the doula spotlight

hello good peoples,

this post is part of an ongoing series called the doula spotlight. my goal is to interview doulas around the country to highlight some of the good things birth workers are doing for our birthing mothers. each week we’ll be answering 3 different questions about doula life. i’m really excited to start this series and share the wisdom of these women with you.

i am extremely honored and happy to present this next doula to you, readers. she is a wonderful woman and although i only spent a brief amount of time with her, less than 24 hours, it was enough time for her to make a big impact on my life. AND it was enough time for her to push on my back in just the right spot while i labored in bed and ask me the question “what do you mean when you say ‘tickle my back’ in your birth plan?” i’m talking about my own doula, Karen Phelps. She’s with By Your Side Birth Services, which was a part of in-house services at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, MD when miss darla was born but is now running independently in the DC Metro area. I present you, my doula, Karen:

Holding Darla Wright 1

Karen & Darla. January, 2009

1. How long have you been a doula and what brought you down the doula path?

When my daughter gave birth to my first grandchild five and a half years ago, she asked me to help coach her through labor and delivery. I had delivered my own four children unmedicated, using Lamaze techniques so I guided her and her husband through the process with what I remembered. (She had a long, unmedicated birth.) After the birth, the nurse asked if I had ever considered being a doula because I did everything a doula does. I had never heard of doulas but immediately learned everything I could and quickly took the training and became certified.

2. You were an integral part of getting my husband comfortably involved and active in my labor. In what ways do you facilitate and support partner involvement {when applicable} in births you attend?

So much of what I do is determined by my philosophy of birth and my role in it. I believe that the birth is not mine. This time and experience belongs to the mother and her partner and I am only there to add and make it the best it can be. I’m only the decoration on the cake. With that in mind, I first see how the couple interacts without my influence. I have had partners that just wanted to watch and counted on the doula, some that were unsure and just needed guidance, and some that wanted to run the show and give orders to everyone, including mom. (I think doulas are good at quickly assessing the situation.) There are many ways to encourage partners into their appropriate role. Once I have done massage, acupressure, stroking, or anything
else and it is effective, I show the support person what to do and encourage them to take over. I often have to demonstrate on the partner’s arm to show them the right soft but firm touch that feels good. I also ask support people to do things because they are sometimes afraid to make the first move or unsure of what would be helpful. I believe that a partner should participate to the level they are comfortable and I encourage as much involvement as possible because it is their experience together that makes the birth so special.

3. Was my labor and darla’s birth the most awesome you have ever attended?

ha ha. just a joke question. Of course my labor was the most awesome! wink wink. On to the real question:

3. You helped me be active during labor and you supported me during resting times while laboring in bed. How do you help a mother transition between different activities during labor? How do your support efforts change when a mother is mobile while laboring versus stationary?

Fairly early in labor, I mention that labor progresses best if there are frequent changes in position and activities so I encourage trying different things. Most mothers are eager for things to move along and are ready to follow suggestions. I occasionally suggest making a change, giving her a couple ideas and letting her choose. As labor builds, I suggest only one thing because mom is usually preoccupied and may have trouble making decisions. As much as possible, I involve the partner in assisting the mother as she walks, uses the bathroom, changes positions, sits on the birth ball, etc. I am there encouraging and guiding. As labor intensifies and the mother is working harder to focus, I work more directly assisting the mother with her breathing, relaxing and finally pushing.

I’d like to thank Karen for sharing on the doula spotlight and for supporting mike, darla and i as we became a family. you know how much it means every single time you do it. If you would like to know more about Karen you can find info on By Your Side Birth Services. Karen will be taking a sabbatical from birth work starting in September but I found interacting with the practice to be superbly pleasant. They are an excellent resource for DC Metro mommas.

HEY YOU! are you a doula? would you like to contribute to the doula spotlight? send an info request to heymomjeanz {at} gmail {dot} com. thanks!


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