Today, a dad and former client shares his feelings on hiring a doula. Enjoy!
My wide (oops! wife!) is the one suggesting doula in our house. I am the one who scoffs at this idea. Women and men have been having babies forever and I am obviously capable to be there to support her (like all the dads before me right?). When we have disagreements we have a system where we each right down 5 reasons for our point of view and we share these with each other. . . sometimes it ends up fixing our issue and sometimes it ends up a way for me to sleep on the couch. We tried it. I had some good ones.
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
Well my wife decided to hit each of my points with her own points (she even used a red pen and underlined things twice. Did I mention she is a teacher?):
1. Money factor when we would have lots of bills and expenses
YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY. SO WE CUT BACK ON EATING OUT.
2. Stranger at the most (almost most) intimate time of our life
WE WILL MET HER AND HIRE HER, WE GET TO CHOOSE HER. YOU AREN'T HAVING THE BABY.
3. Doctor P. said he wouldn't recommend it
DR P. ALSO SAID HE DID HIS OWN VASECTOMY. HE IS NOT HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
4. Hurt our moms' feelings since they both want to come and we told them no
REMEMBER HOW MY MOM ACTED AT OUR WEDDING? AND HOW YOUR MOM ACTED AT YOUR NEPHEW'S CHRISTENING? WE DON'T WANT THAT CRAZY IN OUR HOSPITAL ROOM. AND THEY AREN'T HAVING THE BABY EITHER.
5. I really think I will feel bad if you have someone else taking care of you. I am sure I don't need a doula to help me take care of you.
I AM SCARED TO HAVE A BABY. I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I WANT A DOULA. I AGREE YOU DON'T NEED A DOULA. YOU ARE NOT HAVING THE BABY.
So in the interest of sleeping in my bed I agreed to meet some doulas. And guess what? I was right that I didn't need a doula. But my wife did. And I admit she knew what she as doing.
I hear people ask this questions a lot. There seems to be the belief that for a woman to truly support another woman during birth, she has to have experienced childbirth herself. I say with testimony, there is not truth in this -- it is a doula myth. While it may be important for certain families to know their doula has passed through the rite of passage of motherhood, being a doula means one thing and one thing only: this birth is not about you. And guess what? You have more of an opportunity to make it about you if you have had your own birth experiences! Read more to see why Amber feels confident in her abilities; just because you haven't mothered your own baby, doesn't mean you lack the heart and hands to mother someone else!
When I am being interviewed by families seeking a doula, I often get this question: “So you do have any children?” I smile sweetly and give my standard answer, “No not yet.” I know this question will come at some point during most interviews.
It used to be a question I dreaded. I used to have this nagging voice in my head “Why would they want to hire you? You’ve never given birth, and there are plenty of other doulas who have that experience.”
These days, though, my internal chatter has stopped. I know that regardless of whether or not a woman has given birth herself, she can still be a phenomenal doula. In fact, I think I have a couple perks to offer, since I don’t yet have children.
#1 I don’t have to worry about childcare. This is a big one! Many, many doulas out there that have children need to coordinate who’s going to watch little ones, drop off and pick up from school, or take care of a sick kid, if they get called to a birth or postpartum situation last minute. Being on-call can be challenging in and of itself, and not having to worry about kiddos yet may mean that I am more immediately available to families.
#2 I don’t have any baggage from my own births. Many doulas that have given birth are able to put their own birth experiences, joys, and struggles aside and simply focus on the family they are serving. But this can be challenging. Perhaps a doula wishes things had gone differently during her birth, and she may subconsciously steer her clients toward birth choices she herself made or didn’t make. Without any previous emotional ties to my own birth experience, I can fully hear families’ wishes and support them in their ideal birth or postpartum time.
Many women take an interest in doula training after they themselves have given birth. Maybe their birth was a life-changing ecstatic and empowering event, and they want to share with other women the potential for birth to be wonderful. Or maybe they had a challenging birth or postpartum time that they wish they could go back and do differently. As I do not have children yet, I come to doula work with a different background, although I share the same passion all doulas have for making birth and the postpartum time as empowering, positive, and supported as it can be.
My first experience with birth was witnessing my mother giving birth to my little sister when I was 13 years old. She had Maryann in a nice hospital in Southern California. I was at the hospital while my mom was in labor, but I wasn’t much interested in it. I remember she was in bed, on her back the whole time (or so it seemed). I was in the room when an epidural was placed, and I remember her vomiting a lot. All in all, labor looked like the pits. I remember there were a few family members in the room, but no one seemed to really be helping her. I remember everyone sitting around chatting, knitting, doing crossword puzzles. I remember thinking if I was in my mom’s shoes I would yell at everyone to either get out, or to get off their butts and do something like give me a massage!
After seeing enough of what looked like a hellish labor, I went out to the waiting room until my aunt came and got me when my sister’s arrival was imminent. The birth went by quick, and I don’t remember many details, other than holding my little sister soon after she was born. It was the labor that stuck with me; I was convinced that I never wanted to go through what my mom went through.
Fast forward to when I was 21 years old. Some of my girlfriends started having babies, and when I asked them about it, they all had horror stories. Most of them had cesareans, and seemed to think that if not for their cesarean/OB/other decision, they would have died or their baby would have died. I started adding these stories up, along with the memories of my mom’s birth, and it just didn’t make sense to me.
