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.
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.
Last summer, with a new baby and living in a new place, I felt the desire to gather with doula sisters. I offered to meet with doulas in different areas and share how I helped set up the Chico Doula Circle. A handful of doulas in Modesto (a few hours north of me) were interested. It was lovely meeting all these ladies. They were already thinking about creating a doula group, and this was a chance to hear how it worked in Chico -- the basics of putting it together and keeping it going.
These women have true synergy and passion. It was exciting to see their ideas flowing as we came together as doulas. Months later I was thrilled to see the birth of their doula group and excited for what they have to offer area families. If you know anyone who is pregnant in the Modesto area, I would whole-heartedly recommend Rebecca, Teri, Jennifer, and Melissa. Be sure to check their website for service areas -- they do expand beyond Modesto.
The Modesto Doula Group states "We believe all women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to have educational, physical, and emotional support throughout pregnancy and the transition into the postpartum period. We respect a women's right and ability to make informed decisions about her care and that of her baby."
How did such a diverse group of women come together? They are united by passion and belief, and committed to combining their varied skills to best serve expectant families. By meeting prenatally with families they get to know their clients. Each doula has a 12-hour span of time where she is on-call for a birth. This enables each doula to be rested and ready for whatever support a family requires. Beyond the initial connection between doulas and the desire to work together, preparation and behind-the-scenes business to figure out logisitics takes a great amount of energy and time -- because it isn't seen it is easy to think these kinds of groups just come together. That is not so. There needs to be ample communication, some give-and-take, and a plan that suits not only the doulas as professionals, but also the families they serve.
And then, a doula group is born! For more information about creating a doula group, contact these ladies, or contact me -- we all love helping our doula sisters find ways to gain more satisfaction from their work.
Time Saving Tips for Busy Moms
Do you ever feel like there is not enough time in the day? What I would give to not be tired or simply have 2 extra hours in the day? I remember the day my twins were born. I really didn’t know how I was going to do the basic things. At the time I had 5 children under the age of six. The twin babies would have been enough to keep track of, but to have a 6, 4, and 2 year old potty training, with the twin babies was beyond overwhelming. So, out if necessity I came up with a few tricks that helped me survive.
Most people laugh at the first time saving trick. At night, after my husband and I gave the children a bath, we would put our young ones in the clean clothes they would wear the next day. It saved on laundry, and the cost of pajamas. On Saturday night it was a special treat to sleep in pajamas, because we certainly did not want to put them in church clothes.
The next trick I learned came as my children were old enough to do their own laundry. Each room had their own dirty clothes hamper. When it was full, the entire content went into the washing machine, then into the dryer, then back up to the room where it originated. The children knew when they arrived home from school and their clothes were on the floor, that they were expected to put them away. Consequently, I no longer have to sort or fold the piles of clothes, except my own. This literally saves me hours each week. I may not have had the whitest whites in town, but I certainly have more free time.
My favorite way to cook is with the crock pot. I don’t know how people do without one. There are so many great recipes that can be converted to the crock pot. I love having dinner simmering and ready whenever I need it. If you are not a crock pot cooker, may I suggest you give it a try. It is perfect for those nights that you are busy and it allows you to spend more time with your children when they get home from school.
When I had my twins, I had no idea there was such a thing as a doula. Oh how I wish I had known. People often ask me what a postpartum doula does. My most simple answer is, “We are a Mom for the Mom”. Here is a more detailed list of what postpartum doulas do:
I have one regret: I did not learn infant massage when my children were young. There are huge benefits of infant massage. I will list just a few:
Melanie Henstrom is a DONA-certified postpartum doula, a Certified Infant Massage Instuctor (CIMI), and she also teaches mom & baby yoga classes in the Portland, OR area. Her experience as the mother of 6 children, including a set of twins, led her naturally toward helping women in the postpartum period adjust to life as new moms. Her mothering skills serve as the foundation of the care she offers families, and she strongly desires to show women the support she wishes has been available to her as an overwhelmed mother.
To learn more about Melanie and the support she offers, visit her website.
In honor of all my doula sisters out there, I am sharing different posts featuring different aspects of life in the doula world.
