So, you’re looking to hire a doula to support you in a reproductive care transition – hooray! We are so proud of you. These are huge steps! In supporting your quest in hiring a doula, we’ve come up with 10 questions you can ask birthworkers when you meet them to gauge whether they are the right fit for you.
Why do we interview doulas?
Your care is important and it’s just as important that you know the folks you are entrusting your care with. In meeting and interviewing with potential doulas, careworkers, or care providers, you’re ensuring that who they are, what their values are, and what your comfort level is like around them matches what you envisioned your care to look and feel like.
Why is asking “person-centred” questions important?
It’s important to name that we phrased these as “person-centred” questions because many of them don’t subscribe to the likes of other questions you might find on Google when you search “What to ask doulas in an interview”. Questions like…
- How many people or families have you supported?
- Are you certified?
- Did you train with a certified organisation?
- Do you have kids yourself? (When looking for a fertility, birth, or postpartum doula)
…won’t be part of this list. Though valid questions and no one is stopping you from asking them, we find that these questions can put birthworkers in a tough position especially when their experiences of being careworkers are mostly rooted in lived experiences.
Lastly, asking someone if they have kids themselves might imply that only doulas who have kids are “better” careworkers or birthworkers when it comes to supporting families – which is not true at all! In many cases, you might be working with doulas who are choosing not to have families, cannot have families, or simply that they don’t want to disclose their familial situations.
Instead of asking folks to prove themselves through numbers, certifications, and credentials, we should instead prioritise person-centred questions to ask prospective doulas when looking to hire one.
You might be thinking: “what do you mean by person-centred?” Great question! What we mean by this is asking the questions that will truly get you to know the person in front of you. Rather than asking for their achievements or credentials, ask folks the questions that gage who they are as a person and how best they can support you. Curious? Keep reading below for our person-centred list of questions to ask birthworkers when you meet with them.
The 10 questions to ask potential birthworkers when meeting with them:
1. What is your experience in carework?
Notice that this question doesn’t ask for the quantity of care and instead opens up the dialogue to include experience as ones that may have been unpaid labour. For example, experience caring for their own children, caring for their elders, being careworkers for their neighbours, etc. can all be applicable answers to this question.
2. How can you best support me?
This question makes sure the conversation centres around the care you will be receiving and how best the potential birthworker can facilitate that. It also gives you a glimpse of the way they approach caring for someone.
3. What is it about carework that draws you into this work?
How a person answers this question can be very telling about what part of this work drives them! Plus, it shows that you are also curious about them. This is also a great question to facilitate storytelling which is a beautiful tool when getting to know a person.
4. Can you tell me more about the values you practice within your work?
An important question to pose to ensure that you and the potential birthworker share the same or similar values. For example, if they share that they believe birth is only reserved for cis women, but you are a genderqueer gestating parent – your values may not align and these conversations are best had before hiring your careworker.
5. If you are BIPGM (Black, Indigenous, Person of the Global Majority) you can ask “In what ways can you support me specifically as a racialized person?”
For many BIPGM folks, having a careworker who understands their positionalities and intersections is huge. Knowing that BIPGM folks often face discrimination in finding and being provided healthcare, it’s important that the birthworker you hire on has the tools to properly support their BIPGM client – and if they don’t, perhaps they are not the right person for to support you.
6. What positionalities and intersections are you bringing with you in your practice?
Defining your positionalities and intersections is the action of naming of your social, political, and lived values that make up your identity. For example, naming your positionalities means you name your age, gender identity, race, financial class, documentation status, ability, disability, sexual orientation, etc. We bring much of ourselves into carework – whether that’s our internal or external biases, our lived experiences, even our ego. Asking potential birthworkers to name their positionalities and intersections is just another way for you to really understand where they may be coming from and what might be informing them in how they care for you.
7. If you are a person who is looking for specific affirming care ie. Gender affirming care, accessible care, fat positive care, sex positive care, etc. you can ask “Do you have capacity to support me in _____ – care?”
This question ensures that you are provided the specific care you are seeking so you don’t need to do the guesswork later or worse, teach them how to care for you when you are the one who needs taking care of!
8. Where are you currently seeking teachings, workshops, or offerings when it comes to better supporting folks in carework? (Note: this is not the same as asking someone if they’re training with a certified organisation – this is simply asking where they may be learning their information)
Knowing where folks are learning from is key! You might find it in your best interest to look up the people, organisations, training, workshops, etc. that they mentioned to you so you can gauge for yourself whether you align with the teachings since this is the knowledge the potential careworker is drawing from when they are supporting you. Things to look out for would be, infant and toddler safety training, diversity and inclusion workshops, culturally safe birthing practices and more. At Brood we provide additional learning opportunities for our doulas through mentor meetings, community events and team building in the aforementioned areas.
9. Follow up with: Do you feel like you’re learning from an intersection of people with different experiences?
Birthwork is wholly expansive and is such a full spectrum topic. There are many folks of varying intersections that have rich knowledge to share when it comes to this work. Asking this question also invites the potential birthworker to seek within themselves if their knowledge is varied or tunnelled.
10. What are ways you can advocate for me as my doula?
Advocacy is a pillar in birthwork. Believe it or not, some doula organisations tell their aspiring birthworkers that they can’t advocate for their clients – which is a big red flag! In asking this question, you are already setting the standard that advocacy will need to be a part of your care plan.
I hope by exploring these questions, you will have a better understanding of what it means to ask person-centred questions rather than achievement-centred questions, when looking to hire a doula.
The question now is, when do you hire a doula?
The earlier the better! A birthworker’s schedule can fill up quite quickly as there needs to be much planning involved when taking on new clients! As well, the earlier you have a doula on board in your care team, may often mean you have longer access to the resources that your doula can share with you. For example, if you’re hiring a birth doula at 3 months of gestation, you have around 5 – 6 months of planning you can do alongside your doula which could include prenatals, requests for resources as you enter different trimesters, longer access to someone who can care for you emotionally and mentally during gestation, and more!
Having said this, don’t sweat it if you decide to hire a doula last minute! Many of us birthworkers are equipped for last minute care support and will try and meet you where you’re at when it comes to supporting you!
Bonus! A list of extra questions to ask when chatting with your potential birthworker:
- How would you describe how you support people as their doula?
- Do you offer any additional services with your packages or offerings?
- Are you open to connecting me with some references I could speak to?
- (In the case of hiring a birth or postpartum doula) Do you have a backup doula? Am I able to meet them ahead of time? How did you choose your backup doula?
- Do you offer sliding scale or payment plan options for payment methods?
Words By Anna Balagtas
Photos By Hana Pesut