Window into a Workshop

Have you ever wondered what attending a doula workshop would be like?  Here is a sneak peak into what happens in one of my Birth Arts International (BAI) Doula workshops.   

People attending the workshop range widely in experiences and beliefs surrounding birth.  You may be sitting next to someone who has had 6 homebirths, on your other side someone who has never given birth, and across from you someone who hs had a c-section.  The workshop is a place filled with openness, curiosity, and respect for all birth experiences.   Although no one is required to speak, we will share stories of birth and pregnancy and dig in deep to gain wisdom from each other as well as discover things about ourselves.  Each student is also a teacher as they share and gain perspectives together. These will be valuable on each person’s journey to becoming a doula.

IMG_4118Supporting birth requires a strength of body, mind, and spirit. This workshop recognizes that there is far more to doula work than a simple back rub or knowledge of birth.  There are many layers to doula work and at BAI we encourage each doula to make it their own and bring their own energy and style to their work.  Chances are if you are interested in becoming a doula, there is already something inside of you stirring that lead you to this path.  We help you harness that and follow it to fruition. We do this in many ways during the workshop and continue after through our unique BAI curriculum. Attending a workshop allows for the space to explore deep within yourself and find the pieces you will need to remain strong and grounded when you begin your practice.  A doula is often the calm during the storm.  It is a very intimate and sacred job.  Families are allowing you into the most important and private moment of their lives and counting on you to provide support and encouragement no matter what twists and turns take place.   We will do interactive activities to support this and being able to do them in a group of people on the same journey has great value.  There is a camaraderie and many students stay in contact to support each other after the weekend is over.  There is also an option to join our online group for BAI students to connect to our doulas all across the world.

 

img_3139While the mind is a powerful part of doula work, we also will spend a good amount of time learning to use our hands.  I will demo several comfort positions and techniques and we will all practice them so that you are confident in your ability to provide physical support in labor.  There are many tools that are used by doulas.  I will share what things I pack in my own doula bag as well as sharing how to use a rebozo (a traditional tool from Mexico) for birth and postpartum.  We will explore using birth balls in both round and peanut shapes.  You will leave with the skills to help encourage a speedy and comfortable labor.   Many expecting parents have read research showing that doulas decrease the cesarean rate.  These tools and positions are a large part of that statistic.  

The workshop can also be a healing experience.  Some students come from a place of birth trauma or fear, perhaps from stories of the birth that their mother experienced bringing them into the world or their own experiences of birthing their own child.  There is space in our weekend to speak about birth stories and we encourage processing these hurtful memories so that healing can begin.  Doulas who are still processing things that happened in the past may be too shaken to be ready to attend a birth.  We recognize this and the workshop is a safe place to begin healing and listen to your own wisdom for a time when you are ready to begin attending births.  This process can continue after the workshop with the support of our online classroom and connection to Global Director, Demetria Clark.  

IMG_3026

I absolutely love teaching workshops.  Getting to know my students and hearing their stories is an experience that I feel privileged to be part of.  As a trainer, I appreciate staying connected to my students after the workshop and watching them grow as doulas.  The BAI community is one that always supported me when I was a student and newer doula and it feels great to be able to offer that support to others as a trainer.

If you have ever attended one of my workshops please feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to hear your perspective.   If you have any questions or want more specific details about the workshop please do not hesitate to contact me.  See my current workshop schedule here.

Why I love Birth Arts International

roots

Years ago when I was looking into becoming a doula I quickly realized that I had a lot of options on organizations to certify with.  I spent a long time researching each organization to find the one that was the right fit for me.  It seemed that there were many excellent choices but after carefully looking at my options it was clear that Birth Arts International (BAI) was the perfect one for me.

The very name, Birth Arts International, the ART of it called to me.  The fact that this was going to be more than a job, that it went deeper than that because there was something in me that was moving me towards this career. I felt that it required tapping into parts of myself in order to truly do the work of a doula.  I knew that I would be going into the most intimate of times with families and that this journey was an artistic one that would require flexibility, creativity, and trust in the process.

The next thing that spoke to me was the autonomy that BAI allowed for.  I was interested in learning even more ways to help and heal people and as long as I was properly trained, I would be able to bring those skills to births without breaking rules on scope of practice.  This has allowed me to study other interests of mine including aromatherapy and craniosacral therapy and I  have the ability to bring in more things to my practice if I discover something else that I am curious about.

Once I became a student I was instantly sure that I had chosen the right place to be.  There was such a warm and supportive feeling from the student group.  Demetria Clark, the Global Director of BAI was always available to answer my questions and encourage me along the way.  There has been new material, webinars and worksheets added for students often and as new information becomes available BAI has always been quick to share and discuss it. This could be anything from a new comfort technique to help our clients, the latest ACOG recommendations, or things that help us build our business in the ever changing world of technology and social media.  In every aspect of building a doula career, from having the skills I need to knowing how to market them, I feel like BAI has been there to show me the way.

