When I first heard of birth doulas I immediately thought it sounded wonderful.  Women supporting and coaching  women through labor and delivery.  Sold!  However, I didn’t think it would be so hard to find one I liked.  My Doctor reminded me that I want a woman I feel comfortable with since she might be giving me a “sponge bath” at the hospital. Aha, someone who is going to massage me and see me naked narrows my search a little bit.

I asked around at my yoga studio, at my spin classes and on twitter for doula recommendations.  I shopped around online and found out there are a ton of doulas in Portland, OR!

My first interview was with a girl who was my same age (34) from Santa Cruz.  She seemed like a fun girl to go camping with or have a few beers with but couldn’t see her as my birthing coach.  She has been a doula for seven years, but was  a single girl with no kids.  She looked a little disheveled with her barely there chipped finger nail polish and thick hemp necklace.  I suppose it was good to see what I don’t want in order to figure out what I do want.  After that interview, I realized I’m looking for a woman older than me, who looks clean and has a nurturing, experienced vibe.  After that first interview, I’ve been proactive to chat on the phone before setting up another hour long face to face interview.

My next interview was over the phone with a woman who is slightly older than me and a mother of two young children.  I really liked her and right before we started talking about meeting for a face to face interview she dropped the bomb.  She said, I don’t know if you’ll care but I’m planning a family trip to the East Coast over your expected due date and another weekend in May. What?  I was thinking, why would I hire a doula who probably wouldn’t be in town when I went into labor?  She went on to say most moms don’t deliver on their due date and that she has a back up.  Is that like when I was in 8th grade and was on the A-Team for volleyball?  I hope not because the B-Team for volleyball was terrible.  Who knows, but I politely told her I’d rather she was in town for most of May and definitely around my D-Day.

My third phone interview was less than 15 minutes.  She sounded nice but very young.  Turns out she’s almost 25 years old with almost 2 years of doula experience.  So, that was that interview.

I don’t know everything but am learning as I go.  Here’s the nitty-gritty of what I know so far:

There are two main types of Doulas: Birth Doulas and Postpartom Doulas.

A doula DOESN”T replace your partner or husband in any way shape or form.  They DO support and encourage you and your partner in your birthing experience.

They DO facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner and clinical care providers if necessary.

Birth doulas are essentially labor coaches that support, encourage and give comfort or counter pressure massage during labor.

Their fees range from $700-$1000 in Portland, OR.  I know it isn’t cheap to have a labor coach!  However, giving birth seems like a once in a lifetime (or twice or three times) event.  I justified the price by thinking about how much people spend on eating out or getting their hair done at the salon.  Anyway, I am happy to eat mac’ n ‘cheese at home and am lucky enough to have an amazing sister who’s a hairstylist in Portland.

Doulas are on call and available two weeks before your delivery date and until you deliver the baby.  They all have a back up person in case they aren’t able to attend your birth.  They provide 1-2 pre-labor visits to get to know you and help create a birth plan.

They will support you in the early stages of labor by coming to your house before you go to the hospital.  Once you are admitted to the hospital they will be there with you until you deliver your baby and for about 2 hours after delivery.  Birth doulas will come to your house once after you leave the hospital to check in and help with your new family.  They will offer support with breastfeeding, napping, do light housekeeping and run errands during their postpartom visit.

The biggest selling point for me was the comfort massage during labor and the fact that they will come to my house during early labor.  I have heard from a lot of first time mamas that the early labor stage can be quite challenging. Some of my recent girlfriends experienced 48 hours of contractions or “rushes” as the doulas like to call them before they were admitted to the hospital.  I guess it’s quite common to feel these rushes, head to the hospital and get sent home.  My goal with hiring a doula is to create the best possible environment for a healthy mama and a healthy baby.  I do know that “flexibility” is the key word as we continue this baby adventure.  That being said, I believe having a birth doula will be a blessing.

So, my doula search continues.

Update: We found a wonderful doula in Portland who is with Renaissance Childbirth Professionals http://www.renchildbirth.com/team_melissa.html.  She is a mother with 10 years doula experience.  I am so happy to have another support person during this exciting time.