If birth was so exceptionally awful, how had all the generations of our ancestors made it through? This little idea started to develop in the back of my mind that maybe birth didn’t have to be so scary and dangerous, and gut-wrenchingly painful.
When I was 22, I had just gotten out of a yucky relationship and was kind of in a rut. Being close to my mom, she was privy to my interest in my friends’ birth experiences, and she suggested I complete a doula workshop that was coming to town. When she first sprang the idea on me, I wasn’t convinced it would be neat. I thought doulas were like woman shamans who attended births and oversaw the spiritual aspect of birth; was I up for that?
But by the first hour after my doula training began, I realized doulas were not old-lady shamans, we were the reclaimers of the potential for positive birth experiences!
I’ve been a birth doula for six years now and a postpartum doula for one year. It truly is my life’s passion to help every family have their best birth and postpartum experience as they define it.
Amber is one of my most favorite doulas. She even volunteered to come be my doula after I moved 6 hours south of her! I didn't take her up on it because with a baby coming, it seemed that might be hard to count on. But I love and appreciate her just the same, and I know she would have been awesome for me.
"I come to this field as a woman, and as a daughter. I am a teacher, and also a student. A former aspiring elementary school teacher, I was drawn to this work after hearing stories from my young mother friends who had less than ideal birth experiences. I truly know that a positive and empowered pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period is integral to creating a more compassionate species."
Find Amber online at her website or her Facebook page.
Tesa is a doula who, after my recent move, gave me my first insight into the local birth climate. She has such a passion for helping moms and babies through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, working with families to ensure they have positive, safe experiences. A mother herself, with a 10 year career in the Air Force, she has an impressive story of how she even ended up in the birth world. She is currently overseas getting practical training to become a midwife; I appreciate that she took the time out of her educational pursuits to share this with us.
I discovered soon after training as a Doula that I wanted to pursue Midwifery. I was told by many my Doula experiences would translate into my midwifery training and the experiences of supporting Mothers in the hospital would be immeasurable. I focused intensely on how to interpret a woman’s body language during labor. I knew from experience that most women did not communicate their emotions or physical discomforts throughout labor. I knew that I needed to get good at feeling what she needed. I did not realize the extent of this intuition that I developed until my experience while interning for my midwifery clinical requirements.
Our family decided that I would take an opportunity to travel abroad to volunteer at a birth home in the Philippines for my clinical experience. I was a bit nervous about the language barrier, even though I was assured that most of the mothers spoke English to a point which we could communicate. I planned to learn basic phrases before I set out. Of course life was busy, and a lot of other preparations became a higher priority. So I landed in the Philippines without even knowing how to say hello. I know, bad planning on my part. Luckily I was met at the airport by an American and was never in a sticky situation where I needed to speak Tagalog (the language spoken by Filipinos). From the airport I was taken to the birth home where I met the other American Interns and the Filipino Midwives. Again no need for language skills there either.
The next morning I was integrated into the prenatal check up routine, and that’s when it all came and smacked me in the face. I quickly realized I needed to learn how to communicate with these women if I was going to assist in their care. So where am I going with this? Well after a few weeks I was ready to start attending births as student under supervision, and again I was nervous about communicating with the mother. How would I know what she was feeling? Up to this point my training had focused on the physiological changes to observe that would help me assess the stages of labor, the health of the mother, and fetal well-being. My first birth was a bit of a blur, but the second birth I settled into a very familiar role as this Mother immediately connected with me.
Reflecting I can recall the moment when I understood not a single word she said to me but I could feel everything she needed from me. My Doula heart took over the emotional and physical care of this mother as she labored hard and just needed to feel safe in her moment of vulnerability. I did not need to speak in her language to support her. I was able to express that I was there for her by not leaving her presence. With sincerity in my touch I think she was able to feel safer and more relaxed. I helped her with breathing patterns and movement, only through demonstrating it myself first. These unspoken instructions quickly helped her gain control of her labor and gave her confidence in her ability. Holding her hand through contractions, reassured her I was not leaving. Simple nods from me seemed to confirm to her that everything was normal. No words were required between us; it was a dance of sharing a common goal to bring her baby into the world safely and peacefully.
It’s now been almost 3 months since I have been here in the Philippines and I have since learned many useful Tagalog words to aide me in communicating with woman in the prenatal as well as labor and birth. Like sakit and pwerta, go look them up. Now more than ever I realize the value of my Doula experience, and how it will always be a part of me as a Midwife. The ability to communicate without words extends across many roles in life. I’m very grateful for my experience here and the woman that have allowed me to stand, rock, moan, and cry with them as they birthed their babies. They have given me more than I have given them, and I will hold it close as I move forward to serve many more.
Tesa Kurin is the mother of 6 wonderful children, each different in their own way. She believes that every pregnancy is different and every Woman’s needs are different. Tesa also believes you have the right to choose your birth path. Whether you choose to give birth in a hospital or home, she will provide you with the support and information you need. Find her through her website.
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.
Emily is the mother of two. Her story shows not only how we can interfere with the birth process, but also the ways to overcome our fears when we plan to work toward a different result. VBACs are hard to come by, and they require much preparation on the part of the mom. Often women don't have the support they need from their providers, and one scary word about something that might go wrong can be the chair out from under the backside of our plans. Emily shares what it looked like for her as she worked toward her VBAC.
