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Doula Debacle - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
Doula Debacle
I've known that I want to have a doula present for childbirth since slightly before I started trying to conceive, so for a long time. For those who don't know, a doula is a professional childbirth support person. She doesn't deliver the kid, but she is someone who you can hire to be with you throughout labor keeping an eye on things. The nurses and doctors at the hospital obviously work in shifts and will no doubt have other patients to worry about. It didn't take much selling to convince me of the value of having a single person who had seen a birth before, could be with me the entire time, and was unlikely to confuse me with the woman down the hall who was screaming for drugs. I want to have a doula present because unlike the conception I want to birth to be as natural as possible, and having a doula increases the odds of that happening.

I had a recommendation from a friend, so I figured that would be the person I hired. The friend recommendation method is usually a great way to go. The doula my friend recommended had a website, and I browsed it and while (as my friend stated) the doula in question seemed to be a little bit on the crunchy granola side she also seemed like she would be great. (I'm basically assuming that anyone who makes their living as a doula is more crunchy granola than I am, and I'm fine with that.) The website had a little contact form to fill out, so I did that, and started to wait for a response, which the website said I should allow two days for.

Little did I know when I filled in the web form that hiring a doula would not be as easy and straightforward as that. I waited. Two days passed and no response. Well, I'd filled out the form on a Thursday or some such like that (I can't remember exactly now), so maybe she meant two business days. Time passed. Huh. I tried calling the phone number on the website and got a garbled sounding answering machine message. Unsure that the number was correct I declined to leave a message. Hmm. A week passed since my initial web form submission and I was debating whether I should try the web page again or give up and find someone else when I finally heard back from the doula. She was so sorry she hadn't gotten back to me sooner, but she'd been on vacation. I was relieved not to have to try and find someone else and I don't check my email on vacation either. There were further exchanges of email and phone calls with took a few days, though thankfully with no more large worrying gaps. Still, time was ticking by. Then we set up a meeting. I didn't want either to have to take time off from work, so the meeting ended up being scheduled for more than a week away from the time we had the call to schedule it. I figured that was fine. She'd show up, we'd probably like her a lot because she came highly recommended by our friend, we'd hire her, it would be all good. The day of the meeting came, and as I wrote previously someone else called to cancel 20 minutes before she was due to arrive. The short notice of the cancellation was annoying seeing as how I'd already dragged my night-owl husband out of bed, but being busy attending a birth is a great excuse for a doula to have to miss a meeting. The woman who called me to say the doula couldn't make it did say that she would call me back to reschedule. When she didn't call back for a couple of days I was unconcerned. First time births can last more than a day, I figured she was entitled to finish the birth and have a good hard crash. I started to worry at three or four days. Well, she does offer postpartum support, perhaps she was dealing with that. At a week from the meeting I called and left a message. That was Sunday. No response. I called Monday and did not leave a message, though I was assuming that her cell phone probably tells her about missed calls (complete with numbers) the way mine does. Still nothing. Finally I decided yesterday that I would call her back again and if I didn't get a response right away I would just find someone else. At this point I was becoming truly annoyed (not to mention extremely stressed-out) over the whole situation, and it was occurring to me that perhaps I did not want my labor support professional to be someone who had previously generated so much stress in my life. About two minutes after I left me message the doula called back. She was so sorry she hadn't gotten back to me, but she'd had four births this week and a family situation, etc. etc. She was so sorry, she usually isn't this bad, but she's been thinking about it, and she just can't be my doula because she has too much else going on and her home births have to take priority. She gave me the names of some other people to try.

After hanging up from that call I realized that I was truly pissed off. Part of it was the fact that it took her so long to tell me this, wasting a good month of my limited gestational time while I chased this woman down. Part of it was that she hadn't given me the satisfaction of rejecting her myself. Whatever. I called a couple of the numbers she gave me, but didn't leave messages, especially when the last person on her list that I tried had an answering machine message that was obviously recorded by her rather young daughter. (I have nothing against having you kids record your personal home answering machine message, but I consider it bad form if you're also taking business calls at that number.) At that point I realized that I was so annoyed at the doula that I didn't even want to use anyone she recommended. So there I was back at square one, trying to find a doula, this time with no personal recommendation.

I'm hoping this whole tale does have a happy ending. I did find a doula who lives nearby, sounds experienced, and actually answered her phone when it rang. We have a meeting scheduled with her for Memorial day. She also recommended a chiropractor who knows a special technique for helping to turn breech babies. I have high hopes.
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Comments
enugent From: enugent Date: May 21st, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope this wasn't my doula (but it might have been - I know she's also a midwife now). She was a lot more responsive four years ago, but I know she wasn't super-busy then. I actually found her in a big hurry at the end because my first doula got pregnant and decided it was too hard to work while she was pregnant, so she dropped all her clients.

One approach that I used for getting recommendations this time, that might also work for you, was to post on the local ICAN mailing list. They'd probably be even more delighted to recommend doulas for helping prevent a primary C-section than they were for recommending ones experienced with VBAC. I posted saying what I wanted (not too crunchy granola, comfortable with an evidence-based medicine approach, etc.), and I got a dozen nice, detailed recommendations with explanations of why this person would be a good fit. I now have a doula that I really like (and she is coming to my C-section - sigh). It looks like your local list is here. It looks like a quieter group than the Seattle one, but you may still get a great recommendation.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: May 21st, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm afraid it was her. I think the new one we are meeting will be good, I got a really good feeling about her while I was on the phone with her, but if not I'll check out that list.
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