You may be wondering...How many clients have I had?
I have been privileged to attend over 250 births as of October 2019.
While that sounds like a lot of moms/dads/babies, if you average that number out over 11 years, you can see I usually have a good amount of time between births. I book my clients by due week, so I always have a buffer zone between clients. That means no more than 1 client per week, 4 clients per month (maximum!). Of course, mother nature and your baby will decide when your labor begins, so I have a backup doula.
I'm lucky to have attended births at over 43 hospitals and 5 birth centers in two different states, with over 100 doctors and with 28 different midwives (mostly hospital based CNMs at the various Kaiser locations). This gives me an enormous advantage because I've seen so many different ways of doing the same thing! I've attended inductions and spontaneous labors, seen epidurals and natural births, watched babies born into water and by cesarean section, I even caught one myself when I arrived to mom's house and baby came soon thereafter! I've helped teenagers, single moms, surrogates, lesbians, gay dads with a surrogate, couples who struggled with infertility, recovering addicts, military families - you name it, I've probably worked with that before, too!
What is my training? Am I certified?
Yes, I am a certified HypnoDoula, trained to assist moms using Childbirth Hypnosis. I also completed a Doula Internship through South Coast Midwifery.
I'm trained and I got certified by both CAPPA and DONA (I let those go, since I was only paying their fees to show up on their websites, but the sites were clunky and old and hard to navigate - ugh, the worst!), the leading doula certifying organizations in the United States.
All of my certifications required me to attend several continuing education trainings each year, which I dutifully did for years and years until I realized that getting to go to births with different doctors and midwives at different hospitals was the experience I needed to help my clients.
Training courses I have attended include:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) (1 afternoon)
Low Milk Supply (1 day training); trainer Diana West's book, Making More Milk
HypnoBirthing for parents (The Mongan Method) (4 evenings)
The Bradley Method (12 evenings classes)
Stemming the Tide of Formula Supplementation (1 day)
Hypnobabies HypnoDoula Training (1 day)
Hypnobirthing Doula Training (1 day)
CAPPA Childbirth Educator Training (3 days)
CAPPA Lactation Educator Training (3 days)
DONA Labor Doula Training (2 days)
CAPPA Labor Doula Training (2 days)
Spinning Babies (1 day) with Gail Tully, homebirth midwife
CAPPA Annual Conference (3 days)
DONA Advanced Doula Skills (2 days)
DoTerra Essential Oils Basics (2 hours)
Peer-to-Peer Breastfeeding (3 days)
Every now and again I train other doulas on pregnant women's medical rights, since I am a recovering lawyer! True story.
Does certification matter?
The part of it that makes sense to me is that I have agreed as part of my certification that I will not exceed the scope of practice of a doula: a non-medical support person who does not make decisions for the mother. I believe in the limits of my work and hope to be a valued member of your non-medical support team. I can't take your temperature or prescribe an aspirin, and I certainly can't perform vaginal exams or monitor a baby's heart beat.
When would I be joining you during labor?
When you ask me to join you. Some moms want support at home, some moms want me to meet them at the hospital. It's a very personal decision. It depends on so many factors - how fast your contractions get up to speed (if they start out at every 6 minutes, or they start out every 30 minutes), whether your partner is being useful to you, whether your baby is facing up or down (sunny side up, or OP, occiput posterior), etc. There is no wrong time to ask me to join you in labor. Studies show that early support is better than too late. I have never understood other doulas and their "rules" for when you can call them. Aren't you paying me to support you during your birth? You might need my emotional support from the very beginning!
Which labor-coping techniques do I think tend to be the most helpful?
It depends on the mom, and the position of the baby. Some things that usually help:
The most important thing is to keep trying until we find out what works for you!
How would I work with and involve your partner?
My job is to help your partner be the best partner possible. I will guide your partner to support you, comfort you, and reassure you. I will coach both of you through this amazing time. We will meet together to figure out how to help your partner recognize your needs during birth, and discuss some ways to meet those needs. If there is anything your partner cannot handle (needles, blood, etc.), I will make sure to mention when those things are likely to occur so there are no surprises. Since I'll be taking photographs, your partner will be IN your birth photos, instead of behind the camera. A whispered suggestion here or there can make a world of difference in letting your partner know how to help you at each stage of your birth.
How does hiring me work?
Ideally, we should schedule a short Skype/FaceTime/WhatsApp chat or phone call first, and if that goes well, schedule an in-home interview, my home or your home. Once you both decide to hire me, call me to let me know and then fill out my contract and send it to me with a deposit for half of my fee. The rest of my fee is due two weeks before your due date. You can decide later if you want me to encapsulate your placenta for you.
Once we know we are working together, we will schedule at least 2 meetings to go over your birth wishes and be sure you are ready for birth and breastfeeding. You will fill out some questionnaires for me to help me get to know you better, and we will stay in touch during your pregnancy. I ask you to call me after doctor/midwife appointments and let me know how things are going. Once we are in your due window (one week before and one week after your due date), I'll promise to stay nearby in case you need me (that's two hours away, since I need some prep time to get ready, make coffee, and to drive to your side!). Once you think you are in labor, you decide when you need me to come to your side.
How do I feel about the use of pain medication during labor?
