So you’ve decided to consider hiring a doula, but you’re not quite sure how to go about conducting an interview (also sometimes called a "Meet and Greet") to determine who’s right for you? You’ve worked through the basics of availability, cost and service area and there are still two dozen doulas listed on DoulaMatch to cull through. Choosing the right person to provide support at such a sensitive and important time in your life can feel overwhelming- trust your intuition. Here are a few doula interview questions to get you started informing that gut check:
1) What do you love about being a doula?
This is an easy opener—your prospective doula should light up at the opportunity to talk about what they love. This question will likely give you some insight into the energetic feel of this doula.
2) How will you help me at my birth or postpartum?
Leave it really open like this, without guiding the doula too much about what you are looking for. Hopefully they come back with something to the effect of “This is different with every family I work with, what support are you hoping to get from me?” At the very least, you’ll get an idea of what they tend to focus on. “Support” means different things to different people.
3) What areas of doulas support do you feel you really shine on? What areas do you feel you are still working to improve?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. An answer here could potentially pop up a red flag, such as “I struggle to find childcare when I’m on call for a birth.” Hmmm… that’s good to know. On the other hand an answer such as “I’m working on learning more about breastfeeding as I’ve seen many people struggle with this and I want to help them have an easier time of it.” This would indicate a doula with your best interest at heart, and a desire to improve.
4) How would you describe yourself as a doula? How would others describe your personality?
This question will give you an idea of how the doula views themself. It will also hopefully help you see if you’ve got more of a perky upbeat friend sort of energy with this doula, or perhaps more of a wise woman, calm and earthy sort of person, or something different all together. There are many different doulas out there—ask yourself what sort of person feels right. If you are planning to hire both a birth and postpartum doula you may find you want a different energy for those two situations.
5) What’s an example of a situation you really struggled with as a doula? How did you work through this?
As a doula, one is faced with challenges of many varieties- from medical staff that are not welcoming to supporting a client with crippling depression. How one works with those challenges can give some insight into how this prospective doula may meet whatever challenges your labor or postpartum may present.
6) How do you support my partner in labor/ postpartum?
While birth and postpartum are certainly very substantial for the person giving birth—it is also a life changing event for the other parent. That person should not only feel included at the level they desire, but supported through this important time as well- as an individual not just as support for the birthing person.
7) What’s included in your fee?
Be sure you understand when payments are required, how much and what you will get for that money. It’s likely the doula has a contract or agreement. Be sure to read over this document and ask any clarifying questions.
8) What restrictions do you have around your work?
A doula is not a medical care provider, and cannot diagnose- that means they should not be doing a cervix check, be telling you to not get induced, suggesting medications, etc. They can, however provide you with information for you to make your own decisions and open ended questions you can ask your care provider.
I’ve been hearing talk lately of some doulas having a time limit for labor support—either an additional fee beyond a certain number of hours, or some other qualifier. Be sure you know this is in place if that is a policy of the doula you choose to work with.
The doula may also have a policy around when to come in labor, how much phone or email support they provide; for postpartum work—what times of day and which days they are available to work.
9) What if you can’t come when I need you?
The doula should have a thought out plan around backup. You could also follow up with asking how often they’ve needed to call on a backup person, how well they know their backup and the qualifications of that person. Unless there is a fairly high likelihood you may need the backup person (due to out of town dates for example), or you feel anxious or particular about the back up- you probably don't need to meet the backup.
Throughout the interview you and your partner should be getting a feel for this person. Take some time to get to know each other. The doula should be interested in learning more about you as well- hopes, fears, etc. All generally within about an hour of meeting each other.
10) This final question is not one for the doula, but for yourself.
How do you feel about this person being a part of your birth or postpartum time? Do you feel a connection? Does your partner feel good about this doula? Do you feel you will be well supported and not judged? Are you looking forward to having this person be there for you when you need them?
I encourage everyone planning to hire a doula to interview several prospects. Doulas are nice people. We tend to be easy to be around generally—but that doesn’t mean the first doula you meet is necessarily the right one for you.