

I’m curious, what figure resonated for you? Oh and by the way, if you’re not too sure what a doula actually does, you can watch this delightful video which I made for people just like you. You’re welcome.

So, what do we charge?

As far as I’m aware, current prices in the UK range from £200 to £2000. In the interest of transparency, I charge £2000, and I love how that feels. Why? Because it means I can commit to being a doula, 100%, and I *love* being a doula.

Are you ready for some brutal honesty? 

Two years ago, I was charging £850 a birth, I had no shortage of clients and … I was broke.

Was I living a lavish lifestyle? No. I was trying to finish my degree and cover my bills, and I was struggling. What did I do? I spent the last £150 left available in my overdraft on a Clarity Session with Corrina. That was a sound investment. She asked me all sorts of enlightening questions and then walked me through a resonant pricing exercise, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that £2000 was my resonant price. I was also petrified, petrified of what others would think. Oh dear, my critic was looming large. You see, being a doula is a very giving role and usually one that’s about our love of all things birth, not money. We seem to have developed the bad habit of putting our clients’ needs before our own. Not surprisingly, many doulas suffer from burnout, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

What changed?

In the end it was my clients who told me to charge more. Hiring a doula is a bit tricky because, as a prospective client, I don’t think you know exactly how much you’re getting till you’re out the other side. For years couples had been telling me, “we can’t believe what you’ve done for us, you really don’t charge enough for what you do”. It took one of them tipping me £500 for me to finally take notice, in fact I almost fell over (thank you clients, thank you universe).

Reaching acceptance.

The great thing about resonant pricing is that you simply *know* what the “right” price is for you, which also means trusting that it’s the right price for your clients, so that’s what I do.

I love birth work, but before I raised my fee, I was starting to resent it because I was giving so much but not receiving enough to allow me to do it wholeheartedly. Now, I’m not raking it in by any means, but I don’t have to worry about paying my bills, which means I can be wholly present and committed to supporting my clients. It means I can go to a yoga class every week, which helps me to work through my own shit so that I don’t carry it over into my working life. It means I can eat nutritious food and keep my stress levels low, so that I’m healthy and calm enough to do my job well. It also means that after a birth, I can treat my sleep-deprived body to a soothing massage.

So. Much. Better.

Doulas, midwives, and obstetricians. A recipe for disaster?

One of the big questions that I’m asked when I first meet with prospective clients is, “so what do the midwives and doctors think about doulas? Are there ever any conflicts?”

In my experience, it is VERY rare for there to be any issues with other healthcare professionals. On the whole, I find that my presence is welcomed and appreciated. Whilst my primary role is most definitely to support the mother, followed by the dad or other birth partner, having a doula-supported birth should make it a better experience for everyone involved.

When I transfer into hospital with clients, I cling to them like glue and do all I can to get us past triage and into a room as swiftly as possible. After that, unless something intense is going on and my client ‘needs’ me to be close, I take a step back. This allows the midwife to form a relationship with the mum, and I can’t stress enough how important this is; it is not a doula’s job to hog her client!

So what else do I do? (more…)

Parenting books

Parents frequently ask me about routines and crying, and whilst I can pass on some information and handy hints, I really think that the best thing they can do is to stay away from all the books! I know that we all want an instruction manual for our newborn baby, but did you get one for your partner? Think back to your first date…  (more…)

Holding on and letting go

Ok, ok, so I’ve been slacker recently and haven’t been posting as regularly as I’d like to. No, I haven’t been vegetating on my sofa, I’ve spent the last month trying to finish the last of my course work, and have been kept busy with births too. Bit by bit, stress has found its way into my body (my calves of all places), and by the tail end of last week I was struggling to walk up and down stairs without yelping. With another birth approaching, I knew I had to take some action, because a) I don’t like being in pain, and b) what good is a stressed out doula who can’t do gymnastics with you in labour?

Thankfully, I met the lovely Graham Stones at a recent workshop, and I had a sense that he would be the right person to sort out my aching body. Boy was I right. As a massage therapist, I find it hard to shut off and enjoy a massage, but within moments, I knew that I was in experienced hands, and that I could trust him. What followed was a very caring, dynamic, and powerful treatment. As I started to let go of the accumulated tension, I found myself drawing parallels between my treatment and my experiences as a doula: (more…)