Who is Richmond Doulas: Mady Berryman

Doula Spotlight
Mady Berryman
”I believe that birth is one of the most significant and sacred times in a mother's and a child's life.”

Type of doula: Birth

Certifying/Training agency: DONA International

Business Name: Tender Heart Doula

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
He loves how happy it makes me and fully supports me!

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
Yes! This work would be more than difficult without the emotional support of my husband.

What drew you to doula work?
My entire life I have been interested in things pertaining to pregnancy, birth, and infants. I believe that birth is one of the most significant and sacred times in a mother's and a child's life.

What are your future goals with doula work?
I am working toward being certified as soon as possible and one day I hope to also look into becoming a postpartum doula.

Do you have any advice for women who are just starting out in birth work?
The doula community is strong and supportive. I think I can speak for all doulas when I say that as doulas we strive to lift each other up. So if you ever need anything there is always someone there to back you up.

Do you do anything besides doula work? (Like teach classes, etc.)
I nanny and I teach a class of toddlers at my church.

If you weren’t doing doula work, what would you be doing instead?
I would be nannying. I LOVE working with kids!

Favorite birth affirmation:
You are safe, this is what your body was made to do.

Birth hero:
My trainer, Amy Bookwalyer. She is an incredible and inspiring woman!

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To breath under water. I am my happiest in water and always wish I could stay under longer.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
Most of all I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother. Career wise, as a child I wanted to be a veterinarian and then as a teenager and young adult I want to be a labor and delivery nurse.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
100% Chocolate!

Dogs or cats?
I love dogs almost as much, but I am a cat person.

Favorite seasons and why:
Summer is when I spend time with family and enjoy the beautiful ocean!

What is the best part of being a doula?
Knowing that you made a difference for that mom and that you were able to help make her experience that much more special.

What’s in your doula bag?
My two most important things are “The birth Partner” by Penny Simkin and my peanut ball.

Favorite pastimes:
Hanging out with my husband or going to the beach.

Labor doulas-do you join mom at home to labor with her? Or meet at the hospital? And why?
I would be willing to do either based on my clients needs.


Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Thorpe

Doula Spotlight
Sarah Thorpe
"I had my first child and her birth and the postpartum experience that followed changed me forever. I want to use my story and education to help other families through those times."

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Type of doula: Postpartum
Certifying/Training agency:
Childbirth International
Business Name:
Nurturing Birth and Beyond
DoulaMatch
Facebook
Years in business:
1
What is your fee? $25 per hour, packages and gift certificates available

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
He believes it is what I was born to do and jokes that he is almost a doula himself with how much I tell him from my education, ha!

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
It’s crucial. Doula work is largely emotional work so I can’t imagine pouring my heart out to families without someone refilling that love.

How many children do you have? Two!

Do you have any certifications or degrees? I am a bachelors prepared RN and CPR certified

What drew you to doula work?
Ten years ago I never thought I would do birth work… then I had my first child and her birth and the postpartum experience that followed changed me forever. I want to use my story and education to help other families through those times.

What are your future goals with doula work?
Certifying as a postpartum doula and childbirth educator.

Do you do anything besides doula work?
I am an RN and also hope to start teaching childbirth education classes soon!

If you weren’t doing doula work, what would you be doing instead?
Continuing my RN career or childbirth educator

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
Teleporting… I hate long car rides.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
A Nurse

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate, for sure.

Dogs or cats?
Always dogs.

Favorite seasons and why:
Spring! Nothing is as exciting as feeling the weather start to warm up after a long dark winter.


Who is Richmond Doulas: Heydi Marshall

Doula Spotlight
Heydi Marshall
"Keep going. Try whatever works for you and baby."

Services Offered:
Postpartum Doula (CAPPA), Baby Care Specialist
DoulaMatch
Years in Business: 1
Clients served: 2 (and growing!)

Heydi is the fifteenth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

What do you love most about doula work?
I love coming along side of parents, especially moms, to encourage and educate them in their roles. And of course I love loving on the babies!

What is your least favorite aspect about doula work?:
Wanting to spread myself too thin and say yes to every job opportunity.

