Open Letter to a Doula

Sean here. All is well. Bella is 1 and feeling much better after her doctor's visit. Her diaper rash is clearing up, and she's not as cranky as the day she received three needles. She's fine until I administer the antibiotic, though. It pains me to see her in such anguish. Her face gets so red, and she cries so much. She constantly looks around screaming as if she's getting tortured and is waiting for someone to help her. I don't even know how the seemingly short-tempered folks at daycare manage to give it to her, but as long as she gets it and she is unharmed, I like to not think about it. I hate it, and she hates it too.

I just went on a tangent about the downside of giving Amoxicilin to Bella after starting off saying that all is well when I really just wanted to make a post about the doula story. What I have is the letter that I wrote to the owner and founder of the doula service. It paints the clear picture about what happened. I have to warn you, though. It is very long and drawn out because I was very angry and desperate to get my point across. After all, a refund was promised to us, and months had gone by in which we were totally blown off.

[patrice here, just adding a bit for clarity. a doula is sort of like a professional birthing coach. she is supposed to be trained in massage and pain management and is supposed to act as a champion for the parents, ensuring that the birth situation that we want is what we get from the hospital staff. she doesn't deliver the baby like a midwife does, she just helps the mom. except our doula, denise. she showed up an hour before bella was born and made sean leave the hospital 10 minutes after bella was born to go home to get the checkbook and write her a check. looking back at it, you'd think I'd be less angry now than I was then...but I'm actually more angry. anyways.]

Here is the letter:

February 20, 2005

Dear (Doula service owner and founder),

I'm not sure if you are aware, but I have been trying to call you over the past week. The only success I have is connecting to your voicemail. So far, I have not received any calls back from you, which is becoming quite tiresome and frustrating after how long this ordeal has remained unresolved. The ordeal to which I refer is our hiring of (doula) through (doula business) and the lack of a full refund that you offered. It would bring me great relief if I could discuss the matter of the refund with you.

Our days with our baby have been very enjoyable, but there is a lingering sense of discontent that we cannot get over. Since this discontent was created by the less than satisfactory services not performed by (doula), we now expect a refund since you offered it. This was not our initial request when we contacted you to complain about (doula), but since you offered it, we don’t expect anything less. The total sum that we paid for our Doula service was $750, which we are not requesting since $150 of that sum was on account of our mistake of paying (doula) on the side, but I’ll get to that. Overall, what would be acceptable would be if we could bring closure to this matter and put this whole situation behind us.

It is no secret that (doula) did not fulfill her duties. Our expectations were far from met, and yet, we essentially paid full price for a service that was performed at a small fraction of its efficiency. Because of this, you told my wife, Patrice, that we will be receiving a full refund, which should have been for $600. What we weren't expecting was a check for $150, which is the same amount that we gave to (doula) on the side. While we regretted this decision to pay her separately, we were willing to live with our mistake and accept the loss of the $150 if we were to receive our $600 refund. But, instead of getting the $600 back that we paid to your business, you unexpectedly gave us a rebate of $150 with no discussion as to “why only $150?” If you later discovered that giving us $600 was a mistake, then you should not have said anything to us at all. You got our hopes up, and now, we are further annoyed with your business and its practices.

According to your letter, $150 is the "total amount (doula service) profited from our birth Doula services." I'm confused because this seems to be the amount that (doula) profited from us. During your conversation with Patrice, you advised that we cancel our check written to (doula), but at that point, it was already cashed. She pulled one over on you and made some cash on the side with not much work to show for it. Call it an overpriced tip, if you will. Be that as it may, I don’t understand how (doula service's) profit was only $150 when you told Patrice that you stopped payment on the paycheck that was written to (doula). If this was true, than how did you lose any money if (doula) wasn’t paid? You certainly cashed our check for $600, so if (doula's) paycheck was cancelled, didn’t (doula service) profit $600 instead of $150? The check for $150 seems like measly consolation money meant to make up for the extra money that we paid (doula), who went behind your back to make an extra dollar from us, your trusting customer.

