Who Has My Back? (Part 1 of 3)

A question that I get asked a lot by potential clients is “What happens if you are unable to be at my birth because you are sick or at another birth?”. My answer is always “I have GREAT back up doulas!”. While it is extremely uncommon for a doula to miss a client’s birth it is always a possibility. The last thing that a couple needs is to find out in labor  that they will not have doula support as planned. That is why I always keep in close contact with other doulas that can back me up if I need it. Over the next week I am going to focus 3 blog posts on back up doulas. What do I consider when choosing a back up doula? What reasons might a back up doula be called in for? What is the process like for the client when a back up doula is needed? Finally, I will introduce you to my 2 primary back up doulas.

When a couple chooses a doula there are many factors that they consider. Personality, experience, training, location, view on birth, availability, and cost just to name a few. I go through a similar process when choosing my back up doulas. I want to ensure that if I am not able to be there my clients don’t have a “rude awakening” by someone completely different from me coming into their labor space. I want the transition of care to be smooth and for laboring moms and their partners to be completely at ease from the very first contact with my back up.

So, when might a back up doula be needed? As we all know, life can throw us some major curveballs. A few of these that might effect me being at your birth are if I am sick, if your labor starts before or after my scheduled “on call” time frame and so I am out of town, if I have a family emergency, or if I am at another birth. Another reason why a back up doula is sometimes used is if a labor is very long and I need to rest for a short time in order to give you the best support. Again, it is extremely rare for a back up to be called in. Out of 42 births I have attended as of this post, I have only had to call a back up doula once and that was when a mom went into labor before the 38 week “on call” time and so I was out of town. As Stefanie, one of my back up doulas, always says, “The universe likes doulas and somehow it works out”.

So what is it like if you are the rare client that I have to call a back up doula for? In the cases where I have been the back up doula and when I have used a back up doula myself the process was very similar.  When labor begins you will contact me as we discuss in prenatal appointments. At that time I will let the back up doula know that she will be needed soon. I will then guide you through as much of early labor via phone calls and texts as possible. Once the back up doula is needed I will contact her and she will then take over the communications. From there the process is exactly the same as if I was able to be with you. When you are ready for in person doula support the back up doula will meet you at your home or the hospital, depending on your preference, and she will offer the same physical and emotional comfort and support to you and your partner that I would. After the baby is born the back up doula will stay with you for a time to make sure that you are comfortable and have had something to eat and drink. The back up doula will also help with initial breastfeeding support. Once she has left you, my back up doula will contact me with details of the birth and any specific areas you may need extra help with/information about during your postpartum recovery. The following day I will contact you and begin your normal postpartum support that we discussed at prenatal appointments. Sometimes my back up doula will also touch base with you in case you have any questions for her regarding details of your birth. I take care of paying my back up doula for her time and expertise so you don’t have to worry about that while you are getting to know your new baby and resting after birth.

On the even rarer occasion that a back up doula is needed because I have become too exhausted to give you excellent support the process would be slightly different. I would let you and your partner know well in advance of my back up arriving that I am calling her in. Before she arrived I will have updated her on the labor to that point and your birth preferences as you described them to me prenatally. After she arrives I would spend some time introducing everyone and transitioning the support before leaving. In some cases you will birth your baby and have him/her in your arms before I have returned. When that happens the process would be the same as if the back up doula had been with you the entire time. Other times I am able to rest a bit and return to you before you have birthed. When that happens the back up doula would then turn the support back over to me including giving me new information about your labor in my absence.

In my next 2 posts I will introduce you to 2 of my primary back up doulas. My hope is that this “introduction” will help pregnant moms and their partners to feel even more confident in the support they will receive from me even if I am not able to be at their birth and support them directly.

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