When we got pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted an unmedicated, natural birth. We prepared the best way that we knew how -- took a crash Bradley Method course, went to classes, read books and listened to other mothers. But nothing you read or hear prepares you for childbirth and I distinctly remember my inner voice telling me that all my tenseness and anxiety was making my labor pains worse and less effective. I knew it, but I could not relax myself - I was making my own labor harder and it ended in a c-section.
Even before we were pregnant with my son, I decided I would have a VBAC, and I can say with 100% certainty that having a doula was how we achieved that goal. My doula, Lisa Lute, helped us actually enjoy our labor. My husband hated the experience we had trying to labor alone - he felt helpless to help me. He felt like a huge weight of need was on his shoulders without the experience to know what to do. With Lisa there, she facilitated everything I needed from him. He was still my laboring partner, but he didn't have to figure out what I needed. She gently made suggestions - using her experience and knowledge to help me relax and have productive contractions. She knew exactly what to do and just her presence removed a great deal of stress.
During labor, she was such a blessing, but even so, beforehand. If you listen to certain doctors or read things from the ever-dreaded Dr. Google -- you can be scared out of a VBAC. You can decide a repeat cesarean is less risky. But Lisa addressed all my fears -- all my anxiety -- with a library of good information. She had the VBAC success statistics to give me, she had the history of attending many successful VBACs already in her arsenal. She had the reassurance that helped me VBAC. The doctor on-call when we arrived at the hospital was not overly supportive of our VBAC plan. It was a blessing to have Lisa with me and my husband. It was a blessing to have my very own experienced team member facilitating a wonderful birth experience. I would never choose to have a baby without a doula again.
"This is my favorite photo of my labor. Look at how relaxed my husband looks...he loved having Lisa there with us."
Alicia Wild is a doula and mother of two near the Bakersfield area. Many women experience healing from their successive births. In today's guest post, Alicia shares how she found a second healing in an unlikely place -- by the side of a doula client.
Every birth is different. This is a motto that we, as doulas, reiterate to our clients time and time again. It is something that birth entusiasts from all across the spectrum believe fiercely in. It is a saying that is proven true again and again with every birth we witness, hear about and have. No two births are alike, but just because one birth is different from another does not mean that it cannot heal the long held wounds of someone else's birth story.
Like many birth workers I've met, I too have a traumatic first birth story. While we often share these stories with sadness and often anger, it is usually these stories that brought us into birth work to begin with. I was 23 years old when I became pregnant with my first baby, our rainbow baby, but even as that was the case I still felt in my heart that he would be a boy. I loved being pregnant. The feeling of growing a person inside of your body is unlike anything else, and with little to no negative pregnancy effects I had nothing to complain about. I could feel that my baby and I were both healthy and I continued on in my pregnancy, soaking up as much information from the internet and the couple of mainstream baby books that I had. My mother-in-law repeatedly told me how proud she was of me for educating myself and being more prepared than she was when she had her own children. I was young and smart and I really did feel prepared.
At a 37 and a half week appointment my doctor told me that I was going to have a "big baby" and that she wanted it born that week. I was naive and trusting; every resource I was looking at told me to trust that my doctor had my best interests at heart. I now realize that while this is sometimes the case, it is not often so. She did my first ever vaginal exam and said that I was 2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. The problem is that this exam hurt more than I had ever been led to believe from friends and family who had had babies before me. This was painful. I cried because it hurt and I was not ready to go into labor while my husband (a forest firefighter) was out of town on a fire. She hugged me and told me again that I would have my baby in the next couple of days.
Immediately after leaving the appointment I began having small contractions, and within two days my water was leaking. The mainstream books I was reading told me that I needed to go to the hospital right away and so I called my husband home from his out of town fire and we went to the hospital. The first hospital that we went to said that I was not leaking amniotic fluid and released me. My husband and I felt a sense of urgency based on what we had been reading and decided to go to another hospital. They also said that I was not leaking amniotic fluid but since I was now dilated to 3, they would keep me and start pitocin. 9 hours after my induction was started the partner of my doctor came in and told me that it was time for a c-section. Being the informed but not selfishly stupid parents that we were, we accepted the word of this doctor whom we had never met before this moment.
After about half an hour I was prepped for surgery and quickly after that my son, Jacob, was born. I was given the briefest of looks, and I gave my baby a quick kiss on the cheek, and he was taken away to the nursery with my husband. I was cold, scared, alone and desperately longing to hold my new baby. After two hours of mandatory post c-section isolation, also called recovery, I was released to my room where I would surely get to be with my new baby. I quickly found that that was not the case. It would be another 4 hours before I would finally get to hold him and an additonal 6 after that before I would get to keep him for any length of time.
What amounted to essentially 12 hours without my baby became some of the most traumatic hours of my life. Even after we were finally released from the hospital I longed for those hours back. But I had a beautiful new son and certainly had nothing to be sad about. Yet, I still found myself secretly crying and mourning my experience. I had done everything I was supposed to so why was this feeling not going away? I did everything right? Didn't I? After 18 months of research from less mainstream sources, I realized that the number one thing that I had done wrong was that I did not properly educate myself.
