As an Austin doula, I get plenty of questions around my career choice.
“How many births have you attended?”
“What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen at a birth in Austin?”
“What is the most important part of your job?” (keep reading to find out)
“So you do mainly home births, right?” (wrong)
Plenty of these questions come from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. More often, a couple I am interviewing will curiously ask me about my experiences as a doula in Austin…and for good reason…
The initial interview process is not only a time for me to interview potential clients but for them to interview me as well.
This initial interview is an opportunity to get a feeling for one another, see if you connect well, and have aligned values. The biggest mistake I see mothers make is choosing a doula based on experience or credentials rather than the comfort they co-create with one another.
It’s important that the extra person supporting you during one of the most intimate and life-changing experiences in your life connects well with you and your partner.
In the rest of this piece I’ll explain some of the more important resources to consider before your baby arrives (hint: childbirth education, birth preferences, and nursing / breastfeeding courses anyone?)
What’s it Like Choosing an Austin Doula?
First, I will tell you that if you are expecting in Austin, you are in good company when it comes to doulas. Let’s just say, the Austin doula industry is booming and you have some pretty amazing doulas at your disposal...if I do say so myself.
I’ve had the opportunity to know and work alongside some of the most passionate, caring and powerful doulas in Austin. Some of my very best friends are doulas and I cannot speak highly enough about them.
That said, because you have so many options, it can be hard to choose which doula to work with.
It is rare that expecting mothers have a bad experience with a doula, but we want to have the best experience possible, right?
After reading this post (or watching the video I made below), you will feel clear on exactly what to look for in a doula and what mistakes to avoid when choosing from Austin’s amazing doulas.
How to Avoid Skipping the Most Important Part
So let’s start from the VERY beginning.
I assume it went a little differently for everyone, but I always imagine myself waking up feeling nauseous one morning, peeing on a stick and simultaneously losing my sh!t because
After you get past the initial, surprise, delight and joy, the reality of bringing a little human into the world sets in and it’s time to get planning.
So you make an appointment with your OBGYN or text 5 of your best friends asking them to remind you what midwife or OBGYN they used.
or some of the amazing Austin home birth midwives.
Honestly, the possibilities are endless because again...we live in Austin and have access to some amazing health care providers when it comes to pregnancy.
So you pick your care provider and it’s time to get to planning.
Between picking out nursery furniture and secretly buying newborn clothes online, you’re probably day dreaming about your new little family member.
Who will he or she look like? Is it a boy or a girl? Will she have my nose? Blonde or brown hair? How much will he weigh? Oh wait, we’re getting side tracked here….
Doctor - check
Nursery - check
Baby showers - check
Swaddles - check
Baby clothes - check
Stroller - check
Bottles - check
Nursing chair - check
Pediatrician - check
Basically, what I’m getting at is you’ve got everything you need for AFTER the baby arrives, but let’s talk about…
Getting the baby here.
Before we go on, I want to touch on some extra important steps I recommend you take before your baby arrives. If you’re like most parent’s, you probably have the crib and stroller picked out and swaddles up to your eyeballs. These are all great tools you need for after baby arrives.
But what about your needs before baby arrives?
A Childbirth Education Class is Highly Recommended
As a doula, I highly recommend taking a childbirth education class.
The value that a childbirth education class brings to your birth experience is hard to calculate in dollars. Particularly if you or your partner have no idea what birth looks like. If you are a woman, you probably have some idea of what birth is like based on stories you have heard from your friends, sisters and mother. Despite numerous movies and TV depictions, men typically have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.
If either one of those are the case, please...take a childbirth education class! (For the record: birth rarely looks like what you see on television.)
Your childbirth educator will educate you on what labor looks, feels and sounds like, what to expect, what your pain management options are, whether that be with epidurals, medication or more natural coping techniques (hint: doulas are really great at this), and much more. Most Austin doulas have attended their fair share of childbirth education classes and some even teach them themselves.
After leaving your childbirth educator class you can expect to feel well-informed, confident and prepared for the experience of childbirth. Although, I will also add that you never really know what you’re going to get when it comes to birth, which is another reason hiring an Austin doula (who has experience with all different kinds of births), is a smart choice.
