Seventeen in….

I can’t believe it has been 20 months since I attended the first day at my doula training workshop.  I feel like I’m a different person since that day.  The earth tilted slightly as I listened to all the information my trainer was giving.  I recall she showed us the video “Laid-back Breastfeeding: The Mother-Baby Dance.”  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I had such a difficult time breastfeeding my first daughter, and watching this video made me sharply aware that much of the lactation support available today was built on “intervening” in the natural process, just like modern maternity care.  I didn’t know where my journey in birth support would take me, but I knew watching that video that I would spend my time informing new mothers of this process…the process of letting their babies lead the way and responding when necessary with supportive moves or measures.  I would spend my time building their confidence in themselves while they were giving birth and as they began their journey into motherhood, whether it was their first baby or their fourth.

Fast forward 20 months.  I have named my business, formed an LLC, designed a logo, designed a web page, gotten a business license, purchased liability/malpractice insurance, attended a Lamaze training, begun teaching an in-depth childbirth course, co-founded a community birth support group, become a volunteer breastfeeding counselor, gotten to know the nurses on the Childbirth Unit at EAMC, and worked with eight OBs, one perinatologist, two certified nurse midwives, and one certified professional midwife. I’ve had the privilege of supporting 17 moms (thus the post title) at 4 hospitals as they have given birth to their babies.  I’ve laughed with them, cried with them, cleaned up for them, squeezed them, gotten in the shower with them, whispered to them, listened to them, taught them, worried about them, and ached for them. I’ve picked them up off the floor, warmed them with rice socks, rubbed them with warm rocks, held their hands, rubbed their feet, fanned them, and moved the hair out of their eyes.

This is the work that I love.

It didn’t matter that several of them didn’t have their birth expectations met.  It didn’t matter that things went perfectly in some cases, and things went a tragic, unthinkable direction in another case.  What mattered was that in each instance, the moms all told me they felt supported.

I ran the numbers last week from 2014. At the beginning of the year, I was charging $250 for each birth.   At the end, I became a certified doula and was charging $575 per birth.  I made it out of the red, but only barely.  I love this work, and I’m giving it my all to figure out if I can earn a living wage doing it and maintain a healthy family balance.  The future is still unclear, but I’m not giving up.

I dedicate this first full year of business to my family.  To my mother, who taught me how to care for people.  To my father, who taught me about finances.  To my husband, who lives the unpredictable life of a doula’s husband. To my children, who have to watch endless breastfeeding and birth videos and who help me make notebooks for my class.

But mostly, I dedicate this first year to Kara. And to her daughter, Lyddia.  I know life’s pathways converge for unseen reasons, and I believe mine intersected with Kara’s so that I could be with her family when she said hello and goodbye to her daughter. To witness the circle of life in such a profound way was my honor.

This journey started that day when I learned how to support moms in breastfeeding.  Now, I’ve seen the mom of a lost baby donate over 2,000 oz. of breast milk to NICU babies and an adoptive mother.

Bless you, amazing Kara and Lyddia. And thank you.


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