I am Your Doula: A Poem

 

I don’t work a typical 9-5 shift
I am on call 24/7
It is not uncommon to spend a day away from my own family
I get to witness your special moments and see you become a family
When you are happy, I am happy
When you are sad, I feel sadness too
I live for that next surge and the next phase of labor
I live to see the moment when you meet your precious child
I put all my energy, time, tears, and joys into your special day
I am overjoyed to be a part of your birth story, no matter what path it takes
I love to learn and see what changes the birth world will bring us
I love the passion I feel when I am working and connecting with new families
I do all of this, because I am your doula

-Danielle Cincoski

Danielle Cincoski  is a certified birth and hypnobirthing doula. She also does placenta encapsulation. When she is not “doulaing”, she is Mum to 2 crazy and cute toddler boys Charles (3), and  Graham (1).She lives in Forest Lake with her Husband Joe who is a veterinarian. And yes, they have 4 animals.


Journeying with mothers when you are not: Reflections from a doula without children

Doula Support

by Karen Schultz, CD(DONA)

In pre-natal meetings or in the early hours of labor I learn a surprising amount about my clients, and they about me.  Inevitably, our conversations turn to family, the birthing stories of our mothers, and the dreams for our own babies.

There is always a thoughtful pause in the conversation when they ask, “Do you have children?” I smile and always offer the same response: “No…not yet.”

It is often the case that a woman comes to work as a doula after experiencing her own labors and realizing what a benefit that extra support was or could have been.  She either didn’t have a doula and wished she had, or did have a doula and was inspired to follow in her doula’s footsteps.  But for some of us, the call to doula comes without our own transformative birth journeys.

Doula Support

I am the only daughter in a family of six.  My mother birthed naturally in hospitals and breastfed all of us for two years apiece, an oddity at a time when breastfeeding, for any length of time, was frowned upon.  My mom’s influence was subtle over the course of my childhood, but by her example I slowly came to the conclusion that 1) birth is sacrificial, sacred, and beautiful, and 2) women are strong enough to labor well, to breastfeed well, and to nurture well.

I had always been interested in childbirth (I think most women intuitively are) but I hesitated in considering it my life’s calling.  What could I, a woman who had never experienced labor, offer a women in the throes of childbirth?

I considered nursing school for a time, but I didn’t want to be bogged down in charting and paperwork when my real love was building up the bonds within families and communities.  Science was also a passion of mine, and eventually I did teach high school anatomy & physiology, along with biology and a host of other subjects.  Inevitably, when the time came for classroom lessons about fertility, fetal development, and childbirth, my female students would moan about the anticipatedpain of birth, while my male students would acknowledge the fear they had of simply supporting their future wives during their labors.

I thought, “Is this how our young people should face one of the most transformative experiences of their lives?”  Surely not!  It just didn’t seem right that our society was priming them to believe in the weakness of the female body, rather than in its strength!

It wasn’t until I left teaching and returned home to Minnesota that the doors to birth work began to open.  With a bit of nervousness but firm resolution, I attended my first birth on New Year’s Eve of 2012.  It was remarkable!  In every birth I attended since then, I’ve been struck by how comfortable I’ve felt in the birthing room, how confident I was in the mother’s ability to birth well, and how touched I was by the love between parents.  I also became more practically aware of the advantages of my singlehood: I didn’t (yet) have to juggle the responsibilities that come with motherhood–no worries about getting a sitter for a long labor or finding a back-up doula when a little one catches a fever!  My responsibilities, in large part, are to myself only.

I also realized that being a doula who hasn’t birthed carried another benefit: I am not burdened by my own “birth baggage”.  I don’t have, for instance, the memory of an epidural followed by regret of that choice, or a c-section that I felt could have been avoided.  I can pretty safely say that I don’t have any expectations of how labor “should” go because I can’t judge based on my personal experience.  I know that every labor is different because every mother is different and every baby is different.

Of course, I hope it goes without saying that I know dozens of “doula-mothers” who successfully leave their own birthing experiences at the door of the birthing room and only retrieve wisdom from them if it is of benefit to the mother and her particular need.  I also know with certainty that there are doulas who, having not personally experienced the intensity of labor, might struggle to have compassion for a laboring woman in great need.  There are strengths and weaknesses of both states in life.

So what is it, then, that makes for a stellar doula?  Is it simply a matter of knowing what labor feels like?  That seems far too simplistic; having a baby isn’t just about getting through contractions or learning how to push.  It’s about realizing the gift of our femininity, discovering a deeper bond with our partner, and trusting in the strength of our created bodies.  It’s about relying on those whom we love and trust for a firm and steady hand and the unfailing reassurance that we can do it.

For many expectant parents, I think it’s quite natural to ask the question, “Will my doula know what to do if she hasn’t had her own children?”  But I would urge these parents to instead think of the qualities necessary for an exceptional doula: Compassion.  Understanding.  Presence.  Wisdom.  Joy.  Having birthed or not having birthed, it is these qualities that are most important.