Favorite thing to do when you are not on call?:
When I’m not working I most enjoy taking care of my family and home! Other things I enjoy doing are reading, walking & checking in with my parents & friends.

What does your partner think about your doula work/job?:
My husband is very proud of me for doing something that I enjoy and that is so natural to me. I love hearing him explain to people what I do.

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?:
It’s absolutely important! Because I know my husband is 100% supportive of me and my career I can go about my days and nights with higher levels of confidence in myself.

How many children do you have?:
Three children; a 13 year old daughter and 2 sons ages 4 & 2.

What is the most difficult part of parenting regarding being a doula?
I’ve discovered that being a doula means having my phone on me a lot more than normal and being on my phone or computer more often. I’m learning to balance that while giving my kids my full attention & eye contact during our times together. 

Do you have any certifications or degrees?:
Not yet but definitely working on certification. I look forward to the process and the wealth of information I’ll learn.

What drew you to doula work?:
My desire to help women be the best moms they can be. I love encouraging women. I love serving them and providing support to whatever needs they have. To me it’s very meaningful and rewarding work that doesn’t feel like work!

Do you feel that your own births colored your doula experience?
Most certainly! From the support that I lacked but also and most importantly, the support that I received during all my children’s births encourage and bring meaning to my role as a doula.

What are you future goals with doula work?:
I plan on getting certified and grow in experience. I would also love to work with young, single and/or minority moms.

Do you do anything besides doula work?:
I provide childcare to several of my friends’ children. Another way I enjoy helping moms.

Birth hero:
All moms are heroes! But I do have to highlight my own mom who had a prolapsed uterus and other complications almost taking her life with her first child. She then went on to have a total of 9 children (one C-Section). She is definitely my birth hero!

If you could have one super power, what would it be?:
To teleport! It would be the best way to travel!

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?:
For many years I wanted to be an astronaut or scientist.

Chocolate or Vanilla?:
Vanilla

Dogs or Cats?:
Both but dogs if I had to choose.

Favorite season and why:
I love them all! Fall I enjoy because I love the beautiful colors of leaves especially in the mountains.

What’s in your doula bag?:
Calendar/planner, books, snacks and a lot of other little things that I think I need but don’t use…yet.

Number one book moms should read before giving birth:
Oh goodness, I don’t have a book to recommend yet! Is there one such book that can prepare a woman…?

Best breastfeeding advice you offer:
Keep going. Try whatever works for you and baby.

Best labor advice you offer:
It’s a mind game; tell your body what you need it to do and be amazed.


Who is Richmond Doulas: Amber Brook Pearson

Doula Spotlight
Amber Brook Pearson
"My body is strong and capable. My body and baby know exactly what to do."

Business Name: Amber Brook Doula Services, LLC
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services Offered: Birth and Postpartum (DONA)
Number of births attended: 4

Amber is the thirteenth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

If you have a partner, what does he/she think about your doula work/job?
I’ve been happily married for 7 yrs, been together for 10 years. My husband has been very supportive and proud of the work I do.

Do you think it’s important to have your partner’s support and why?
Having my husband support me and seeing a smile on his face when I come home from work is priceless. It’s always important to support your partner in life; having a personal cheerleader is the best!

Do you have children?
2 step children, boys, 17 and 19

Do you have any certifications or degrees? Former Certified Nursing Assistant and former Certified Patient Care Technician (dialysis).  

What drew you to doula work?
I have always had a passion for babies and caring for others. When I heard about doula work, I just knew in my heart that this was my calling.

What are your future goals with doula work?
Besides being a birth & postpartum doula, I would love to add on being a Lamaze teacher and a lactation counselor. Trainings are lined up in my future!

Do you have any advice for women who are just starting out in birth work?
Take one step at a time and don’t get overwhelmed.

Do you have a favorite birth you attended? What made it special?
My favorite birth was the birth of my niece, Morgan Lucia. It is my brother’s first child. He is 45 years old, and watching his emotions was the best feeling a sister/doula could experience, a bond that was very special to me. It was a fairly easy labor too; one push and she was ready!

Have you had a very difficult birth? What made it difficult?
Supporting one of my best friend’s labor and birth. It was an unexpected stillborn baby.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
The power of healing.

