Note to Doulas:
Don't take credit cards.
While this happened awhile ago, I had a surge of fury about it last night while I was at the hospital tending to a UTI I have (Macrobid - bid x 7 days).
Client hired me, spent HOURS with me prenatally. Issues arose that guided them to a cesarean. I helped them choreograph the cesarean and the day before she had the baby, spent 3 hours with her and her husband. She was going to schedule her cesarean, but the night after we met, she went into labor.
I'd gone to bed exhausted that night.
I awoke at 3:30am and found my phone and pager in the closed office as opposed to on the dining room table where I'd left it. The pager was beeping. The phone had several messages on it. When I listened, I heard she'd gone into labor and I immediately called the client. I'd missed the birth (a cesarean), but got dressed and went to the hospital right away. I was there by 4:10am (the birth was at 1am).
I spent hours with the client that night, and 2 other postpartum hospital visits. I also went to the home for a long visit, helping with nursing and guiding the mom to more comfort with her new baby. Dad called me on several occasions, worried about his wife's mental health. We spent a lot of time talking.
And then, the parents got mad that I'd missed the actual birth. We offered $200 back even though I would not have been permitted into the OR. Even though I was there 3 hours pp and had spent LOTS of time with them pre- and post-partally. Even though, with counting, I'd spent about 30 hours with them. We sent them a check.
Then we get a statement from American Express that the client wanted all their money back. (Now, it gets complicated and includes back and forth with paperwork, he said/she said, and accusations on all sides.) Blessedly, I keep meticulous records in my Red DayTimer and I faxed all of those dates (with other personal notes from my daily life) to AmEx. Who, in turn, sent them TO THE CLIENT!!!!!!!!!!!!
My head nearly spun off its spindle.
Weeks passed with discussions back and forth between my partner and AmEx and then a lull. A letter came in the mail about 3 weeks ago that said that AmEx gave the clients their money back.
All of it.
We wanted to scream. So my partner did. Right in AmEx's ear. She made them re-open the "case," but it is remote anything else will be done. She cancelled our AmEx acceptance at the office and our account with them because of their inept-ness in understanding what a doula does. Their "reasoning" (and I use that term loosely) was that I missed the birth. No amount of explanation of doula work seemed to sink into their heads.
The client also has our $200 check still. So they made money off the deal.
I don't know why I felt the fury of this while at the doctor last night. But, even now, it is there. So, I thought the most productive way to deal was to offer doulas (and midwives) the verbage to add to their contracts regarding doula/birth care.
We added something to the effect: In the odd case of the doula missing the birth due to circumstances out of her control and her inability to obtain a back-up, the client will receive a $200 refund (or whatever is appropriate for your practice - $200 is a quarter of what a contract is). Doula will assist the client for an additional post-partum visit either in the hospital or at home, wherever the client deems necessary.
What happened to my pager and phone that night? My step-child moved it into the office and closed the door "because it wouldn't shut up." It was the first - and last - time I ever slept without my phone next to my head.