THE ALL IMPORTANT FIRST MEETING
You want to make a good first impression so here are a few tips to achieve exactly that. REMEMBER: this first meeting is a ‘meet & greet’. You may not get the job as they could be meeting with a number of doulas.
Rapport is everything.
Listening is everything.
Time is important for many busy working pregnant couples. Try and stick with a 60 min. limit.
- Do not take a notepad/pen in to this meeting. If you are truly listening, you will remember everything. Of course, it helps to write it all down, so keep a notepad in the car, drive around the corner after the meeting and write. Not just the practical points but write about how you felt, how you think both Mum and Dad were interacting, responding and feeling. These notes can be invaluable later in the pregnancy. It also ensures you don’t get clients mixed up!
- Make sure you look presentable. Now this might seem obvious and I’m certainly not telling you to arrive in a business suit and stilettoes! Nor should you arrive in bare feet or thongs. Surprisingly colour can have an impact on a pregnant woman. No loud colours, no boring colours. This is also important for labour. It is my experience that neutral, muted, block colours (no patterns) is best for labour/birth. You want to blend into the background.
- Always make sure Dad/partner is going to be present at this meeting. Sometimes you need to be very flexible about when this meeting happens, to fit in with their work schedules etc.
- Hopefully you have introduced yourself on the phone/email or they have read about you on your website (if you have one) or social media. So keep YOUR introduction very simple, the focus must be on the couple.
- DO NOT GIVE DETAILS ABOUT YOUR OWN BIRTHING EXPERIENCES (if you have any). A woman sees the doula as ‘the expert’, so if you are relaying any personal negativity around birth, it is unlikely you will get the job. Or if you are telling them about the perfect beautiful waterbirth you had at home, it is also unlikely you will get the job. It is very personal, private and has nothing whatsoever to do with your support of them. If you do have children then simply say -e.g. I have 2 beautiful son’s and I love being a Mum. And move the conversation on – to focus on them.
NOTE: if you have experienced a traumatic birth then I strongly suggest you book in with me for a healing – no matter what age your children. You may think it is in the past but it is firmly imprinted in your subconscious mind and inevitably impacts your doula work.
- There is no need to go into great detail about what a doula does. Most women who have organised a first meeting already have a lot of information about doulas.
- Learn to ask open-ended questions so you gain a really good understanding of what they know, where that info has come from, their expectations of doulas, pregnancy, labour, birth, parenting. One of the best questions I find is: ‘what do you imagine labour and birth will be like’? then sit back and listen. You will be amazed at some of the responses!
- Think about what is essential information in this first meeting. You can become easily stuck with questions like ‘birth plans’ – a simple response is ‘if we work together then that is certainly something I can help you with, especially the wording of, so staff will respect your wishes. We can do that in future pregnancy meetings.’
- Developing good rapport with Dad is essential at this meeting. You will meet men who believe they know everything and can easily ‘manage’ or be the CEO of this labour/birth and others who are secretly quite horrified they are expected to be present – at all! When you are finding out about her job, ask Dad about his. Show interest.
- Ask the couple have they had a discussion about his role. Specifically ask Dad ‘what does he imagine labour/birth will be like’? Many women are very surprised by these answers. Women often just assume men know!
- Sell your service to Dad. Discuss the benefits of tag teaming parking at the hospital on arrival, food breaks, coffee breaks, sleep breaks. It is important for support people to look after themselves (as best you can) so that she always has support that is fresh, alert and present.
- This first meeting is a freebie so make sure you respect your time. Be conscious of the time and don’t get stuck on lots of detail.
- JUST BE YOU – enjoy the meeting, have a sense of humour (where appropriate) and tell them you look forward to hearing from them (ideally within 7 days) and hopefully working with them.
- Make sure you leave them with your contact details. Ideally a business card.