By 2014, Foreman was a certified doula, but she wasn’t making any money. Her first birth — which she attended for free, because her trainer said she needed the experience — lasted 28 hours. All women deserve doulas, Foreman’s trainer told her, and it was their job to provide. But how was Foreman supposed to provide for her family?
Everything changed when she discovered a private Facebook group called “The Business of Being a Doula,” or “BOBAD.” Most doula websites are decorated with watercolors of earthy women cradling their bellies or flowers that look like vaginas. BOBAD, which has over 10,000 members, features a peppy career woman fist-pumping in front of her computer. The group’s members were unusual, too. They didn’t think every woman deserved a doula. Instead, they considered doula support a luxury — one that ideally came with a premium price tag.
Despite ProDoula’s success, many of its members say they feel like outsiders in their local doula communities. When Foreman made the crossover, other doulas called her “money-hungry,” she said. Her blog posts from that time sound like they were written by a political radical. “There is a #doularevolution happening. And I’m part of it,” she wrote. “Doulas are succeeding and the ones who balk, badmouth and shame are going to be left trapped in the subterranean bitumen, burned out and broke.”
But where ProDoulas see community, critics see a cultish crew of snake-oil salespeople. Patterson was once a star Mary Kay consultant, and she’s applied some of the cosmetic company’s marketing practices to ProDoula, leading to questions about whether its success benefits all women, or just those at the top.