Doulas and Birth Resources

Doulas and Birth Support

Jacqui Morton is a doula, writer and founder of Holding Our Space, a participatory project centered around healing from reproductive loss. She also backs me up for births.

Maria of That Darn Doula is one of my backups in the area. She currently apprentices with a local home birth midwifery practice, and has experience at all local hospitals as well. She also backs me up for placenta encapsulation!

Tuly Duprat is an experienced birth doula who I connected with at Mama and Me. She is based in Malden, and has excellent rebozo skills. Tuly also speaks Portuguese.

Teresa Vittorioso-Fortin is a birth doula who offers childbirth classes through her practice, Entera Doula. She frequents Mount Auburn Hospital and is also fluent in Spanish.

Sierra at All Bodies Birth is a local birth and postpartum doula who especially loves to support LGBTQ+ families.

Jen at Douladventure brings her public health background to her work as a birth and postpartum doula in Boston.

Birth Sanctuary Boston is a group working to create an out-of-hospital birth option for families in Dorchester and beyond. It’s not easy work, but stay tuned for updates from them.

Beantown Babies is the combined project of doulas Emily and Lindsay. This amazing community space in Roslindale offers many things to new and growing families. From meditation workshops with Sophie, to childbirth ed classes with Teresa and acupressure for labor workshops with Ece, Beantown Babies has offerings that can enrich and support the pregnancy and birthing journeys of many local families.

Spinning Babies is a resource for fetal positioning and how it can affect labor. Tips for daily exercises/movements for getting baby engaged in the pelvis, as well as supportive labor positions can be found online.

The Miles Circuit is another series of simple movements to gently move baby into optimal positions for labor and delivery.

Mama and Me in Jamaica Plain offers a wide range of prenatal, postpartum, and child development classes for families in the Boston area. They host a bimonthly “Meet the Doulas” event that I frequently attend.

Doula Match is a search engine for folks looking for birth or postpartum doula support. You can compare profiles, availability, skillsets and experience all on one site.

 

The Business of Being a Doula

A few folks in my life have recently asked how I feel about the divisive/controversial ProDoula articles that are circulating. Honestly, as someone who chooses not to use any social media, I probably would have missed this entirely if folks didn’t bring it to my attention. I was relatively preoccupied while attending two clients’ 37-week labors, organizing the year’s goals with the steering committee of the Boston Doula Project, and encapsulating another client’s placenta.

Generally, I think there is enough space in Boston (I can’t speak for smaller or more rural communities) for many types of doula practices and their clients. While some doulas have always argued that providing free or very low-cost services devalues doula work as a profession, others continue to provide free or very low-cost services because it is exactly what they are called to do. I absolutely believe folks need to charge a rate for their work that is sustainable to them. On-call support for labor is extremely valuable, and not just because the studies show doulas save thousands of dollars in healthcare costs. We literally prevent trauma (and hold space for trauma that exists) on a regular basis.

The ProDoula founder is right to say that plumbers don’t worry about people who can’t afford to hire plumbers, but birth is not the same as home repairs. Supporting one another in the childbearing year is something that people have always done, and are always going to do. We live in a time and place in human history where folks aren’t all having 15 babies, witnessing 10 younger siblings be born, hanging out around groups who are feeding babies at their chests, and having that community of support built in. We’re giving birth in hospitals, often in big cities far away from family. Most often, the first birth people witness is their own baby’s! We’re needing to pay people out of pocket to create a sense of that lost community support. This used to be culturally built-in, for everyone, for free.

I’m all for folks charging what they need to in order to make their work sustainable – that part’s important and isn’t typically emphasized in many doula trainings. Most doula trainings emphasize what’s normal in birth and postpartum, what’s not, how to be a compassionate and competent helper and how to plug into the extended community of resources for when you need to make referrals. These articles make it sound like ProDoula’s trainings emphasize profits, avoiding the local community (“ProDoula tells doulas to ignore local doula collectives — why fraternize with the competition?”) ostracizing new doulas, and not making referrals because your agency provides The Best And Only care.

