It’s still hard to imagine that just 3 years ago this month I attended my first birth as a doula. I think back to that day and wonder if my clients were as nervous as I was. Today, I do feel like I have been doing this forever and am grateful for every family that said yes and honored me by including me on their journey into parenthood.

In those 3 years, I have been fortunate to acquire a tremendous amount of experience, training, tools and connections, allowing me to serve a diverse number of birth experiences and circumstances. I want the families to be blessed by my experience as well as have access to an abundance of resources for the kind of birth they desire and/ or need. As I learn and grow, so does my business, allowing me to offer more services and provide more information. Over time, that will mean that doulas like myself may charge more than a family believes they can afford. For some families, that will mean that they will forgo the support they desire, which should never happen. I believe that every woman who desires labor support should have it. So let’s talk about some ways you can get the support you need in a budget you can afford.

Know What You Want and Need

Each doula has a unique set of skills, training and experience. You and your family will have unique goals and desires for the birth of your baby. The key is to find a doula whose skill, talent and ability complement your lifestyle, wants and needs. Find the doula who you feel comfortable with. This could be a new doula, fresh out of training or a seasoned doula who has attended hundreds of births. Be honest and upfront about likes, dislikes, fears and expectations. If you need guidance about your choices, ask a doula or childbirth educator for input. She can speak in specifics of what options are available in your community.

 Be Intentional, Plan Ahead

If you know you are planning to conceive in the near future or are in early pregnancy and would like a doula, start your research now. The average cost for a labor doula in Northern NJ ranges from $600 to $1200. Create a baby fund that will allow you to cover the cost of a doula.

Money Matters

You know what you want. A little money has been put aside but you’re still not sure you can afford it now that a new baby is really one the way. Here are some options:

Community Doula Groups

I was a part of a community doula group and got valuable training while agreeing to serve, at no cost to the families. Each group has their own set of requirements but if you qualify, you may be able to be served by a doula at no cost to you. Keep in mind that such groups may require a certain number of home visits and paperwork to be completed. If the doulas in the program are working towards their certifications, be sure to assist them with this so they can go on to serve other families.

Volunteer Doulas

Some doulas specifically volunteer for low income families, partners who are in the military or teen moms. Some doulas may individually volunteer one free birth a year to support a family in need. Volunteering is totally at the discretion of each doula.

New and Training Doulas

For my first two births I charged $150. Some new doulas may only ask for gas money or for you to complete the paperwork for certification. As with volunteering, it is totally up the discretion of the doula as to whether or not she will charge a reduced rate during training if certifying or for her first few births. Remember, each doula has a unique set of skills, training and experience. Just because she is new to labor support does not mean she has little knowledge of birth. Maybe she is a mother of six. Perhaps she entered the birth world as a childbirth educator. She may even be a former labor and delivery nurse. I know 4 such women.

Insurance

Some insurance companies have paid some if not part of the cost for labor support. Contact your insurance company to see if you have that option. You may also be able to pay using a flexible spending account through your place of employment. With insurance company, the doula will have to be paid up front. After the birth, she can provide you with a receipt for her service which can be submitted with any other required paperwork to the company.

Payment Plans, Bartering and More

Most doulas will have no problem working with families that want to hire her for labor support. Don’t be afraid to explain your circumstance. Some doulas offer payment plans. I offer 3 payment plans. This is a great option when a doula is hired in early to mid-pregnancy, allowing parents the time to pay for services without having to put out large amounts of money at one time. Bartering is another great option. Do graphic design? Is there a mechanic or landscaper in the family? Maybe a doula need some sockets re-wired in her home and your dad is an electrician. Family members, friends, and co-workers are always looking for ways to bless you when a new baby is on the way. Instead of a new stroller or crib, folks can chip in for the doula. Set up a doula fund or registry. Ask colleagues to purchase gift certificates from your doula. They will be glad to do it!

So what’s the take away from all of this? You can afford your doula! Know what you want, find the person who can best support you and the rest well come together. I believe there is a doula for every mother who wants one.