When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
L&D Nurse

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Vanilla

Dogs or cats?
Cats. I have 3. But I love dogs. One day I’ll have one!

Favorite seasons and why:
Fall! I love the weather, crisp air. I love wearing jeans and a cozy sweatshirt. I love watching football with my husband and I love everything pumpkin! Also, my wedding anniversary is in October!

Ideally, you’d love to do doula work until:
Until I retire! I am finally able to fulfill my passion and I want to do nothing else!

What is the most difficult part of being a doula?
Holding my emotions in. If I see someone crying, I tend to feel deeply and tear up as well.

What is the best part of being a doula?
Having unlimited time spent with clients. Of course, adoring their precious baby! Being my own boss has been a dream as well!

What’s in your doula bag?
Rebozo, flameless candles, oils, hand stress ball, hard candy, heating bean pad, birth affirmations, notes, snacks for myself and my love…etc.

Hobbies:
Gardening, cooking, traveling, music (concerts), reading, working out, decorating and I love to organize   

Favorite pastimes:
Going to the movie theater once a week. When I was younger and single, this was my favorite Friday night event!

Labor doulas-do you join mom at home to labor with her? Or meet at the hospital? And why?
I want to support my clients in any way I’m able to. So if she wants to do most of her laboring at home, then I am right there beside her.

Postpartum doulas-do you do daytime or nighttime support? Or both?
I am able to work both shifts. My boys are grown, so I have more flexibility.

How do you avoid burn out?
I believe in self love. So I enjoy massages, pedicures, chiropractic adjustments. Treat myself to a new outfit, etc…I haven’t felt burn out yet. This is only my first year!


Should Children Attend the Birth?

By: Gloria Miles

There's probably nothing sweeter than a newborn photo aside from a sibling holding their newborn for the first time. The excitement of a new baby, the awe of what just happened, and the bonding that occurs whether a few minutes or a few days after the birth.

The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

When I was pregnant with Thalia, my boys were 7 and 9 years old. They were so excited and were hoping for a sister. How lucky they were that she ended up being a girl! Initially, they both wanted to attend the labor and delivery. I was okay with that decision. Little by little, however, they changed their minds. First, my oldest decided he wanted to be invited into the room when "all the hard stuff" was over. And my second eventually decided he'd play video games until I started pushing. Knowing that I do best with very few people in the room and knowing that lots of noise bothered me, I decided against having them there. What also cinched the deal was that I had weeks of prodromal labor before the birth of Thalia. In essence, we were given a few "practice" labor trials with them in attendance and I found that they really did not like seeing me uncomfortable. More than that, they would try to "help" and I found it almost intolerable. I would assure them I was okay and go hide so they wouldn't see me until after the contractions would stop. The day (well, night) of the birth, my oldest was invited to a sleep over and my second was picked up by the babysitter after I told him I was in labor. The very next morning, they both arrived and were pleasantly surprised.

What was initially planned was not at all what happened. So how do you decide whether to let your little ones attend or not?

Things to Consider:

1. Location

Will you be delivering in a hospital, birth center, or home? Obviously a home birth means that you are 100% in charge with who can attend, but hospitals and birth centers may be a bit more strict. Ask your provider about the policies. How many people can attend? Are there age limits? Sometimes staff can be a bit wary of very young children. Other times there can be limits of how many people there may be in the room at any given time. 

2. Number of People in the Room

The number of people in the room when someone is laboring can affect her very much! Most women do best with minimal participants. I even know a few people who say that every person adds an extra hour to the labor. How high will the body count be within that room when children are added?

3. Yourself

Going off of point number 2, how well do you do with extra people? Will you do well having your children in the room with you? Will you worry about them when transition comes around? Will you worry about what they will think or feel when they see you in discomfort or pushing? Conversely, perhaps having them around you will make you feel like all your loved ones are safe and accounted for. Do you feel energized when the room energy is high?

4. Your Children

Their age and maturity level are both things to consider. The most important part is: Do they want to be included?

A two-year-old will act a lot differently than a 12-year-old. Consider how they normally act when you are in pain, uncomfortable, or need time alone.

