|Wombatclay: can you tell us (or me) any more about hiring the 'wrong' doula last time - in retrospect were there any warning signs you might have seen when interviewing her?
This might be long!
We went with our gut and it didn't turn out so well. I'm being a lot more conservative this time (once bitten, twice shy...that sort of thing). I'll tell you a little about where I think things went wrong and maybe you'll be able to pull something specific out of that?
We interviewed 5-6 doulas last time. My town has a TON of doulas, most are uncertified. Meaning they have attended a lot of births or been apprenticed to another doula but they haven't been to any specific classes or passed a certification exam. At the time we really didn't think it would matter that much as long as we checked references, etc.
We went with a really sweet uncertified doula who had been attending mamas for a little over three years. She'd been at a variety of births in a variety of locations. She offered basic massage, a wonderful natural birth and parenting philosophy, and her price was in our range. She provided two pre-birth and two post-birth visits along with attending the birth itself. The pre-birth meetings were wonderful, she was great, we really got along. Then during the birth she...well...she just wasn't there when I needed her. When I eventually had pain meds she refused to stay in the room while the spinal was being done (not even to hold my hand), and after she told me that "well, you have the pain meds...you don't need a doula" and left for a while. When she returned and they brought up a c/s she again left the room while DH and I tried to figure out what to do since she said she "couldn't be involved in that sort of thing". When we agreed to the c/s (I was sobbing) she told me that she had to leave since c/s was against her birth philosophy (we had discussed c/s in our pre-birth meeting and she had even filled out the form allowing her to be present in the OR with us if that was what happened).
She left. I got a message while still int he hospital saying that she wasn't going to be able to do the post-birth visit during the first week I was home. She came about 2 weeks later and only once (instead of twice)...during that visit she held Laia, agreed to write a "birth story" of her take on the birth for Laia's birth memory book, and told me "well, I assumed you were ok with a c/s since you went to the hospital after all". Overall she left me with a strong feeling of failure/shame which I'm sure contributed to my PPD.
So, what were the warning signs I "should" have seen? (and BTW, I am a DONA certified doula now as a result of this experience, so some good came from it!).
--first, find a certified doula. My doula was a wonderful woman and had attended over 30 births but part of the certification process is learning about all sorts of "unusual" things that can happen in a labor. My doula was not prepared for a long labor with a posterior babe. Although we tried a number of techniques to turn the baby she did not realize that my back labor indicated a posterior babe for the first 15 hours or so....when a nurse pointed it out to her. By which point dd was pretty well jammed in there. And there were other positions/techniques I've learned since then that we didn't try simply because she didn't know them. She would have been fine if my labor had been "normal", but you never know what will happen in labor and it pays to hav a doula who has at least read about some of the potential problems.
--although she was willing to come to my house while I was in early labor, she prefered to meet us at the hospital and offer support by phone during early labor. It seemed fair at the time since she would have had to drive past the hospital to reach us and then go back (and she had a small child at home) but...I'm not even considering doulas this time who sound less than excited about attending me at home!
--I was her first client after her own successful (and very easy...labored for about 5 hours total with what she called "blissful" contractions) homebirth. Although she had attended hospital births I believe now her own birth experience influenced her more deeply than she knew and she was not prepared for a hospital birth...and expecially not a long birth ending in interventions. So double and triple check your potential doula's own birth history. Where has she delivered? How did it go? Does she honestly believe that if you "do it right" your labor will be easy and quick or does she have experience with labors that went on for days, or which involved interventions, or which ended in an assisted or surgical birth? Do you have even the slightest feeling that she has a "birth agenda" and that she might (perhaps unintentionally) make you feel badly about choices you make during your own birth? If something does change in your birth experience you'll be beating yourself up enough on your own...you don't need anyone adding to that set of feelings! Ask up front about births they attended that didn't go as planned. Ask if you can talk to one of those mothers to find out how the mama felt about the doula's assistance and support in those cases.
--Does your doula have a back up? Mine didn't but said she'd be happy to arrange one if it made me more comfortable. I asked her to arrange one (and I believe she did) but I was never introduced and she did make it seem as if she was doing me a favor...not in a bad way, but she sort of, I don't know, "said" things in a tone of voice that suggested she thought I was being a worry-wort over nothing. All of the doulas I've interviewed this time have backups and are happy (and planning) to introduce me if I choose them.
I'm sure there were other things we should have noticed...but she seemed really nice, competent, natural birth supportive, positive about birth, etc. All those things. It's just when things didn't go the way everyone planned it all fell apart.
Good luck with finding the perfect doula...a doula can make such a huge difference and be such a wonderful "tool" for the birthing family! I know I'll be depending on my doula a lot this time round when I reach the spot where I had the c/s last time...and that's something I've been asking about (how have you helped vbac mothers past the emotional/psychological blocks?). SO if you have any specific concern about anything, ASK!
Sorry for such a long post...hope something in it helps!