The H.E.A.R.T. Birth Business Community

By: Emily Fontes, Owner – Bloom Business Solutions

What happened to me this last weekend has shaken our industry to the core. I’ve received hundreds of posts, comments, private messages, text messages and emails over the last few days, all positive, yet with an edge of sadness and desperation. So many people have asked me  “How does the doula community recover from this?” or “How can I trust any doulas online ever again?” or “I’m not sure I want to be a doula anymore if it’s going to be this toxic.” I understand those feelings.

To be honest I think we are at a crossroads. Is the doula profession going to eat itself alive from the inside out or are we ready to step forward in unity? Are we ready to say “yes, all doulas” and work together so that we all have thriving businesses? Or will we continue in this spirit of cutthroat competition and division that has plagued us for the last year or two?

I’ve thought deeply over the last week about how we can turn this around for good. In the midst of my own profound hurt and anger I knew that it would not do to dwell on the past. So I brainstormed and dreamed and came up with a way to move forward as a doula community that I think will be productive. First, an intro…

Personally I’m at a point in my career where I am thrilled to see other people succeed with compassion and integrity. When every doula is rocking their business and marketing well and getting hired and serving pregnant women ethically, that benefits us all. I’ll admit when I first started in 2003, I felt insecure about myself. It was easy to think that if someone else got hired that they had taken a potential client away from me. I don’t feel that way anymore. Now I take ownership of all my marketing successes and failures. I see a wide world of potential clients out there that I have every opportunity to connect with. I can celebrate the success of others and I believe there are more than enough clients to go around. This is called an abundance mindset.

Our community is eager for business training but there is an edge to it. I see a hunger that is sometimes based on fear of losing out on clients, comparing ourselves to others, beating out the competition or plain jealousy. Some of those feelings are natural but they definitely aren’t beneficial. It takes wisdom and self confidence to say “I want to learn how to have a rocking business AND I want all my other fellow doulas to learn that too.” This isn’t a race where one person wins and everyone else loses. I think it can be a situation where we all cross the finish line together OR (radical idea) where we decide to scrap the finish line mentality completely.

There is room in doula-dom for every kind of doula. Pro-bono doulas, agency doulas, hobby doulas, independent doulas, non-profit doulas, executive doulas, every doula is important as long as we are serving our clients ethically and compassionately. Our diversity is actually what makes us strong and helps us appeal to the broadest audience possible. No one person can appeal to everyone but each unique doula combined can appeal to the masses. This is what “a doula for every woman” means.

Having said that, I feel strongly about a living wage for doulas. When I see doulas not charging for births I wonder if they feel secure enough in their training and business skills. Yelling at someone to charge more, ostracizing them, accusing them of taking food off your table or implying they are making doulas look unprofessional does not give them the confidence or skills they need to increase their fees. The best way to help all doulas achieve a living wage is to treat them as equals regardless of their experience or affiliations, encourage them, mentor them, respect their viewpoint and give them as much business support as possible. There should always be a place in our doula community for people who provide labor support as an act of service or ministry. Not every woman can afford a doula and I strongly support organizations whose mission is to provide doula care to the disadvantaged while compensating the doula for her time. Business and charity are not mutually exclusive.

I see more doulas taking business training and operating on a financially sound foundation but I don’t think we are doing it in a healthy way for our entire community. For the last year it has only driven a toxic and competitive environment. We are more business minded but at what cost? I would like to propose a reboot if you will. A counter revolution that returns us to our roots of providing all doulas with the same judgement free support we give clients. If you read the below statement and you agree, there are some next steps for you at the bottom of this page.

I freely admit that I am not perfect and I have made mistakes that have hurt others. Right now, I am ready to make positive changes in my own business and life. Are you willing to take this step forward with me?

The H.E.A.R.T. Birth Business Community

Honest. Ethical. Accountable. Reliable. Thoughtful.

