Doula? How far to space clients? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 07-29-2010, 12:17 AM - Thread Starter
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I am still a student and so I am working for free at this point and cannot provide a backup until I begin charging.
Anyway, without a backup, what do you think is a fair spacing between client due dates? I have 2 women right now and one is at risk of preterm labor, even though she has a due date spaced 3 weeks apart her doctor is thinking it will be within a week of my other client.
I have not taken this second client on yet but I need to get back with her soon.
What do you think? Since I am working for free would it be OK to let her know I have somebody close to her due date already booked and leave it up to her to use me or not?

Also, just in general if you don't have a back up how far do you space clients?
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#2 of 10 Old 07-29-2010, 12:15 PM
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this is a really hard one for everyone, I think. I have had clients due six weeks apart birth on the same day, and clients due the same day birth weeks apart. there really is no magic formula.

In 8 years of practicing, I have only missed one birth due to a conflicting labor. I have gone directly from one birth to another quite a number of times.

eta - make sure you cover your refund policy in your contract in case you do miss a birth, or are late to arrive.
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#3 of 10 Old 07-29-2010, 03:49 PM
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I don't space them out so much as I limit how many clients I take per month. I'll only take on 2-3 women who are due in the same month.

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
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#4 of 10 Old 07-29-2010, 05:30 PM
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Realistically, you need to set up an on-call time and let them know that except for extenuating circumstances, you will be on-call from X to X. I think 37w to 42w is reasonable. Any time outside of that time frame, you'll make every effort to attend their birth but can't guarantee it. Decide if you'll refund in those situations, and put it in your contract.

Then, print a 12 month calendar from, circle the due date, and highlight three weeks before and two weeks after. If you don't have a backup, don't take anyone else during the highlighted time. If you have a backup, you can take two or three in that time frame.

While you're doing births for "free" right now, you still need to organize yourself and decide how you'll handle these situations when you have someone who has paid. One thing I've learned is that you have clear expectations of yourself and your clients, you will get more business and be more respected by your clients. Even if you're doing a birth for free or low cost, you need to understand that this mother has an emotional investment in you as her doula, paid or not. Be gentle with her and respect that investment.

Charlotte, midwife to some awesome women, wife to Jason, and no longer a mama to all boys S reading.gif('01), A nut.gif ('03) S lol.gif ('08) and L love.gif ('10).
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#5 of 10 Old 07-30-2010, 03:41 AM
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Even doing free/reduced cost births, I think it is good to find a backup. If you can find a local doula network or friends you trained with, you can find a backup who also is perhaps free or reduced cost and the financial issue is solved that way.

I feel this way because I had the ' impossible' happen. I took on 2 moms in the same month. They were due within a couple days of each other. Both moms called me in for their labor within 5 minutes of each other. The likelihood was super duper low in my situation given that I only had 2 clients and many 24 hours in each day to possibly accomodate a labor. Still happened.

I think PP is right about being sensitive to clients emotions paid or not. To me, part of that sensitivity is recognizing that I have been hired because they are banking on someone being there for THEM and I feel obligated to offer a backup in the instance of multiple births or emergancies.
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#6 of 10 Old 07-30-2010, 10:03 AM
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I do not try to space my clients, other than to take no more than 4 women per month. The most "dangerous" spacing for me seems to be 3 weeks apart, much more so than those due the same day/week!

Even if you were only taking one client every 6-8 weeks, you really do need backup in the event that you are sick, out of town, etc. I would backup a new doula who was not charging, or help her connect with another new doula in the area... Perhaps you can find someone?

It's important for clients to understand what will happen if we are not available for their births. I always discuss this with folks before they sign my contract. If you don't have a backup, I really do think you should make this clear to your clients before they sign on -- "I don't have a backup, so although I am almost always available, if I am sick or at another birth you will not have a doula." To me, it is so hard to imagine someone who had counted on doula support and then didn't have it! So she needs some time to wrap her brain around that possibility.

On a sidenote, I would encourage you to think about charging SOMETHING for your certification births, even if it's just $50 or $100, or a barter. I have never done a totally free birth, and have often seen sister doulas struggle when they do so... It seems that many folks do not take your services so seriously or treat you with as much respect when they have ZERO financial investment. You will have expenses for every birth, it's a shame to LOSE money on this lovely but challenging work.
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#7 of 10 Old 07-30-2010, 10:20 PM
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Quite honestly regardless of how far you space them out they could overlap unless you aren't going to go to a mom who may birth early. I had clients spaced out once and one went two weeks late, another two weeks early, one right on time and another seven weeks early and I did four births in four days. I (for my own birth with my last baby) went six weeks early - my doula was fantastic and showed up anyhow to be with me and my husband.

Have you thought about seeing if there is another doula who is also certifying that you could hook up with?

Michelle married to my highschool sweetheart and mom to: DD '88, DS '90, DD '91, DD '94, DD '97, DD '98, DD '01, DD '08, and DS'09

(Non-profit Organization Director and Program Coordinator / Doula / Educator / Massage Therapist)

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#8 of 10 Old 07-31-2010, 11:20 PM
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I am in line with all the previous posters! Scheduling never works! I would rather have three due on the same day than space them two weeks apart.

But you need back up not just in case you are at another birth, you may be sick, you may have a family emergency, etc, etc, and if someone is expecting to have a doula, the absence of one can disrupt things quite a bit.

I urge you to seek out other newer doulas and offer to back each other up, for the rare event that you or she would need back up, but getting this in place is so much better and easier on everyone involved!

Good luck as your doula career gets off the ground! Have fun!


Birth doula, doula trainer, ican leader, lamaze childbirth educator, and most importantly, mom of 2 great girls!
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#9 of 10 Old 08-03-2010, 10:23 AM
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I'm still taking births for certification and hooked up with one of the girls at my training. we are back up for each other. we meet each others clients just in case. I only plan on taking 2 clients a month.

Maybe post in "finding your tribe"....maybe there's a doula who needs back up as well.

good luck.

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#10 of 10 Old 08-06-2010, 02:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for your input. It sounds like the key is to have backup people and not worry so much about the spacing of clients. I think I call around to some local doulas and see what I can come up with.
Thanks again for all the information! I wondered how we were supposed to juggle everything without just taking 1 client a month.
You ladies are awesome!
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