Today is the third post in the occasional series, “Doula Me This!” Each post in the series provides a common scenario that a birth or postpartum (or both) doula may face. The “correct” answer (if there is one) requires some synthesis of the situation and at times consideration of the DONA International’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

Today’s situation is applicable to postpartum doulas and may be a situation that you have faced before. There are many circumstances and feelings at play and this requires the doula to tread carefully. Read through today’s scenario and let me know how you would handle such a situation in the comments below. Have you been faced with this very situation? I am grateful to Ann Grauer, AdvCD/AdvPCD(DONA), BDT/PDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, IBCLC, RLC for her help in creating today’s question.

Doula Me This!

You have been working for a family as their postpartum doula and your six-week contract will be successfully completed at the end of this week. The family has requested an additional period of work and would like you to stay on.

The Details

  • Doula: Kristi
  • Postpartum Parent: Rochelle
  • Partner: Anne Marie

You have been working for Rochelle and Anne Marie since their son was a week old. You are just reaching the end of your six-week contract. Jason was a healthy full-term baby and has been a healthy and happy little guy, with some of the usual challenges along the way. Rochelle had an uncomplicated labor and birth and seems to have made the transition to parenthood without complications. She’s had her moments of doubt and you have been able to help her build her confidence. She is feeling good, breastfeeding is working out well and Rochelle has just been cleared to start exercising. Rochelle will be taking a year off to be the stay at home parent. Rochelle’s partner, Anne Marie, returned to work three weeks ago after a month of leave and the entire household seems to be humming along smoothly.

You have been working three or four shifts a week, for four hours at a time and the professional relationship between you and the family has been very positive for all. This is the last week of your contract, you only have two shifts left. You don’t currently have another postpartum client lined up but you are a successful and respected doula and are confident that a new client will be available soon.

Your Dilemma

You remind Rochelle that you have two more shifts left and remark about how it has been a joy to work with her family and that you will miss them, but they are truly doing most things on their own and have thrived. Rochelle mentions that she and Anne Marie were talking and they would like to ask you to stay on for another four weeks. They would appreciate three four-hour shifts a week. Rochelle comments about how much she enjoys having you around. The past week and a half, you have been struggling to find tasks to fill your time. In your professional opinion, Rochelle is doing well, emotionally and physically, and the family has transitioned to life with a baby quite smoothly. You are mostly doing laundry and providing companionship at this time during your shifts and aren’t sure what you would do in the home for another four weeks.

What Would You Do?

What do you tell Rochelle and Anne Marie? Is it really a problem if you stay on for another four weeks? They are a great family, they can afford to hire a postpartum doula, the relationship is working for everyone and Rochelle really finds that she enjoys the time you are in the home. You currently have an open calendar and also feel sad at saying no. But if you stayed, what would you do during all that time?