Sunday, July 15, 2012

Becoming a birth doula, CD(DONA)

When I first knew I wanted to break into the birth world I had no idea of where to start. I researched every profession and pathway I could find and chose to become a birth doula first. I decided to go with DONA International because of their strong evidence-based position on the positive effects of continuous labor support, the well-known names that founded the organization, and the fact that it is an international organization and I may decide to live and practice outside the U.S. someday. 
I began with the required readings and finished these before purchasing my packet. In March 2010 I took the DONA International doula training, which entailed two full days of hands on birth learning with about 15 other very passionate women in the basement of a doula trainer's home. I felt exhilarated and empowered by my birth doula training and I was ready and determined to conquer the birth world. Within two months I found a Bradley Childbirth Education class that I was able to sit-in on for free and thus completed the CBE component of my training. 
At the time a family friend was a DONA certified birth doula and invited me to tag along on her next birth. I met the family for a brief visit before the birth and then when the time came to attend her labor I received a phone call from the main doula, in the middle of my work day, and feigned illness so I could leave early... I rushed to the hospital. The labor was completely medically managed and I was somewhat disappointed in how little my new skills and knowledge was needed, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised with how happy this mother was with her birth experience and I began to fully understand the role of a doula... to advocate for and support a mother in choosing the best birth for her.
As for my 3 births towards certification. I attended two hospital births with very few interventions, vaginal delivery, and mostly satisfied mothers. One mother had an episiotomy and was discouraged by this because she labored without ANY other intervention and felt this was done against her wishes and with little effort on the midwife's part to help her change positions to get the baby out... I learned from this too! Next time I will have the knowledge, experience, and confidence to speak up and protect the wises of laboring mothers. Finding these births was a little challenging and I definitely had to look around for women that wanted a student doula (I charged $200 a birth for travel expenses and potential lost wages from missing work). 
Finally, my final certification birth was, and still is, my favorite. It was a home birth VBAC; their first born had been delivered by emergency c-section, which the parents later felt was absolutely unnecessary and wouldn't happen again. They wised up for the birth of their second and attended childbirth education classes, rented a birthing pool and hired a midwife to attend their VBAC at home; then they asked me to be their doula. This was an incredible experience and one I will hold dear for the rest of my life, I love home birth and will always be an advocate for mother's who want to labor and deliver in the comfort and safety of their home. 
I tried to find a breastfeeding class to take because I wanted the interaction and visual learning experience, but after many months of searching and not being able to afford some of the more expensive classes, I decided to complete the online Breastfeeding Basics course. I ended up taking this course multiple times, which really didn't bother me, but I couldn't figure out how to register correctly and I was never sure my completion of the course was noted and sent to DONA. In the end I took this training 3 times, and was finally able to get a certificate of completion after the third try... this would have been frustrating if I wasn't so interested in also being a breastfeeding professional.
In the end, my whole certification process took almost two full years, but this was because of my lack of follow through to complete the final requirements. The bulk of the "work" I completed within 8 months, but I took a long break before finishing my resource list and writing my labor support essay. 
Once I completed my packet and it was submitted, it was 2 months before I heard from my reviewer. She was very friendly and had my references called and all my materials evaluated within two weeks... then I was officially a certified birth doula! About 3 months later I called DONA International and asked if my certificate, badge, and ID would be mailed soon and they got around to it immediately after that. Unfortunately my name was mis-spelled on all my materials and I was a little frustrated, but DONA has redeemed themselves by sending me corrected replacements in less than one week!
I am now a certified birth doula and I proudly carry CD(DONA) next to my name. I attend births in any setting and I understand that my role is to support women in having the birth that is right for them!
As a doula, I provide one or two prenatal visits (depending on the amount of time before their EDD), phone and email contact throughout the pregnancy, I am "on call" around their EDD and I provide continuous labor support once the family decides my presence is desired. I stay with the family for about 2 hours postpartum to help with breastfeeding, newborn procedures, and provide any other informational/emotional support needed. I also provide a postpartum visit about 2-5 days after the birth to check in on the health and well-being of the mother and baby, help with breastfeeding issues, and discuss the birth with the mother and her partner. I charge one fee to cover all these services.


  1. Came across your blog on the DONA FB page. I am currently working on my certification!

  2. Welcome to the doula world :) and good luck with your certification!