The exciting part of labor is the "pushing" part. Other than that, the rest is--to be quite frank--boring. Will your child (or children) want to watch TV or play games while you are laboring?

Do they want to be a part of the labor process? How will they do in a 4 hour or labor or a 20 hour labor? Will they likely nap during? What if a nap is skipped (for your smaller children)? What about snacks and other meals? What if they change their mind about attending after labor has already started? Do they have a place they can "escape" to?

5. Emergencies

Even if you are planning a home birth, things can go way off plan. Suppose you are transferred to a hospital? Or, suppose a cesarean is deemed necessary some time during your labor? Do you have a back up plan for the children? It is highly recommended to have a babysitter who is ready for a phone call saying that child care is needed, even at 2 in the morning.

 

In a home birth, having someone who can stay with the children in the event of a transfer is important. This may or may not be their other parent. However, keep in mind, that if you want your partner with you during a transfer, they cannot be the caregiver of the children during labor. Remember that midwives, doulas (unless otherwise asked and agreed to), nurses, doctors, and other attendants cannot keep an eye on your little ones.

6. Caregiver for the Children

Aside from the small possibility of a transfer or emergency, children should have a caregiver present whose sole job is caring for them. First, should your child change his or her mind about attending, now they have someone who can either bring them to a different part of the house or who can take them home. Second, this person is the one who can deal with any potty breaks, food, or drinks your child may need or want.

Having a dedicated caregiver for your child or children ensures that you will not have a support person (like your partner or doula) deciding between helping your child or assisting you. It allows everyone to be able to focus on their job and to feel calm.

Ultimately, the decision is between you and your children (with the caveat that a hospital may not allow children under a certain age or may ban children altogether). There is no right or wrong way to birth. It is just important that you feel safe, loved, and respected.

The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

For my family, it turned out that sleepovers while I was laboring was the best thing. They didn't feel they missed anything, because they were able to see me after I was comfortable in bed and their sister was just a few hours old. They do not regret deciding against attending. I also felt calmer being with just my partner, my midwife, and her assistant. It was much more intimate for me and I didn't have to worry about them, either.

However, I have attended births where siblings attended and it was beautiful. Brothers were able to cut cords, sisters were able to dress and weigh the newborn. In every way they were invited to participate, there was excitement.

Like anything else with labor and birth, having plans and back ups are important. I hope this helps you choose the best fit for your family! Did you have your children present at the birth? How was the experience? Any tips you would recommend for others who want their children present? Comment below!

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

I Hope You Don't Remember Me

By: Gloria Miles

An essay. 

I hope you don't remember me. I hope that when you think of your birth, I am not part of what happened. Or if I am, that I am part of the wallpaper that surrounded your room. 

I hope that if you do have memories of me, they are from prenatal visits, from social visits, from discussions, swapping jokes, and stories. I hope that if I cross your mind, you think back of the laughter shared and the deep conversations we have had. 

As a doula, midwife's assistant, midwife's apprentice, (and one day just midwife), I hope you do not have a place for me in the memories of your birth. I hope that you realize that all of the strength that was within you during those difficult hours was yours alone. I hope you never think to utter the words, "I couldn't have done it without you." I hope you never want to thank me for being your strength or for giving you something that you didn't already have. 

You conceived and grew a human being all by yourself. You're amazing. You gave birth to this child. You did. Even if it was assisted with medication or surgery, you are still the one who underwent all of that. I hope you know how bad ass you really are. (Excuse the language, but there's not much else that conveys how amazing you are.)

I'm honored to attend every birth I'm invited to join. I'm privileged in that I get to assist you while you give life to the newest soul on the planet. However, I do nothing more than fan more air onto the fire that is a woman birthing. If nothing else, I provide some comfort, some encouragement, and sometimes some assistance. However, I am dispensable. I will not make or break your experience, because you are the one who does it all. 

I hope what you do remember is your strength. I hope you remember your triumph. I hope you remember what you did. I hope you remember that YOU did everything. I did not push you along. I walked alongside you. 

