Deanna Dawson-Jesus is a force to be reckoned with! Not satisfied with how she found her environment as a new doula, she set out to do something about it. It is amazing the way she utilized her prior computer and tech skills to build up the doulas around her. Huge thanks to Deanna for sharing her encouraging story with us today!
In my pre-doula life, I was an IT Professional. I taught users how to use their software and their computers. I explained highly technical aspects of their business to the users in language that they could understand. I drew pictures, I made analogies, and I got “down” to their level. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m still training people…but this time, I’m doing it as a Doula, Childbirth and Lactation Educator and Doula Mentor. I have been a Birth Doula for about thirteen years. I have helped almost two-hundred families be born. I remember what it was like when I was a brand-new Baby Doula.
When I started, I was older, had been in the Professional Business world for almost twenty years. I had experience about how to run a business…and I still struggled. Thank God/dess, The Universe and Little Fishies for my amazingly supportive husband. Starting your own business is scary, amazingly hard work! I needed to make money…get clients…build my network. I knew I needed to make connections, meet other doulas, and learn from more experienced doulas...that meant meeting them. But how? Twelve years ago the Internet wasn’t what it is now. There was no Facebook. AOL groups existed…but the concept of Social Media was a baby too. So, I started looking, reading, and talking. I GOT OUT THERE! If I met anyone in the Birth Community that was willing to talk, I asked for a coffee-date. Then one day, I don’t remember how, I saw a posting for a doula group at a local retail store. So, I went. It was me and two experienced doulas. That was it. And I sucked up everything I could from them. One of these fine ladies was Holly Wiersma, whom I still consider a dear friend and mentor, the other has since moved away.
Then I started doing what I do best. I organized. I socialized. I got active in the community…and started gathering Birthing Energy where-ever and when-ever I could find it. I created the Birthing Babies ~ Breakfast Club…a social networking group so other professionals could connect; OBs, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, etc.…anyone that worked with women through Childbirth and Breastfeeding. I got involved at local retail stores, volunteered for local organizations…but I was doing this mostly all on my own…but I needed more. I continued to go to that local doula group…and volunteered/took over anything that I could do to help those doulas organize and participate even more in the community. Baby fairs? Yes. Meet The Doula Nights? Yes. Letter writing and mailing campaigns? Yes. Anything I could! Flash forward to 2014 and I am one of the Leaders of that same San Francisco East Bay doula group.
That group is the Mt. Diablo Doula Community (Facebook Page) and we currently have about 25 active members. The MDDC meets on the first Wednesday of every month. The members have a meeting at 5:30pm where we have a Guest Speaker or Peer Review…or we just sit and share. Then at 7pm the evening is open to anyone that wants to come and learn about Birth and Postpartum Doulas…and they get to meet the members. Part of being a good leader is sharing your experience. Helping others learn from your successes (and mistakes) so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel. I like to talk and share and I love to help. As time progressed, I had new doulas always asking, “Can I shadow you.” I remember asking to shadow experienced doulas when I was new as well; and never felt welcome. It’s hard to get that experience. I’m sure you can understand that asking a client “Can a stranger can come in and watch you birth?” isn’t really going to go over well…but what if it was a benefit?
Part of my Business Plan is to always have a “1-year,” “5-year,” and “10-year” plan. I had been thinking about what I wanted to do when I wasn’t physically able to participate in 24+ hour births. I’m fifty years old now; births are hard on a body. What can I do to continue to make my doula business successful, now and in the future? I knew that teaching was the answer. And then I got to thinking about mentoring and training new doulas. Helping Baby Doulas seemed to be the perfect fit. So now, I am one of the only doulas in my area that actually “sells” a Shadow Doula in my Doula Service Package. This Shadow Doula is a new doula that comes to all the client’s meetings, and would be present for the birth…and if I couldn’t be there, the client KNOWS this doula and has continuity of care with their back-up. The Baby Doula gets to watch and learn, gets experience with me, and we have debriefing meetings. At the debriefing meetings the Baby Doula can ask questions, discuss their business practice with me, get ideas and I also challenge them if they might be straying from their “Scope of Practice.” It’s kind-of like Life Coaching…but it is Doula Life.
This has lead me to have a Facebook Doula Mentoring Group. There is also a free online doula mentoring session once a month; on the fourth Thursday at 10am. I have an in-person Group Mentoring Session monthly as well; it's associated with the MDDC and free to MDDC Members, but anyone can attend for a minimal fee. I also do one-on-one mentoring sessions (online or in person) for a fee.
This is me using all my experience, talents and wisdom to help Baby Doulas be the best they can be. At the same time, I continue to build my Doula Business and am enjoying watching my passion morph in to the next phase. I love birthing Baby Doulas. I love seeing these doulas become strong and capable and trusting of their own Birth Wisdom. I love my work.
Deanna Dawson-Jesus has been practicing as a Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator for eighteen years and has helped over 160 families. She has been certified as a Birth Doula (by both DONA and CAPPA), is a Certified Lactation Educator, and has been a certified HypnoBirthing Practitioner. Deanna has additional extensive training in Assisted Reproductive Technologies, VBAC support and Perinatal Loss Support. Deanna’s birthing philosophy is simple; “Your Birth, Your Way.” Find her via her Facebook page or on Twitter.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)