Product Reviews

Business Organization Tips for Doulas

Happy New Year! I originally wrote this article for inspiredbirthpro.com but thought I’d expand and update it for the new year, in hopes it will be helpful to those who made resolutions to be more organized.

DoulaBusinessAccountingFor the first five years I was in business, my doula business finances were a mess! I was getting plenty of births, but I had no idea if I was making a profit, how much, and when it came to the end of the year, figuring out my expenses for tax time was just awful!

And then I stumbled on a product that solved all most of my accounting problems. It was called the “File-it!” calendar, and I used it for the eight years with great success. And then it was discontinued and I was so sad. I struggled to find a new system that worked for me. Just today, I discovered a new company making a nearly identical product! It’s the BasixTwo File Folder calendar.

This calendar hangs on the wall – essential to not getting buried in mounds of stuff on my desk – and I use it to record the places I go and the mileage. I do NOT use it for appointments I’ve not attended yet, or for non-business related stuff. I just record trips after the fact.

Each month of the year is printed on a file folder sized pocket. I put all the receipts for business related expenses in this pocket. When I deposit a check from a client, I write the client’s name on the bank receipt and it goes in the calendar, too. If a non-business related receipt ends up in there, no big deal. Again, it’s on the wall, so I never have to go looking for the place where the receipts go.

fileit1_thumb1At the end of each month, I tear off the file folder pocket for that month. I go through my purse looking for more receipts. (Bonus! Purse gets cleaned out once a month, too!) I enter all the miles, deposits and receipts on the computer. After I’ve entered in the miles, I figured out the dollar deduction for those miles (using the current IRS formula –for 2014 it is 56 cents per mile for business trips) and reimburse myself for those, too. I personally use an Excel spreadsheet with different tabs for income, expenses and miles driven, but you could easily use Quickbooks, MS Money, or another program for this. If you’d like to try the Excel sheet I use, you can download it (and other doula business freebies)here.

And to motivate myself to actually DO this every month, all monies I get for my doula work go into a separate bank account for my business. At the end of the month, I write myself two checks: One reimbursing myself for expenses paid, and one paying myself any profit I can withdraw at that point. Can’t get the money into the non-business account without doing the accounting!

When I am done, the file folder pocket goes into a drawer in my desk. At the end of the year, I bind a year’s worth together with a rubber band and move it to a filing cabinet for more long-term storage. This has been amazingly helpful for me. Just having it on the wall as opposed to in a drawer or shoebox makes it always easily accessible. I’m not promising myself to write everything down as it happens – because I know myself and I won’t do fileit2_thumb1that! Forcing myself to balance the accounts once a month helps me to keep my finger on how well my business is doing financially and how much money I have to spend on things like conferences, books, etc. And I spend a lot less time trying to figure out what the receipts mean, as I can more easily remember a transaction from February 12 on March 1 than at tax time the next year!

I don’t have any connection at all either calendar company, but I have found this calendar system to be so helpful to me in keeping a simple, doable accounting process for my business. Now that I know better how much I make and where the money is going, I am better able to find ways to do things I love, like attending big conferences every year, while still making a profit.

Book Review: Deliver!

Deliver! A concise guide to helping the woman you love through labor.
This book is a short read – I finished it in about an hour – but is packed with lots of great information for labor support people. It’s very much targeted towards men who are in a romantic relationship with the laboring mom, and so might not be a good choice for a doula, friend or family member supporting the laboring mom. But for those in that type of relationship, this book is very useful.
I particularly liked the very simple approach. They don’t try to go into depth about the why, they focus on the how. The book is full of bullet points and diagrams to help get the points across.
There is excellent information on preparing for birth, including choosing a childbirth class, building a birth team, and writing a birth plan. I am not a huge fan of their advocating for birth “preferences” as I prefer a more assertive Birth Plan of Action, but they do make some very good points on how to write a document should you choose to do that.
In some ways, the book doesn’t meet the needs of dads all that well. In discussing the emotions of labor, they pretty much tell dads to simply “Be The Rock” – they don’t talk about how to stay strong for moms, they don’t suggest a quick chat with the nurse for reassurance, and they don’t discuss how doulas can help dads stay strong.
I also would have liked more information on how to build relationships with and negotiate with the staff. Things like questions that they might ask if they feel unsure about something suggested, etc.
The appendix on common complications is an excellent addition to the book, I think it would be very helpful for parents who pack this book in their birth bags.
Overall, this book would be a good addition to the birth bag for dads who don’t have a lot of time or who want a quick reference. I still would recommend the more thorough and broader book “The Birth Partner” for most uses.

Review: Beautiful Birth Bundle DVDs

Julie Johnson is a friend of mine, and my very favorite lactation consultant to refer to. I’d heard for years that she had a video on the back burner, so when I recently heard it was done and on the market, I asked if I could have a copy for review!