 

Photo by RyanKing999/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RyanKing999/iStock / Getty Images

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Hope's Story: Sometimes Love Takes a While

Edited by: Gloria Miles
Shared anonymously by the mother. Permission received to share. *Names edited.*

Hope is my second daughter.  My pregnancy with her was great.  I could eat and drink and keep it down.  After a pregnancy with hyperemesis up until the eighth month, it was a welcome relief.

I was at home with my mother when I went into labor.  I told her and she immediately freaked out because her van was broken and we had no working vehicle at her house.  Since the hospital was only half a mile away, I decided we could just walk.  I think that's why the birth went so quickly.  

We walked block after block very slowly since we had to stop during my contractions.  I got half way through a cross walk at a very busy intersection and had one.  The light turned green and traffic had to wait for me to finish the contraction and then waddle to the other side.  Fun.

When we reached the hospital and I was admitted, my mom said she'd be right back, she was going to call my ex-boyfriend, Mark, the father of my first and second.  "Don't push yet!" she cried out.

I was on the bed, waiting for the nurses to get organized and start an IV line.  "Sure," I told her.

She left.

My water burst and like my first, the pushing contractions came violently.  The nurses abandoned their IV equipment and ran about me frantically.  I'm sure they were following some sort of protocol and paging the doctor and all of that, but from my vantage point, they were running around like crazed chickens.  

I cried out for an epidural, but the baby was born instead.  

I held her, pissed off.  I had walked half a mile to get here, just so I could birth the baby, essentially by myself.  I could have probably stayed home and been more comfortable.  Start to finish this was a 35-minute labor.  

I waited for an instant bond to come with this birth, but it didn't.  Like my first, there was a disconnect.  I held her.  My baby.  She didn't feel like my baby.  I didn't feel like she had came from me.  I guess I was still processing or something.  I don't know why this happens to me, but I wish it wouldn't. 

My mom and ex arrived about thirty minutes after the baby was born.  "I thought you said you wouldn't push!" my mom accused. 

I shrugged and she laughed.  She looked at her new grandbaby and cooed at her.  She held her a little while and showed Mark.  Marianna had been a copy of him.  I thought that Hope looked like my sister.  He'd tell me later that she didn't look like his baby.  It was a bit of a fight, but when we got the paternity result, he found out that she was his, through and through.  

She's much bigger than a newborn now and I love her like crazy, but it definitely took a little time to get that "motherly" love, rather than just this feeling of obligation to care for her because I knew I had to.  I really wish I knew why I can't be like other moms who just get that instant "love at first sight" feeling.  My sister did tell me that it's more common than I think, but I don't know.  At least I'm lucky, though.  I love them with all my heart and they drive me crazy, so at least the feeling of disconnect doesn't last. 

The Importance of Birth Stories

By: Gloria Miles

 

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

It's so important to me to remember the stories of my births.  The details may be a little fuzzy after some time, the events might not be recollected in exact sequence, but the important parts are all there.  I do enjoy sharing them, especially with my children.  

I believe that everyone who has given birth should share, in part, their stories.  At the very least, to those who are important to them: their partners, their close friends, children.  This benefits the listener but also the person telling the story.

Before we had textbooks, before we had blogs and seminars and classrooms, we taught each other by storytelling; sometimes by songs.  This act of passing along wisdom and lessons through storytelling has been going on since we could speak and across cultures.  

Why share birth stories? 

Birth stories are part of this culture, believe it or not.  However, most are in the form of fictional stories spread through television or movies that are erroneously displayed as this terrible event that must be endured in order to meet one's baby.  Others are more dramatic and shown on the evening news as an event that could have gone so wrong! And yet, miraculously, everyone is somehow fine. Learn more at eight!

Birth stories from real individuals, shared in a safe space, can be a way to educate everyone who may give birth in the future to their first or even fifth child.  Every birth is different. Every story is different. Every experience is different. Sharing birth stories adds to the normalcy of this biological act.  Most birth stories are lovely but uneventful.  When pregnant, it's important to be reaffirmed that this is a normal, biological experience that one is equipped to handle. Normalizing labor and birth is important. 