I discovered that the reason my first vaginal exam hurt so much is because my doctor had stripped my membranes without my consent or knowledge. This is also why she was so sure that my baby would be born within a few days. I didn't realize that this procedure can cause waters to leak or even rupture. It can be especially dangerous in women who are not ready to go into labor and at 37 and a half weeks, I was certainly not ready to go into labor. Next I discovered that leaking waters is not nearly as dangerous as those mainstream books make it out to be. Women have gone up to 72 hours with complete ruptures and have had no ill effects. Lastly, after getting my medical records, I was able to refute every reason for having been given a c-section. My 7lb 12 oz baby was no where near "macrosomic," the records themselves indicate that I did not have a fever and my waters were not actually leaking. So why is it that these things were all written as reasons for my c-section? I can't honestly answer that, but I can speculate that because I was scared and started to get vocal and because it was 11:00 on a Saturday night that the doctor on call simply ran out of patience. But the only factual answer I can come up with is because I just didn't know better. It's a reason that I find many women end up with the births they are given and not the ones they want or could have had.
When I became pregnant with my second son, I did things differently. I had a home waterbirth with a midwife who I love and cherish. My baby was never taken from me and I do not still yearn for any missed time as I do with my older son. I was healed, completely and wholly. At least I thought so.
Fast forward another 2 years. My oldest is now 4 and a half and my youngest is 2. I have been a part-time doula for about a year and while every birth I had been to helped me to grow as a doula and each one was unique and beautiful, none of them reminded me of my own births. They were indeed different. I have one client who I have known since kindergarten but we were acquaintances at best. I would soon grow to love and cherish her as a friend, which is so often the case with doula work. The time spent sharing and talking with women cannot be erased just because the job is done.
My new client is pregnant with her second child and she is also looking to overcome a traumatic first birth experience Though her first birth did not end a c-section, it still left lasting scars which she, too, wore upon her heart. She calls me one May day to let me know that her water was leaking and she thought they would be heading the hospital soon. Like my first birth, she was not having any significant contractions at this point. Immediately I felt a similarity to my own birth and I encouraged her to weigh her options versus going in right away. I let her know about the studies I had read. She agreed that it was probably too soon but she wanted to be near the hospital in case she changed her mind. Since we live about an hour away from the hospital where she was going to deliver, we decide to make the trip sooner rather than later.
Ordinarily a doula would not go so early in labor, but I felt that my presence was needed. We spent the day window shopping at the mall, watching a movie in the theatre, and having dinner together. I joke that I was dating my client and her husband as we are all out enjoying each other's company and waiting for labor to kick in so we can go to the hospital. By nightfall we are all starting to get tired so I suggest that they get a hotel room and I will stay with a friend. All through the night and into the next day still nothing has happened, labor has not kicked in. Her waters have been leaking for more than 24 hours and nothing we try is moving things along. She is growing increasingly worried so we decide to go to the hospital.
At the hospital she is told she can't get out of bed anymore. She refused to use a bedpan and fought for the birth she wanted. She accepted the pitocin but not the epidural, something I know she is still so proud of having accomplished for her and her son. Pretty quickly after the very low dose of pitocin started I looked on the board and saw that the on-call doctor is none other than the woman who called my c-section. There is a sinking feeling in my chest and throat as I look to my client who is in the same position I was in 4 and a half years ago. Waters leaking for a day and a half, pitocin started and not yet working, the same time of night and this doctor. This doctor whose face is at the front of every sad memory I have about my older son's birth. I prayed I wouldn't see her, but knew I would need to hold back my emotions for the sake of my client.
Despite the similarities between our stories up to this point one key thing made all the difference in the world: my client really was educated and more than in the mainstream way I had been. She knew what she wanted and she had support to achieve it. Just when it seemed like she was destined to have the same birth experience that I had life reminds us that every birth is different and this was no exception. One simple turn and she dilated from 4 to "can't help it pushing" in 15 minutes. She pushed her baby out into the arms of a very shell-shocked nurse. When that doctor did finally show up the dread I was feeling was not there. My client did it and I helped her! I realized that the doctor wasn't the evil I had been imagining for so long. She was just a fallible person like us all. And while this was not my birth and I did still end up with a traumatic experience, my client's birth was like a second healing to me. It was a do-over in a world where do-overs don't exist. I was given the chance to change my own circumstances through her and for that I am thankful and I feel healed.
I am a mother to two wonderful little boys. I was born and raised in Kern County and though I moved to Orange County for college, my heart eventually found its way home in the end. I possess a Bachelor's Degree in Social Sciences from Chico State University, and while this is one of my biggest accomplishments, my heart truly lies with birth and ensuring that women receive their own perfect birth. I believe that women relying on women is crucial to seeing birth dreams come true, and I believe that every birth is unique, just as every woman and child are unique. What may be my perfect birth may not be yours, and that's okay. My job as a mother's assistant is to ensure that you get your best possible birth. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments that might you have.
I am incredibly thrilled to share today’s post. Samantha Morgan is the youngest trained doula I have ever known. She has faced adversity and prejudices, but that hasn’t stopped her from working toward her goals. At 14, I was thinking of boys and music – I certainly didn’t care much about birth and moms’ experiences! It has been inspiring to see Samantha’s passion, and her desire to help families.
I thought both of my doula trainings were amazing (birth & postpartum). I loved my trainers and they were able to bring fun into their trainings and put it on a level where everyone understood. I've been a vet tech for the last two years and I love getting to spend time with clients and I always love helping when an animal comes in with difficulties in labor. When a friend of mine told me about doulas, I couldn't believe there was actually such a thing, I was so excited. I have always loved kids and babies, and I love going above and beyond to help people. Thankfully DONA International doesn't have age restrictions, so I was able to take my trainings at 14, making me the youngest trained doula yet. I was able to graduate high school earlier this year and I'm now eligible to apply for certification having attended 6 births. At 15 (right before my birthday), I took a Lamaze workshop in Houston with The Family Way -- I am the youngest to take it and I plan on certifying in October once I take the exam.