It was disgusting that (doula) put so much emphasis on money in our very first meeting. She explained to us that you were not paying her enough and that it would mean a great deal to her if she could take advantage of the cost range set by you, which I think was between $600 and $800. Her idea was to have us pay (doula service) $600 and give her $150. After asking us not to let you in on her secret, she then talked about how she couldn’t wait to go into business for herself. Based on her shady business practices, I can’t imagine her doing very well for herself after you cut her loose. It was appalling to witness such greed and/or desperation in a person, who used the birth of our child as a business opportunity instead of credible employment. With this being our first meeting with her, we weren't sure what to do since we didn't know her. But, we figured that if she was sent by your reputable organization, then she must be alright. We were wrong in thinking that this must be how things get done in the Doula market.

Even with your rebate, we still wound up paying the full price of $600 for your Doula service, which included the following disappointing highlights:

-(Doula) not answering her phone when I initially called her at 3:20am as we were leaving for the hospital.
-(Doula) constantly calling my cell phone throughout the morning for updates on how Patrice was doing. Mind you, we were in the hospital under a lot of labor pain and stress in a place where cell phones are not even permitted to be on. If she was acting so concerned, then why didn’t she stop what she was doing in favor of driving to Lansdale and earning her paycheck? Imagine my humiliation in explaining to the nurse why I was breaking the hospital rules by using a cell phone to talk to my Doula, who should have been in the room for as much of the labor process as possible.
-(Doula) conveniently showing up an hour before Bella was born when she should have been there for at least 7 hours of the labor process as hired. Acquiring $750 for one hour of work rivals that of a professional athlete or Hollywood actor. It just isn’t justifiable.
-(Doula) putting us off in favor of what she had planned that Sunday morning (i.e. church service, more sleep, etc.).
-(Doula) abruptly expressing that she wanted to leave immediately after Bella was born so that "she could get back to church".
-(Doula) suggesting that I go home minutes after Bella was born so that I can get my check book and write two checks (one for [doula service] and one for her personally). After witnessing the delivery of my beautiful daughter into the world, the last thing on my mind was to leave the hospital and the moment to pay her. But she insisted even after I suggested mailing the money. To this suggestion, she huffed and puffed that it was going to take too long to get paid. She neglected to mention that payment was to be submitted during the postpartum interview.
-(Doula) calling two weeks after Bella's birth and suggesting that her postpartum interview can be avoided as long as we tell her, over the phone, that all is well with mother and baby. If the postpartum interview is part of the service that we paid for, then why did she AGAIN find a way around doing what was expected of her? If you didn't know that, then I'm not surprised since she told me that she was going to tell you that she came to our house. In (doula)-fashion, she asked me to play along. “(doula service owner and founder) doesn’t need to know that I didn’t come to the house,” she said. This was the last conversation I had with (doula), and hopefully, the last ever. I was so disgusted with her at the time of the phone call that the thought of her coming to the house again to see Patrice and Bella would be prolonging the haunting of the mistake we made in using (doula service's) services. When she found a way of getting around visiting us again, it was worth it, in my mind, not to see her again. Plus, I thought that it was going to cost us more money if she came out. I had no idea it was part of the service, which was already overpaid.

As you can understand, I am very upset about this whole situation. When Patrice explained it to you, she was delighted to tell me that you seemed very understanding at the time. You told her that we would be receiving a full refund by Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving passed, and the money was nowhere to be found. What we received weeks after Thanksgiving was a portion of something that was supposed to make us feel satisfied and justly compensated for our trouble. Instead, it further irritated an already nagging feeling that we wasted our time, money, and precious moment of Bella's birth by associating with (doula) and your business. Now, when I look back at the best moment of my life, I unfortunately have to also remember (doula's) presence and how gypped I felt that we paid so much for someone who was supposed to make the experience go smoothly. It’s unfair that I feel as if the best thought in my memory is tainted by this nonsense.

