Some doulas strive to venture into the world of birth as no-frills and intervention-free as it can happen. Other doulas, like Julia, offer their experience and knowledge to help families considered "high-risk." Julia and I agree -- we need both kinds! Julia also is passionate about mentoring doulas through the certification process, so virtually and on the phone she is able to provide support, feedback, and heart to help grow new doulas. If this is something you are curious about, contact your certifying organization and ask how you can help as a volunteer, ultimately helping your fellow doulas.
Around a year ago, I was hit by a drunk driver. While I recovered, I was unable to do what I loved most, parent. But secondarily, unable to also do the work I loved, doulaing! So, I decided there was one thing I could do, help doulas who were certifying. So, from my bed, I sent out my resume and letter of intent to become a volunteer certification packet reviewer for DONA, and so began a journey that has taken me on a fantastic ride with a organization I’m proud to be a of.
When I certified, I felt overwhelmed by the process, it felt daunting, and the organization felt large, with seemingly nowhere to turn… and so as soon as I was approved to be a reviewer, my goal became clear, and the doulas spoke this to me… I needed to help make certifying accessible, smooth, straightforward and personable for every doula. So, I set my sights on doing just that.
This year, as a reviewer, I started the “Tips from your Friendly Certification Packet Reviewer,” a Monday post on the DONA Facebook Boards where I bring frequent “bump in the road” items I come up against in the packets I review. Some of the tips I’ve covered include:
The conversations that have emerged from the posts have been insightful, and I’ve started to see cleaner, more organized packets since these posts. As a result of having cleaner packets, I’m able to really sit back and relish the best parts of the packets, the birth stories. One of the best parts of packet reviewing is that I’m basically part of a doula birth story sharing circle every single day. I get to read how doulas experience birth, their tips and tricks from all over the world, and glean their knowledge. And let me tell you something, as someone who is “seasoned,” I’m learning from them every single day. I’ve certified close to 200 doulas in the past year, and every birth story I learn something.
Just today, I called a doula to let her know I had her packet to review. She told me that she had an acting background and how it played into her doula career. I couldn’t quite picture how, and she explained that if she had to meet a client for the first time in birth, she needed to improv into the role, and read the room immediately. GENIUS. In another birth story, a client was having a hard time focusing because of the people in the room, but still wanted them there. The doula pulled out an eye mask for the client to wear, and it worked like a charm. GENIUS. This is what I get to be a part of.
I’m proud to play a small part in the big world that is DONA, and to hopefully continue to show that certification can be a straightforward, personable, welcoming experience. If you are certifying, or mid-process, please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions that I can assist you with! I would love to help you along the way!
Julia has been a practicing Birth Doula since 2013. Her passion is supporting families prenatally. Her main goal is to make sure that each birthing client (and partner) feels that they are well prepared for birth. Julia specializes in high-risk births and families expecting twins or triplets. She is confident and knowledgeable when it comes to navigating the medical system and helping families feel informed and empowered to participate and lead their own birth story. She has written a twins-doula curriculum that she has subsequently taught to doulas around the country.
She is currently certifying as a Childbirth Educator as well in addition to her work as a birth, fertility, postpartum and bereavement doula. In her free time, she volunteers on the Birth Doula Certification Committee for DONA International.
You can learn more about Julia on her website at www.northwestbirthservices.com, on her Co-Op page, www.doitalldoulas.com/julia/ or by emailing her at email@example.com!
Today's guest post isn't so much a birth story, but a pregnancy story. Often when families face high-risk pregnancies, even if the problems resolve at some point in the pregnancy, it is hard for families to let go of that fear and those feelings they lived with for so long. Evelyn had an advantage here in that she had a doula by her side early on, and I believe that helped her stay on track once she was cleared for a normal, vaginal birth. It isn't always like this. Some families aren't prepared to become "low-risk," and medical interventions during birth (and even after birth) are wanted and expected, and even though they aren't necessary, parents seek assurance that everything really is "okay." It is a hard place to be, for sure.