As an Austin local, you have some amazing options when it comes to childbirth education classes. Your doctors office may provide one but personally I love the more focused and “themed” courses in town. Some classes that I love:
Personally, I require all of my clients to have taken a childbirth education class. This way our time together is not spent catching you up on the basics of birth and we can focus on learning pain management techniques, getting to know each other and getting your birth preferences on paper.
How (and Why) to Create a Birth Preferences List
Creating a birth preferences list is another crucial step I recommend my clients take before baby arrives.
Birth preferences are a list of how you would like your birth to go. This includes requests like:
Epidural or no epidural
Ability to walk around or be made to stay in bed
Using an Austin Doula
Partner always present
Delayed Cord Clamping
Circumcision or uncircumcision
Immediate skin-to-skin contact
Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pacifiers
You see what I’m getting at. But honestly, that is just the short list.
Preparing for birth comes with lots of decisions and I love empowering my clients to make these decisions for themselves.
I prefer to send my clients their birth preferences list ahead of time, let them look over it and then when we meet for our first prenatal visit, discuss further and fill in anything they may have questions about.
Another great resource is the Mama Natural Birth Plan Template. I send this to clients ALL THE TIME. This one page visual make it a super fun and easy way to make your requests known to your care providers and they won’t be rolling their eyes at your 10 page list.
3 Simple Options to Learn Nursing and Breastfeeding
One other pre-baby step I’d like to touch on is the importance of a nursing or breastfeeding course. Now, I will also add that I FULLY support families who choose not to nurse their baby. #FEDISBEST However, if you do decide to feed your baby through nursing, I strongly suggest taking a nursing course in Austin.
I recently heard the analogy that breastfeeding is like learning to ride a bike. Sometimes you start with training wheels, and then you learn to ride without them, but not without some falls and scrapes and scratches first. It is very much a skill that must be learned.
Breastfeeding is not always a walk in the park. It is a new experience for both the parents and the new baby. It takes some practice and getting used too. However, with the right support from a lactation consultant and breastfeeding course, you will be off to the right start.
There are a few Austin doulas who teach these courses in our beautiful city and here are some I love and trust:
Stork Maternity Consulting
As an Austin doula, I have plenty of experience supporting families through breastfeeding. In fact, after my clients have delivered their little one, I usually stay with them until after the first latch is made.
Initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life is important and I always want to set my clients up for success.
One last thing, to make all of this easier and more digestible, I have created a foolproof 3-part guide to preparing for baby list! Grab yours by clicking here.
Now you’ve got your nursery setup, doctor chosen, pregnancy photos taken, stroller put together and you’ve taken your childbirth education class…
But don’t make the #1 mistake couples make when choosing a doula.
When you’re choosing a doula in Austin you’ve got a ton of great options. I would love to say, “you really cannot go wrong.”
But if I am being honest with you, that is not so true.
Choosing a doula is one of the most important steps in your pregnancy journey. Your doula will see you and your partner at your most vulnerable state. Naked. Throwing up. Tears in your eyes.
It’s not always pretty. But as a doula, I believe it is one of the most beautiful times for a birthing person and their partner. I see them dig deep and support each other fiercely. I get to see grown men cry, which let’s face it, doesn’t happen everyday.
The magic that happens in the birthing room is something that is very hard to describe and I am always honored to witness it and support families through this time.
Experience and credentials are great. What is even more important is choosing a doula that FEELS good to be with.
I have been around many less experienced Austin doulas who have served their clients powerfully just by showing up and being themselves authentically.
It is so very important to choose someone you feel 100% comfortable with. Someone who you can trust. Someone you know who will support whatever decision you make, not what they think is best. Someone who resonates with you in a much deeper place than your brain, but your heart.
I know that I am not the doula for everyone. I am the doula for a very select group of people with whom we both feel a special bond and trust.
So my biggest advice for expecting Austin couples?
Choose the Austin doula who FEELS right to you.
I hope you have finished this post feeling more confident in your pregnancy journey. (If you are still feeling a bit overwhelmed don’t forget my free check-list!) I know there are a lot of things to think about when preparing for baby. I hope you know choosing the doula that FEELS right for you and your family will make all the difference as they can support you through every single decision you have to make on your journey to birthing your baby.
Are you expecting and need a doula? I’d love to see if I can support you. Schedule a consultation here to see if we feel right together.