Your refund was supposed to help us feel like we didn't lose anything financially (except for the $150 that we were swindled out of by [doula], which was our fault for being so gullible). As you know, labor is a very hectic experience, and your service is intended to reduce the stress and tension, not magnify it. We were expecting to get assistance during the painful and stressful time of labor. Instead, Patrice's and my level of stress was increased, and Patrice's pain level was almost unbearable especially since she previously discussed not having an epidural in favor of (doula's) massage technique. She held out for as long as she could for (doula's) arrival, but due to her absence, she had to resort to an epidural instead. This wasn’t part of the birthing plan that we previously discussed. Ironically, the epidural didn't work anyway. This wasn't (doula's) fault, but that situation could have been avoided if (doula) was there for Patrice's pain the entire time as planned.

Can you please give me one good reason why you went back on your offer of a full refund? Why do you feel like we are not entitled to it? Based on what you know about our experience with (doula service), I'm very interested to hear what you have to say. You can either reply to my email, but I prefer a phone call so that we can put this horrible experience behind us without further delay. We feel like fools when we tell people how much we paid for a Doula service and what we received in return. I don't want to file complaints with the Doula Association or spread the word to people in the market for a Doula that (doula service) is not the way to go. Least of all, we don’t want to pursue this matter legally, but we will do all of the aforementioned if we do not receive our customer satisfaction.

I heard that you are a very nice woman, (doula service owner and founder), and I don't mean for this all to seem like an attack on you or your integrity. I'm sure you run a legitimate business that mistakenly let a greedy, deceptive, inefficient, and incompetent Doula slip through its cracks. We know that you are not personally responsible for our grief, but with the way this is being dragged out, you are not helping the situation the way we thought you were capable. I thought that you were going to help us get over this per your conversation with Patrice, but instead, this situation still breathes, and I'd like it to be over. We expect a resolution.


Sean Milligan

What eventually wound up happening is the doula service's business manager made a phone call to us a week later stating that a full refund was not "financially feasible for a company of such a small size." He also said that the owner and founder made a poor business decision in saying that we're getting a full refund, and that he had the right to override her. I should have given him the Peter Parker line, "I'm sorry. I missed the part where that was my problem." I mean, really. If the owner and founer of the business says it's alright, where does this guy get off telling us that he cancelled out her decision? Probably because the owner and founder had second thoughts, and instead of telling us personally, she used him to hide behind. I was at the end of my rope, so I handed the phone to Patrice, and she let them have it. Long story short, they gave us 3 more payments a month apart for $150 (except for the last payment, which they forgot to send...I had to call them to remind them...assholes). End of story (and post; thanks for reading).

5 validations:

Katy said...

Uhmmmm. What's a doula? And that sucks.

lonna said...

What a fucking nightmare! I was interested in a doula, but I didn't know who would pay for it. I still have student insurance since I'm a post-doc, and I just assumed that my insurance sucks. Which it does. Anyway, a good doula would have helped me avoid so many of the problems that I ended up having. I can't believe that there are people out there who would go through doula training and then be such assholes. I can't stand when people take advantage of a pregnant couple's vulnerability. I'm certainly glad that you got most of your money back.

Missuz J said...


That bitches Karma is screwed for EVER!

Jen said...

Hmmm, I never heard of a doula before. That is horrible that she would try to swindle you at such an important time.

Lisa said...

As a Dona certified Doula, I can only say that you should contact Dona.org or CAPPA and see if one of those two certified her. Her certification should be removed.

This angers and saddens me sooo much. A Doula is supposed to be at a birth the entire time...I'm usually there 10-12 hours total.

Please follow up on her cert. as this taints the whole profession. Most doulas, I might add, charge FAR less than $600.

Good luck.