Boston is big enough to connect low-cost doulas-in-training with clients, as well as highly-experienced, $2,000-per-birth support folks (many of whom are also homebirth midwives and have skill sets above and beyond the average doula). If a client feels most comfortable with someone who has loads of experience, they are available. If someone is looking for a student doula who is available at a low-cost, they are likewise available. Just take a look at doulamatch.net to check out the diversity of prices, skillets and experience that available doulas display.
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As of this date, I’ve attended 67 births in the Boston area (and one of my dear friends in San Diego). I feel comfortable charging $1,100 for a birth because it sustains me and allows me to spend hours every week volunteering for the Boston Doula Project, or taking on low-income clients in special circumstances as private clients. I offer the same explanation to all the folks I work with: I have set a standard full fee, but if that feels like a barrier to you accessing doula support, we can have a conversation about it and find something that works. Having regular clients who can pay my full fee allows me to spend time providing miscarriage and pregnancy loss support, as well as the occasional birth, for free.
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Marketing is an important part of running any business. Many communities of doulas operate largely from word-of-mouth referrals, but others find providers by searching online. To fill the gap in business coaching that many doula training programs lack, Bloom Business Solutions is one of many providers that focuses on professional coaching for birth doulas and placenta encapsulators. (They are based in Seattle.) Like myself, they’ve noticed that “some training organizations” (and I’m going to name them: ProDoula) use fear-based marketing and misleading information in order to discredit doulas who provide placenta encapsulation in order to make their own providers seem like the only legitimate option. I know that anybody providing placenta encapsulation services needs to be adequately educated in the risks of blood borne pathogens, universal sanitation techniques, food safety handling, and the wellbeing of their clients. I also know that many providers of placenta encapsulation, myself included, have been providing this service since before ProDoula was even launched.
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With my experience, I know there is SO MUCH demand for placenta encapsulation in the Boston area, and there is lots of space for many providers to offer services. We do not need to discredit one another in order to get clients. I am committed to giving any prospective client all of the (safe, reasonable) options available to them. To illustrate my commitment, here are some other folks who are experienced at placenta encapsulation and serve the Greater Boston area. You’d be in great hands with any one of them!
  • Kara Schamell, at Modern Mama Midwifery has tons of experience, especially in sanitation techniques and lab safety as a midwife. We back up each other’s placenta clients in the case of travel or client birth overlap.
  • Jennifer Lynn Frye, at New England Placenta Encapsulation, who has a background in nursing, and has been providing this service since 2014. She was also part of the first-ever batch of Boston Doula Project trainees.
  • Jennifer Lewis, at New Life Blessings has encapsulated over 250 placentas in MA, RI and CT.

What’s in my doula bag?

Electric candles – These are something I bring out at almost every hospital birth I attend. With the blue computer/monitor screen glow, many folks are comforted by keeping the room’s lights low and adding the orange-yellow flickering of a few electric candles.

Rebozo – A rebozo is a woven Mexican shawl that can be used to support someone in labor. It is a tool that can wiggle baby into an optimal position by gently rocking the hips or belly. It can also be used to assist in squatting/swaying positions, or used ceremonially as a closing in the weeks following the birth.

Honey – Honey is nice for keeping energy up in labor when my clients don’t feel like eating, or can’t hold down food. Hospital air can be especially dry, and when someone is spending many hours intentionally taking deep breaths, honey can soothe a sore throat. It’s handy to melt into some warm water for an electrolyte boost when clients are nauseous or throwing up.

A handheld fan – Especially nice for quelling nausea, or to give breeze to someone who is laboring in a warm tub. Many are comforted by fanning during pushing, especially with cool wash cloths on the neck, chest, or forehead. The fan I happen to keep in my bag was a gift from Burning Man, and that has made a pleasantly distracting story for many clients.

Essential oils – Now, I don’t recommend applying scents directly to anybody in labor (or anybody, ever). Essential oils are very strong extracts and most normal people will have a skin reaction if they’re not applied in a very diluted way. Besides, giving birth and smelling like a sweaty, messy animal is just how a newborn knows they’ve ended up in the right place. That being said, many of my clients are comforted by certain scents (lavender, rose, ‘woodsy’ pine ones, peppermint, orange). Peppermint is especially nice for nausea, lavender for anxiety, and scent is a tool we can use to distract and calm the body from the intense sensations in labor. Most hospitals are have scent-free policies for folks who have allergies or migraines triggered by scents. When offering aromatherapy in labor, I’ve put a drop or two of essential oils in one of my electric candles (so they can easily be brought to and away from someone’s nose), or put a few drops on a cool cloth for the back of the neck.

A quart of nettle infusion – This one’s all for me! I let the boiling kettle be my timer for getting ready to leave the house. When a client calls, day or night, I’m just about ready to leave at a moment’s notice. In the 5-10 minutes I spend getting by things together, I boil a pot of water for two quarts of tea. One nettle infusion I bring to the birth, and one I have ready and waiting for when I arrive home. After several hours, an infusion of nettle leaf is chock full of iron, calcium, vitamin K, and lots of good things my body needs when I’m too busy to eat fresh vegetables for several hours!

Larabars, Epic bars, fresh fruit, Tanka bars, Justin’s nut butter pouches, dulse – Having autoimmune allergies to most “normal” food, I need to be very mindful of the snacks I bring to keep myself going for my laboring clients. I can’t have any gluten (or most grains), dairy, soy, canola, or foods that are processed on shared equipment with them. That means no take-out, no Whole Foods hot bar, no delivery, no hospital room service, and I could be with a client for up to 30 hours in one stretch. These snacks contain the protein, fat and carbs I need to stay active. (That, and my partner has been known to pull up outside the hospital with something freshly cooked and warm when I’m gone an especially long time!)