Doula on a Postpartum Visit

Karen Schultz, CD(DONA), is happily settled in the Twin Cities after a hiatus in Washington, D.C. where most recently she taught science to high schoolers.  Read more about her at http://filiabirth.com.  


Eat, Pray, Doula: A Doula’s Journey in Bali

by Karen Bruce, AAHCC

I am writing from a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, awestruck by the experiences of the past 10 days, still overcome with emotion at the intense connections formed among a group of strangers in that time, and brimming with anticipation for my future birth work.  I just attended Eat Pray Doula 2014 in Ubud, Bali Indonesia with 27 of the most beautiful birth keepers you have ever met.

 

What better place to celebrate World Doula Week than in SouthEast Asia with such a diverse group of women?  We represented at least 11 countries and spoke numerous languages.  We included midwives and teachers, translators and nurses, small business owners, and, of course, doulas. Some brought their families on this adventure, some traveled alone.  All of us converged in this beautiful land they call the Island of the Gods for a DONA Birth Doula Workshop taught by Debra Pascali-Bonaro, chair of the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization and creator and director of the film Orgasmic Birth, Ibu Robin Lim of Bumi Sehat International and CNN’s Hero of the Year 2011, and Katherine Bramhall, co-founder of Bumi Sehat and homebirth midwife.
Katherine Bramhall, Karen Bruce, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Ibu Robin Lim

Katherine Bramhall, Karen Bruce, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Ibu Robin Lim

I traveled with my partner from Minneapolis along with two fellow Childbirth Collective members, Angie Posine and Angie Sonrode and their families.  We all knew this was something special and were eager to share and learn with so many experienced doulas and world-famous birth gurus. Our Twin Cities contingent had much to offer by way of practical suggestions for natural pain relief, position changes, communication with families and staff, etc.  I am proud to say that the Childbirth Collective was a shining example to our peers of how birth keepers can work together to support one another and provide best practices with an evidence-based model of doula care.  We loved sharing how Minnesota is at the leading edge of a revolution in well-supported birth thanks to the many legislative efforts of Susan Lane and the Minnesota Better Birth Coalition.  Our community enjoys many options in childbirth that are sadly not widely available.

 

But Eat Pray Doula challenged me in many ways to move beyond the comfort zone I have created in my doula work – I know very well the culture of birth in the Twin Cities and my place in it, and my toolbox is filled with ideas to support the physical and emotional needs of the birthing families I serve.  However, I may not have been fully prepared for the deeply spiritual transformation I experienced at this workshop.  Our facilitators were skilled at creating the conditions that allow true connection with other people, and they lit a spark within me that has inspired me to create sacred space in birth, to preserve and protect the spiritual as well as the physical and emotional.

Karen Bruce, Ari Fatun of Indonesia

My first DONA Birth Doula Workshop with Gail Tully in 2006 prepared me in very practical ways to be a birth doula, and she certainly speaks to the spiritual, but I may not have been ready to hear it.  The 8 years of experience at over 200 births in between have prepared me to receive this new perspective in order to develop that part of my practice which is so critical to the mystery of life and love on this planet.

 

Not to be confused with religious expression, the spiritual aspects of creating life in our womb and birthing our babies into this world are simply related to the human spirit or soul.  Simply by choosing my words or silence more carefully, by being fully open to the MotherBaby mystery as it unfolds, and, when I have my activist hat on, by educating and encouraging gentle birth practices by other doulas and care providers – I know I am making a difference.  I remind myself that it is not necessary to understand this mystery in order to honor it and create space for its expression during this profound transition from pregnant to parent, from MotherBaby to mother and child.

 

Eat Pray Doula workshops are appropriate for new/aspiring birth doulas, but even the most experienced will learn many new ideas to breath new life into their important work.  I would especially encourage nurses, midwives, and obstetricians to consider registering for a future workshop as a gift to yourself and all birthing families you will hold sacred in the future!

Pujiastatuti Sindhu of Indonesia, Karen Bruce, and Ari Fatun

Karen Bruce is a certified Bradley Method(r) Instructor and Birth and Postpartum Doula in the Twin Cities.  She serves as the Vice President of the board of the Childbirth Collective. Her website is karenbrucedoula.com.

Celebrate and Share World Doula Week 2014!

March 22-28 is World Doula Week! Did you know that just recently, ACOG and SMFM (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists & the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine) named doula support as one of the most important and most underutilized tools in preventing cesareans in first-time mothers? This is just one of the amazing, research-based benefits of doula support.

So if you are a doula, used and loved a doula, or just want to shout the doula love from the rooftops, feel free to comment here and share these graphics on social media! We here at The Childbirth Collective are so proud to do what we do. Happy World Doula Week!
Doulas Rock!

I-Love-Doulas

profile2

proud doula profile pic


Current Doula Status of Twin Cities Hospitals during Covid-19