For people who've never met a doula before or known anyone who's had one, the concept is vague and bubbly, and the truth is that the reality is kind of vague and bubbly, too. The stereotypes of doulas actually vary pretty widely by region, and if your area only has a small number of doulas, your perception is probably coloured by the kind of doula-ing they do and the kind of people they are. In Toronto, there are so many doulas with so many backgrounds that you really can find a doula to suit just about any birth and any family. The fact is that there's a short list of things parents can expect from just about every doula, things like "birth planning" and "comfort measures" and "postpartum support," but what that means for individuals covers a huge range. Doulas come from all backgrounds and serve all kinds of families, and even a single doula might do a different kind of work for one family than she does for another, based on their needs.
"So what do you do?" is a different question. I'm a troubleshooter, I'm a listener, I'm a backrub-er, I'm a breastfeeding assistant, I'm a person who reminds you to pee when your labour stalls. I'm a cook and a housekeeper and a nanny. I'm also a businesswoman (which is a shocker for me), a networker, and a community-builder.