Another reason that I choose BAI was because I wanted to feel very solid in my skills and though it was a little intimidating, BAI came with a rigorous workload (with a flexible schedule.)  At the time when I was looking at programs, I noticed that BAI required more work than other organizations.  I would have to read more books, do more assignments, and even attend more births to become certified. My certification would not expire though, so once I was finished that couldn’t be taken away from me.   Despite having had my own children at this time I still felt like I knew so very little about birth and I wanted all the education that I could get.   I am glad that I didn’t let the intimidation of the work load stop me because I grew so much going through the curriculum. Reading the books, each one showing me more to a world that had previously only had one level.  As I worked through the writing assignments and was challenged to explore how I really felt about birth and nature something began to happen to me.   I began to grow roots working through that curriculum.  Deep roots that I draw from in my work now, these roots help me trust birth, help me believe in the person who is birthing.  When I am in a tough situation with a client, when things seem to be taking a turn for the worse, I can breath and draw strength from the roots that grew through my journey with BAI.  Those roots still grow deeper even now, as I am still part of that community, only now as a trainer.  I still learn things all the time though, we never really stop being a student and I am always seeking new knowledge and understanding.

I am so thankful that I made the decision to train with BAI and even more thankful that I have the opportunity to share BAI with aspiring doulas.  It has been such a great community to grow in and perhaps it’s not for everyone but I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Maui in March

I am looking forward to bringing a Birth Arts International doula training to Maui.  They have a wonderful community for mothers and I was thrilled to  connect with The Mauimama, a local Maui magazine and write an article for them.  To read Five Ways Doulas Improve Birth please visit The Mauimama

I am looking forward to growing the birth community in Hawaii.

Doulas Working for an Agency

These days doulas have a lot of options for how to operate their business.  You can be completely independent and have a solo practice where you are the only doula in your business.  (You should always have a backup doula, even in this type of business, but the main person you are promoting is yourself.)   You could work as a team with another doula, do interviews together, and share a call schedule.   You could work for a hospital in a volunteer program or  some hospitals  offer a paid position with rotating call schedule.  There are many ways you can run your business in addition to these.  One of those options  is to work with an agency.

Today I’m going to focus on agencies because it seems there are more and more popping up everyday and some of them are not following the legal rules when it comes to how they treat their independent contractors.   Now, if you are being offered the opportunity to be an independent contractor, not an employee, this means that you will still  be operating your solo practice in addition to clients from the agency.   You still will be promoting yourself, taking personal clients outside of the agency, and when you work with the agency clients, you do so in a way that is chosen by you.  How many prenatal visits you do, what you wear to a birth, even what you charge is all decided by you.

Recently I partnered with two other doulas  to start the first agency in our area.  We had a vision for helping doulas have a sustainable income that would allow them to keep doing doula work without having to get a second job.  We also wanted to make it easier on families who didn’t have time to contact lots of doulas and have multiple interviews in order to find the right one.

We set out by looking at how other agencies were modeled and initially figured we would take the pieces we liked from each one and then build our own.   The next thing we did was to meet with a business lawyer, and that lead to meeting with an employment lawyer.   After that meeting we realized that we had to restructure a lot of what we had planned.    What we learned was that  a lot of agencies  are running businesses in a way that breaks the rules of employee vs independent contractor and they are treating their IC’s as employees but not giving them the perks that come with being an employee.  I don’t believe they are doing this on purpose, if we hadn’t met with the employment lawyer then we wouldn’t have known any better either, but the fact is, it’s happening and you might be offered to work with one of these agencies.  You might even be thinking of starting your own agency.

The line between employee and independent contractor is very fine.  Crossing it is unfair for the doula and very dangerous for the agency.  Let’s say the doula gets injured on the job, maybe she lifts a mom and hurts her back.  She goes to the emergency room and they ask, “were you injured on the job?” “Yes.” “Where do you work?”   The doula says, “I was working for so and so agency.”  That hospital is going to then look for workers comp insurance.  Now, if they are an employee then the agency would be paying for that insurance.   However, they are an independent contractor and so the agency didn’t pay that.  The next thing that will  happen is an investigation to see if the doula REALLY is an independent contractor.   So, she works exclusively for the agency, isn’t allowed to get other clients, or is punished for getting other clients.  She is told what to wear and how to do her job.    Guess what, it doesn’t matter that her contract said independent contractor, she is an EMPLOYEE and the agency is 100% responsible for her medical bills.

There are also tons of federal tax issues, social security, and unemployment insurance.  The punishment for those who break the rules is very costly if they are caught, and it’s not fair to the doula that they be treated like an employee on the working end of the deal and yet not have the benefits I named above that come with being exclusive to a company.

I have created info graphic below so that doulas can see where they stand and make sure they know their rights when working with an agency. I also want to inform fellow agency owners so they can  better understand the laws when decided how they want to operate their agency.

(When starting a business it is always best to consult with a lawyer for the laws specific to your state. This blog was written based of my own personal experience in the United States and is not to be used as legal advice.)

agencyinfo