In my industry, we talk a lot about “empowering women”. As doulas, it is our hope and goal that women have a good birth experience. We want them to feel safe, respected, and above all empowered. Empowered to make decisions that are right for her particular needs and the needs of her baby. Empowered as a woman who does not simply “get through” a challenging experience, but rocks it!
This is one of the reasons why Lifetime of Love Doulas do not speak on a client’s behalf. We would rather encourage clients and their partners to use their own voices to have honest and open communication. We simply act as facilitators, not as their mouth piece.
Sadly, in all of our efforts to empower birthing women, some doulas forget about another important woman in that birthing room: themselves. Way too many doulas are severely undercharging for their services. Even worse, some are not charging at all. This means they are paying out of their own pocket to attend births. To this, I say “whatever, I am not the income police”. What gets me though, and what’s more damaging, is that many of these doulas then go onto public forums and chastise other doulas for trying to make a living by charging their worth. I have actually read posts and comments firmly stating that doulas “should not aim to make a living wage” but should rather “accept that this is a hobby industry” and that we “shouldn’t prey on vulnerable, scared pregnant women” with our fees.
Earning a living wage should be the right of every human being.
I believe this divide in the birth world stems from a quote from DONA International: “A Doula for every woman who wants one”. I do not think that DONA itself meant this as “give it away for free and bully others who don’t”. In fact, Carol Anne and I were both trained through DONA. Our instructors recommended that even as new doulas we increase our fees to a competitive rate in our area in an effort to refrain from undercutting other doulas, and to continue to raise the bar of professionalism in our industry.
“But what about the poor women?”
A question that always comes up in the debate.
It should not be assumed that women who fall into a lower income bracket are helpless – if anything, the opposite is true. They are creative, innovative, are great at pinching pennies, living on budgets and saving up for what really matters to them. They appreciate a payment plan over pity. As a woman who has struggled with poverty, I know this personally. If it were up to the doulas who argue that this is not a job from which you should be making a living wage, my family and I would be in a very different socio-economic position than the one we are in now. I would still be struggling to put food into my children’s mouths and clothing on their backs, and quickly I would realize that my doula work would have to be resigned to a “hobby” and I would have to get a “real job”. It seems to me that these doulas speak from a place of privilege, and with privilege seems to come a lot of judgement and policing of others.
“That’s right, I’m just gonna say it…”
Now let me tell you the truth, tThe underlying and insidious truth behind this ongoing argument. If doula work was done mainly by men, this wouldn’t even be a conversation plaguing our professional community and tearing birth workers apart!
It is sexist.
It is sexist to view clients as helpless women that need pity and rescuing by offering extremely discounted fees (or services for free).
My clients are not victims of pregnancy.
Women who are looking for the support of a doula know themselves, they know what their needs are, and are making an educated decision during this time when they are growing their family. Their decisions are not rash. They are screening potential doulas, interviewing them, reading contracts, and making the decision to hire a doula and pay for her services. We as doulas are not hiding out in dark alleys armed with credit card readers waiting to pounce on pregnant women and then pushing our way into birthing rooms.
It is sexist to tell another doula how to charge for their work. This is especially true if it means that they cannot earn a living wage to support themselves or their families.
It is the complete opposite of empowering women, and it is disgusting. Glass ceilings meant for women seem to be built by other women in this industry and its shameful! This is why in 2016 women still make less on the dollar than men do for the same job. We do it to ourselves.
Here is the good news:
Clients of Lifetime of Love Birth Doula Services should be assured that we value the worth and time of all women – including ourselves. We charge what our time, training, and commitment to you is worth. You will get great work and great value for your investment.
Above all things, we value families: ours and yours!
We understand that women can be strong and rise above all challenges.
We are in it for all the right reasons and we believe that women should be
empowered and free to decide their own value.
If you believe in your own value and that you deserve great services,
then we are here for you.