When I brought my first baby home, I remember having a sense of feeling overwhelmed, with the big question looming in my head, “Now what?”. What in the world was I supposed to do now that I had become a mother. That same sense of excitement, joy, and awe, coupled with a big question of “now what”, is often felt by new doulas as they step away from their training and into the new doula world around them. In the hopes of helping you work through those new doula jitters, I’ve done some research into what tips experienced doulas would give to doulas just starting out.
One of the first things that experienced doulas wished they had done more of, was taken care of themselves. Doula work can be emotionally and physically exhausting, and at the end of the day, your own health needs to be protected and preserved in order to continue to help others. Take care of your basic needs first. This includes things such as sleep, exercise, and nutrition. During a long labor, find time to take naps or swap off with other support members at the birth. When not on call, allow your brain to rest by turning off your phone for awhile. Create your own support network that will help you digest and make it through some of those long emotional births. New Beginnings students have access to a wonderful and supportive environment on our student facebook page, but there are also other groups out there that can provide this for any doula. Work on setting clear goals, boundaries and intentions with clients. And above all else be gentle with yourself.
Most of the time, experienced doulas mentioned communication as the number one thing they wished they had improved on. Usually they wished they had kept in closer contact right before the baby was born and during early labor. Some ideas that were mentioned were having clients text after doctors appointments and touching base with clients whenever they were on call, but still wanting to do something for themselves. Also, learning how to help a client help herself was important. For the clients themselves, encouraging rest in early labor was something most doulas mentioned doing as they gained more experience.
Being prepared for a birth had to do mostly with making sure they had their own needs taken care of as well. Doulas suggested making sure they brought food and drink, toiletries, fresh clothes, a jacket, and a good pair of shoes. Remember, your not just preparing for a long birth for your clients, you are also preparing to be able to support them for a long time. That includes making sure you have what you need.
Last but not least, experienced doulas provided some good feedback on what they had done at the beginning, as a part of their business practices. Much of the advice centered around building bridges with other members of the birth team. This can come in forms of leaving business cards with other birth professionals, or making something even bigger with gift bags or brochures. To help keep you organized, create a folder of documents for your client to look at and have a solid contract and intake form as a part of that.
Hopefully now, as a new doula, you can take some deep breathes with these tips from doulas who have walked this road before you.