Phone charger, toothbrush, deodorant, spare underwear, a book, hair ties/clips, salve/lotion, paper and pens for note taking. 

On Being a Queer Doula and Using Gender Neutral Language

As a toLabor trained birth doula, I only recently started listening to the toRaise Doula Podcast, produced by the executive director of the organization, Thérèse  Hak-Kuhn, and Richmond Virginia doula, Melanie Headley. Thérèse was actually the woman who facilitated my training in 2010, and hearing her voice brings me right back to my first intensive exposure to birth work! In listening to the recent episodes of the podcast, I realized Thérèse often uses gender neutral language when speaking broadly about pregnancy. She has extensive experiences in working with families, mothers and women in labor, but I wanted to send her a note of appreciation for not excluding everybody else in her choice of language.

Much to my surprise, she wrote back immediately to let me know she was planning on a podcast focused on supporting the LGBTQ community, and admitted she was actively working to be a better ally. She invited me to be on the show to talk about my experience being a queer doula, and to talk about how doulas can best support queer families.

Check out my interview on the August 3rd episode of the toRaise questions doula podcast, #83 How To Support the LGBTQ Client, on Stitcherlibsyn or iTunes! Also take a look at the toLabor website, where they’ve posted a list of resources that we talked about in this episode.

In mentioning the “list of midwives and birth workers who are against using gender neutral language,” I wanted to add a few more details. When Midwives of North America (MANA) announced last year that they were adding gender-neutral language to their core competencies documents, a list of birth workers identified as “Woman-Centered Midwifery” (including Ina May Gaskin herself!) wrote an “Open Letter To MANA,” opposing the use of language to include anybody who is not a cisgender woman. I’d link to their letter or website, but it seems to have since gone absent from the internet! Luckily, Birth for Every Body, a community of queer-friendly birth workers quickly organized to write a response to their letter. Snopes has a little article about how this went down, and how the experiences and opinions of the trans community have been completely misunderstood by much of the midwifery community.

There is a great list of gender and queer parenthood related resources on the Birth for Every Body website.

Meet the Doulas Night at Mama & Me

Doula Information Night
Wednesday, April 8 2015, 6-8pm. FREE.
At Mama & Me in the Brewery in Jamaica Plain

http://www.mymamaandme.com/doula/
PART I: WHAT IS A DOULA? DO I NEED A DOULA? | 6:00-7:00PM
Join other new and expectant parents for a night of FREE education on what a doula is, what a doula does, and how a doulaʼs presence can benefit your birth and help you adjust to life at home with your little one!

PART II: MEET THE DOULAS | 7:00-8:00PM
Doulas from in the Greater Boston Area will be on hand to answer your questions, offer personalized referrals, and represent some of the wonderful variety of personalities, ages, backgrounds, and skills you can find in a birth or postpartum doula. Expectant parents will have time to meet individual doulas and conduct brief interviews with them.

We will answer many common questions birth and postpartum doula services, such as:

What does a doula do?
What do services usually entail?
Why would I want to hire a doula?
How would a doula work with my partner?
How would I go about finding the right doula?
Studies* have shown many benefits of working with a doula, including:

Shorter labors
Fewer requests for epidurals
Less frequent use of forceps or vacuum
Increased confidence in birth partners
Fewer cesareans [OR Lower cesarean rate]
Increased success with breastfeeding
More time to bond with your baby
An easier transition into parenthood

Next Doula Information Night

Parents in the Boston area should be made aware of Mama and Me, a space that holds events and classes for young families in Jamaica Plain. They offer a range of prenatal, postpartum and child development classes, including some free events!

Upcoming on Wednesday, April 8 from 6-8pm will be their next FREE Doula Information Night. I will be present (if no babies come that night) to meet with expecting parents and chat about my services as a birth and postpartum doula, including placenta encapsulation. Come out and meet the doulas in your community!

PART I: WHAT IS A DOULA? DO I NEED A DOULA? | 6:00-7:00PM
Join other new and expectant parents for a night of FREE education on what a doula is, what a doula does, and how a doulaʼs presence can benefit your birth and help you adjust to life at home with your little one!

PART II: MEET THE DOULAS | 7:00-8:00PM
Doulas from in the Greater Boston Area will be on hand to answer your questions, offer personalized referrals, and represent some of the wonderful variety of personalities, ages, backgrounds, and skills you can find in a birth or postpartum doula. Expectant parents will have time to meet individual doulas and conduct brief interviews with them.

We will answer many common questions birth and postpartum doula services, such as:

What does a doula do?
What do services usually entail?
Why would I want to hire a doula?
How would a doula work with my partner?
How would I go about finding the right doula?
Studies* have shown many benefits of working with a doula, including:

Shorter labors
Fewer requests for epidurals
Less frequent use of forceps or vacuum
Increased confidence in birth partners
Fewer cesareans [OR Lower cesarean rate]
Increased success with breastfeeding
More time to bond with your baby
An easier transition into parenthood
COST: FREE