World Doula Week: Celebrating Doulas & Supporting Doulas

Like Spiders, women weave webs that hold up the weight of entire communities. Silvery strings that stretch from one woman to the next and back again, creating a network of support. Along these strings wisdom, encouragement, friendship, laughter, tears and even critique slide from woman to woman or even hang in the in-between like the dew in early morning. This is my experience with doula work and my fellow doulas.  Behind every doula is an entire web of other women…

My web starts with Mary Catherine Hamelin who was going through her doula training and posting her wonderful experiences while I was going through pregnancy far away from my family support system. This lead me to researching doula work for myself. This lead me to hiring a doula for my first birth. 

Karen was my doula for my first baby. She brought such love and support to my birth experience. She guided my husband. She was gentle and patient and reminded me very much of my mother, whom I was missing very much on that day. Karen taught me my first lessons on how to care for women in labor. 

We moved to Ohio and I met Meg. Meg was the first woman I knew that had a home birth. She taught me her experience and introduced me to Jenna. Jenna was the first doula in my birth community that I met and she amazed me from the beginning. She gave me my first look inside the work of a doula and she helped me prepare for my first birth support experience. 

Which was with Sarah and her husband Jeff. Sarah was my friend and first doula client. I was her babysitter and we went through her pregnancy together, talking of her hopes and making plans for me to provide support. The big day came and we had a good birth and a very good time. It was everything I had hoped this work could be.  This lead me to my DONA doula training. 

Julie and Nancy were my trainers. They taught me and a group of women their skills. They opened the gate for me. I was on my way. 

I started reaching out into the Ohio birth community.  I met women in Birthworkers of Central Ohio. My next two personal connections were Catie Mehl and Caroline Gatsch. Catie included me in upcoming events for the birth community. A year in, she let me attend her training as supplementary education to my previous training. She scanned through my packets for certification, letting me know where I could use some work and ensured my work would be easy for the volunteer packet reviewer to get through.  I am so incredibly thankful for her.  Caroline gave me some of her old materials and was the first to introduce me to the idea of essential oils as therapeutic. Both encouraged me.  Then came Mandi Wagnild. We were budding doulas at the same time. She trusted me enough to back me and to let me back her. We talked birth over meetings. Then came Sharon Gourlay. She facilitated the Birthworkers meetings at the time. I appreciated her time and organization immensely. 

And in between all this time I was slowly getting clients and birth experiences and building my knowledge. These women helped me too. Their partners helped me. I learned SO MUCH in those early years. 

Then came Central Ohio Doulas and a doula sisterhood that expanded like none before.  I was consistently meeting and forming bonds with other doulas on a monthly basis. I was gaining mentors like Megan Van Aelst and Jenn Elfner. Both have been such sources of knowledge and support over the years.  And I got to watch newer doulas grow.  I got to watch the careers of newer doulas expand as I was scaling back to focus on my next pregnancy. 

Which brings me to Jess Buell and Alison Diaz. They showed me what home birth midwifery care could look like. They showed me the difference midwifery model of care can make for a woman’s experience. And Jenna came back into my fold as my doula. She gave me love and stability and furthered my experience of being on the receiving end of doula support. I will ALWAYS AND FOREVER be grateful to these women for my what they brought to my second birth. It changed my world forever. 

And then Alison & Jess invited me on to teach at Roots midwifery and be a referred doula. They turned me on to areas of birth I wanted to learn more about. It gave me opportunity to further my skills as a doula. And this also led me to Cortnie Swies

Cortnie has been one of my most important relationships in birth work to date. We have learned alongside one another. She’s been beside me to debrief and process births. We’ve taught each other things as our paths have diverged. She’s been my cheerleader.  We are different as can be yet similar in so many ways, so it works. Most importantly our families help each other cope with birth life.  Her presence in my birth career has been irreplaceable. She has connected me to so many other birth professionals through the growth of her path. And I am so grateful. 

Through COD I formed relationships with Suzan Singh who is now my back-up and a fabulous postpartum doula. I have also been able to serve as a secondary back-up for Linsey and Jen at The Ohio Doula. I’ve been able to watch and cheer on the growth of the St. Ann’s doula program of which many COD doulas participate. I’ve even been given the opportunity to doula another doula. This makes me abundantly grateful. 

And we circle back to my clients. This webs weaves around them too. I’ve supported them with referrals and they’ve supported me with knowledge of birthing women. It is in the intertwining of these strands that make the web so strong. 

May we all remember that.  We are a network. We are a support system for one another. Behind your doula stands a network of other doulas making her stronger. This is what I celebrate this World Doula Week.  There are so many other doulas and birth workers not mentioned here in my community that have inspired me with their work even if it’s from afar because our paths don’t cross as often as I’d like. 

Fellow doulas: the work you are doing is invaluable. You all inspire me every day. Keep doing what you are doing. Find all the ways you can to support the Family Arts. We have much work to do in our community. But you have made me strong and you keep me going. This week if for supporting ourselves and taking a good look at our support networks. Please accept my gratitude on this day. Take a little piece of it and feed yourself. Then take a piece and feed your support network. And this is how we make it infinite. 

My web is what I’m celebrating this week. And all the strings that branch off into other webs. Happy World Doula week.