Some people want to give birth in a manner that is very different from their mothers, from their friends, or from the disapproving individual on social media.  If this happens, it's even more important for that person to hear of labors that went along the lines of what that individual was planning.  For instance, if one chooses water birth, it's awesome to hear all of the water birth stories.  If one chooses to give birth in a birth center, then hearing all of the birth center experiences can be affirming and uplifting. 

Of course, this is also true for those who need a cesarean or who may be higher risk.  Sometimes fear comes from simply not understanding or knowing what is to come.  Anxiety and fear can be eased what will happen is explained. 

Not every birth story is bright and happy. 

Sometimes labor or the birth or both ends up being scary, traumatic, or simply traumatizing.  Perhaps the epidural didn't take and the experience was not what was planned.  Perhaps the birth center water birth ended up being a hospital transfer.  Nothing "terrible" has to happen in order for the individual to feel disappointed in the experience.  

And yes, sometimes terrible events do transpire during the labor or birth or both.  We've all heard the stories of a patient being abused by the hands of those who are supposed to be helping this laboring individual.  Sometimes a birth does not have a happy ending.  These births, while very difficult to share, should still be allowed to be shared with whomever the individual wishes and in a safe environment.  This can serve as a way to process what happened.  It can help heal.  Bottling these stories up within oneself in order not to scare or offend can be very harmful.  

I sometimes feel as though these birth experiences are muted and not allowed to be shared within the same walls of others and I wish that would stop.  I left a Facebook group once that was supposed to be a safe and open place to share experiences of "natural" births and the owner would chastise anyone who used words like "painful" or "scary" or the like.  A birth story was shared that ended with, "I think any mother will understand. Birth is the best and worst experience ever [because it hurts]."  The group owner congratulated her and asked she refrain from discussing the pain more or to edit her story. 

Validation and processing

I think it's important to validate every feeling.  My second labor felt uncomfortable but I was surprised at how little it really seemed to hurt.  I remember walking into the hospital and hoping I was actually in labor.  When I was admitted, I was nine centimeters with a bulging bag.  With my third, she was a whirlwind of a birth and labor was so intense--and yes, painful--that pushing was a relief, an experience I hadn't felt before. These are my experiences.  As I sit writing all of this, about eight months pregnant, I wonder how my fourth experience will transpire.  And yes, even with the variety of discomforts, pain, and elated emotions, I am planning another home birth.  

It's important for us to process our experiences.  This is how we learn from ourselves, this is how we heal, this is how we grow.  

The good of it all. 

However, as birth stories are spread, as people share, and as others listen, it will become obvious that for the majority, labor and birth is simply part of life.  Most are satisfied with their experiences, most are proud of what they accomplished, and most will remember these events for the rest of their lives.  This means that sharing these stories, all stories, will show a pattern of how normal this is, of how it's okay to daydream about the day, of how there's not really much to fear.  And for some, sharing their stories will be part of the healing process that's crucial and necessary for their own mental and emotional health.  

Before childbirth education classes, before doulas, before books and websites with advice, there were just stories passed from one generation to the next.  This is how childbirth education was taught.  This is how support began.  

Want to contribute? 

Please email your story to rdoulas@gmail.com if you would like to share.  You can share with your name and pictures, with no pictures, or even anonymously.  

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Who is Richmond Doulas: Bri Grocholski

A Birth Story

The Third Degree

This is the story of my natural birth in a hospital setting that turned into a medical birth.  My goal is to educate and encourage women to birth on their terms.  Please consider your provider and the location of your birth!

A note from Richmond Doulas...such a huge thank you to Cori for sharing both of her birth stories and the inspirations and wisdom she drew from both her births. It's our dream that women could enter any hospital, be treated by any care provider and receive compassionate care, but until birth culture changes in the U.S., choosing your care provider, as Cori puts it, is time well spent. Here is some more information about choosing a care provider.

Delivery Day

I woke up with contractions around 7 a.m.  They did not subside after an hour like they had the few days before.  I kept busy all day to distract myself but knew it would be the day to meet our baby! 

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I felt a gushing sensation around 2:30 p.m. - My water broke!  I called my OB and let Donna Westcott, my doula know. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible to make sure I received as few interventions at the hospital as possible. 

