Hunter has a wonderful presence, bringing a compassionate and supportive energy to a room. I feel like she must bring such a calming, reassuring and yet joyful presence to the families she supports in labor. In this following interview, you'll get to learn more about this empathetic and competent birth doula.
She is the eighth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.
What drew you to doula work?
After the birth of my daughter I realized how much there was to learn about birth and how much support is truly needed. I had taken childbirth education courses, read everything, and had amazing support and my birth still didn't turn out the way I expected. This made me want to learn more and also become a support person. After my daughters birth I couldn't imagine women giving birth without anyone and especially without a doula. It totally changed my life and redirected my career and life goals!
If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
He thinks it's amazing, and really appreciates the selfless nature of birth work.
Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
Yes! I am always creeping out in the middle of the night to get to births! Thankfully my husband is very understanding and supportive of this unpredictable lifestyle.
How many children do you have?
1 little lady, Seneca, who is 2 and a half.
What is the most difficult part of parenting, regarding being a doula?
I love being a Mama and a doula. I worked full-time in the corporate world with a lot of travel for 2.5 years as a Mom and that was a huge challenge. As a doula I have more balance in my life and get a lot more time with my daughter. If my husband is at work, I have family in town too who help watch my daughter whenever a client needs me! It takes a village ya'll!
Do you have any certifications or degrees?
I am working on completing my birth doula certification through toLabor this year, and I have a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from VCU, go RAMS!
What are your future goals with doula work?
To continue to reach women and families in our community and provide them with the support education and empowerment they deserve. I am also planning to add more certifications into my experience as well, I am really interested in acupressure and would love to offer that to my clients next.
Do you volunteer with any organizations?
When my daughter was a few months old my family volunteered through the RVA Breastfeeds campaign. They took photos of us and there was a life-size cardboard cut-out of us breastfeeding that traveled all around Richmond!
Do you have any advice for women who are just starting out in birth work?
Get ready to have your life changed. There is so much depth to this work and you create such amazing relationships with your Mamas and families. Your heart will be opened in ways you never imagined! And keep your phone charged!
Do you do anything besides doula work?
I also work at Urban Set Bride in Church Hill as a bridal stylist. It is amazing working for a woman owned local business, and helping ladies find their wedding dresses is a pretty emotionally charged role as well!
Do you have a favorite birth you attended? What made it special?
The birth of my best friend's baby was my first birth as a doula. It was so special to me because I love her and her family fiercely but also because she put her faith and trust in me. That birth was what sealed the deal for me and really pushed me to pursue training and certification and completely change my career!
If you weren’t doing doula work, what would you be doing instead?
Maybe run a little margarita stand on a beach on an island somewhere. But I'd probably still do birth work there too!
Favorite birth affirmation:
"Your body was made to give birth." Women always marvel at how they can become pregnant, and grow and nourish a human, but then seem to let disbelief creep in when it is time to give birth. It is just the next step in the natural process, you got this Mama!
Of course there have been many influential women and pioneers in the birth world, but honestly my Mamas are the ones that keep me going. Every birth is so unique and each woman I work with give me such renewed energy and excitement to support more people. Women are SO strong!
When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
I always used to say that I wanted to be a "doctor of small children" I guess I didn't know the word Pediatrician, but I also didn't know what a doula was. I think I just knew I wanted to help people and help babies in some capacity. It's taken me 30+ years and becoming a Mama myself to realize my true calling, but I'd say I got pretty close to that goal, and it feels amazing.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Dogs or cats?
Dogs all the way. My family has two puppers, two chickens, and two fish. I love all animals, but dogs rule around my house!
Favorite seasons and why:
I really love them all! I think that's why I have always loved living in Virginia. Each phase of the year brings different joys, different smells, different feelings, and different celebrations. I wouldn't trade that for anything!
Ideally, you’d love to do doula work until: Until I physically can't any more.
What is the most difficult part of being a doula?
Holding back on too much empathy in some birth situations can be really hard. Sometimes in really long and hard labors I just want to hold my Mamas in my arms and give in with them, but I know they need me to be their rock and stay strong. Birth is hard work and so as a doula you have to stay so strong for your Mamas and their partners. What they're relying on you for is direction and guidance and reassurance, not sympathy.
What is the best part of being a doula?
Being witness to the look on Mama's face the first moment she holds her baby.
What’s in your doula bag?
All kinds of tricks! I call it my Mary Poppins bag, anything or nothing could pop out depending on needs. But I always have snacks and fluids, honey sticks, chapstick, hairties, essential oils, a massage roller ball, my rebozo, battery candles and string lights, & face wipes.
Number one book moms should read before giving birth:
I always recommend or loan out, The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.
Number one book moms should read before breastfeeding:
I really like The Nursing Mother's Companion
Best breastfeeding advice you offer:
Get ready to spend a lot of time and energy being invested in breastfeeding. I don't believe it comes naturally to everyone and so a lot of Moms have to work really hard to make it work, and keep it going. I always hope that it works out for my Mamas but I never pretend like breastfeeding is easy.
Best labor advice you offer:
Get ready for a marathon. Mentally prepare for 48 hours so if it's less you are pleasantly surprised. And come with a plan and decisions made but expect that almost anything can happen!
Currently: Sewing, home improvement projects, reading, running, camping. A good glass of wine and catching up with my ladies, and I love competing in sports so I'm always up for a challenge!
Labor doulas-do you join mom at home to labor with her? Or meet at the hospital?
Either. I make myself available to join Mom at home if she would like me too, or I can meet at the hospital if they prefer. I like laboring at home with Mamas where they are really in their comfort zone but sometimes medical necessity requires a trip to the hospital sooner and so we make that environment as comfortable as possible too and work there instead.
From the small business owner aspect, what is the toughest part of doula work?
I just set up my LLC for The Mindful Birth and I have never felt more #bossbabe in my life. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and small business owner and being a doula has opened that door for me! But being a business owner is tough, and a lot of forms and paperwork. That's the hardest for me because my passion for the work lies within my clients and not at my desk.
Do you ever feel burned out?
Understandably, I am usually pretty exhausted after I get home from a birth, but it is also such a satisfying feeling. My favorite thing to do is make a cup of tea and take a bath before getting some sleep!
How do you avoid burn out?
Knowing your limits is so important in this work. It's so tempting to take on as many clients as you can to help as many women as possible but you have to take into account what you can handle, as well as what else is going on in your life. I always want my clients to get the best of me so it's important to not overextend yourself.