I loved my epidural! On the other hand, some moms hire me specifically to help them achieve an all natural birth. If that's your goal, I have a huge bag of tricks to help you cope. I have a lot of experience with drug-free births because I was born and raised in a hippie commune (true story!), but I personally had an epidural and I'm skilled at helping you give birth vaginally even with an epidural. I maintain records of every birth I've attended and I am happy to share the information I calculated: 54% occurred without an epidural. So you see, the choice is really up to you.
Many moms hire me planning on an epidural, and that is great! I will still meet you at home and help you know when your labor has progressed to the point you can get admitted to the hospital and get your epidural. Many first time moms come into the hospital triage unit and get turned away because they aren't in "enough" labor. I can save you that wasted trip, and later on I can help you get the baby into a good position even while lying in bed by positioning your body so as to help your baby pass through your pelvis. My job as chief photographer and head archivist is still very much in play during an epidural birth, and I'm especially good at suggesting pushing positions to make use of gravity even while you have an epidural in place! Some moms think they won't need a doula if they use an epidural, but does an epidural answer questions or talk you through difficult situations? No, it does not! Also, your nurse will not stay with you continuously until you start pushing, and your doctor won't come until you are probably close to done. The epidural will take care of your physical sensations, but it won't necessarily help keep you calm about anything else that is happening. An epidural does not take photographs so that your birth partner can be in them!
What matters is whatever matters to YOU. If you want to delay the epidural, skip it, or get it right away, what matters to me is what matters to you. Wasn't the whole point of the feminist movement the idea that each woman gets to decide for herself?
Why did I become a doula?
I started my professional life as an attorney for children in foster care, and then did their adoptions if they couldn't go home to their birth parents. I suffered a miscarriage while working and felt very strongly that once I got pregnant again I was going to quit this very painful work with traumatized families and children.
When I got pregnant the second time I looked into having the healthiest birth, and discovered doulas! Of course, I hired a doula for my birth. My baby arrived persistent occiput posterior (sunny side up) and had the cord wrapped around his neck twice, and we joke that it took a long time for that cord to stretch long enough to let him out! My doula's presence at the hospital helped me avoid a c-section despite 32 hours of labor. I would have asked the staff to "do something, anything!" long before pushing because I was tired and hurting. My doula had me walking the halls, taking showers, and changing positions to keep my labor going - and keep me distracted! Those simple things really work!
I was fine laboring at home, but at the hospital, it would have been very hard to cope and relax and negotiate with staff and work the hospital bed (you need a degree in civil engineering!!) and find the pillows, pillowcases, blankets, etc. while dealing with contractions. My doula made it all happen without me or my husband having to worry about it. She stood beside the shower with me so she could hold the water nozzle on my back, and my husband could hold the hand with the IV up and out of the water....for TWO HOURS.
When I couldn't take the pain any more (back labor is very difficult to cope with), I asked for an epidural, and my doula never left my side. She was there when I went to sleep, and when I woke up. She never "judged me"! Her face told me everything that I needed to know at that point. She believed in me enough to make my own decision and she made it seem like a very wise choice and let me know I was doing alright and everything would be okay, and it was. I pushed and pushed and pushed and she never told me I was doing it wrong, or acted like I wasn't going to be able to do this.
She kept looking at me like I was going to make it work, and I did. Partly because she made me believe I could. It was a transformative experience. Now, I am hired to believe in your ability to give birth, and that’s what I do. I have never looked back on my life as a lawyer and regretted changing jobs - my work remains the same. I work with families in a time of great need, same as before. The setting may have changed a little bit (hospitals instead of courts), but the rules are the same - find out what your client wants and try to get it for them. Believe in them. Trust them. And advocate for their wishes at every opportunity. Politely. But firmly.
Funny story: because of my birth experience, my best friend decided to become a doula after spending most of my labor with me and getting kicked out of my birthing suite to accommodate our doula. My best friend loved doula work so much, she invited me to join her at a training a year later. I loved that training so much I left behind my fancy (and expensive!) law degree and joined the ranks of women helping women in this remarkable rite of passage. Now I'm a doula focusing on the whole family, and believing they can have the birth they want. It's doulable!
What is placenta encapsulation?
I offer placenta encapsulation as an additional service for both my own clients and other mamas who contact me in advance to get on my calendar. All hospitals will dispose of your placenta immediately after your birth, so if you are planning to have this done you MUST tell me before I leave your birth so I can arrange with the staff to have you sign a form to release your placenta to me.
Encapsulation is basically dehydrating and then crushing your placenta, and placing the resulting fine powder into medical grade capsules, which can be taken during your postpartum recovery period to aid in mood stabilization and milk supply.
Of course there is research available on the benefits of encapsulation, but almost all of it was done on animal subjects... I'm most impressed with the stories of women giving birth a second time, who decided to try placenta encapsulation to see if they could have a better postpartum experience. Those moms have told me they felt much better, and wish they had known about encapsulation the first time!
I think it's wonderful this option exists for women who are interested, and I'm pleased to be able to provide it. I use flavored, colored capsules so you neither SEE nor TASTE anything unpleasant. :)
Even if the only benefit is the placebo effect, that's a good reason to try to have a happier postpartum period! The placebo effect can give you up to 10% better results!
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Doulas reduce cesarean rates, epidural use, duration of labor, and increase breastfeeding rates.
The researchers who first studied doula care versus standard care in hospitals said that if doulas were a drug it would be unethical not to use it on laboring women.