As a doula trainer and leader of doulas’ communities on social media, I am convinced that the three most significant challenges to having your thriving doula practice are client enrollment, client engagement, and client empowerment. And if you’re open to adopting a new framework for birth support, I know I can help you achieve these three Es with ease. You can learn new strategies for Enrollment, Engagement, and Empowerment in my upcoming Three Keys to YOUR Thriving Birth Support Practice 2-day workshop.
Doulas have heard this a hundred times: “I want a natural childbirth but I’m open to the possibility of getting an epidural”. Labor and Delivery nurses read it on birth plans thousand of times.
I leave myself open to… the possibility…
This opening can go both ways – it can lead your clients to triumph in moments of doubt and crisis or it can lead them to surrender to the fear and ask for an epidural.
This opening is where the coaching conversation begins. Coaches in many different fields, such as executive coaching, career coaching, relationships coaching, or lifestyle coaching are searching for this opening. And yet we, birth support professionals, are handed the opening so explicitly. This is our cue to begin to coach.
How do you engage the client in a powerful, life-changing, and results-oriented conversation, and not miss this amazing opportunity, this opening? How are you going to lead a coaching conversation with this expectant person or birthing individual who ‘leaves themselves open?’ Aren’t you curious to learn about the source of their hesitation – what is interfering with their ability to fully commit to their desired birth experience? Wouldn’t this be valuable to your support process if you understood what is the nature of the circumstances that will make them turn their back to plan A – having a natural childbirth, and choose plan B- asking for pain medication?
“You know, you weren’t there when the couple was making their baby. Give them some alone time”. This is what a midwife told me early on when I was a student enrolled in a hospital-based doula training program. This teaching moment could have probably been achieved in a more inspiring way, but I must admit that she made an important point and her words stayed with me throughout my 24 years of practicing as a doula. Over a decade after this lesson, when I enrolled in a yearlong program to become a transformational life coach, I learned another lesson relating to birth partners. I learned that If I coach even as little as two people, I am practicing group coaching and that the coaching conversations must address and resonate with birth partners’ souls.
Finding and enrolling clients so that I can have a stable monthly income” was voted as the #1 source of exhaustion. In a poll, I recently posted in The Aspiring and Thriving Doula FB group, 80% of the voters indicated client enrollment to be their professional struggle. I could have guessed that, since It has been my struggle in every capacity I have served, including a director of two birth resource centers. Birth support has evolved as a field that consists of various short-term services provided by many different hands-on providers: Childbirth educators, birth doulas, postpartum doulas, breastfeeding consultants, and many others. From the point in time in which each of these professionals recruits a client, we serve them for a very short time – from 2 meetings to 3-4 months.
The current situation has two main disadvantages:
- Client disadvantage: The abundance of short-term practitioners interferes with the continuity of care – one of the marks of high-quality care.
- Professional disadvantage: Having to constantly enroll clients, birth support pros are exposed to professional fatigue and face a potential income gap.
Since long-term client relationships are the most crucial factor to growing any business, including your solo birth support practice, I’d like to suggest a business model that will help you cultivate them.
Do you know your birth clients? Does your philosophy of care resonate with them? Do you employ the best strategies to support them? Rather than the optimal pathway to maternal care, Transformational Birth Coaching puts the birth client at the center of the support process. In doing so, we find that there is a generational gap that might be interrupting us in supporting millennials throughout pregnancy and birth. Halt! Take a deep breath…I’m not calling out on millennials. I raised two millennials myself and I love and admire them. I’m simply drawing attention to the generational gap between those who established the field of birth support – their attitudes, philosophy, lifestyle, and collective concepts of pregnancy and birth, and current birth givers. Can this generational gap mean that the philosophy, desired outcomes, and birth support strategies we practice do not resonate with current birth givers, or might not be a good fit? It might be the time to pivot.
Does an ‘Expert Position’ benefit professionals in the field of birth support?
Do you consider yourself an expert in ‘How to have a healthy birth’? Whether you are a childbirth educator, a birth doula, a midwife, or an L&D team member, I’m almost certain that you believe your practice cracked the formula of the right way or even the best way to a healthy childbirth.
But do we all agree on what the phrase healthy birth stands for? And how would you feel if I threw in just one more word – experience. How confident are you now that you have mastered the best way, or the right way, to achieving a healthy birth experience? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our position. Can we give up the expert position and hand it over to our birth clients?
I have shifted the focus of my birth support toward prenatal coaching and led many birth practitioners to implement this transformational coaching approach into their birth support practice. I’ve noticed five common negative mindsets that expectant individuals may hold throughout my teaching and as I coached my own birth clients. These repeating themes can sabotage birth givers’ birth experiences, even when there is no physiological or anatomical problem. In coaching, we call these negative mindsets limiting beliefs or success blockers. Regardless of individuals’ awareness of their thought processes or beliefs, those run subconsciously like a program you downloaded and installed on your computer unintentionally. And just like a computer program, these negative mindsets may change clients’ attitudes, behavior, and the decisions they make.
Ever wondered why you’re super stressed when you commit to a birth client?
When I ask the community of Birth Coach Method’s doula students to elaborate on their stress level and its source, they usually begin talking about being on-call. I wholeheartedly agree that being on-call 24/7 when you are a career doula is super stressful. It’s been also reported by midwives that the unpredictability of childbirth – when will it begin and how will the process unfold, is one of the biggest hardships of the role. It keeps us on our toes – always having to arrange support for our families, always ready to cancel plans or miss family events. It’s messing up our vacations, and more.
Another source of stress that often emerges in our community meetings, or personal mentorship sessions, is our accountability for clients’ birth experiences. While medical caregivers are held accountable for the outcomes, we are held accountable for the quality of the birth process.