Being young and not having children myself is actually one of my biggest problems (that I don't consider my problem!). Last year I joined in affiliation with another doula business, and after about 3 months, the head doula called me in and said “the other doulas in the group don't feel comfortable having you as back-up since you don't know what women go through having not experienced it yourself. They are also worried, since it seems like you just jumped into the doula carreer, you are not likely to stay in it.” So I was “let go.” I started talking with another doula who was young and childless herself. Together we found, looking down on doulas who have not gone through birth can be a very big problem in the doula community. This led to me create a Facebook group strictly for those doulas 25 and under who don’t have children.
I have never been turned down to be someone's doula. My clients always comment on loving my beliefs and personality. The local Midwife loves me, as I her, and she loves the fact that when I go to a birth, hospital or home, I'm dedicated to stay with my client no matter what. I have pulled all-nighter all the way to 3 nights with no sleep. Why? Because it's not my birth, I have plenty of time to sleep later. I was given great advice by one of my trainers to not freely give out my age. Of course if I'm asked I do tell, but you don't see it on my web page or in write-ups.
My main client base comes from literally all directions. I normally find myself traveling for births. I travel up to 2 hours away. I suppose most of my clients are ones who already know how they are wanting to labor or deliver. I make sure my clients have an opportunity to tell, express, and fight for what they are wanting -- whether that be natural, medicated, or even upside down, I support my clients 110%. My clients choose me because of my heart, not because of my life experience. I love working with clients to find an affordable price, to find what they need, what I can do, even the smallest things, to be able to help them. I'm always there for my clients, and I don't need to ever step away to make a phone call to check on kids, a babysitter or husband. I'm devoted and educated. I know the most recent research and facts that have been proven so that the client can make informed decisions immediately.
I love my job, my clients and everything in between. I don't worry about what client I will have next; my personal motto is that God will bring me what I need. He has never failed me. Often clients come from people I meet -- car sales man, bosses of expecting employees and such. For example, I needed a car and the salesman’s wife was expecting. He asked what I did, and I get the opportunity to share my passion. Guess what? He wants a doula for his wife. What an amazing divine appointment! I never let the strikes against me bring me down or discourage me; God will bring me exactly what I need and not a second too soon.
I am a DONA trained Birth and Postpartum Doula. I attended my Birth workshop in March 2013 along with a Childbirth Education Class and a Lactation Class (all DONA Approved). In April 2013 I attended my Postpartum Workshop. I'm currently working on my DONA certification. In April 2014, I attended a Lamaze Childbirth Educator Workshop and I'm looking forward to becoming certified in the late fall.
I believe every woman is empowered to give birth her way, naturally and confidently. My mission is to provide doula care and supply expecting parents with the information and education they need for pregnancy, labor, childbirth and the postpartum period. I want to give parents the loving support and encouragement they need during this special time.
For more information, visit my website, my Facbook page, or find me on Twitter.
Doula work is hard! Let's just get that out of the way! Planning life, working another job or going to school, taking care of family needs -- and knowing at any minute you could be called away to a birth -- that's stress! Burn-out rates can be high for doulas, and if it doesn't send you away from the work permanently, it can leave you reeling in chaos and discontent while you try and regain your doula spirit. Find hope in these 13 ideas to keep yourself grounded and satisfied.
1. Be picky about what clients you accept. It is normal, in the beginning, to take every client that seeks out your services without thought to how you might work together. This can be draining, though. You have ideals, and while we know the mantra, "it's not my birth," it would be unrealistic to say you need nothing out of the experience simply because you are the hired help. If, for example, you feel useless sitting by your client while she gets an epidural at 2 centimeters, then it is okay to ask yourself: What would my ideal client look like? As doulas, it is rewarding for us to work alongside the client. That doesn't mean we stand in condemnation of the mother who wants an epidural as fast as she can get one, that simply means, be true to yourself and honor your feelings. During your interview, ask how she envisions her birth. If that is the information she shares ("I want an epidural as fast as I can get one"), there may be a doula that fits her better than you fit her.
2. Find something else that fills your doula cup. I taught childbirth classes for a midwifery practice. I remember sitting across the desk from one of the midwives, having a breakdown, because suddenly my doula life felt like it was crushing me. I am grateful for her words: "If you keep going when you feel like this, you may lose your love for doula work -- it can be hard to come back from a burn-out. See if there is another way you can get those feelings -- like teaching -- and then come back to doula work when your heart feels ready." In the midst of this career crisis, I felt like a failure for wanting to just walk away. This was my passion! This is what I worked so hard for, and yet, I was ready to trash the whole thing in a time of severe stress. I am grateful for the wisdom of a sister birth worker and her words of love that day. There is no shame in stepping away for a while and rebuilding your faith and restoring your energy, so you can serve better in the future.
