It usually starts something like this:
“I am looking to partner with another doula,” or “I need to find a backup”, and then there is “I would like to build a group of doulas that can work together”.

You would think that any of these comments would result in doulas coming forward and saying, “pick me!”

I have been a doula for over 25 years now. In that time I have moved all over the USA. Each time I moved I got to restart my business all over again. Back when I first started working as a “Birth Coach” (Doula) there was not a very large doula community to network or work with. In fact, in some communities, there still are not a lot of doulas.

One would think that having 25 years of birth experience would give me my choice of backups and partners. The reality is something completely different, and I am not the only “Seasoned Doula” to find it a struggle to find a backup or partner.

You might think it is the “Seasoned Doula” that is being meticulous about who to work with. Well, ok maybe I am a “little picky”, but what I am looking for might be something different than you would think. I have talked with a couple of other “Seasoned Doulas” and we all agree that it seems the newer doulas are intimidated or scared to work with us because they may not know as much as us, or they may look silly.

It is almost as if they put us at this level of “DOULA” that is untouchable. Would it surprise you to know that I also had “Seasoned Doulas” that I look up to, and would think “there is no way they would work with me, I have only been a doula XYZ years.”

When I lived in San Jose, CA I was part of an amazing birth community. It was during one of the birth circles that we were in a deep conversation over a birth topic. This one gal seemed to know everything and was very friendly and willing to share her knowledge. Because I was new to the area, I had asked if anyone was willing to back me up. Everyone there said they would be willing to help me if needed, to include this very knowledgeable person. I got names and number, and found out that the knowledgeable person was non-other than Henci Goer, the author of “A Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth”. Later I had the privilege of working with Henci on a few projects in the local birthing community.

So, why would a well-known birth author be willing to work with me – a doula of only 10 years? Maybe for the same reason, Penny Simkin puts out a call in the local birthing community for people that are willing to help her during her childbirth education classes, and ends up using newer doulas, or doulas new to the community. Within our own organization of Madriella there are seasoned doulas that are more than willing to take a less experienced doula under our wings to work with. But why would an experienced doula want to work with a new doula?

I think the first reason would be that we love to share our knowledge. We remember the woman that shared their knowledge with us, and are thankful for their willingness to be mentors, inspiration, and guides on the path to becoming amazing doulas. I think another reason we do it, is because we see something in someone and know that it can become mighty and great, and we want to help their fire and passion to grow.

So, you may ask “what might a “Seasoned Doula” be looking for when choosing backup or partner?” I cannot speak for all the doulas out there, but I can give a little insight a conversation I had with another “Seasoned Doula”.

Our conversation had started with the other doula (I’ll call her Jane) telling me about asking “Newer Doula” to be her back up. The concern was raised that the “Newer Doula” did not feel she had been a doula long enough to be a backup for the “Seasoned Doula”. Jane let me know that she loved the passion that this doula had and that is one of the reasons she asked her be be a backup. “If I did not have enough faith in her I never would have asked.” I then shared my own struggle in finding a backup or partner. I have been told things like “why would you want me, I have only attended 3 births?”

If we held out for another “Seasoned Doula” to come our way to partner with then some of us would have a long wait. The truth being it is, I love helping newer doulas. I love watching the “NEW” passion in their hearts as they learn and grow as a doula, and this can be infectious helping me to keep my passion.

Some of the things Jane and I came up with when we are looking for a backup or partner.

  • We look at their commitment
  • We look to see if they have a passion for birth and families
  • We look to see if they have willingness and desire to be an amazing doula
  • We look to see if they have a “Doulas Heart”, one of compassion, service, and understanding.

Over the years I have found that it is easy to teach the knowledge side of being a doula.

We can have them read books and complete the certification process to become a doula. The thing you cannot teach is true heart of service, compassion, love, understand, and all those traits that make a doula’s heart.

The other thing that might scare a “New Doula” away might be the idea that when we say we are looking for a back up or partner that we are asking them to leave their business and become “one with us” in all things birth. Don’t worry we are not the borg, we will not assimilate you.

When we say backup or partner it is a given that you would be on call to back us up if we are unable to be there for the client. But there are other things that we look for was well, You could call it a “work spouse”. We might be looking for…

  • Someone we can bounce ideas off of
  • Someone to share our wins with
  • Someone we can call when we have had a hard day
  • Someone that will pitch in and help with things when there is a need
  • Someone to split cost with for larger advertising campaigns
  • Someone that we can dream with that will help us reach for the stars, while helping to keep us grounded.

You can both have your own business and clients, and still be a work spouse.

So the next time a more experienced doula says they are looking for a backup or partner it is ok to say “Pick Me” with a confidence in knowing that you have what she wants.

By Beverly Young Reed