If you read my previous post containing my birth story, you will know that I had a precious newborn baby girl who occupied much of my time. The desire to help other pregnant and birthing women was fresh in my heart, but so was bonding with my newborn.
About six months after my daughter was born, more than a few friends and family asked me if I had seen an article in our local newspaper talking about “doulas”. By now, I was more aware of what the term meant and I eagerly read the article. There was a local training session for doulas at our local university hospital. My baby still seemed quite young for me to begin training and potentially leaving her for long hours, especially since she was exclusively breastfed. I began researching more about doulas and doula organizations on the internet. I learned that the local training session required not only the usual tuition fees but a commitment to being a doula at that hospital specifically for a period of time. This didn’t sound like it was my cup of tea. I began reading birthing books that were listed on most doula organizations required reading lists. One in particular that changed my viewpoint of the way things are handled from a medical model for pregnancy and birth was the book “Pregnant in America” by Robbie Floyd-Davis. What an eye opener! My library grew as I ordered books from Ebay, charts and teaching models and began amassing information.
A little over a year past my daughter’s birth, an acquaintance of mine asked me quite unexpectedly if I would come to her birth the following week. My answer was an excited and firm YES! This was her second child, but there was an eight year gap in between the children. The birth was amazing, I felt so grateful to be there in a helpful capacity and after the birth settled down, both the head nurse and ob/gyn pulled me aside and told me what a good doula I was. I responded that I wasn’t a doula — yet. They looked at me and said, well you should be. That was it. Done deal.. I began deciding where and when to take my certification.
A few short months later, I found myself pregnant again. Well, this was going to put off my training once more. Sadly, I miscarried early into the pregnancy, around approximately eight or nine weeks. I was devastated in a way that I had never understood before. How could I be so upset when I hadn’t even planned a pregnancy or known for more than a week or two that I was pregnant? The internet again led me to wonderful and healing groups and books. Here was another experience that could be used to help other families. I decided I wanted to have another baby and we began trying. Within a few months I was, indeed pregnant again — but this pregnancy was not an easy or happy one. I hemorrhaged daily, with thrice weekly trips to the lab for blood draws to check different levels. I was put on synthetic progesterone to prevent another miscarriage. Termination of the pregnancy was recommended. When the second trimester arrived and an ultrasound showed a normal size baby for gestation, my joy knew no bounds even though I was on bedrest. In my fifth month, exactly nine months to the day from my previous miscarriage, I awoke bleeding heavily and knew in my heart that was something was very wrong and very different. An immediate trip to the hospital confirmed on ultrasound that my baby was still.
In short, I ended up having a surgery to remove my baby — who turned out to be a girl. We named her Meade. I am still grateful to the kindness and caring shown to me by the perinatologists that I was referred to. The reason I am sharing this story is not for sympathy or to highlight unfavorable outcomes but because it is an integral part of my becoming a professional doula.
Several close friends were pregnant at this time. I was supposed to attend their births and throw their baby showers and do what I do– doula. How would I do this through grief and heartache? For those of you who have had the sad experience of a miscarriage, you know the hurt that silence from friends and family members causes. It would be simple to avoid anything related to babies or pregnancy, at least while grieving. Long drawn out conversations with myself and with an amazing support in another mommy friend in Florida made me realize I did not want to and could not avoid pregnancy and babies.
I scheduled my doula training for a few months later. I chose CAPPA, which stands for Childbirth and Professional Postpartum Association. Their website is http://www.cappa.net. While my original reason for choosing them over DONA (Doulas of North America) was due to location and timing, I cannot imagine receiving my training from anyone other than Tracy Wilson Peters and Donna Johnson, who founded CAPPA. What an amazing time of learning! It seemed like every day my brain would burst from all of the information, but the next day would be filled with more knowledge and a good time. We learned how to be a doula, what informed consent is, how to help our clients, watched videos, practiced exercises, and even covered a segment on the loss of a pregnancy or baby to further serve families in our community.
Because I had friends who were pregnant, it was not difficult to complete the three required births. Each of the births I attended for certification taught me even more and I received good reviews from the ob/gyns/midwives, head nurse, and the parents (as required). During the time I was completing my doula certification, I also attended the training to become a childbirth educator through CAPPA. Officially I became a certified doula and childbirth educator. Later I added postpartum doula to my list of services, along with belly casting, birth photography, and a few other things. The work is not necessarily lucrative and I have had to supplement my income in certain times, but the thought of quitting pregnancy and birth work has never occurred to me. Last year I attended an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) seminar in Atlanta and realized there was more that I could do to help women — become a part of ICAN and open a local chapter in Knoxville. This was realized late 2009 and we hold monthly meetings to raise awareness, provide support, and advocate for prevention of unnecessary C-sections. Recently I became a part of ETBC (East Tennessee Breastfeeding Coalition) and I am looking forward to the good this group can and will do to promote breastfeeding.
The woman who first asked me to attend a birth asked me to come to her third baby’s birth. It was amazing to work with someone I had already worked with. I was able to attend many close friends birth’s and others took my first childbirth classes. Through the years, many have asked me to attend subsequent babies births and I feel so honored when that happens. I have traveled out of state to postpartum doula and teach classes. My job is all I have ever wanted to do. Even when the hours are long (once a birth was 24 hours!), or there are difficulties, attending births as a doula is an extreme joy for me. Each class I teach is an opportunity to create a better birth experience for families, simply by telling them their options. Every family who hires me for postpartum work leaves an indelible impression on my memory.
Several people have asked me why don’t I become a midwife. I’m not interested in becoming a midwife. Midwifery is a tremendously important part of creating and experiencing better births. Not every woman chooses to have a midwife, and some cannot due to medical conditions or high risk pregnancy. I want to be there for any woman, whether she is having a home birth, hospital birth, or birth center birth. One of the beautiful things about being a doula is having the chance to experience a woman and her partner’s strength and family bonding in various settings.
This is my tenth year of being a doula. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
One of the first babies….
A more recent grateful hug from a doula client