My family recently had the stomach bug. 

Why would I bring this up, you ask? Well, as I watched one member at a time succumb to the illness, I wondered when it would be my turn….and knowing I had a client due in one week, I was really hoping I would stay healthy. 

Thankfully I didn’t get the bug, but if I had, it still would’ve worked out fine. I say this with confidence because I know my backup doula was ready to support my client if I was unable to do so. 

As a professional birth doula, one of the most important things you need is reliable backup. 

 The nature of our profession is such that except in the event of a scheduled cesarean, we don’t know exactly when we’ll be working. Since this is on-call work, there are situations in which we may find we need to have our backup doula support our client. 

Some of the scenarios that can occur and prevent us from going to support our clients may include: illness, family emergency, car accident, or extreme weather (hurricane, earthquake, tornado, blizzard, etc.). It is important to include this in your contract so that clients are fully aware that:

  • Despite your best efforts, there are some times you might not be able to be there
  • In that case, your backup doula will be there to support them

You have worked hard to secure clients, get to know them, help them prepare for birth, and make them feel comfortable and confident in having you as their doula. It is extremely important that your backup doula holds to the same standards of professionalism and care that you yourself have been sure to provide. Your business and character are on the line, being represented by your backup doula in your absence. 

Here are some tips for choosing a backup doula: 

  • Choose someone you know and trust.

This seems rather obvious, but if you just moved to your area and don’t know other doulas yet, it can be challenging. Try meeting for coffee with a few doulas and see who you get along with, see who has similar philosophies when it comes to birthwork, and listen to what your intuition tells you. You need to be confident that this person will not only represent your business as professionally as you do, but also that they will treat your clients with the respect and support they’ll need during labor. 

  • Make sure your backup doula is trained.

You might be tempted to ask your friend to help you, the one who has four kids and loves hearing all about your work, and who just hasn’t had a chance to take a training yet but has read every birth book there is. Chances are you won’t even need to call her, so why not? Birth doulas are specifically trained to do the work we do, but without training, a person could go out of scope, they might not provide the correct type of support, and they likely won’t have the tools and knowledge simply because they aren’t trained to. This would reflect terribly on you and your business, and especially with the intimate nature of birthwork, your reputation matters.

  • Make sure your backup doula is reliable.

There is no place for being flaky in birthwork. We commit to be there for our clients during one of the most transformative times in their lives. We commit to that no matter what we might be missing out on in our personal lives that day. It’s a privilege to be trusted in that way, so make sure your backup takes it as seriously as you do. If a doula has shown up to support a client four hours after you called, or has not provided the level of support you expect, it would be wise not to have them as backup again. 

  • Sign a contract with your backup doula.

For each client, be sure to have your terms clearly defined in a contract that you both sign. Be specific about each of your responsibilities and agreed-upon  compensation. Update your backup doula with significant information throughout the client’s pregnancy, and give a summary of your client’s goals for labor and birth, along with any other pertinent details, a week or two before the estimated due date. 

As a professional birthworker, at some point you will need to call your backup doula. By remembering that having a reliable backup doula is essential, you can ensure that your clients will be appropriately supported and that your business will retain its integrity and reputation.

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.