When I think back to my baby's birth, I am reminded it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. I had a low-lying placenta early on, and my doctor was unsure if it would move enough to avoid a cesarean birth. This was a huge worry through my pregnancy. I had a couple times of spotting, which made everyone nervous. It wasn't until I was 32 weeks that I was cleared to move forward with a vaginal birth. Seeing I might have been facing a cesarean, I had many ask why I wanted a doula? What could she do for me if I needed a surgical birth?
I had my dreams of birth and how it would be. I read birth books before I ever even got pregnant. I think I drove my husband nuts, and it made for surprises to family members to come over and see my stack of books on the coffee table or in the bathroom when we weren't even trying to get pregnant. After a few initial, "Is there something you need to tell us?" conversations, they realized, like so many things in my life, I was just gearing up to the main event. Don't even ask me how many TVs we had to look at before I felt we had found the best one according to specs, price, and pas reviews!
I felt like I was very aware of my options. And one thing I knew we would incorporate into our birth experience was a doula.
With the threat of a cesarean birth looming over my perfect, dreamy, pre-planned birth, my husband suggested we wait until we knew for sure we could attempt a vaginal birth before hiring a doula, "Just in case." But just in case is never how I operate. Besides, I already had the list of local doulas before I was pregnant, and I had contacted a few for interviews when my spotting began. I can understand his concern. He loves me and wants the best for me. But in light of this new news, I really felt I wanted the support a doula could bring if the pregnancy ended up with complications, and if we had a cesarean.
In thinking back to that day, I have made a list of why procuring a doula early on, when faced with a cesarean, was a good idea for me.
even though I had no restrictions ordered from my doctor, I was hesitant to go anywhere or do anything, and I was treating myself like a precious object. My doula encouraged me to look into prenatal yoga (where I met many friends I still have today!), select our childbirth classes, and prepare like normal for our baby's birth.
When things were too heavy, she gave me the number of a great therapist. One quality I really grew to love about my doula was her sense of knowing her boundaries. She knew what she could handle, and she knew when it was out of her skillset. We had many frank discussions about what a cesarean birth would be like, and that if the placenta hadn't moved enough, there was simply no way around that. I prepared all I could so it wouldn't catch me off guard, and then I hoped and prayed it could be another way. My anxiety really got hold of me and I felt frozen in my tracks. After a few conversations with my doula, she gently suggested it might be helpful for me to talk to a therapist she knew who met with many women prenatally or postpartum, when "feelings feel too big for your body." I needed her to tell me that to realize, she couldn't be all things to me, and that was good. I wouldn't want her to be acting parts she didn't have the training to be.
She helped relieve the pressure off my husband. Because I had so many appointments, and because of the bleeding scares and hospital stays, my husband had taken a lot of time off here and there. Once I felt more stable and things were looking good, no bleeding in a number of weeks, he asked if I could attend some of my appointments by myself so he wouldn't miss work. I agreed. That first appointment alone had me nervous. When I mentioned this to my doula, she offered to come along with me This was one thing she did that lightened his load, and especially when it came to labor and birth, or course there was much more!
After the birth and we finally had our baby, she melted into the background. I was happy for her help, I don't know how we would have done it without her. Once our baby was born, she seemed to turn into the wall as we met and examined our baby. But she was there as soon as we needed something, had a question, or wanted breastfeeding help. She also ran out and got us lunch. Once she was sure we were feeling good, she said her good-byes and took her leave. Having her near was a security, her being quiet and mild was her gift to us.
I could write another list of all the amazing things she did for us as we were in labor and birthing our baby. To me, that seems a lifetime away from how she helped me during my complicated pregnancy...a post for another day. I don't think our doula knew what she was getting into when she took us on as clients. But I am so grateful for how she cared for us!
Evelyn and her husband, James, live in Austin, TX with their two daughters. Their second pregnancy was very uneventful, much to the relief of all involved! And yes, they used a doula.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)