What is a doula worth?

I’ve started to get a series of enquiries that has me wondering what people think a doula is worth. Many are shocked when I quote my fee. This is to be expected as I am rather expensive, however, when I ask what they were hoping to pay, I’m shocked. I’m genuinely shocked. They would pay twice to three times the amount for a baby buggy, in addition to many other must have baby gadgets. It is completely their right to buy these things, as it is their money and should be spent as they see fit.

So let’s break down what a doula does.

Once you have booked your doula, she will be available on the telephone and via email for as long as you need her. There will be many times when you have a doctor or midwife appointment and you will come out with questions. Who do you call? Your doula. How long might that call last? Twenty to forty minutes. You might be unsure about your choice of hospital. This will require multiple texts, emails and calls to your doula.

You will have a minimum of two antenatal sessions with your doula. These will last about two hours each. Your postnatal visit will last a minimum of an hour. Let’s say ninety minutes. You may require another antenatal session as there is a complication, or your health care professionals want you to have an induction.

Your doula will do some research for you. These will help you make informed choices. How do you want to birth your baby? Where do you want to birth your baby? Who do you want around you, and with you when you birth? Your doula will research and point you towards studies that talk about any particular medical considerations that you have.

When you go into labour, your doula will come to you and keep you home for as long as possible, unless you are already in hospital. She will stay with you throughout your labour and she will support you and your partner. If you don’t have a partner, she will be your partner. She will ensure that you are fed and watered. She will step forward as you need her, she will step back when you don’t. She will hold your hand. Massage your back, the base of your spine, your sacrum. She will remind you of your options and your choices. She will prop you up emotionally, she will hold you physically. She will hug and kiss you and bring you back from the brink of despair. She will cheerlead and tell you that you are amazing, when you think that you are not. She will not empower you. She will recognise that you are powerful. And when she leaves, you will know that YOU did it. If your labour is eighteen hours, she will stay. If your labour is fifty hours, she will stay. She is not on the clock. Her clock has stopped for you.

Before you labour, she will put her life on hold. For a minimum of four weeks, her calendar and diary belong to you. She will not go on holiday. She will not go more than ninety minutes from your home, no matter the temptation. She will be ready to leave parties at the drop of a hat. She will miss school assemblies, her children’s birthdays, her best friend’s dinner, weddings, christenings etc., if you go into labour. Spontaneous weekends away with family, lovers etc., will not happen whilst she is on call.

Post birth, she will come to marvel at you, your baby or babies. She will listen again and again to your birth story. She will remind you of the goddess that you were in birth. She will hold you as you cry because the birth wasn’t what you wanted and hoped for, or because it was. She will hold your space in your most vulnerable and intimate moments. She will be wholly yours for as long as you need her and she will step back and close the door when you are ready for her to leave.

So I suppose what I question, in the expectation you have of low fees, is what is a doula worth to you. A buggy? A state of the art travel system? A supply of shoes? A designer dress or coat? There’s a credit card advert that jumps into my mind. Baby equipment equals X, but a doula? Priceless.

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