Michelle Lloyd is a freelance writer and contributor to MomsCharlotte.com.
Welcoming miracles into the world
After spending years supporting her friends through their pregnancies and births, taking phone calls and answering texts at all hours with questions during their pregnancies and after their babies came home, Jessica Stokes, 37, realized that pregnancy, birth and new families are a passion and she wanted to be able to become involved with on a broader scale. She began Nurtured Beginnings of Charlotte in 2012 in which she serves the area as a certified doula. Jessica also volunteers for Operation Special Delivery, a group that provides trained doulas for pregnant women whose husbands and partners who have been severely injured, are deployed, or who have lost their lives due to the current war on terror.
Q. How did you begin Nurtured Beginnings of Charlotte?
A. After I moved to Charlotte, I felt that I wanted to go back to work because my youngest was going to be starting preschool (#3 was a surprise blessing!) So I had originally planned to go to nursing school in the hope of becoming either a Labor & Delivery or Mother/Baby nurse. After beginning the process of applying to nursing school, I started really thinking about what I wanted to do and I realized that while I have the utmost respect for nurses and believe their job to be irreplaceable, I wouldn't have the opportunity to really get to know patients and support them the way a doula can for her clients.
Q. What type of certification did you go through?
A. I am trained through CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association) because I believe strongly in their vision and mission statement. I have been trained both as a Labor and a Postpartum doula. Each training consists of an in-depth training course, additional required reading, testing, continued education, etc. In 2013 I also plan to do the CAPPA Lactation Educator training so that I can provide even more information and support for breastfeeding mothers.
Q. What do doulas do?
A. In very general terms, a doula acts as a birth coach for a laboring mom and her partner (if applicable). She will provide information during the pregnancy at prenatal visits, stay at the mom's side throughout the labor and delivery, and check in on the new family shortly after the birth to be sure all is well. More specifically, a doula's role is unique to each mother she works for, as each mother has different needs for each pregnancy. Each doula has her own areas of expertise, and varied areas of interest, and therefore each doula/client relationship is unique. Likewise, the perfect doula for one mom may not be a good fit for another.
Q. What is your main job during labor?
A. My only job is to make sure that the laboring mom (and her partner, if applicable) are comfortable, that they feel safe and well-informed during the process. That can mean very different things for each birth; my job is to help a mom (or couple) identify what they are hoping for in their birth process and then try my best to make sure those wishes are honored.
Q. What drew you to become a doula?
A. After spending years supporting my friends through their pregnancies and births, taking phone calls and answering texts at all hours with questions during their pregnancies and after their babies came home, I realized that pregnancy, birth and new families are a passion of mine that I wanted to be able to become involved with on a broader scale.
Q. Did you use a doula for any of your own births?
A. Surprisingly, no, and I regret that very much. I have hired a doula for my upcoming birth and I'm so excited because I know that it's going to be such a different experience for both my husband and I.
Q. How are you able to juggle family life while being on call?
A. Thankfully, I have a great support system here with amazing neighbors and friends who are willing to help me out. In addition, when my husband isn't traveling, his office is only five minutes from our house and he has some flexibility to work from home if needed.
Q. What is the most satisfying part of being a doula?
A. Feeling that a woman is going in to her birth experience with the ability to make informed decisions about pregnancy, childbirth, the postpartum period, and breastfeeding. Obviously, bearing witness to a child being brought into the world is an experience that I can't possibly describe.
Q. How many births have you attended?
A. I began attending births professionally in 2012 but have been present for many of the births of my friends and loved ones for the past six years.
Q. What are your general fees?
A. For a birth, the standard fee is $500 (the range in the Charlotte area is $500 - $800). For postpartum work, the fees are on a sliding scale depending on how many hours I am needed for. The longer a client plans to hire me for, the less they'll pay per hour. The range is $15 - $25 per hour, (which is standard for the Charlotte area).
Q. Why or who should use a doula?
A. I honestly believe that every mother-to-be would benefit from having a doula by her side. A doula does not replace the medical staff nor the husband/partner or family members; she is one person who is there continuously throughout the labor and birth and is not emotionally biased. A doula's goal is to help guide the mother/couple through the experience, provide information as needed, help with measures to reduce pain during labor, etc. A good doula will support whatever decisions a mother makes for her own birth, and the doula should be flexible to adjust her approach during the birth. Because birth is a natural but not necessarily predictable process, having a doula present can help a family understand what is happening throughout the labor, and give them the ability to make informed decisions about the choices they face during labor and delivery.
Q. What are some common misconceptions about doulas?
A. There are a lot! I have heard many things and common beliefs about doulas in general that I know don't apply to me. I can't speak for every doula, but I know that for myself, my hope is to be able to support a mom through her birth regardless of what her wishes are. I strive to work as a team with the medical staff and would welcome any suggestions and physical support that the nurse may provide. I will not interfere with medical advice. I will try to facilitate communication between all involved and encourage Mom and her partner to ask relevant questions so they can make informed choices. My aim is to reinforce the fact that this is your birth, not mine. In addition, my hope is to strengthen the bond between Mom and her partner by instilling confidence in the partner and facilitating open communication between the couple and others present.
You can find more info about Nurtured Beginnings of Charlotte online at www.nurturedbeginningsofcharlotte.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nurturedbeginningsofcharlotte Phone: 980.406.2782 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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