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Networking for Doulas; a conversation with Liz Farmer of The Doula Classroom

Liz Farmer is a doula, wife, mentor, mother, Hypnotherapist, and all around awesome person based in Portland, Oregon. We met a couple years ago when she lived in Orange County- probably at a networking event for doulas, so this conversation was fun and on point for us! Liz recently launched The Doula Classroom, an amazing resource for new and experienced doulas alike. She offers a birthy book club, mentoring for doulas, and hosts awesome conversations like these with birth professionals and maternal wellness advocates all over the world. I'm honored to be a part of her ongoing doula chats and hope you gain something valuable from our videos. Below the video is a transcript of our conversation for all you overnight doulas and parents holding babies out there!

Liz: Alright. Hi Amanda!

Amanda: Hi Liz.

L: So, I'm Liz Farmer. I am the founder of The Doula Classroom.

A: And I'm Amanda Cagle. I run Your Birth Team, which is a doula business locally here in Orange County, CA.

L: Oh yes, and I'm in Portland, Oregon. Sometimes I feel like online you forget where people are in the country and what or you know how different where they are is different than where you are. It's good to know where people are located. As we talk about birth culture, knowing that it's very different in different places. It always boggles my mind. A doula recently in Missouri was talking about how they still shave women at the hospital she supports families at. I was like "whoa, that's still a thing!"

A: Yea absolutely. I mean even here in Orange County it's kind of a bubble-that's what people talk about, being in the Orange bubble-and it really does feel like that because births just over the border in LA or County or just over the border in San Diego County are very different. Same thing in San Bernardino County and Riverside County-completely different worlds. The access that they have to medical staff to begin the actual numbers are totally different.

L: Yea, I did most of my birth work in San Fransisco and then I moved to Orange County and now I live in Portland. But when we moved to Orange County, when I moved there, there were zero Certified Nurse-Midwives in hospitals besides Kaiser. Like Kaiser had them. There were zero. There was one new one I think. Lisa something.

A: Yeah, yeah. At Saddleback?

L: Yes. It blew my mind that a woman couldn't go to a hospital outside of Kaiser and have midwifery care.

A: Yea, I mean people move here all the time and they're like "What are you talking about? Where are my midwives??" Yea, and it feels a little bit like, you know, you're stuck. You don't have a lot of options. And there's not even like you have no options because of your insurance. It's you don't have options because they don't exist in the hospitals available to you. Which is a whole different level of non-access.

L: Absolutely. Well here in Portland, there are 10 midwives for every square foot of space. It is so dense with midwives and doulas here. There's water birth in the hospitals. Every hospital has midwives. It is very progressive and liberal in that way and, you know, they're still hospitals in the hospital system. But way further on the more liberal side of the spectrum. And there's a hospital with doulas as employees. And they're amazing.

A: Yes, I have a friend there!

L: Yes, Christine. (We're referring to the amazing Christine D'Esposito and the kickass Providence system's doula program).

A: Yea, it's not like that here in Orange County at all. People think "West Coast right? California's so liberal, so progressive." But nope, not quite. We're not quite there with birth.

L: Not quite. Okay, so today we're gonna talk about networking.

A: Yes, networking for doulas. It's a big topic.

L: Yes, and you have some thoughts.

A: I do. I have so many thoughts. Because I was a new doula, right? And because now I'm not as new. I've been a doula for six, almost seven years now. And so I've learned a lot and I feel like I'm in this newer place where new doulas come to me as a more experienced professional in our area. New doulas come to me as somebody who is constantly working with families. They want to know, first, "How do I get there?" And it's a beautiful, lovely question. "How do I get to that place where I'm able to work consistently as a doula, able to take on clients on a regular basis. Maybe even a full time basis. How do I potentially give up the day job that I've had forever that I'm not really happy in and move then to a better place in my life?" And I love being able to network with new doulas and help new doulas as much as possible. And also, it's really challenging because I am a busy doula and I do have an emphasis in my work to work with clients-to work with families. So, it's hard to balance that place where you are becoming a mentor to people and also still practicing the thing that you're doing. The thing that you're trying to mentor people for.

Yea, so I do have thoughts. My first, biggest like...if I could just get this one blanket statement on networking and getting to know your not actually networking in the way people talk about. So, people say-and in my original birth doula training for instance, and even in an advanced doula training that I took up in LA, it was all about network, network, network. Go out and get referrals from people just by getting your name out there. Go to any event that you can possibly go to where doulas are cong