Why Be a Part of a Doula Group?
When I first started out as a doula, you went to your training and got home and started chasing bellies. There was little in my training about how to find clients really. There was no role playing of an interview. You were all of a sudden at a birth trying to rely on what you learned in those two and a half days or so. I had done all my reading and felt prepared. But we all know you are really green when you start out.
There was a group of doulas online- and keep in mind this was pre chats and facebook days. We would share and those who had been doing this longer would mentor us with advice. There were no hands on training. How I wished there were mentoring doulas. Well there more experienced doulas but they had had a corner on the market and were not so eager to share with a newbie who they did not really know.
So soon I found another doula who was a bit more experienced and we met to decide if we could be a good match for backing each other up if one of us was unable to attend a birth. This was fabulous. She was a Godsend to me! And soon we decided to start hosting a group called the Birth Junkies. Keep in mind this was pre birth network days as well. And a few birth workers came and it was fun. But there was an underlying competitiveness going on. This happens with many birth networks groups as well. Women can be a bit caddy and competitive. So soon this was not a meeting I wanted to host. But it brought another doula into the group of the two of us who wanted to get started as a doula. She had completed her training already.
And soon someone I had doula’d for had her toddler where she felt she could enter doula work. And then someone introduced me to a woman who was meant to be a doula for sure… and so forth. Pretty soon I found myself mentoring and referring out clients to these women. They did not want to do any of the business part of the work and instead wanted to work along side of me with me handling that stuff. And soon A Labor of Love Doula and Childbirth Services, Inc began.
I love working as a group. I do not always love running the company. I feel between the regular doula work I do, the classes I teach and my regular life as a wife is crammed with keeping the blog updated with new articles, updating the website, designing new marketing ideas, going to Meet and Greets of the favorite midwives we work with to promote our company, preparing for our monthly meeting, supporting and mentoring new doulas in our group, rewriting protocols for training where we can improve and marketing our page on facebook, I put in more than a 40 hour week. So what is to love?
I love the women who work alongside of me. I love it when they learn new things and share their enthusiasm. I love it when a new doula goes on an interview and gets the client! I love it when we sit together and learn new ideas someone gleaned from attending a birth or a workshop. I love their faces when they begin to share about a birth they attended. I love to see them grow. I love feeling like I am making a difference.
But last year when two of my doulas- the most experienced ones- who had recently stepped away from doing regular doula work due to major health issues, decided to branch off and begin a birth education business. At first it was just to begin enhancing the type of classes they taught- a method I had decided to leave behind for a new one that really spoke to me. But soon they decided to add all of the services my company offered. So in other words I had grown my competition. It was hard. I reminded myself that you get the clients you are supposed to get but it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. And it cost me some business as their repeat clients went to them instead of my company. They were themselves limiting themselves to only a few clients. And this caused some of our repeat business clients are going to the doulas who work for them. But that is part of business. You grow a business and you mentor those who grow in a different way and need more room. Good for them.I am happy for them and the business they are growing. It took me a while but soon I was happy for them and needed to realize I jneeded to focus on how happy I am with the fabulous doulas I have and trust the process.
Sometimes, just like with families, the dynamics get a bit tough at times. This happens with groups too I have had one fabulous doula need to move out of our company due to her feeling like she saw some business aspects differently. The truth is she was taking repeat clients she had had with our company initially and offering her services for free since they could not justify paying again this time. It was just not good business to do that over and over. A few times maybe, but repetitively it was hurting our company. I love her dearly but you could tell she was feeling divided and needed to move on.
And the family will not always be smooth and will need changing up at times. I have had one doula that consistently would be caught in a lie. Once I can forgive and warn. Twice I begin to find you not trustworthy. A third time you are gone. You have to realize that these women represent your company. If they are lying to me, they are lying to clients too. I had another doula who no matter how something was said she took it personally. I felt like I was tiptoeing around her on a regular basis trying to not hurt her feelings. It was exasperating. I soon found most of the other women in the group had felt the same way. She found her way to leave the company when she began to work part time and it was taking more time. I had a doula who was just plain divisive. She had been added when we were in deep need of another doula and although it did not feel right in my heart, I invited her to join us. I realize now that she actually attended less than half of the births she was hired to attend. Others were backing her up and she was still receiving enough of the fee to keep these antics up. It was not how we worked. She also, although a novice doula felt the need to question everything that we had in place as our model of care and business. I told her it was time for her to go elsewhere. And I have had two doulas who I loved dearly but had personal issues that were interfering with their work as doulas. The complaints were rolling in where moms did not feel taken care of and wanted to changed doulas midstream. And then the complaints after the births started to roll in. I suggested to them both that perhaps it was time for a change. One of those doulas returned a few years later for a short time, a different doula for sure. The other realized her personal situation had to make some dynamic changes and began working full time and went through some marital changes as well. I have had other doulas come and go- transfers, new babies, new careers, etc. So, change is inevitable. I wish I had acted quicker on some of them and I wish I had listened to my heart on all of them a bit more. Life changes and you need to roll with it.
I co teach the classes I offer now. I love team teaching. This has grown out of the same team approach that this group fosters. There is something really special about our sisterhood. We love each other. We trust each other. We count on each other. We have had some retreats together and even have a day trip planned to go to a speaking engagement together soon. It is fabulous laying on the floor of my classroom laughing together, crying together, learning and growing together. I am so proud of the women who are in my company.
There is something really special about taking clients and knowing that if one of us had been at a long birth and needed to call someone in so we could take a power nap and doula on- they would do that for us. There is something really special about knowing if one of us was sick or had a sick child, we have a group of doulas where surely someone was available to step in and be with our client or teach our class.
When someone is stuck in a situation at a birth and is at their wits end as to what to do next, they can text another or call me in the middle of the night for guidance. We are growing together to build a wonderful company of caring birth professionals.
My advice to you- start or join a group. But have someone who is the deciding vote- that is why owning my company is a good idea. There needs to be someone who is fully invested in the day to day of the group. So co-ops would not work for many for this reason. Choose your team carefully. Do not let the busyness get in the way of good business sense. Listen to your heart and gut. Find some folks you can talk to- some in the birth business that are not feeling competitive with you- perhaps in another area of the country and find someone who is a good business person and bounce ideas off of them. Continue to improve yourself = this improves the group and those in it. Take time to chill with those you work with- grow emotionally connected- it is obvious when you are out of sync- so stay in sync. And be happy. If you are not happy, the group will suffer. I was so hurt last year that my business suffered as I struggled through feeling abandoned by others. Rely on yourself if you are the leader- make a plan- teach your plan to others and work your plan as long as it is working. When it is not working –change it! But keep working at your dream. Take time for yourself if you are the leader though. A dead or tired leader does not lead well. So practice self care and self love!
I love the very successful group I have grown over the last twenty years. It has been fabulous and sometimes hard as it has morphed along the way. You have to be a leader and sometimes that is difficult and you are misunderstood, but in the end it has been worth it to me! I am extremely proud of the group I lead and feel honored to be the leader of this group of birth professionals.