When I was a newbie and long before I had some awesome doulas waiting in the background just in case, I found myself in a sticky situation way too often.
One time, I was at a birth and it was about 3 am. My phone started buzzing in my pocket; it was another client needing labor support. I ducked out of the hospital room I was currently in to call them back and before I could, another client’s partner called to say they needed me. These three mamas’ due dates were all 4 and 6 weeks apart - there was no way I could have planned around this. I called all the doulas I knew and could only find one to cover me and she couldn’t make it for a few hours. I was stuck and had to tell one of the couples that I wouldn’t be able to find someone until later in the day. I had to refund them most of their money because their baby was born before I could send someone in.
Finding great back up can be particularly hard as a new doula when you aren’t making a lot of money yet. I was charging $300 per birth at this point and trying to get a backup out of bed in the middle of the night for so little was hard. Once I was more experienced and could pay well, it got way easier.
Another challenging part is finding the right back up. My ideal clients were typically drawn to me because I was a yoga teacher and HypnoBirthing Instructor. One time I sent a backup (who I adored and was incredible in her own special way but her style was not mindfulness based) and my clients were not happy. I decided to not use her again as back up. Here are my top three pieces of advice when creating a reliable backup scenario.
Make sure you have a list of doulas who have similar personality traits, experience and training as you do.
Make sure you have as many doulas as possible on your list. My list is fifteen doulas long (I live in a big city) and let me tell you, I’ve gotten to Doula Eleven before.
Give your clients three of your top backups’ phone numbers. I always offer for clients to meet my backup doulas if they wish - I offer one they can meet for free (I pay $50 to the doula for their time) and if they want to meet all three they have to compensate them $50. If I am in an intense situation at a birth (pushing, etc) I may not respond to my phone. Also, what if my phone runs out of batteries or I don’t get cell reception? They have a backup they can always call and I don’t have to worry they will be unsupported or that I’ll have to refund them money if I miss their calls/texts.
Once I had a great backup system in place, I was much more relaxed about not being glued to my phone all the time or not being able to support everyone in labor. It was a huge relief!