  • I want to operate my business with an abundance mindset. I believe that there is enough business for everyone and I take responsibility for attracting my own clients while celebrating every time another doula is hired as well. I choose community over competition.
  • I realize that it is impossible for me to appeal to or serve every woman who wants a doula. I will work to understand my unique niche so that I can serve the women who are the best match for me. When someone isn’t a good match I gladly refer them to another doula so that they can be best served.
  • I don’t have the right to dictate how anyone else sets their prices. I value a living wage for doulas AND the provision of doula care for the disadvantaged. I get to choose the fees that are right for my services. I will never shame a woman for wanting a doula but not being able to afford one but instead will provide appropriate referrals.
  • I will serve potential clients, and clients, with enthusiasm and professionalism. This means returning calls or emails quickly, being on time to appointments, retaining back up, using a clear contract and doing what I will say I will do. When I make a mistake I will do everything possible to make it right.
  • I am completely transparent with my pricing and present it up front. I do not engage in pushy sales tactics such as predatory warm chatting or hard upselling during interviews. I give potential clients the space they need to make financial decisions that are right for their family. I am honest and open if my referrals to other professionals result in financial gain for my own business.
  • I will operate my business with integrity, following all applicable laws and my certifying organization’s scope of practice. If I know a fellow doula may be operating outside the law or their scope, I will come alongside them with grace and kindness to see if I can mentor them. If they don’t accept an offer of help, I will reach out privately to their trainer or certifying body. I do not use other’s mistakes as a marketing advantage to prove that I’m better than them.
  • I refuse to make exaggerated or unprovable claims about my business, such as being “the best, “the most professional” or “above the rest”. I recognize that we can all excel at our jobs and the only the reason I want a mother to hire me is if she feels I am the best fit for her. I resolve to always do my own personal best work and expect other doulas to do the same.
  • I will not cast aspersions against another doula or provoke fear in order to gain business. Mothers deserve informed consent and validation of their own concerns, not the imposition of my own agenda, in the hiring process.
  • I will not use controversy as a marketing technique. I do not subscribe to the mantra “any publicity is good publicity”. When I write blog posts or interact on social media I have only the mother’s best interests at heart. SEO, website traffic or other business concerns are secondary to providing useful, uplifting content designed for my client’s consumption.
  • When my business is struggling I will use it as a learning opportunity and reach out to receive mentorship. I accept that building a business is hard work and there are no shortcuts to success. I refuse to compromise my ethics to be hired.
  • I recognize that I will never know everything about being a doula. This profession requires both humility and confidence. I accept the tension between both ends of this spectrum. The expert at any birth is the mother. She is the authority and when I am unsure of myself I will take my concerns to a trusted mentor so that I don’t bring my uncertainties into the client’s headspace.
  • I value the experience of the doulas who have come before me. Even when I feel confident in my own business, I will show kindness and respect to those who have a vast pool of experiences to pull from. I will have the humility to ask for advice when I encounter a situation that is new to me.
  • I welcome new doulas into my community. Everyone has valuable skills even when they are just starting out. I offer my support and encouragement as doulas gain experience.
  • “It’s just business” is not a philosophy I subscribe to with doula work. Birth is one of the most transformational times of a woman’s life. It is more than business. I am being invited into the sacred space of a woman becoming a mother. I will always respect the emotional gravity of being a doula. My business goals are secondary to mother’s needs.
  • I acknowledge that there are many pathways to competence as a doula. Even if I feel loyal to my training or certification organization, I refuse to diminish or demean doulas who choose to train or certify elsewhere. Skills and ethics matter most, not associations. I will offer support to doulas of all backgrounds.
  • I will speak to my fellow doulas with the same kindness that I would speak to my clients, even when we disagree. I refuse to act one way online and another way in person.
  • I reject horizontal violence, bullying and harassment in all it’s forms. I will not participate in the destruction of my own profession no matter how strong my alliances are. In every situation I will ask myself: Does this advance the cause of all doulas?

Are you ready to become part of the H.E.A.R.T. Birth Business Community?

I can’t promise that this community will prevent anyone from being hurt the way I was. What it will do is give us the confidence of a community of support that we can turn to and trust. We are stronger together and it’s time to take a stand for business ethics.

It’s time to let go of the cutthroat competition and get back in the business of helping each other succeed. This is what birth professionals have always done best. Let’s go back to our roots!