On BEcoming a Doula

It's Always Personal - Practicing as a Doula and a Human Being
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

For several days I have been in a place of meditation about whether to share the original Buzzfeed article that triggered many reactive online posts, debates and ultimately led DONA International’s founder, Penny Simkin, to write an open letter responding to a doula who addressed her directly online.

For weeks, I have also been in meditation, prayer and study as, I too, was recently told by a doula that I let her down.  Our conversation was private, however, and I am grateful to her for that.  She also shared that she checked with another person in her workshop and that doula did not have the same experience. I appreciated her sharing that with me.  It was kind, thoughtful.

Since that time, I have looked deeply at myself as a doula trainer, and more important, as a human being. I long ago realized I cannot meet everyone’s needs.  That was a healthy realization for me and so I am less concerned with this doula’s expectations and perceptions of me than what happened the evening we talked.  What matters to me is that while I was speaking with this person, I noticed her body-language and I was too invested in trying to get her to hear and understand me that I ignored what I was seeing. I didn’t do what I normally do.  I didn’t ask how it was for her to hear what I was saying and, in hindsight, I made little attempt to truly hear and acknowledge her feelings.

I have been sitting with this for weeks. I kept coming back to Brene Brown‘s words, “Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story.” but a wise friend pointed out to me that when people feel vulnerable, my story is too much for them to take in at that time.  Since the buzzfeed article (well, for a few years now, really) many doulas have been sharing their stories.  Our profession is growing exponentially and many people feel vulnerable.  It seems, however, that no matter what “side” people are on, or the view from where they stand, very few are willing to truly listen to the other.

So here I am with my truth…in being honest with myself, I know that in a conversation with a colleague I respected, who, I believe once respected me, I was unwilling/unable to hear her story either.

That realization about myself cut to my core and I dove deeply into the work I knew I needed to do – to look carefully at all the times I may have done this. I sat with the discomfort until it became the pain I knew it would. I went into my sadness and used my tears to water my psyche and my soul. When I did that I remembered my personal needs – to make a positive difference and to matter. And the only way I matter is if everyone else matters too.

we-dont-see-things-as-they-are-we-copy

It took nearly a full week for me to finish the original article as I used it to try to listen differently.  I took each section a little at a time and I tried to “hear” Randy Patterson and the ProDoula doulas, who were the subject of the original article. I tried to understand their point of view. I felt the sadness coming back.   It isn’t always comfortable in another person’s shoes.

I remember, some 20+ years ago, I heard the phrase “it’s just business” and I knew with every fiber of my being that wasn’t true – for me.   For me, it’s personal.  My profession and my person intertwine.  And my business is supporting, teaching, caring for and listening to people – all people.  Somehow I think, with all the drama and distraction, I forgot that.

Then tonight, I read Penny Simkin’s open letter response and I remembered who I am.  I am the person she trained to be a doula and a doula trainer.  I have followed her lead before and I will do it again.

From its inception, DONA International has had a Code of Ethics and a Standards of Practice that all members, certified doulas and approved trainers abide by in our work.  Sharing just a few of them….

Through our code of ethics we agree:

to have a primacy of interest to our clients (we work only for them)

to foster self-determination in them – THEY decide what matters to them and why and we help them communicate that if necessary

to set fees that are fair and commensurate with the services provided

to treat colleagues with respect, courtesy, fairness and good faith

to assist with DONA International’s vision of “A Doula for Every Person Who Wants One” by providing services at a reduced cost OR referring to another doula

to uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge and mission of the profession 

and to promote the general health of women and their babies and whenever possible, that of their family and friends as well.

In Penny’s words,

“We all should be working to spread the word among the childbearing public about the true benefits of doula care. Instead of wasting our energy and our dignity denigrating other doulas, let’s meet the needs of expectant and new parents with excellent support and guidance toward the best birth possible, as THEY define it.”

And there it is.  This is both the WHY and the WAY  I do this work.  Penny Simkin is my role model and mentor. DONA International is my professional compass and I am back on track to true north again.

Penny Simkin, DONA, Doulas, Boise, Doula, Training

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Make it happen…birth doula business!
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

become, doula, workshop, training, boise

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Boise Birth Doula Workshop February 2017
Posted by Kyndal – Birth Journals, On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

becomeadoula

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Spinning Babies Instructor, Lorenza Holt
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?”  Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula?

~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?
~What makes them continue?
~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth?
~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives.

For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world.  Some are new to this work.  Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally.   All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like…

Lorenza Holt
I first met Lorenza in Cancun, Mexico at the DONA International 20th Anniversary Conference.  My most vivid memory is standing in the ocean with her and both of us letting the waves take us up and down and forward and back.  As Lorenza says, “The water was delicious.”

Only later, would I learn Lorenza’s rich history as a childbirth professional in the Boston area of Massachusetts.  She is currently Executive Director of BACE (Boston Association for Childbirth Education and Nursing Mother’s Council) – truly a pioneering organization advocating for women’s rights in childbirth.  She has been dedicated to working for mothers and babies for 30 years as a childbirth educator, a doula and doula trainer and now as one of a handful of Spinning Babies Trainers in the world.   That is Lorenza in the photo below – on the far left.

spinningbabiesinstructors

She received her Master’s Degree in Public Health from Boston University, but only AFTER she worked as a community coordinator for the Cambridge Birth Center where she created its doula program, which served a culturally diverse population.  She deeply believes all women should have access to support.  “When a woman who may be an immigrant and who may not speak English has the support of another woman during childbirth, who understands her language and culture, it “raises the volume of her voice” and allows her to be heard.”
In 2010 she was inducted into the Women’s Health Heroes Hall of Fame – Our Bodies Ourselves Women’s Health Hero Award

I have wanted to bring Spinning Babies to Boise for over two years and I was thrilled when Lorenza agreed to come this fall. I was happier still  to be able to coordinate the dates so her trip could be part of the Treasure Valley Doulas 2016 Conference.  Tomorrow we will spend all day exploring fascia and the role of the doula in “spinning babies” –  helping the motherbaby do what their bodies innately do – holding the space to make that happen.  I will return to post those photos later.  Until then, meet Lorenza….

How did you become a doula?
I became a doula through the births of my own two children.  I was born in Mexico (when birth was normal).  I had my own children in Boston, MA. My first birth was a unpreventable cesarean due to placenta previa.  But I always felt I had missed a fundamentally important experience.  So with the next baby, I really wanted a vaginal birth.  My OB didn’t remember me, but congratulated himself on his “work” when he saw my cesarean scar.  I walked out and never returned.

My neighbor was a midwife and she supported my transformation by validating my inner voice, my truth – that I could trust my body.  I am responsible for it and if I want this experience, I need to make it happen. I cannot depend on a healthcare system to give it to me.  So I became informed and maybe a little demanding.
I found a midwife but the healthcare system did not support VBACs at that time and her consulting physician asked what I thought of the consent form for another cesarean section.  Out of my mouth came: “I would rather have a home birth.”
So I went home repeating, “I am having a home birth.”  At 30 weeks we started planning our home birth and for 12 weeks I planned.  My son was born at home (at 42 weeks) on Valentine’s Day.

Birth (and informed choices) became my passion. I became a childbirth educator and then, in 1993, Penny Simkin came to Boston and I took the birth doula training – it could have been one of the very first trainings, I think, and I have been doing it ever since.

lorenzagail

What makes you continue? The ripple effects in a woman’s life when birth is transformative!

5 words that best describe your journey as a doula: It’s just a joyful passion.

Most surprising thing you ever took to/used at a birth:  The realization of learning that what it truly takes is simply being fully present in the moment.

Funniest thing you ever heard a laboring woman say: “I’m going to need a pastrami sandwich before I can push this baby out.”

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be?  You are strong.

What is the most challenging thing about being a doula?  The sacred promise that we make to being there when she needs us.  We are entering into the most sacred place when we have agreed to be with her.

What is the most rewarding part of being a doula for you?  Spending those weeks getting to know her, providing information, encouragement, referrals and then, on that day, she trusts you…and tells you “I am so glad you are here.”  Knowing it made a difference for her.  Then she remembers that she was respected, heard, supported and loved at such a transformative moment.  It is real and raw and she vulnerable.  And I have seen that if she feels loved she feel triumphant, strong and capable.  And we are back to the ripple effect.

Your family would say about you…  She is a total birth junkie.

When you are not a birth, where are we mostly likely to find you?  In meetings with policy makers doing my best to strengthen the workforce of maternal and child community health workers, traveling and teaching spinning babies which is changing birth on earth.
And I am humbled, honored, amazed, delighted to be among the group of women sharing what we are doing.
I am the only Spanish speaking trainer which has to me to  Guadalajara, Monterey and Mexico City as well as Quebec and Montreal (and Boise) and I am going to Spain in March!

lorenzamexico

To recharge your BEing what do you do?  I walk and do yoga.  And I love to cook, to invite friends and family over and share a meal.

What book are you reading now?  My book club book is I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan but I haven’t cracked it yet.
For Birth/Spinning Babies: Preparing for A Gentle Birth by Blandine Calais-Germain and Nuria Vives Pares  and Sarah Buckley’s work.  Penny Simkin’s The Labor Progress Handbook, but mostly I just try to get into Gail Tully’s head and to understand her genius.

inversion

Your advice to new doulas:  Keep the mother in the middle!! Of everything you do.  It is about the joy of serving.

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Passion and Privilege in My Profession
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I cannot separate myself from the reasons I do my work.  My passion became my profession 21 years ago when I took my DONA International Birth Doula Training.  And I cannot separate myself from the growth I am committed to as a human being while I am here. With honesty about what it is like to care about women and their families – including my own family, I feel torn among the vast majority of my colleagues who came to this work because we CARE.

It is not simple. It is messy and confusing. So as I watched the CNN feature, This Is Birth with Lisa Ling, these are the things that stuck out to me:

In the section on Cesarean Birth:
“Convenience and preference is not the best way to practice medicine.”
or-cesarean
“Remove the tension between what’s the right thing to do and where ‘entrepreneurialism’ might come in (regarding paying physicians the same for vaginal and surgical deliveries).
 
In the section on Midwives:
When the move from home to hospital was noted as the norm for birth now and the question, “What happened?” was posed, the answer was: “Money. Birth is big business. There is a lot of money to be made.”

Comments from my colleague, Valerie Sasson whom I worked with frequently at the beginning of my career: 

“I think that everything that is problematic in this country comes from that trio…is it racism? Is it sexism? Is it classism?”

“Herein lies the absolute failure of modern midwifery….white midwifery has been thriving…” (and access to midwifery for the many who experience terrible disparity in health care options and horrible health outcomes continues to be significantly limited throughout the country).

midwifery
 

“Intimate care is the solution for human beings. We’re not going to solve it by making ever bigger systems that are de-personalized.”

So I cannot help but look at this through the lens of the doula profession and worry about who we are leaving on the sidelines. Who will not be able to ever afford the services – which research shows improves outcomes – unless/until we have insurance reimbursement.

Or… we allow ourselves to sit in the messy middle and be creative and let doulas have autonomy over their businesses in exactly the same way women should have autonomy over their bodies.
And we do it without judging each other.  Period.

Again, it is not simple. It is messy and confusing. And, unfortunately, it has become polarizing.  And like this year’s Presidential Election…polarized camps make for great banter and ratings and interestingly, “free” exposure and advertising while leaving the families without resources – who most need the support and care – to fall through the cracks.

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Carol Roberts - a Doula's Perspective of Birth in India
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?”  Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula?

~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?

~What makes them continue?

~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth?

~Does it matter what part of the country, or the world we live in or is it in our human DNA to do this work regardless of country and culture?

~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives.

For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world.  Some are new to this work.  Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally.   All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like…doula, Carol Roberts.

 

Carol, I know you spent several years in India, would you tell us some more about that? Sure but I am speaking from the perspective ONLY of my experience in a segment of society that is rarely experienced by westerners. My words should NEVER be considered true of all of India!

Thank you for that reminder.  We will remember to have cultural humility as we read your words.  What took you to India? I was invited by an Indian doctor/friend to help in a health teaching program. I went as a Health Care Consultant to help the NGO with training of Community Health Workers for the rural poor of India. The majority of my five years was focused on bringing this education program forward both in quality and in caring for the hearts of those receiving medical care. I taught many topics regarding primary ways to improve health. My goal was to train Indian nurses to be health educators for Community Health Workers. Of course my favorite teaching was pregnancy, birthing and newborn! My favorite times were accompanying nurses I had trained into slums for on the spot mentoring. I treasured those moments of connecting heart to heart with the women in need myself. And of course teaching the nurses how to identify slum and village women who could be basic health teachers right in their own situation was a key. This elevated that woman’s position in her community and more readily spread news of better health practices.

Doula, India, Carol, Roberts DONA, International

After about 1 ½ years in India I was contacted by an Indian Obstetrician who owns three Woman’s hospitals. She asked me to come to her well respected primary hospital to consult in improving maternity care. Her goal was to bring more empowerment to the women. We became close friends and I admire her so much. I year later her hospital’s midwifery school was up and running to train her best OB nurses in this new profession. Midwives. UK midwives taught the midwifery skills. My role was to teach the segment on labor support skills and the crucial understanding of natural pregnancy and birth hormones and to mentor the students on the OB (GYNE) “ward”. My last year I also taught the second year students and first midwifery grads about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding support in Indian villages and slums.

Did you attend any births while you were there?  Yes but my role was more as a nurse educator not as a doula in almost all cases. I was blessed to see some women empowered with choices. Those choices seemed so minor considering their lack of choices regarding cesarean birth. I was thankful I could empower them to ask for some choices in spite of the cesarean birth. With great thanksgiving one mom was the “first“ for her doctor to allow skin to skin very soon after a cesarean as well as breastfeeding at that time. Seeing the doctors face when she observed this mother and baby was amazing. The mother had pre-eclampsia and legitimately had to birth early. Thus the doctor honored their request for skin to skin but said “baby will probably not feed because he is early”. Well this tiny baby was a major change agent. After watching this little guy content asleep and resting on mommy, warm as toast AND having fed at both breasts the Dr. said, ”we must do this for all babies”. This mom went on to tell everyone who would listen proudly, “I feed him right away.”  Amazing what open hearts and minds can do.

Doulas, India, DONA, International

My one totally natural, “empowering doula” birth was in a government hospital my first year in India I quietly spent hours with a first time mom whose daily existence was living in the streets. She was not allowed to have anyone present with her (none of the women were). We could share no words as she spoke Telugu. She understood my frequent “Accha Hai” – meaning “good” in Hindi but not any other Hindi words. Our hearts and hands and eyes connected and she accomplished birth with no exam and no interventions. My plastic bottle of water became her sole source of hydration. AND like not one other mother that day (at least 10-12 births) she sat upright part of labor, squatted briefly and pushed resting on her side. No one actually believed me at first when I indicated they needed to come for the baby’s birth. The mom’s smile, eyes and firm hand grip were all I needed to know she felt good about birth. I was fortunate to be in that hospital by invitation from a group of lay birth assistants in training from a group in Australia. They were there for a 3 month practical training. I was able to provide doula basics training to them the next year.

What did you find the biggest difference attending births in India vs the US? I am speaking from the perspective ONLY of my experience in a segment of society that is rarely experienced by westerners. My words should NEVER be considered true of all of India! Clearly our US birth culture differs from state to state. If you add India, state by state, each with a distinct culture – not just of birthing – but all outlook of life you MAY see the challenges. The women nor their family rarely would speak openly with questions to their doctor. They told me they feared the doctor would not take care of them at all if they asked questions. My role was not as a doula as much as a “GYNE nurse” as they called me. I tried to get the concept of doula understood but found there was way too much confusion. Thus I assumed a nursing role while trying to demonstrate doula skills. The huge gap in education in pregnancy and birthing for a large percentage of Indian women makes attending births there complicated.

What are some of the challenges faced by mothers in India? Lack of education, thus lack of meaningful employment, leading to lack of nutritional food and healthcare, Also the Indian patriarchal society often does not allow women to have any say in life choices. Women with slightly more education who felt a little more empowered would ask if I would speak for them. I explained and demonstrated in their homes how they could speak but often I assumed a nursing advocacy role on behalf of the client. At the same time I was demonstrating to the woman and family how they might ask question while still “honoring” the cultural appropriate high role of the doctor. I explained they could gather information and talk about their desires just as I did.

hats for sweet baby (3)

What memories have stayed with you – meaningful moments from your time there? Most memorable to me is empowering and loving the women of India. I am in touch with some of these women still and treasure our life-long connection.

You received the Penny Simkin Founder’s Award for Doula Spirit and Mentorship – how was that for you to be acknowledged for your efforts in promoting and caring for doulas and motherbabies? I was humbled beyond words to receive this award. I sat in my little room in India and cried tears of joy and sadness that I could not be present when this was announced. I so much missed my doula sisters at that moment. Truthfully it is hard for me to receive awards as every heart I am allowed touch I think is my greatest reward. To receive this award in the name of dear Penny Simkin was beyond special. It is a treasured forever moment. I finally received the actual award this year. Anni Grauer presented it to me with a group of DONA International doulas in Columbus Ohio. We both cried tears of joy.

Doula, Doula, Trainer, DONA International, Penny, Simkin, Award

 

Why/How/When did you become a doula? I became a doula before I knew what a doula was. With my first birth I only had experience with birthing with twilight sleep etc. During my obstetrical learning rotation in nurse’s training I supplemented what I observed with talking to an older cousin who had birthed naturally and reading her copy of Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear: The Principles of Natural Childbirth. When I became pregnant with my first child in 1966 I was determined to surround myself with those who would believe me that I could and would birth as my body was created. Drugs was not in my birth plan. In 1966 that was not easily accomplished but I felt blessed to find an obstetrician in Colorado who said he didn’t know much about that but was really glad to help me birth this way. This empowering birth for me was a revelation. Not only of the power of my body but how I was transformed into being more confident and ready to face challenges. I had no doula and little support from my husband but my inner wisdom guided me all the way. Little did I know the first 3 days of bliss would be shattered five days after my dear Scott’s birth when he suddenly died due to a congenital heart defect. That in itself is another story. I do know his brief life gave me an additional incentive to help women be educated in natural birthing and empowered for changed lives.

I began my career in OB nursing soon after Scott’s death in early 1967. My first experience of OB nursing outside of nurses training was in the deep south of the US in an inner city hospital. I was not allowed to enter a labor room to “support the mother” as that was not considered my nursing role. Nor was she allowed to have family with her. My heart cried out to those dear women of color but I could not help them or work in that environment! I chose to work in the nursery where I could help some with mother and baby connections. Within a few months I was once again moving to a new location due to my husband’s work In Toledo, Ohio. There in 1968 I was fortunate to be able to work with a team to establish Family Centered Maternity Care. Part of my role was teaching Lamaze Childbirth Education and of course working as an OB Nurse. It was a natural transition in 1969 from education of expectant parents and then being requested to help them in birth. My first birth support efforts I knew nothing about special positions but I guided the woman to breathe as it worked for her. Thus I learned that loving and caring for the woman was what brought an empowering birth. I took a “new baby break” with births in 1971 and 1973. Four months after the birth of my 3rd son’s birth I began to teach Lamaze Classes in Medina, Ohio. There the desire for natural birthing skyrocketed and with it requests for going to labor and birth with couples. When I went to an education program about the research doula project newly completed in Cleveland I found out I was a doula. A fellow nurse and mom I had helped in birth attended the program with me. She turned to me during the presentation and said, “Carol that is what you have been doing you are a doula!”

 SO I guess that is how I became a doula by name. I became a doula by heart way back in 1967. I became a doula by education through a training in Labor Support through Lamaze International taught by Kathy McGrath and then worked to became certified with the bestDONA International.

Why do you continue? I continue in doula work because of the realization that life is so much more meaningful to others as well as myself as I give my heart to serve. After my certification my goal was to provide Birth Doula support but at the same time educate as many of my fellow OB nurse and public as possible. The nurses jumped in and quickly provided amazing support to provide care way beyond medical aspects. I still love doing that today. At a birth yesterday (9-30-15) at a facility new to me I enjoyed the open nurses. I loved their questions, their ideas and after birth we shared. At their request I emailed them and a student nurse the PDF of Sara Buckley’s Hormone Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies and Maternity Care. Thus I continue for the same purpose and goal. As it gets harder with age to provide as much Birth Doula support I can still provide education and support of others through mentoring.

Most surprising thing you ever took to/used (for yourself or the laboring woman) at a birth: a yellow flat stuffed duck with bright orange feet and bill with a massager in it’s belly. Mom’s always loved it! For cleanliness I placed it is a clear big plastic bag and sticking out from the bag was usually the feet or nose. It was not only a good gentle back massager but a REAL great giggle producer and thus relaxer of the mind too. The poor thing gave out as massager eventually but for years was a fixture in my living room/teaching room at home.

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be? I am so proud of your strength.

What is the most challenging thing about being a doula? The time restraints and always being on call that make it so important to be aware of balance between family and doula obligations

What is the most rewarding part of being a doula for you? Just being with the woman and family and seeing what a difference it has made – no matter the outcome I feel at peace about being there. No matter how tired I am or how challenging the birth I feel contended as I travel home.

We all understand the need women have to feel safe during childbirth and the value of a mother’s willingness to be vulnerable in her birthing time. We all feel vulnerable at some time.
Vulnerability is … allowing others to see your deep needs -joys and pain and struggles of life

How have you experienced the value of allowing yourself to be vulnerable as a doula? Yes I can relate better to the needs of the woman, her family and the team of healthcare professionals if I am open to all. I especially have allowed myself to be vulnerable when it comes to working with mom’s with neonatal loss.

Sometimes the “story I make up in my mind is”… I will have one more glorious birthing experience – all three of mine were a delight and growing for me as a woman. That birthing experience thought then turns to oh may I end my life journey with the strength God gave me for birthing my children.

Courage is… for me … trusting in God and leaving all things in His hands

How do you summon it? Prayer and Joy in resting with a peaceful heart and mind

Authenticity is… giving myself permission to be me and then acting on that truth

To recharge your Being, you… relax and pray, take a nature walk and take photos of the beauty

What question matters most to you? Where I will spend eternity

Anything else do you want/are you willing for us to know? Just to know that our children observe alot when they grow up as a doula kid! A lot about loving and caring for both them and birth families. Why adult son who I have observed as a birthing Dad reminds me of this. His calmness about birth and his natural knowing of what is needed amaze me. He doulas me when I am sick and in need. And yesterday without me asking he quietly showed up at the labor room to bring a small cooler with ice packs and good snacks for both the mom, dad and me. Because couple are dear friends his arrival was welcomed and appreciated. He never showed up at a doula birth growing up but he apparently was observing and learning of doula and mom needs. I tried for all the years to remember my family does come first before births. I also think my sons were learning of flexibility and commitment as they saw me balance work and family.

Your advice to new doulas – in HAIKU (or poem form) please

The time it takes

for hearts deeply connected

baby in arms, warmth, skin to skin

Silent heart treasures

The rose gently reminding

Pedals soften and thin before opening

 

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Studying Doulas: Author, Christine Morton, PhD
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?” Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula? Are we all just “birth junkies”? (I deeply dislike that term).

I wanted to know:
~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?
~What makes them continue?
~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth?
~Does it matter what part of the country, or the world we live in or is it in our human DNA to do this work regardless of country and culture?
~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives.

For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world.
Some are new to this work. Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally.
All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like….

Christine

Christine Morton, PhD

I have vague memories of Christine Morton sitting on my couch in our house in Bellevue, Washington and asking me questions about ultrasounds during my first pregnancy in1997. This may be a story I am making up in my head, but it is there nevertheless. I knew she was working on something. The next thing I knew she was studying doulas.

I have more vivid memories of taking my sons to her house in Redmond Washington in the middle of the night because I was on my way to a birth and my husband was out of town. Her generous support allowed me to continue my work when my husband changed jobs and could no longer stay home if I was called to a birth. Christine supported me so I could support my clients. She told me once: “I can’t be a doula now, so I support motherbabies by helping you go and support them.”

And I have very vivid memories of sitting at her kitchen table talking over cups of warm tea and some delicious bread or muffin she had just pulled out of the oven. She not only looked after my children, she always wanted to hear about the births and know how it was from the point of view of everyone in the birthing room. It was clearly the sociologist in her that wanted to understand everyone’s perspective and the dynamic of the group of individuals who all came together to support and care for the birthing woman.

But it was the role of the doula that intrigued Christine most. So much so she wrote not only her dissertation, but a book about doulas as well.

Birth Ambassadors


What inspired you to write Birth Ambassadors?

I wanted a PhD! But doing the research and writing the dissertation wasn’t enough – from the beginning I wanted the research on the history and experience of doula care to be published as an accessible book that would fairly represent dilemmas in providing doula care and honor those who were doing the work. I also hoped it would be helpful for new and aspiring doulas to realize that doula care is skilled work, and that there is nothing ‘natural’ about it. I wanted to share my insights about the challenges facing doulas and contribute to ongoing conversations about these challenges with doulas & their organizations.

Was there anything about doulas or the profession that surprised you as you were researching the book?

I was surprised to discover that many doulas have undergraduate degrees in anthropology or sociology! I was also impressed to see how many doulas were actively reading the research literature about pregnancy and birth in many subject areas – obstetrics, nursing, breastfeeding, psychology and of course, anthropology and sociology.

You now work at the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. Would you share a bit about your work there?

My primary role at CMQCC has been to serve as project manager of the first statewide review of maternal death in California, and analyze the improvement opportunities identified by the Committee. This year, the project will end in its current form, after reviewing over 400 cases of maternal death from 2002-2007, ~300 of which were determined to be pregnancy-related. When I started, I didn’t know much about maternal mortality and morbidity but now I belong to this unique club – a participant in a state maternal mortality review – and have gained a lot of expertise in this area. It’s been an incredible learning opportunity and one that forced me to confront some of my assumptions about why maternal death occurs and what can be done to improve outcomes.

We identify a lot of systems- and health care provider- level issues that require a coordinated and targeted approach, like more education and skills-based training about these rare complications for maternity clinicians, and improved systems of care for pregnant women at high risk of poor outcomes. And the power of vital signs! It seems so simple and yet high blood pressure or high heart rate is nothing to ignore or deny. It seems all clinicians, whether OB, nurse or midwife, can downplay a high blood pressure reading or elevated heart rate and not recognize the subtle changes from normal to abnormal in pregnant women and so not respond to them appropriately. We see this “denial and delay” in preventable deaths from hemorrhage and preeclampsia, and it’s the primary focus of the Toolkits CMQCC has produced on these topics.

I am also conducting research about women’s experiences with a severe complication during pregnancy/childbirth. For many of them, there is little social support for women as they recover after a near-death experience. It’s astonishing how they are discharged home and left to figure things out and recover – physically and emotionally – alone. The findings from these analyses are informing current and future Toolkits on maternity care topics, so that clinicians learn not just the technical skills to manage a severe event like hemorrhage, but also the emotional needs of women and their families during and after these events.

CMQCC is housed at Stanford University where there is no shortage of brilliant, driven people doing amazing things. Being in this environment is intimidating and inspiring. My colleagues have taught me so much about how to think big and execute on a vision. It takes persistent and engaging leadership and strong organizational frameworks. I have seen how thoughtful strategic planning, sufficient funding and coordinated, collaborative action on the part of many talented and passionate individuals can change systems of care, and we hope, the culture of maternity care. I’ve got the best job in the world for me, I think!

What role do you see doulas playing in ending preventable morbidity and mortality in childbirth?

I have thought about this quite a bit, especially since I finished writing Birth Ambassadors after having worked at CMQCC for a few years. Doulas attend few births relative to the entire population, and because severe maternal events are rare, doulas may have just a few clients in their career who experience severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, have a massive hemorrhage requiring multiple blood transfusions or develop a blood clot (venous thromboembolism). Doulas can be very helpful in talking to women about warning signs of these more common complications (and I think doulas should know about them), and encourage women to seek care when these warning signs arise. In so many of the cases I’ve seen (whether maternal death or women’s stories of severe events), the symptoms are either discounted or ignored – by women, their families or their health care providers. Women need to know headaches unrelieved by treatment are not normal! Women need to know what level of postpartum blood flow is not normal! Women who experience pain in their legs after a long induction and /or bedrest and c-section need to be checked out! And women need advocates at their side if they do seek care but are not taken seriously by health care providers. Doulas are very good at listening to women, and believing them. Doulas can accompany women to the clinic and can act as patient advocates during labor.

Alright…now for a little light-heartedness:

What is your favorite word? Serendipity

What is your least favorite word? Hemorrhoids

What sound or noise do you love? The sound of coffee beans being ground in the morning

What sound or noise do you hate? The alarm clock

What movie could you watch again and again? It’s a Wonderful Life

family 2013 GG oval copy

What book are you reading now? Fiction: All I know and love by Judith Frank; Nonfiction: What I learned in medical school: personal stories of young doctors by Kevin M. Takakuwa and Nick Rubashkin

When driving in the car or riding in a plane what do you listen to? Books on tape

The food you would eat several times a week if you could is… Blueberries

Your favorite pair of shoes are…My sheepskin lined boots

Favorite APP? Evernote

Your family would say about you… I’m the “curb queen” who likes to talk about pregnancy and childbirth

When you are not a birth, where are we mostly to find you? At my computer

Why/How did you become a doula? On my way to a research project

Why do you continue? I have not continued active doula practice since 2006

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be? Beautiful

What is the most challenging thing about being a doula? When I was a doula, the most challenging part was waiting for the call

What is the most rewarding part of being a doula for you? When I was a doula, it was feeling I had been useful to the woman and her support team


We all understand the need women have to feel safe during childbirth and the value of a mother’s willingness to be vulnerable in her birthing time. We all feel vulnerable at some time.

Vulnerability is … Admitting you don’t have all the answers

How have you experienced the value of allowing yourself to be vulnerable as a doula? By letting go of my desire to fix things

Sometimes the “story I make up in my mind is”… I’m living in a little house by the sea and writing books and walking on the shore with my dogs and having fun with my family and friends (who all live nearby)

Courage is… feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

How do you summon it? Deep breaths and reminding myself that nobody’s perfect

Authenticity is…being present in the moment and being fully there with someone

To recharge your BEing, you… walk my dogs or take a walk in a nature

What question matters most to you? How can I be my best self?


Anything else do you want/are you willing for us to know?
I often feel lonely on Facebook because I miss my friends who I can’t see in person very much

Your advice to new doulas – in HAIKU please (5-7-5 syllables)

You are the one who

Will soak up pain fear and joy

Emotional sponge

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What Attorneys and Doulas Have in Common - a Conversation with Doula, Ravae Sinclair
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?” Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula? Are we all just “birth junkies”? (I deeply dislike that term).

I wanted to know:
~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?
~What makes them continue?
~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth?
~Does it matter what part of the country, or the world we live in or is it in our human DNA to do this work regardless of country and culture?
~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives.

For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world.
Some are new to this work. Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally.
All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like….

Ravae Ravae Sinclair, JD, CLC, CD(DONA)

I met Ravae this past September at my first DONA International Board of Directors meeting in Kansas City at the Lamaze/DONA Confluence. While we are two of the newest board members, she had already attended her first board meeting as DONA’s Multicultural Director. After a day in meetings with Ravae, I was struck, first and foremost by her comfort and confidence. I say them together like that because that is how it felt to me…like they (comfort and confidence) were a pair – like salt and pepper, sun and moon. Yep. It felt like that. Ravae Sinclair wears comfort and confidence like a perfectly paired necklace and earrings. And if you ask her…she’ll gladly share them with you.

You are a lawyer. How did you know you wanted to become an attorney?
It sounds cliché, but I have always known that I want to be an attorney. I argued many points as a child, not only for myself, but also for others. My mother starting calling me “Attorney Sinclair” and I responded. After a while, it was common knowledge that I would likely become an attorney. I guess the image stuck. I dabbled in other things before law school: Office Manager for a U.S. Senator on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, administrator of a non-profit organization, a massage therapist and a birth doula. Law was always calling my name in the background. With the urging of my parents, I went on to law school to complete my goal.

But you practice as a doula…could you share what inspired that transition? My transition from working as a criminal defense attorney back to working as a birth doula was inspired by a growing discontentment within my Self. I spent 7 years in the local jails working closely with the most vulnerable adults in Milwaukee County. My clients were mentally ill, physically ill, traumatized, poor, and often hopeless as they faced criminal charges. I learned their lives and their stories and discovered a wealth of abuse by care providers and the local community. I worked in a system that continued to abuse my clients and, for the time that I served my clients, I tried to minimize further injury. It’s a daunting task that wore out my soul. I reached back to birth work to reconnect with life and recall God’s goodness in humans. In many ways, the births that I witness regenerate my belief in humanity and the power of love.

Are there any similarities between the professions? Yes, there is one basic common thread in criminal defense and birth doula work. In both scenarios, a client came to me facing a daunting milestone in their lives. They came to me because of my training and experience in a particular area- courtroom or labor & delivery unit of a hospital. I would meet with my client to educate them to make decisions for themselves. My responsibility is to hold their hand and help guide them to the other side of their trial or birth. After debriefing the experience to become acquainted with their new reality, I move on to support a new client. In a nutshell: All are unsure. All need support. I guide them through the event to ensure they are whole and intact human beings after going through the difficulty. Then, I move on.

Ravae Sinclair Annie Kennedy
You are also DONA International’s Multicultural Director. I often find myself reminding myself of Maya Angelou’s quote: “When you know better, you do better.” From your perspective as Multicultural Director, what do you want all doulas to know and do better? Fundamentally, all people want the same thing- to be loved and cared for. It doesn’t matter the language barrier, the lifestyle choice or the particular ability. People know and feel your intention. If the intention of your heart is to be helpful and loving, you can make a difference in the birthing experience of all mommas and babies.

OK, now for some fun…

What is your favorite word? Provocative

What is your least favorite word? cancer

What sound or noise do you love? The ocean waves crashing on shore.

What sound or noise do you hate? People fighting and hurting each other

What movie could you watch again and again? The Color Purple

What book are you reading now? Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success by Steve Harvey

When driving in the car or riding in a plane what do you listen to? This American Life on NPR

The food you would eat several times a week if you could is… Swedish fish candy (not sure if it qualifies as “food”)

Your favorite pair of shoes are… Austrailian winter boots by Emu

Favorite APP? Right now? What’s App is my favorite app bc I can hear my best friend’s voices or see their faces when they tell me the daily stories of their lives. It’s precious to be able to stay connected in real time.

Your family would say about you…she’s a hardworker and she loves us

When you are not a birth, where are we most likely to find you? At home sitting in the office or in front of the tv watching shows on my DVR

Why/How did you become a doula? I became a doula after working as a massage therapist and I was seeking a way to expand my prenatal massage practice. I had no idea how impactful attending births would be on my soul.

Why do you continue? I have come and gone from doula work over the years. Birth work requires a flexible lifestyle which I didn’t always have the privilege to maintain. Now, I spend my life as doula because it’s the right time for me to support women and their families in their desire to be loved and gently guided as they assume the responsibility for more lives on the earth. I have seen many human beings be mistreated and abused in their lives. My work as doula is undergirded by a necessity to help people get a loving start in life.

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be? Let go and let God

What is the most challenging thing about being a doula? Unpredictability of births (being constantly on call) and the stress of hoping two mommas don’t go into labor at the same time

What is the most rewarding part of being a doula for you? Parents expressing how loved and supported they felt as they embarked on the unknown in labor and the birth of their child

Vulnerability is … the space where you can let love flood into your heart.

Sometimes the “story I make up in my mind is”… that I am wealthy and well loved by my partner.

Courage is… feeling fear, but going forward anyway.

How do you summon it? I pray

Authenticity is… being you consistently, no matter the place or people you entertain.

To recharge your BEing, you… hibernate (sleep, stay in the house, watch movies, lay in bed and talk with my girlfriends by telephone)

What question matters most to you? Are you living your life’s purpose?

Your advice to new doulas in HAIKU please:

Trust God Trust Yourself
Believe in the power of
… life. In that order.

(I’m sure that’s not haiku, but that’s what I felt)

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Birth from the Backseat...a Conversation with World Traveling Doula, Elizabeth Mangum
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?” Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula? Are we all just “birth junkies”? (I deeply dislike that term). I wanted to know:

~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?
~What makes them continue?
~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth?
~Does it matter what part of the country, or the world we live in or is it in our human DNA to do this work regardless of country and culture?

~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives.

For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world. Some are new to this work. Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally. All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like….

Elizabeth Mangum

“I am a Certified Birth Doula (labor support professional), Lamaze Childbirth Educator, and a Clinical Social Worker. I am also a wife, grand-daughter, daughter, sister, friend, owner of a beautiful chocolate lab – Franny. I’ve traveled to many parts of the world and have lived in Ireland, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. I was recently married to an incredible adventurer of the world – Jason Sarach. When we first met in 2006 he shared with me his goal of traveling to Africa overland on his BMW R80GS motorcycle. At that point, it was a fantasy of mine to join him….on April 12, 2010 that fantasy became a reality. In order to fully participate in this trip I decided that I would need to incorporate my passion for birth; so, I’ve decided to meet with as many midwives, doulas, and pregnant women and their families as I can in order to discover more insight into the fascinating world of childbirth!”


I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Mangum in Atlanta in 2009 during our DONA Doula Trainer Workshop. I was instantly drawn to her smile and the twinkle in her eyes that reflects her vibrant energy and curiosity. We also connected in a poignant way at the end of our training in the closing circle. It was here that both Elizabeth and I experienced a mix of joy and sadness that was palpable. In that closing circle, our trainer, DONA founder, Penny Simkin, chose one word to describe what the training had meant to her. She shared, “the future”. Present in that circle were not only women from all over the United States, but from all over the world as this was the year of the first DONA International Fellowship Program. Everyone was keenly aware that Penny was charging each of us with continuing the work of training new birth doulas. But for Elizabeth and me, there was something more. When Penny said the words, “the future”, my heart pushed a sound up through my throat that I couldn’t stop. Elizabeth and I locked eyes for a second; each with tears streaming down our faces. She and I were holding equally the grief and joy of Penny’s vision.

For me, “growing up” as a doula in Seattle meant that Penny Simkin had been my guide and inspiration. Not only my doula trainer in 1995, Penny prepared my husband and me for the birth of our first son in her childbirth class in ’97, a few years later, she was also my Childbirth Educator Instructor and now, I had the honor of her teaching me to train doulas. For 15 + years I’ve had the pleasure (as have many hundreds of doulas in the Seattle area) of Penny’s accessibility, her approachable personality and her generous heart. Penny was and is a touchstone for me, a measuring stick for my effectiveness, a north star by which to steer.

On the other side of country, Elizabeth had a similar mentor. In New York City, that north star to many doulas was Ilana Stein. A “birth pioneer since 1983”, Ilana was a co-founder of the Metropolitan Doula Group, Director of Birth Focus and the recipient of the 2007 Penny Simkin Award for Doula Spirit and Mentoring (DONA International). Her impact on Elizabeth was profound. In the year before our Trainer Training, Ilana passed away after a 4-year battle with ovarian cancer and her absence was felt deeply by Elizabeth at that moment in the closing circle. She and I later shared how we felt the weight and responsibility in the shadows of these amazing women and how grateful we were for their impact on our lives.

Many months later, I learned that Elizabeth was setting out on a globetrotting adventure, on the back of her husband Jason’s motorcycle. Since then I have kept up with her amazing adventure via her facebook page and her occasional entries in her blog, “Birth from the Backseat”.

I can’t think of a better person to speak to the question “Who BEcomes a Doula?” than Elizabeth. And I can’t imagine posting her answers to the interview without sharing some photos from her “overland motorcycle journey discovering the beauty of birth throughout Europe, Middle East, and Africa via conversations with midwives, doulas, and pregnant women and families.”

It took some time to connect with Elizabeth (between towns with internet access) but I am thrilled she was willing and able to to be part of the “Who BEcomes a Doula?” Project.

What is your favorite word? Fenetre (window, in French).

What is your least favorite word? Obstinance.

What sound or noise do you love? Laughter.

What sound or noise do you hate? Thunder.

What movie could you watch again and again? Coal Minor’s Daughter.

What book are you reading now? Into Thin Air by Jon Krakeau.

Where do you like to go to read a book? My couch with my dog on my lap.

When driving in the car/on the bike, what do you listen to? NPR.


The food you would eat several times a week if you could is… nachos.

Your favorite pair of shoes are… at the moment, my Birkenstocks (I am thinking she meant boots); but, while not on the road then I love my Birkenstocks.

Your family would say you… are so different.

When you are not a birth, where are we most likely to find you? In the park.

Doing what? Walking my dog or doing yoga.

How did you become a doula? I found an incredible mentor – Ilana Stein – and followed her path.

What makes you continue? Knowing that I can offer comfort to a woman that might have otherwise been alone.

5 words that best describe your journey as a doula: challenging, adventurous, comforting, inspiring, unpredictable.

 

Most surprising thing you ever took to/used at a birth: tennis ball on the perineum (which I learned from a Japanese client).

Funniest thing you ever heard a laboring woman say: “I am a great shitter. I can definitely push this baby out.”

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be? “Trust in yourself and be true to your inner voice.”

Your advice to new doulas…take care of yourself first before taking care of others.

To recharge your BEing, you… surround myself with girlfriends.

What is the most challenging thing about being a doula? The unpredictability.

What is the most rewarding part for you? Knowing that I have helped a woman to find her inner voice during birth so that she can be an active participant in the process.

Tell us something about your adventure with birth from the backseat…what do you want us to know? In a nutshell….a quote from my dad…

“there are the way I think things should be and then there are the way things are….”.

Life is challenging all over the world.

I am grateful to be given the opportunity to witness some of these challenges

and experience them for myself.

Follow your dreams!

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From Doctor to Doula: Wendy Dean
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I started the “Who BEcomes A Doula?” Series because I wanted know more about what compels a woman (or a man) to become a birth doula? Are we all just “birth junkies”? (I deeply dislike that term). I wanted to know: ~Who is drawn to this work and what kind of work (or life) did they have before they became a birth doula?

~What makes them continue? ~Is there something about our personalities that leads us to find a way to connect with, care for and support women at that uniquely vulnerable and joyous time of birth? ~Does it matter what part of the country, or the world we live in or is it in our human DNA to do this work regardless of country and culture?

~And for fun, some questions and photos that give us a glimpse into the moments and meanings in their lives. For this project, I have chosen to interview doulas all over the world. Some are new to this work. Some are seasoned and ‘reasoned’ – my way of saying they have found what it takes to make this work sustainable – both professionally and personally. All of them inspire me in my own “heart’s work”, like….

Wendy Davies Dean, DVM, Doula

You know how incredibly rare it is to meet someone you like instantly and with whom you feel you could go anywhere, do anything, share anything? That pretty much sums up my experience with Wendy Dean. Wendy and I connected on so many levels not the least of which was our love for mothers and babies and birth. When I lived in the Seattle area, Wendy was my “go-to” doula, and childbirth educator colleague, and she soon became as much a “go-to” friend. Wendy was an excellent source for information and ideas, and I always knew whether I needed her to cover a birth, sub a class, or pick up my kids in a pinch-she would do it, she’d be great and she’d be smiling. I miss her.

What is your favorite word? Love

What is your least favorite word? Apathy

What sound or noise do you love? Laughter

What sound or noise do you hate? Persistent cries of a distressed baby

Wendy Dean teaching breastfeeding to doulas

Wendy at one of my birth doula workshops in Boise showing doulas how she helps new moms initiate breastfeeding.

What movie could you watch again and again? “The American President”

What book are you reading now? Multiple books including Brain Rules for Babies by John Medina, Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert and (another book, I can’t remember the title right now) by Lucy Swindoll

Where do you like to go to read a book? My bed

When driving in the car, what do you listen to? NPR or Christian pop music….when I’m not on the phone…..

The food you would eat several times a week if you could is… pizza

Your favorite pair of shoes are… flat, black and slip on.

Your family would say you…are a good cook and a great hugger

When you are not a birth, where are we mostly to find you? Driving my kids from activity to activity….

Doing what? ….Driving….and talking on the phone (yes, I use a headset!)

5 words that best describe your journey as a doula: Trust, Connect, Love, Pray, Be.

How did you become a doula?
I frequently get asked how I became a doula. Even more frequently, once the person inquiring finds out what I used to do, I get asked WHY I became a doula. You see, my background is pretty unusual. Before I began attending births as a doula, I practiced veterinary medicine. Sounds like the furthest thing possible from practicing as a doula, right? The leap from the practice of diagnosing and treating pets to working with birthing families is not as big as one might think. First, all mammals birth similarly. A large chunk of what I learned in school and saw in practice (related to the birth of domestic animals) applies to the birth of babies. I like to think that vets get it right when they refuse to intervene in the normal birth process. Second, the way physicians are trained is very similar to how veterinarians are trained. I spend a significant portion of my time assisting families who are birthing with a medical doctor and I find my familiarity with the way doctors and nurses have been trained to approach situations gives me insight that helps the families I work with navigate the “system”. Finally, much of the “art” of veterinary medicine has to do with intuition, close observation, trusting the process and keeping an open mind to all the possible explanations. I use these skills on a daily basis with my doula clients. So, let’s get back to the original question. Why did I decide to switch careers? The process of making the decision was lengthy and involved a sequence of events in my life. The birth of my first child was transformative, as it is for most women. I went from being a vet to being a mother. Clearly there was more to my identity but this was the shift I felt most profoundly. Also, I just couldn’t shake the “too cool for words” feeling about the birth process. Even though the birth did not go as I had planned and hoped, it was still the most amazing thing I had ever experienced. Then I had a second baby. Again, the birth did not go exactly as I had hoped but I felt exhilarated by what my body was designed to do. Then I had the opportunity to support a friend and her pregnant niece through the birth of a baby she was planning to give up for adoption. After I attended her birth as a support person I remember feeling like I had found the thing I was put on this earth to do.

I find it difficult to put into words the depth of satisfaction and completeness I felt about knowing exactly what I could do to help this young woman through a challenging labor. I couldn’t WAIT to do it again! This was the tipping point for me. I began looking at how I might be able to make a career as a doula. The obstacles appeared significant. I needed to figure out how to provide care to my young children when I was at a long labor. Thank goodness for my supportive husband and group of friends who were rooting for me. I needed to figure out what other job might be compatible with a doula’s on call schedule. Thank goodness for a friend who offered me a job as a childbirth and early parenting educator. I needed to figure out how to arrange coverage for my classes should I need to go to a birth. Thank goodness for colleagues who were willing to help. Once those things were in place the rest was easy. I took a leave of absence from my position as an associate veterinarian and signed up for the doula training and childbirth educator training. I’m still, technically, on leave….although I’m pretty sure my old boss has given up on having me return to practice. I’m considered a “seasoned” doula at this point. I’ve been attending births consistently since July of 1999. At my peak of busyness I was attending 3 to 4 births each month. To date I’ve been with 252 families as they have welcomed their babies into the world. (Wendy has attended about 300 births now)

Most surprising thing you ever took to/used at a birth: My daughter’s raincoat….shoved under the woman who birthed in my car.

Funniest thing you ever heard a laboring woman say: “OK….I’m bored” (she was 6 cm)

If you could say only one thing at a birth to the laboring woman, what would it be? You CAN do this.

To recharge your BEing, you…cook, get massage and turn off my phone.

Your advice to new doulas: Stay open to whatever the universe places before you.

This work is my heart. It is how I make a difference in the world, one family and one life at a time. The only thing in my life that has rivaled the satisfaction and joy I experience as a doula is the satisfaction and joy I get from parenting my own fabulous kids. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Wendy Dean has been a labor support doula and childbirth and early parenting educator since 1999. She received her training as a doula from Seattle Midwifery School and her educator training from the Childbirth Education Association of Seattle (CEAS). She taught early parenting classes for Evergreen Hospital as part of the Parent Baby Program and facilitated the support group for families experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety for nearly 20 years.

She now teaches childbirth with Liz Chalmers (both using the foundations of my curriculum platform to make their own). Additionally, Wendy is a certified lactation educator and a certified Gottman Educator for the “Bringing Baby Home” ™ program. Prior to becoming a doula she practiced veterinary medicine for 10 years. She lives in Redmond with her wonderful husband of 25 years along with their two children and assorted pets. You can find Wendy at her New Normal

Thanks Wendy.

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Veteran’s Day... thanks to all who serve... especially the mothers
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

I was listening to NPR today (might as well not have other channels in this girl’s car) and heard a piece on mothers in the military that surprised me and stuck with me all day. Being interviewed were mothers who are deployed and the part that took me by surprise was the reality that mutli-tasking never ends for mothers even if they are working in a hostile country. One woman mentioned getting emails from her child’s teachers to discuss how her kids were doing in school and while I realize that probably shouldn’t surprise me, (I would want to know what was going on with my child and to stay connected), when I try to imagine what it really means to need to be on guard (like any false step could be fatal), on the other side of the world, and still need to hold your child’s daily life in your head and heart…well, I can’t wrap my mind around it.

Then, later that day, I got a phone call from a former student and client. She was contacting me to ask me to send her the photo (below) which was taken outside my home in 2006. As it is Veteran’s Day, her colleagues wanted to see a pregnant Captain Houle (as she was called when the photo was taken) in her uniform. The interest at her work stems from the fact that Amanda is now employed by Dartmouth Medical School of Psychiatry and is also an associate faculty member in the Department of Clinical Psychology at Anitioch University New England where she works with pregnant women.

But the reason I wanted to share this is because Amanda Houle is also a DONA trained doula. “The combination of my training as a doula and in psychology allows me to do family therapy ‘in utero’ – it’s an exciting blend.” Read more about Amanda’s public service project – a mental health program for expectant mothers at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene.

So, to all the mothers, sisters, daughters, and doulas (both those serving in our military and those doulas who attend our military)…Thank You.

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Who BEcomes a Doula? A Baby Bump Services Blog Series
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

To Be You are
What do you do?

I am a doula.

What is a doula?

I have a better question…WHO is a doula?

Who are the women (and men) who are able/willing/longing to do this? How did they know they wanted to? How did they start? What keeps them going?

To find out the answers to these, and many more questions, I have chosen to conduct my own interviews of some of the many doulas who have influenced and inspired me
and some I would like to know better.

To make these interviews interesting (and to get to what matters to me) I am modeling some questions after Brene Brown’s Inspiration Interview Series,
To say that discovering Brene Brown changed my life is an understatement. I continue to be amazed and grateful for the healing I believe she has brought to the world through her work on vulnerability.

Some of the more fun questions are my riffs on
the questions I watched James Lipton ask so many years on The Actor’s Studio.

Some are inspired from reading the works of Pema Chodron and Marshall Rosenberg
and the Haiku was inspired by my friend, Sharon Muza who periodically challenges us all with a Haiku Throwdown.

My hope is that this series will inspire those of us who have long been committed to doing our own “heart’s work”
as well as the many new doulas who are just entering the dance.

Are you curious, too? Who does become a doula? Here are just a few.

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Just “BE” and you’ll find “YOU ARE”
Posted by Kyndal – On BEcoming a Doula – All photos COPYRIGHT ©2000 -2011 Kyndal May. Please do not copy, store or use. All rights reserved.

In the August BEcoming a Doula™ Training the discovery of the power of being present with a laboring woman and the connection and sense of safety that occurs as a result was a joyful and exciting realization for all the women in the workshop. The collective epiphany of this simple truth was magnified through the experience of the practical ways we do this—starting from our first interactions with a pregnant woman and her partner.

To celebrate and honor the collective appreciation we all had for BEing doulas, Natalie Taylor came to the final day of the workshop with a precious gift for us all. Natalie had gone home to look up the word “be” in Greek and then, in between days of the workshop and being a wife and a mommy to two little people, she made these BE pendants for each of us.

Later, I went home to look up the word as well and was thrilled to see another translation: You ARE. What better take-away for any doula who is wondering how she will best help the laboring woman…she only needs to remember… just BE, and you’ll find… You ARE.

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