3. Take on a partner. I remember exactly when my first burn-out occurred. I was at an especially long and difficult birth. I stepped out of the room in a moment of calm and called my very good friend, who is also a doula. "I hate this!" I cried. "I would leave right now, give them all their money back, if I never had to see them again!" I had been piling on more and more and more. I probably took this birth sooner after the birth of my own baby than I should have. The mother was not responding to any of us. The hospital put her on the clock. And nothing was working. I realized if I had a partner, I wouldn't bear the full weight of this -- I could call in support after so many hours awake and apart from my baby. My same friend and I agreed to begin working in a partnership. We didn't change our business names or websites, instead we just created an agreement between the two of us (we didn't know how long we would work like this). When a phone call came for either of us, we would explain we were working in a partnership with another experienced doula. We would attend all prenatals together, and then we generally had agreements about which client we would be on-call for (simply taking turns worked), barring another birth or life event coming up. We split the deposit, and then the doula who attended the birth kept the remainder of the fee (and she also did the postpartum visits). It was amazing! Unlike simply having a back-up, where I often feel I am spending money to keep her around "just in case" I need her (but I really try to never have to call her), with a partner it feels easier to share the births, and the guilt isn't there if I am not able to attend, because the clients know they will have support from one of us.
4. Offer gratis service to someone. When you are paid for your services, it can be a nice break to find a mama who really could benefit from having a doula. Contact pregnancy crisis centers, womens' shelters, churches, OB/midwifery offices -- someone is bound to know a woman who could use birth support. This is a way to get back to the basics of why we became doulas in the first place -- to mother the mother so she can mother her baby -- and a mama struggling is in need of that scaffolding so she can be at her best for her baby.
5. Raise your fee. The flip of that is, it may be time to raise your own fee. Feeling undervalued can lead to resentment. When I first began working as a doula, I offered clients a sliding scale. This worked well for me, and I found that clients preferred to pay my top fee. Something I noticed: the clients more likely to pay the bottom end of my fee were, in my eyes, the ones who most could afford to -- double-income professionals, in owned-homes with brand-new cars in the garage. The clients who had noticeably less more often paid me from the top end. After two births in a row where I felt I was being taken advantage of, I raised my fee and kept it there -- no more sliding scale.
6. You're stressed, so destress. In one of his lectures, Tal Ben Shahar shared "stress is not the problem, lack of recovery is." He offers a way to regain ourselves through three different ways of recovering: micro=15 minutes of every hour, mezzo=good night's sleep, macro=vacation. Realistically this may not seem practical -- we can't often walk away for 15 minutes of every hour while at a birth. But we can find small moments, even if it is just going to the bathroom. Sharar also said, "To create, you need to (re)create." Find your recreation. Do what you can as you not only care for the clients, but also as you care for yourself.
7. Work with a doula group. My third burn-out resulted in creating a doula group with 5 other women. It took a lot of time to put this together, is wasn't just a random grouping of doulas who decided to work together. We had to hammer out a lot of agreements and policies before we were ready to hang our shingle, but once things came together, this was an amazing way to work as a doula. In addition to sharing call by picking 4-5 days a month on each calendar (which clients were given so they knew who to call), we also held free mini-workshops every other week that were open to the public. Those lasted about 45 minutes, and then we excused our non-clients and paired up as doulas to work with our clients. This was a great way to attract clients, as well as devote specific time to our contracted families. Although I moved away, this doula circle is still up and running.
8. Let go of someone else's experience. We all walk away from births where we think, "What just happened???" In your prenatals, mom sounded so sure she wanted her birth one way. She seemed confident in her ideals, you felt she had done her homework and had prepared herself to have the birth she talked about. Then at the hospital, it all comes undone! It can be easy as a doula to feel you failed -- you were going to help her achieve her perfect birth, then you watched as she continued to make choices that led her further and further away from that possibility. "I can't want it more than she wants it." I say that to myself a lot. This is her experience, and for whatever reason, it didn't stack up to her before-labor plans. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. In order to help the clients understand they have the control, you might phrase your statements with words like, "Choosing (intervention) can lead to (side effect); are you sure that is your decision?" It is not that you are blaming her, you are helping her see she has the liberty of choice. This is assumed, of course, after gentle reminders from you about alternatives, trying 3 more contractions, etc. It is a fine line between helping/advocating, and then staying silent and happily continuing to support her once she has veered from her birth plan. She makes her choices, and you continue to support her efforts.
9. Say no. Just because you are a doula, that doesn't mean you have to answer every pregnant person's questions. Once in a while doulas get locked into conversations with women who act interested in hiring them -- the doula is hoping for a client, and the woman is hoping for free help. Decide how far you will get entangled in this before you let the woman know you would be happy to meet with her for an hourly fee (you are being her free research assistant!), or as her doula, but her requests are demanding more of your professional time than you are able to give her.
10. Set limits. As doulas we want to make ourselves available to our clients. While the average client may not need an excessive (or annoying!) amount of care, once in a while we encounter a client who is always in need of some advice, information, or help processing things. It's okay to set guidelines on when you are available and on what topics. I have a friend who is a breastfeeding counselor, and she let's families know they can call her "during daytime hours," meaning, when the sun is up. Communicate to your clients how best to contact you and regarding what topics, with the exception of when labor may be beginning.
11. Refer, refer, refer. It is too easy to get pulled into wanting to be EVERYTHING for a family. We are only as capable as our professional skills and training deem us. For issues out of your scope as a doula, if you have no additional trainings or certifications, a client's issues are best supported by the professional made for the job. For breastfeeding problems, know your IBCLCs and LLL groups. If she is having mood disorder issues during or after pregnancy, find out who helps mamas in those situations. Who are the postpartum doulas in case she needs after-birth help in that way? As her doula you offer physical, emotional, and informational help related to labor and birth. Brush up on your local resources if she needs more so you can help her get the continued support she needs.
