So the phone rings, or you receive an email with the details of a potential client. The conversation goes back and forth and after a while, she says she would love to meet you. Yay. You make a time to meet her and her partner at their home. Probably one evening after they finish work. So do you know what you are walking into?
Apart from the obvious risks for anyone walking into ANY unknown home with unknown people, as a doula, you are not just entering peoples homes but embarking on conversations that can turn very personal very quickly.
Family dynamics are so unique and often have a private face in addition to their public one. With the old adage “We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors” it is no surprise then that we what we see is not always what we get.
- Victoria, Australia has been averaging anywhere between 6,00 -8,000 Reported cases of family violence per year.
- We know that these cases are underreported.
- Pregnancy is often a time violence begins or increases.
So walking into a happy family home may not be so happy. How can we protect ourselves?
And violence is really only one aspect of assessing risk.
What about Alcohol and other drug use? including smoking? Are you happy to step into these environments?
And then there are less nefarious issues of personal safety. Are they renovating? Any environmental hazards that like construction, stairs, or is access in the dark difficult?
You might even think about parking, meters and timing?
These are the sorts of questions some doulas are probably already asking, and others maybe later. I used to ask a few of these questions once I met with clients (particularly the parking question) as a lead up to the birth but later realised that I was regularly venturing out to unknown palaces with unknown people AND often was the only person who knew where I was going and for how long….
- If you trip into a ditch on their property and hurt your foot, could this affect your ability to work? Is your income protected?
- If you get a parking fine after attending a meet and greet have you just taken a big bite out of your profit?
- What are the additional unforeseen emotional and financial costs to taking this job and is this the right thing for you?
Systems and procedure can be boring and cumbersome. However if doing a simple “risk assessment”, by asking a few questions can prevent any harm to you it might be a good idea to add this to your regular routine. The other benefit routinely conducting a risk assessment is that clients are less likely to feel singled out. Some of the questions might seem really forward however when you are explaining why you ask them most clients are very understanding.
As most doulas are working independently it is important to take the time to protect yourself when no one else can.
Words: Jen Hazi
(Not that I’m prone to hyperbole)
In all seriousness, there is a fundamental skill which separates the passionate, well-meaning doula from the insightful, effective and professional one. That skill is reflective practice.
What reflective practice isn’t:
- Rehashing bad scenarios.
- Relying on your own knowledge and experience to help you make sense of every situation.
- Unfocused and undirected remembering and daydreaming.
- Journaling (although that is a good start).
Ok, so what is it?
- A framework for thinking.
- A tool to help structure your learning needs
- The ability to turn every experience into a growth opportunity.
- Really rewarding. Once you see what a difference it makes it is hard to stop!
- Vital for doulas who are working independently or in isolation.