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The Three (Actually Four) Reasons I’m Opening a Doula Agency

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I’ve had such a positive response – from parents, providers, and doulas – about my plan to open an agency of postpartum doulas to serve the families in North County, San Diego. It’s a wonderful affirmation of the need, as seen by all of the stakeholders.

I’ve also had some questions. Most are just to understand better. Some come tinged with a hint of suspicion (of what I’m not sure), or skepticism.

So I’ll just lay it all out there.

I’m doing it for the parents.

Parents who don’t exactly know what a postpartum doula is, but they DO know they need help. Think about the amount of time that must go into googling the term, surfing around on various sources (that are also highly variable in terms of quality and accuracy). Then, once they’ve figured out if it’s something they want to pursue, the time that goes into researching each particular doula in their area (they’ll also come across quite a bit of variety there). Then, they’ll have to narrow it down to a few, and ideally make time to meet with each one.

Now, some of these parents engage in this process months before the baby arrives. If it’s their first child, this might be doable for them. If there are siblings, good luck. But what if they don’t decide until the baby is three weeks old? Can you imagine? Sleep deprived and emotional, obviously caught off guard by the demands of parenting a newborn and maybe even feeling ashamed or embarrassed about that… I’ve seen this time and time again. They need burdens lifted, not new burdens imposed. I’d like to lift that burden for them. I’d like to have one thorough phone call, reassure them we have the perfect people for their needs, and send one or two postpartum doulas the next day to meet them face to face. If they need help deciding, I can help them process their reactions to the meetings. If they need the doula to make certain adjustments once she’s working in their home, I can relay that to her or help the families to do so.

I’m doing it for the Postpartum Doulas.
Oh, I love the Postpartum Doulas. And this is my second career where navigating a new field is fairly unchartered – fortunately I think there’s a growing awareness of the importance of more postpartum support in our society, but the field itself in terms of training, certification, and work opportunities is still developing. This was true of the mediation field as well. I mentored countless mediators with regards to deciding whether to become a mediator, deciding how to go about entering the field, and orienting them to what types of opportunities would (or wouldn’t) await. Then, in the world of not-for-profit community mediation centers, I helped match families with mediators that had the right background, experience, and approach for their needs.

In San Diego, there’s a fantastic community of doulas. I’ve been so impressed since relocating. And heartened. Good people doing good work. There are also a lot of really great resources for them in the area with respect to professional development, continuing education, networking, camaraderie, etc. It’s awesome. Those resources, however, are certainly geared more heavily towards birth doulas, and more heavily concentrated in the southern part of San Diego county. Nothing wrong with that, of course! I’ve still been grateful that it’s there, but also less able to take advantage of it, as others in North County would echo. So, being a post-partum doula, in North County San Diego, lacks a certain level of support and camaraderie, and I’m so excited to help more doulas feel more connected and supported. We’ll have meetings, speakers, professional development opportunities, mentoring opportunities, and more.

I’m doing it for me.
I am playing to my strengths. We all should. I’m combining my experience running a mediation agency, with my experience serving families as a postpartum doula, with my entrepreneurial skills and tendencies.

I’m noticing a need and acknowledging what I can and can’t do to fill it. I can do two overnights a week, but not 7. I can do 4-5 hour shifts, but not 8 hour shifts. I don’t like having to send parents away when they’ve gone through the process I described above. I want to help them.

I also want to make a living. Just like the doulas will need to be paid for their hours with a family, I will need to be paid for the hours I will be pouring into providing a quality process for the doulas and the families, not to mention compensated for the expenses I incur doing so. We’ll have to figure out what the balance is between those two needs. It won’t interest everyone. It will interest the right ones for the right reasons. Just like a family and a doula need to be a good fit, a doula and an agency will need to be a good fit. (I’m excited to see who the “doulaverse” will bring my way!)

To use the language of my last career, I’m going for a win-win-win here. Some families will be happy to pay just a little bit more to have this process streamlined for them. Some doulas will be willing to earn a little bit less in exchange for support, referrals, and relief from some busy work. I will be compensated for my time and effort, while also making sure the arrangement is beneficial and sustainable for the doulas.

There’s actually a fourth win, and I know this is lofty, but here it is… If my little agency can educate more families about the benefits of a postpartum doula, this expands the pie (also a mediation term, sorry) and creates more opportunities for more postpartum doulas. If those doulas are mentored and supported and continuously improving their services and therefore the quality of the postpartum period, and others start following the same model, well, you do the math. Whether it’s “happy and healthy parents = happy and healthy babies,” or “happy/healthy babies = better-adjusted adults…” or “healthy postpartum moms = fewer healthcare and mental health costs…” whichever equation/s you believe, then we just might be changing postpartum (and beyond) in our society.

Kathryn KeenerThe Three (Actually Four) Reasons I’m Opening a Doula Agency

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