12. Pay your back-up. When I began teaching childbirth classes twice a week, I knew I could not leave my group if I had a client in labor. This was a huge stress for me, even though it was only 4 hours a week that I was unavailable. I wasn't sure how I could take clients until I realized, with a solid back-up, I would have no worries. She could step into the doula role while I was at class and manage things until I returned. For this peace of mind, I would pay her half the deposit, and she would attend one prenatal with us, as well as be on-call for me.
13. Find your support community. Doulas support families, but who supports doulas? Although like anything, a real-life group of fellow birth workers is ideal, that isn't always practical, so online groups are also an option. There is something that runs through our veins and our hearts, and it bonds us. There are some things it seems only other doulas can understand. Gathering together with others when you are feeling disappointed is a way to be buoyed up, and we all take our turns being the one lifted, as well as being the one doing the lifting. Turn to you doula sisters when your heart hurts and your mind is telling you you aren't making a difference.
I was wanting to hear from doulas who hired a doula for their own birth. Thanks so much to Shanda for answering that call and sharing this with us today! There's no question Shanda put her money where her mouth was by choosing doula support for her second birth despite the knowledge she herself had about the birth process.
The day I met Emily was the beginning of an amazing journey. It was the weekend before my wedding and I was, instead of working on wedding things, attending a DONA certification workshop with Amy Gilliland. My husband and I were trying to conceive, and during the process I learned about doulas. As I explored more about what doulas do, I fell in love and knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. What I didn't know, was at that training, I would meet Emily.
Emily was at the training, not to become a doula, but to observe the trainers because she was learning to train new doulas. Something about her drew me to her right away. Around her, I felt confident, and strong. I was excited when I was paired with her for a few activities, and before the day was out, I asked if she would be my doula when my husband and I got pregnant. She, like the amazing doula she is, said that she would be happy to meet with me and my family when the time came to make sure she was a good fit. Fast forward a month and a half and I got the positive pregnancy test. I was ecstatic. After confirming with the doctor, I told my husband I was contacting Emily. He never second guessed my choice.
Every meeting with Emily was lovely. She understood my need to talk about the pregnancy and my excitement. My mom had died when I was a little girl and I didn't have a strong female to fill the role of a caring, supportive female. Emily was the perfect fit for us. We knew we wanted to hire Emily to help with our daughter, who would have questions and concerns through the process, and potentially with some help for me if needed.
The day I went into labor I had a lovely time attending a baby shower for a dear friend due a few months after me. Arriving home, my labor was picking up but I was laboring wonderfully with my husband. It wasn't until about 10 pm that I knew I was ready for Emily. Contractions were getting more intense and my daughter was peppering me with questions when I wasn't able to answer them.
Emily was a ray of light when she arrived. Without question she managed to finagle my daughter into bed and timing couldn't have been more perfect as my husband got sick. My husband getting sick wasn't something I was prepared to deal with buy Emily never missed a beat. She gave my husband the security to know I was being helped, so he could go rest. If he had had any doubts about the benefits of hiring a doula, even though I knew all the information, this was a great reminder that you never know what will happen, and having a strong support system is vital. Without Emily, either my poor husband would have had to suffer through the night and been worn out by the time our son was born, or I would have labored alone. She gave my best friend the confidence to labor with me when she felt like a fish out of water. It was how, in the morning and when my son was born, she was by my daughter's side, reassuring her everything was perfect.
For my birth, it wasn't just about the positions she could suggest, counter pressure or knowledge. It was her presence and personality as we labored through the night to welcome my son into the world. It was her belief in me and my ability to birth my baby. She was beyond invaluable. Even doulas deserve a doula.
From Shanda: I believe that every woman should have the option of choosing her birthing journey. Every woman's pregnancy, labor, and birth journey are unique to them and therefore they will have different needs and desires during this time. It is my goal to work with families to create a serene, loving and safe space. I believe that every woman deserves the chance to embrace her inner power during this journey. No matter whether it is their first birth or 4th, they deserve to be supported and nurtured as they navigate this life-changing event. My goal as a birth doula is to provide women and their partners with the information and support they need to capture their own strength during this special time in their lives and walk away feeling empowered and blessed. I'm certified as a birth doula through DONA International, and a trained Hypnodoula. I currently work with Beautiful Birth Doulas in Madison, WI and the surrounding areas.
Shanda Frydenlund CD(DONA)
Beautiful Birth Doulas
I met Falen through Tongue Tie Babies Support Group. When she suggested this post for Mother's Day I was thrilled, and I cried through the whole thing! Have your tissues handy! And all I can say to Falen and Dona is, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For sharing this gift with us.
Falen: My Mother, My Doula
I knew I wanted a doula even before I became pregnant. The support that comes from being surrounded by a community of supportive women is unparalleled. But just who would that person be? Could that person be the one woman who has been there my entire life?
I knew my mother has long aspired to become a doula, to support mothers in birth. Not long after I told her we were expecting I asked the big question, will you be my doula? I was nervous and excited. She was too. She signed up for training right away.