Starting the month off is a post by my lovely friend, Anne Junge. Anne is a DONA-certified doula who was one of my partners at the Chico Doula Circle. She volunteered as a doula for a local hospital. She is a mom and a 4-H Lover, and she has an incredible sense of humor (very important in this line of work!). She wrote this post about all the things she learns as she supports families to their best birth stories. Anne has a doula heart and a doula brain, and I value her outlook and what she has to offer. She can be found at her website or on Facebook.
I learn at least one “new” thing at every birth I attend. One of the best things I have ever done in my development as a doula is keeping a doula journal. I made sure the journal I choose was pretty so I would enjoy retrieving it to use. It is smallish so that it is easily portable in my doula bag. As I enter year 4 as a doula, the benefits of keeping a journal are coming back to me.
So what do I record? The bare essentials, like first names of mom, dad, and baby. The date. The location. The care provider. Vaginal or cesarean. Epidural or not. Then I write down one special memory and one “thing” that I learned. Most entries are one page. Sometimes there is more than one special memory and more than one thing that I learned.
At the start of each year I also record some of the goals I would like to meet in the coming year. These are examples of some goals I have already met and some I am still looking forward to:
-Make a webpage.
-Have a booth at the Farmer’s Market.
-Attend Lamaze Training.
-Send in DONA recertification packet in August.
At the end of the year, I do a little recap on the statistics of my birth work. I can provide these statistics to my clients when they seek reimbursement from their health insurance!
-How many vaginal births versus cesarean births?
-How many epidurals versus no pain meds?
-Which hospitals did I attend the most?
The journal has been a great way to maintain focus on the how, when, where and why of my work in the birth world. I read my journal two to three times a year. Time changes perspective on events and often leads to new insights on why things happened the way they did. The new insight gives me a broader, more complete knowledge base to work from. So what have I learned?
I always pack extra hair bands in my doula bag, because my clients often get irritated with their hair in their face. Little did I know that one day I would use one to pull back the midwife’s hair (when her hair knot did not work)!
Always bring a fresh change of clothes. I never know when a birth is going to be a little lonnngggg. That includes socks. And underwear. I feel fresher and smell better.
Some women don’t like to be touched. Expand my verbal support toolbag.
Never, ever close my mind to the suggestions of a nurse or a care provider. Question them? Yes. But never dismiss them without respectful consideration. I have learned many things from nurses, midwives and obstetricians. But, on the other hand, the time to have an in-depth, philosophical conversation on “episiotomy or not to episiotomy” is probably not when my client is pushing (not one of my prouder doula moments).
If a mom gets discouraged during pushing, encourage her to feel the baby’s head. The amount of energy they find at that moment is amazing. Learned from a midwife.
At some births, I may never feel like I am in sync with the mom, the dad, the staff, the whatever. BUT, the most important thing is continuous caring presence. It makes a difference-it really does. Thank-you cards received months later and chance encounters with past clients in a grocery store have all proved to me that my presence was truly appreciated and positive. On the other hand, there will be births that are unhappy, but my presence will probably make it easier to bear.
Birth number 4, I decided I was never again going to tell a mom to push. There are plenty of other people in the room willing to do that. Instead, I focus on telling her how well she is doing, wiping her brow, reminding her to take a deep breath for baby, giving her a sip of water.
Some babies come really fast. Do I need to say more? Stealing a phrase from one of my doula sisters, “Use your spidey sense.” If a mom seems transitiony or pushy, trust your doula instinct.
Extended family love updates. Take a stroll past the waiting room on the way to a bathroom break. Give them an update. They may feel uninformed. It is a great time to provide educational support that may lead to them, in turn, providing better support to your client.
Few births are “typical.” They almost all have something that makes them unique. So, essentially the more you experience, the more likely you are to have the next birth teach you something new. A concept I learned from a lactation consultant.
I want a peanut ball. My clients like them and not all hospitals have them. Doula work is my passion. It is an art. It takes creativity, an open mind, empathy, diplomacy, and a willingness to learn. My journal gives me a chance to rejoice at the special memories and acknowledge the things I learned that will make me a better doula at the next birth, and the next birth, and the birth after that. Looking forward to recording my next Happy Pushing memory!
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)