A little over a year ago, I discovered a Facebook group for doulas entitled “The Business of Being a Doula”. I don’t remember now how I came to the find the group, but I joined and was immediately HORRIFIED! These people! They are obsessed with making money and furthering themselves. How dare they suggest that doula-ing is a business and we should treat it as such! But something niggled at me…something that said..”what if?” And so, I stuck around.

A few months later, my family was dealt an unexpected blow and it was like a light bulb finally came on. I wrote this post shortly after that happened. Then, I did exactly what I described in that post. I worked my ass off. I opened WomanSpace, I set up an office for my business, I started identifying myself as a doula…the list goes on and on. In such a short time, I’ve been able to build things I never thought possible and I’ve been able to give back to the community in ways I couldn’t have done before.

Today, in another Facebook group (thank you internet), a fellow doula questioned the “soul” of those of us who look at doula-ing as a profession and a business. Usually, I take these types of posts with a grain of salt. I’ve been there, so who am I to come back with a snarky retort? Today, though, my heart is stinging from a very unexpected pregnancy that immediately became a pregnancy loss. I wanted to come through the screen, find that person and scream in her face…”Do you know what I did yesterday? The past three days? My personal life has been in a complete tailspin and yet I served my clients with professionalism, compassion and loving attention! HOW DARE YOU!” 

Instead, this is what I responded with:

Treating my business like a business has allowed me to give back to my community in a way I never could before. When I chose to view it as a business entity that needed to make money to survive, I found that I could set healthy boundaries for my clients and myself, build positive bridges with the medical professionals (which I see DIRECTLY impacts not just my clients but all the birthing people in the community), and more. In just a year, I’ve been able to grow to the point that I can bring in a training and have MORE DOULAS in my community, host a large event showcasing area resources to families (free for the families), offer more classes and groups (some free), and donate things like baby carriers to a lending library some local moms started.
I remember feeling like the Business of Being a Doula group was full of power-hungry, money-obsessed people (I am SO SORRY you all!!). I stayed in the group and watched, read, learned anyway. Then, we had a financial disaster and I was going to have to get a “real” job to support our family. I realized that because I had refused to charge a reasonable wage for my services and look at doula-ing as a business, I was going to have to stop altogether…to get some job I didn’t love, for less money hourly than if I just worked hard and charged what I needed to for the services I’ve been trained to (and am damn good at). That was when it all changed for me.
And to be clear, yesterday I served three women…one was looking for VBAC resources and I went to her home to help her sort it out, another was a first prenatal for a client who had a scary ultrasound result, and the last was a mother getting ready to prepare for a D&C on Friday….all while miscarrying my own babystart. So please, PLEASE, be careful when you accuse those of us who are trying to earn a living and build futures for ourselves and the birth community of being money-obsessed or money-hungry.

Now, to be fair, it wasn’t this person’s fault that I took her post to heart. I obviously reacted from a vulnerability I didn’t even realize was present in myself. It got me thinking, though, about the past year and what has been accomplished because of the change in my thinking. I’ve avoided really adding up what I’ve done because it’s important to me to be humble. Today I’m setting aside that humilty to go through what I’ve been able to do *because* I chose to see my passion, my love, my “soul” work as a business. Because I chose to value what I do, and charge accordingly.

It feels good to help support my household doing something I love with all my heart. It feels good to sit in my triumphs and think about the future…the ideas I have for creating jobs, building an agency that offers a TON of services to the community, finishing a non-profit project. All of this that I couldn’t do if I hadn’t decided my doula work was indeed a business, because I would have had to get a “real” job.

If you are where I was a year ago, I encourage you to sit with this. Think about what you could do if you were able to make a living wage at this work you love so much. Is your current way sustainable in the long term? What kind of impact could you have on your community if you valued your work, and then charged accordingly?