The day of my son’s arrival finally came. I called her in the wee hours of the morning to let her know that this was the day. She drove three hours from her home to mine to be there for me. She came prepared, ready to put her newfound knowledge to work. I had been laboring for hours through the night by myself, pacing back and forth. It was so nice to have a familiar hand to hold to keep me grounded.
When I was ready to go to my birthing suite, to get the relief of the big Jacuzzi tub, she helped me call my midwife and made sure all of my bags were ready. She packed up the cars along with my husband and followed behind us as he drove us to the hospital.
When we arrive in our room, she carefully and quietly surveys the room to make sure my birth plan wishes are being honored. She assists me in communicating with the nurses as the contractions already a couple minutes apart come and go. We begin to move around the room with a rhythm. She follows me wherever I go. Holds my hand, offers her body for support. She runs her fingers through my hair or just sits quietly as I rest when my body allows.
As the day wears on I know she must be exhausted, her body must be tiring. But she never shows it. She just keeps offering herself to me. She supports me as only a mother can.
The following are the words I wrote about our experience just days after my son’s birth:
“How can someone perform so many roles and perform them so well, so seamlessly? Every touch radiated love and care. Every look raised my confidence. When I thought I couldn't possibly go any further, her presence told me I could. She did it. I can do it. She is here to support me in every moment. She is here through every contraction. She is here through every second of pure exhaustion. She is nervous and anxious but she never shows it. She is strong. She is strong for me. She labors with me. She pushes me through. She shares in my joy. She shares in my love. Our bond only grows stronger. I now know how she feels, what being a mother really means. It can't be described, only felt, only lived.”
I can’t imagine my son’s birth without her. I can’t imagine becoming a mother without my own by my side. It didn’t stop there, though. She stayed with me through the toughest time of my life. She had planned to stay a few days while we settled in to our new routine. But something wasn’t right. My son wasn’t nursing and he was losing weight rapidly.
She urged me to see a lactation consultant and went with me. At the consult he was weighed and I was told I should see his doctor immediately. The lactation consultant made an appointment for us and we went straight there. After the visit with a doctor we ended up in the NICU. They had to transport him to another hospital when he became unstable. My mother, my doula, held me up as I walked down the hallway and out the doors of the hospital without my son.
This was the hardest moment of my life. I felt like my everything had been ripped from me. She drove me to the NICU hospital and held me as we waited to see my son again. She held me in the NICU room as I stood there staring at my son hooked up to machines. She held me and her grandson while I struggled to nurse him. She was there through it all.
They made her leave after hours. But as soon as those visiting hours started she was there. Even waiting outside the door for the clock to strike so she could come give me the support I so desperately waited for through the long nights.
After we returned home so did she. I was so sad to see her go. But I knew with her encouragement and love that she had given me over the last few days that I could do it. I could be the mother I needed to be. And of course I could call on her during those quiet moments of doubt when only she would understand what I was going through. For only she was there to feel it all with me.
Dona: Mother, Nana, Doula
When my daughter asked me to be her Doula, I was so honored and excited. Not only was I going to be able to finally be a doula, something I had only dreamt of, I was going to be there to assist my daughter. I better get to work, I thought. I had to learn all I could. I wanted to be at my best, after all, this was MY daughter and MY grandson. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I did my best to listen to my trainers. I also read every book I could get my hands on. One of the most important things I think I did was to talk to other Doulas and Midwives about their experience.
The day finally came. The three-hour drive in the wee hours of the morning was the longest ride of my life. I was on the hands-free phone with her most of the time, checking contractions, praying that it was God’s will for me to be there when she needed me. As I arrived, we went over her home plans and realized she was in active stage and could get some relief from the big Jacuzzi in the birthing suite, so off we all went. On the way to the hospital I thought, am I doing this right, am I saying the right things? As we arrived I went over her birth plan. Was the room dark enough, was it quiet enough? Making sure every support staff had copy of her plan.
Her labor was long and at sometimes it seemed that way. In other ways it seemed to go by so quickly. She received relief from the Jacuzzi. Finally I was able to see my daughter (yes, she is my daughter and client all at once, but my heart said daughter at this moment) calm and relaxed. I remember running my fingers through her hair as I did when she was young, thinking my baby is having her own baby. Holding her hand as we had millions of times before, but this time was different.
The hours went by and I assisted her in about every laboring/pushing position you could think of (if you’re a doula you know what I mean). She was exhausted, I was exhausted, but she pushed through. And then finally her baby crowned, and she pushed through the head. Part of her birth plan was that she had wanted to be able to touch the head and that she wanted her baby to hear her voice first. Her midwife placed her hand on the baby’s head and with a finger to my lips I reminded everyone to be silent (what my daughter didn’t know is, that she had pushed the baby's head all the way out and the baby was looking at us with great wonderment). It seemed like hours as we all waited patiently in silence. Then when she was ready, the last push, and he was here!
I can’t explain the emotions I was going through. The love that I had for my daughter at that moment was like no other time before, the bond that I already felt for my grandson, and the pure physical exhaustion. I was a Mother, a Nana, and a Doula.
Falen currently teaches full time. She aspires to become a lactation consultant after her challenges breastfeeding her son. "Like" her blog to follow her and read her musings and experiences.
Dona currently teaches full time while working toward becoming a certified birth and postpartum doula through DONA. She plans to help teen moms who would otherwise be unable to afford a doula. She serves the greater Detroit area. Contact her via email.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)