The other day one of my favorite writers, Avital Nethman of The Mamafesto retweeted the following that I tweeted out:Are you pregnant? Do you need a doula? Want one for FREE!? Help me finish my certification! DM me at twitter.com/kavanahdoula
Another doula and I had an enlightening conversation about the important work that doulas do and how we should value our work by putting a price tag on it. I agreed with what she was saying, heard her voice and her decade's long experience and stubbornly held my ground.
Working as a free doula while I finish my certification, I argued, was a mitzvah, a commandment. It feels like doing the very core of the Jewish concept of tzedakah, righteous giving. She reminded me that the work of women is not only sacred, but important and in the end we agreed that we saw eye-to-eye, but in our own ways.
Jodi the Doula and her very popular blog post "No Free Births" passionately discussed why she feels that doulas should always charge, or barter, their services and she's recently followed up that post with this one, A Doula for Everybody
A few months ago, I wrote a post called No Free Births! It was aimed at birthworkers who hope to build a successful private practice by giving their work away. It sat quietly in its own little corner of the blogosphere, minding its own business, until a few days ago. Then… KA-BLAM! Suddenly, it has had more attention than anything else I’ve ever written.
The responses have ranged from “Right on! Sing it!” to “This heartless woman shouldn’t be a doula!” The question that has come up most often has been, “But what about the mama who needs a doula and can’t afford one?” Women who become doulas choose this path because, at the heart of who we are, we are compassionate, kind, and often generous people who really just want to help others. That’s exactly as it should be… if we aren’t in this work as an act of service, there really isn’t much point.
First, a word of caution: beware the person who is looking for “something for nothing”. Marketing research has shown repeatedly that the people who ask for discounts are more often able to afford whatever it is they are looking for… they are simply financially savvy enough to seek out “the best deal possible”. Over the years, discernment has taught me the difference between someone desiring my service because we’re a good fit, and the person seeking me out because I’m the cheapest one they’ve spoken to. (The new cars and the boat in the driveway were a good tip-off…) There is a significant difference between wanting to help others who would not otherwise have support, and giving away one’s work until the magical “someday when I start charging what I’m worth.” So, what do we, as compassionate people who also value ourselves and our work, do to provide labor support for others when fee is a genuine issue?
It helps to break down the numbers, to recognize exactly what it is we are investing into a free birth. Most doulas incur expenses for every birth we attend. In addition to training and certification, we have expenses for transportation, childcare, meals, internet for email access, cell phones for being on-call, and hospital parking, just to name a few. On average, I have a minimum of $165 in costs per birth, and that’s before I pay taxes on any income I may have. “I’ll do it for free”, when looked at this way, actually becomes “I’ll pay you to let me attend your birth.” When we’re attending births in this way, it becomes an expensive hobby more than a profession. Most doulas simply do not have the means to work in this way long-term. So, what is a doula to do?
1) Volunteer for a Non-Profit organization. Many such organizations already exist – a simple web search for “non-profit labor support” and the name of your state may turn up several results. The non-profits that exist in the area in which I live also act as a referral service for their doulas who volunteer, so that those who can afford doula care are more easily able to find the doulas who serve in their area. Non-profits have standards to determine who qualifies for care, and are able to not only provide labor support, but parenting guidance and health education to mamas in need. Through doulas volunteering for small and specific amounts of time, far more women are able to receive help than would be served by one doula alone. The same 40 hours you would contribute to one mama might instead help many! Not a non-profit in your area? Maybe it’s time to consider starting one. Non-profits generate income through grants and donations from outside sources, so that those running the show are able to receive income for the work that they do. Businesses are far more eager to donate time, money, and services to non-profit organizations, because they also benefit from the tax deduction.
Read the rest of the blog post here.