Everyday people are taught a lie. These people are expecting women, fathers to be, and the friends and family of those couples. Since nearly everyone knows someone who is pregnant-that is almost the entire population. Every single day people are taught that it’s ok to find a doula to come to your birth for free.
This is bad. It’s bad for the doula. It’s bad for the expecting woman. It’s bad for the other professional doctors, nurses, and midwives. It’s just all around bad for everyone.
It’s bad for the doula because she will get burnt out. Her family will suffer. Her work will suffer. Her family will suffer because they will miss her. She may be paying for childcare, and she’s certainly paying for parking and gas. She will not be able to give you 100% of herself, because she’s sacrificing her own time for no reward. Well maybe she is getting a reward. Maybe your birth is giving her nothing but the ‘feel goods’.
That’s gross. Do you want someone getting personal satisfaction from witnessing the birth of your baby? Some doulas get so much personal enjoyment out of births that they become Oxytocin Vampires. They literally feed off of the Oxytocin you and your baby create, giving themselves a ‘birth high’. That’s one reason why it’s bad for the family- it’s just icky. This is your birth story. Only your friends and family should gain any emotional satisfaction. The nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas, or any other assistant should recognize the passionate work they do supporting you, but they should not be getting off from attending your birth.
Another reason it’s bad for the parents, free Doulas aren’t always reliable. When no money is exchanged, they can’t afford to pay backup. If you hit active labor at 2am, and your doula says “my husband doesn’t get home until 8am, I’ll head over after that so he can be with my kids.” you’re going to feel abandoned, because you were. If there is a transfer of money, that equates to accountability. If you pay someone a living wage for a professional service, they are going to show up. Because they are professionals they are going to support you. If they are too tired, or unable to attend your birth for some unforeseeable reason, they are going to have reliable backup. This backup doula will be as amazing as the doula you hired. They will not be found by posting in a face book page “I have a mom who just went into labor! Who’s available to meet her at the hospital right now?”
The consistency of seeing the same professional doulas is good for care providers. Doulas makes connections with care providers. They see the same care providers over and over. The doctors and midwives see the doula do the same amazing job with each client. If you don’t pay your doula, you aren’t getting a professional, and it’s only the professionals that truly care about building bridges. Knowing care providers allows your entire birth team to work together, and that gives you a better birth experience.
There are doulas who believe doing free births is similar to the ‘probono’ work a lawyer would do. Here’s a key difference: a lawyer is helping you solve a problem. Pregnancy is not a problem, it does not need solving. Yes, support is awesome, everyone should have support during pregnancy and birth. However, your baby will be coming out whether I’m there or not. Having a doula can improve your birth experience, but it is not essential to the process. Even low income or struggling families don’t need doulas. Chances are they need diapers, wipes, food, bottles, formula, breast pumps, not a onetime luxury service.
If you are a doula who truly wishes to help these families- start a nonprofit. Run a diaper drive. Volunteer your time at an established nonprofit, or shelter. Do not give families a one-time service because they aren’t prioritizing a doula, give them the tangible items they need.
No one needs a doula. Having a doula is awesome though. Everyone who wants a doula will make the choice to prioritize for that service. When something is important to you, you make it happen. There is never a reason for a doula to ever attend a birth for free. There is never a reason for a family to skip a professional, and use a lesser service. Moral of the story: Free Doulas are Icky