Too Late for a Doula?

Most mamas who are looking for a doula tend to find me at sometime in their second trimester. This allows for a nice window of time in which we can get to know one another. Through regular phone check-ins after doctor or midwife appointments and our  in-home visits, I get to know a lot about someone’s wishes for her birth. I learn what comforts her, what she’s afraid of, and what she dreams of for her birth. Every now and then, though, I’ll get a call or an email from a mama who asks, “Is it to late for me to hire a doula for my birth?”  The short answer is, “No.”

I’ll usually ask when her baby is due, and assure her that if I’m not available, I can help her find someone who likely would be. I remember one such conversation in particular. She called one afternoon to say, “I’ve only just learned about doulas, and I know that I really want one for my birth. I’m hoping that you’re available.” “I might be”‘, I said, “When is your baby due?”  “Four days ago.”

Four days ago? And you’re calling me today? Wow. Okay. After chatting for about an hour about why she hoped to have a doula, we made an appointment to meet  at a local coffee shop the next afternoon. As it happened, she called early the next morning to cancel our appointment because she was in labor! She asked me to meet her at the hospital, and after a moment of consideration, I agreed.

It was a whirlwind relationship – the birth world equivalent to a blind date that ends in a Vegas wedding.  I brought my service agreement paperwork with me, asked questions about her preferences as we went along, and watched what she tended to do naturally to comfort herself, using these observations to make suggestions along the way. I paid attention to her interactions with her husband, and helped involve him to the fullest extent of his own comfort level. I reminded her that it was fine if she needed to be abrupt in her feedback to me as she was focusing on her labor. I helped her navigate conversations with her doctor. I offered words of encouragement, kept the room quiet and softly lit, and other little things I had done at many births before.

In the end, she was delighted with her birth, and happy that she’d had doula support. We didn’t have to know one another well for doula care to make a difference in her experience. Since then, there have been a few other late-in-the-game mamas who have called, including one who was given my number by her L&D nurse after she was admitted to the hospital. These short-term client relationships are fast and intense, but do-able. It’s better to have a doula that you haven’t had much time with than it is to want a doula and not have one.

So, if you’re asking yourself if it’s too late for you, my answer is that as long as the baby is still in your belly, there’s still time. Make that call. You’ll be glad you did.

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