The full Beautiful Birth Bundle consists of:

  • A set of three DVDs
  • A hospital birth planner
  • A relaxation CD
  • Some essential oils that can be useful during labor

All products are available individually or as a bundle of all of them. I am reviewing the DVD portion of the bundle only. Newsletter subscribers can enter to win a copy of the DVD set, so if you want one, sign up for my newsletter before June 7!

The DVDs come in a set of three, they are labeled A, B and C. None of them have any information on the length of the program, or which information is on which DVD. So let me set it out for you:

Disc A: Childbirth Education

1 hour, 2 minutes
Covers:

  • What to pack
  • Doulas
  • Timing Contractions
  • Positions
  • Breathing
  • Labor Massage (featuring a licensed massage therapist specializing in pregnancy massage)
  • An OB discussing his views on birth
  • The phases of labor
  • Accupressure

This disc seemed a little disjointed and I would have rearranged the order to make it flow a little better and have the information build up better. I would recommend viewing the phases of labor and timing contractions first, then going back and watching the rest. This way you’ll know what transition is before you hear a discussion of how to breathe through it. I loved how Julie brought in experts in allied fields to teach areas of their expertise, and she had a real couple expecting their first baby there to learn. The couple’s questions and comments felt sincere and unscripted.

Disc B: More childbirth education

46 min
Covers:

  • When to go to the hospital
  • Welcome to the hospital
  • Options
  • Natural Comfort Measures
  • Epidurals and the medical side
  • Medical Interventions
  • Back Labor
  • Cesareans
  • Pushing
  • Inspiration

I loved how so many of the segments here were filmed in an actual labor and delivery room with actual nurses, doctor and doula. This way, they were able to show how to do many of the techniques using the hospital bed, something often missed in videos on comfort measures.
Some of the included information may not accurately reflect regional differences. For example, when discussing narcotic pain medications, Julie said that there were three options: Stadol, Nubain and Demerol. She also recommended a half dose that would help the mom for approximately 2 hours. However, in my 14 years of doula experience, I have never seen any of the three drugs she listed given to a laboring mom. Almost exclusively, providers in my area prescribe Fentanyl. A half dose of Fentanyl does very little, and a full dose lasts only an hour. Since most of Julie’s doula experience was when she lives in California, and I know this is something that varies regionally, her experience with which narcotics are common is different than mine.
The video shows 2 options for pushing. Coached counted pushing and the tug of war. I enjoyed seeing the contrast between the two, but I would have liked to see others as well, or at least a mention of different pushing techniques that were not in a lithotomy or semi-sitting position.
I liked the inspiration section, where the doctor discussed what he loved about his job and there is a lovely slideshow of women laboring and birthing in a variety of settings.

Disc C: Birth stories

1 hour 9 minutes
Covers:

  • Preparing for birth
  • Jennifer and Israel
  • Richard and Hope
  • Clint and Krista
  • Introducing Baby

This opens with interviews of couples about their birth stories. Initially I thought it would be only stories told through interviews, and not actually birth footage. Keep watching, there IS birth footage! Some of the audio in the birth footage is hard to hear, but the footage at births has occasional subtitles and some great tips. For example, at one point they are showing a woman laboring through transition, and they have subtitles “5 tips for helping mom through transition” Then, as the dad is providing labor support, subtitles describing what he is doing pop up. It would have been nice to better hear what he is saying when it points out “encourage her” but you see that he is very close, holding her and talking to her.
Earlier in the series, Julie had talked a lot about being in different positions and getting out of the bed, so I was a little disappointed that nearly all of the in-hospital footage was moms lying in the bed. I would have liked to see a lot more active laboring in the hospitals. I loved the last birth shown, where mom did quite a lot of labor at home and doing a lot of different things. The scene where the big sister is rubbing mommy’s back with the massager was so sweet!
All of the birth footage did a good job of showing the clock periodically to give a sense of the passage of time.

Some things I feel are important to a childbirth class that were not covered at all here are:
Everything that happens after the baby comes out. Even the delivery of the placenta was not addressed, and there is no information on skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. While this is not intended to be a breastfeeding course, a discussion of how and when to get the baby to the breast in the first few minutes of life is important.
Midwifery care was not addressed at all. This course is designed for those who are birthing in the hospital, but midwives can and do practice in the hospital setting as well, and are generally a fantastic option for moms planning a hospital birth.
A better discussion of HOW to make decisions in the birth setting. Several times Julie hinted that moms need to decide, that moms need to negotiate, etc. but there was no information on HOW they can do that. Parents need skills! I personally love this handout on that.

Overall, I think this is a great resource, but I don’t know that it is a good replacement for a well designed and facilitated *local* childbirth class. At the very least, it should be supplemented with a tour of the birth place and a list of pointed questions to ask about the way things are done in your area.

You can view a preview of the DVDs here: