March 22-28 is a celebration of doulas! I am so wishing I could remember where I saw the exact quote, but I'll have to paraphrase.
Few can articulate what exactly a doula does, you only notice afterwards how your experience was affected for the positive because she was there.
I am lucky to have been by the side of laboring families for 548 births thus far (as of 3/24/22), and am grateful for their trust, appreciation, and stories.
World Doula Week Day 1: Doulas Make a Difference
"A labor doula is a bit of a birth consultant—a birth buddy, if you will- increasing accessibility of support, resources, and knowledge. Pregnant people rely on word of mouth, on other people’s stories, other people’s experiences, not realizing just how much those choices will affect our own birth memories. And so I enjoy being part of a family’s exploration of their options, be it birth setting, type of provider, midwife or doctor, home birth or hospital birth, do I want an epidural or not.
A lot of preparatory education goes into those relationships, and if I get to be a part of that pregnancy for any amount of time, then we can highlight what those choices are and how someone can make a choice that feels most authentic to them. My role specifically is not to make decisions for someone, to speak for someone or tell them the right way to go. Maternal culture does enough of that: Don’t eat sushi. Don’t drink wine. I’m here to help people understand what decisions may be right given their own autonomy."
World Doula Week Day 2: Doulas Make a Difference in Pregnancy
I am a passionate childbirth educator, making a difference for so many families who come to learn about letting their babies out.
As a faculty member for Boston Association for Childbirth Education, I've mentored many to do the same- with love, with patience, with confidence, with engaging pregnant people and partners to nurture their transformation into parenthood.
As a doula, I hope to reduce fear and doubt, increase active participation and access to resources in pregnancy and prenatal care, bring awareness to where pregnant bodies hold themselves and make room for their babies where it can make labor+birth simpler.
World Doula Week Day 3: Doulas Make a Difference in Labor+Birth
For today's post, I share my favorite testimonial of all time... (and this is tough, because I've been the happy recipient of many!)
Combine the magic of a unicorn, the nerve of a tiger, the protective, matriarchal likeness of an elephant, and the loving affection (and undeniable likability) of an otter, and THAT is Shari. Her force can't be described by basic, human attributes. The energy she exudes is raw and instinctual, worthy only of animalistic parallels.
We met Shari in 2017 through her natural childbirth class. We knew we wanted to work with a doula, but we didn’t know where to start. Fortunately, the universe took notice and from the second we heard Shari speak (which she does so confidently with her entire being), it was obvious that SHE was who we needed. We had a fantastic birth thanks to Shari's support before, during, and after labor. Fast forward 3 years with baby #2: Shari provided the resources and techniques I needed to turn our stubborn guy downward, and was the calm assurance my hubs needed to still his fear of having a 'car baby'. (It was close.)
Shari holds space. She holds legs and birthing bits to help prevent tearing. She’ll hold coffee up to your face while you get that first latch going. (She fed me pancakes while we waited for our post-birth room. Newly stitched, boobs out, sweat still dripping from my brow, goofy oxytocin smile plastered to my face, and PANCAKES are being delivered to my mouth. A GODDESS, I say!) Hire Shari and don’t look back. She supports birthing people AND their partners. She’s well-liked/respected by her co-birth workers, making a world of difference when it comes to advocating for your birth wishes. If decisions need to be made, Shari is a compassionate sounding board with a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from. She’s forever embedded in our children’s birth stories, and while I’ve been told that having more babies just so we can work with Shari again is 'out of the question' (okay, FIIIINE), our hearts are eternally grateful for hers."
World Doula Week, Day 4: Doulas Make a Difference for Partners
Oh there are some stories to tell about the partner experience! Partners bring love, rapport, history and shared stake in who's being born- there's no replacement for that, only encouragement to really *be* that person for her. Many are surprised at how much the translation, normalization, suggestions and recommendations gave them power to be the strongest support the birthing person needed them to be.
I'll level with you... labor is a strange and unusual land to be explored. You're never sure your arrival date in this place, how long you'll be visiting, what to pack for the unexpected weather, what strange creatures you may encounter and whether they are friendly. Preparing for this journey is way simpler with a tour guide so that you can focus on the scenery and making memories of how strong that mama-to-be is. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons you begin to absorb is that you don’t need to rescue the birthing mother from her labor while working together in a way never experienced before these hours, to retrieve your offspring from this land and return home safely. Some game of Capture the Flag that is!
The pregnant woman needs to cross the bridge herself, her partner provides the handles and embodies the railings.
- Gina Kirby
Your doula gets all of this acutely, and can give you the space to not be the only one in the room dedicated to her comfort as a primary role (note: provider role is primarily around care which varies and intersects with comfort too but will prioritize the former as a matter of responsibility). Happy side effect of that is that you too get to have duality: partners are also nervous parents-to-be, and may need some comfort too!
World Doula Week Day 5: Doulas Make a Difference in Lactation
... which for me means making connections with amazing International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC) and other breastfeeding professionals- so that when you take your little one home, that the support is accessible and easy to find.
Breastfeeding is a learned art for both people involved- and one only started to learn *anything* mere moments earlier, by being born into the sensory world we welcome them to. Most people who experience trouble with breastfeeding cite a lack of confidence in themselves, and that they didn't know where to turn for support. Here's a list of my favorite folks out there doing this work- you're NOT alone!
Jeanette Mesite-Frem | Babies in Common | See groups below as well Danielle Donovan | In home and Telehealth visits on the South Shore
Kira Kim | the Boston Area Lactation Connection | In-home and Telehealth visits
Heather Bingham | Boston Lactation Julie Brill | Well Pregnancy LC Home Visits (Telehealth) Shelly Taft | In home and Telehealth visits in the Worcester area Teresa Coyle Airey | In home, in office, and Telehealth available Jennifer DeMarco, BSN, RN | Mother's Instinct
Wednesday evenings at 7pm and Friday mornings at 11:30am
Baby Cafe (free)
These fantastic groups are online for now, hopefully back in person (with snacks!) soon. Widest array of free groups available
NWH Lactation Support Group (free)
Tuesdays and Thursdays 2-3pm. Call 617-243-6314 for the link
First and third Thursday of the month, 2pm
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, & Vermont
Virtual meet-up group for breastfeeding support
World Doula Week, Day 6: Doulas Make a Difference in Postpartum
I am the mother to two daughters, 16 and 11 years old. I only wish there were doulas for parenting these ages! For your new baby, there are amazing resources to help you gain confidence as you cross the bridge to postpartum. Most folks who struggle in this period cite a lack of knowledge on what to expect, or even where to look for this kind of guidance.
Make the most of your immediate postpartum with healing, closure (literal too! See below about belly binding), and skill building by planning ahead to attend parent groups and hiring a postpartum doula.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10-11:30am
South Shore Perinatal Health offers "It's Not Easy Being Mom" for new parents
Surviving New Motherhood (free)
Mondays 11-12 with postpartum doula Amanda Hemm and LICSW Liz Sarantopolous
Mommying is Hard is a safe non-judgmental peer support group for moms to talk about the joys and challenges of motherhood
Mondays or Thursdays 7:30-9 pm
Second Tuesday of month 7-8:30 pm - RSVP email@example.com
Thursdays 10-11:30 am - RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
Diaper Lab's Weekly Postpartum Parents Group and Lactation drop in online
Wednesdays 10-12 - RSVP Caitlin Inglis
Wide array of groups for new parents, available in English and Spanish
New Family Needs, with Hilary Witcher
Groups start on rotation
World Doula Week, Day 7: How Do YOU Make a Difference?
You probably have gathered that doulas are a little subversive- working all the while to create positive birth stories for each we support, we are actively building and nurturing relationships with doctors, midwives, nurses and others for the labors to come. Those relationships are highlighted when I arrive to support a labor and am familiar to both the medical team as well as the birthing family- clearing the way for me to do my best work as a trusted part of that team.
Note, some relationships are strengthened by bringing these adorable cookies to my favorite RN teams during National Nurses Week ;) which- by the way- is May 6-12, 2022!
I lend that familiarity to the people I support: of the practices, providers, policies, premises, and process of labor. This can allow folks to focus on their true task at hand- writing a story that they can be proud of, felt supported through, and are enriched by as they cross the bridge to parenthood.
Consider making a difference by donating to any of the following:
Boston Association for Childbirth Education scholarship fund. Earmark any donation with a note to dedicate it to BACE Childbirth Educator Training, for whom I am a faculty member. 40% of our students receive partial scholarships. Help us make training more accessible to serve more communities!
Every Mother Counts is working to advance birth justice across the board. Every Mother Counts was born from the recognition that not all childbearing people enjoy the same access and privilege when it comes to maternity care. We understand that racial, social and geopolitical inequalities fuel maternal health disparities around the world
Birth Advocacy Doula Trainings scholarship fund. BADT offers partial and full scholarships for our courses. In 2020, 40% of their students received a scholarship. Help support BADT make their training financially accessible to more people