Finally at 4:45 we decided to drive to the hospital.  Contractions were much more intense and getting closer.  I continued to breathe through each contraction visualizing the pain going through my body and out my toes.

Contractions were painful but purposeful. And things seemed to be happening so much quicker than I thought they would.

At the Hospital:

My first nurse was a bitch… She wanted to hook me to the monitor immediately; she did not want to undo it so I could go pee. She did not care that I felt nauseous, and she said it was still hospital policy to check me to see if my water actually broke because so many people mistaken it for pee leaking!

Finally, the hospital OB came in but seemed annoyed.  He looked over the birth plan and scoffed at a few things: He said we would only delay cord clamping about a minute and reassured me there would be no episiotomy.  His biggest concern was the possibility that my baby was close to 9 pounds.

He left the room for a while and when he returned he was determined to check my cervix. He was impressed with how far along I had gotten. Again he made me feel unimportant and even though I was determined to birth naturally he seemed like he would rather do C-section to get it over with.  He did not offer pain medication, which I appreciated.  But he did insist on checking me more often than I felt necessary.  The last time he checked me, I peed on him. (he deserved it.)  They also would not let me out of the bed to walk around or unhook me from the monitor.

I remember transition…It was painful.  I also remember that being the only point at which I said: "I can't do this."  Donna, said you can and you are!  Donna’s soothing and calm encouragement was so nice to have throughout the birth!

Before I knew it was time to push… My biggest regret is not waiting for my body to tell me when to push. 

This is the point it became a medical birth and my nurse and doctor were screaming at me to push for ten seconds!  The nurse held my leg and I was lying on my back… They did not know when my body was contracting. I was pushing when they told me to.

I remember a sense of relief during stage two; like my body was doing all the work, there didn’t have to be any actual pushing.

Where it all went wrong:

I should not have been on my back and I should not have pushed for a count of ten, my body was not ready for that! I should have used the positions I practiced.  I should have spoken up and birth the way I had planned.  I should have breathed my baby out.

In a medical birth, the doctor does not listen to the woman… (*A woman’s body is amazing and knows what to do. Let your body do its job!)

Time really escapes you in labor. Pushing didn’t seem to last long.  I remember a burning sensation when the baby was crowning, Donna told me that was normal.  The doctor did not talk me through the birth.  I am so grateful for Donna being there and coaching me through. The OB was more into making sure I pushed hard enough.

After an additional push baby slid out onto the table. (A baby girl was here!)

The doctor was not seated, did not catch my baby, and did not have adequate towels underneath me.

I was numb from that point on.  I suffered a third-degree laceration and had postpartum hemorrhaging (maybe my body was being nice and didn’t want me to remember the pain and it was my body’s adrenaline reaction to go numb.)

But this is where I question if counter pressure on my vagina and perineum and assisting the head and shoulders through would have helped.  I really should have been more determined to ask for different positions during pushing.

The OB tried to partially repair me in the delivery room with no success.  I had a hard time staying still and he continually yelled at me to stop moving.  I only held my baby girl for a couple minutes on my chest before the doctor had packed me with gauze and took me out of the room on the way to the OR. 

The doctor did not explain what had happened. He did not use the word tear or hemorrhage. He just said I had no choice but to get a spinal block and come to the OR.

My husband was left in the room with Donna and a baby who was a few minutes old.  No information was shared with them except that I had to be taken out of the room and they could not be in the OR with me.

In the OR:

The anesthesiologist was pretentious.  He actually said “see this isn’t so bad” when putting in the spinal tap, “you could have done this in the first place.”

In the OR, there was still no explanation of what happened. Dr. G, the OB I had been seeing in the office for prenatal visits, arrived to help repair me.  She did not acknowledge me.  I was awake and aware during the repair and continued to ask them questions: How is it, is it bad, what does it look like, what are you doing?  They ignored me and did not speak to me directly. 

A nurse assistant held my hand and talked with me the whole time (she was so sweet).  Another nurse brought me a phone so I could tell my husband I was still alive and that everything would be okay.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it back to the room, with a catheter and no feeling in my legs.  The OB informed me he ‘lost’ a sponge (gauze) that he packed me with when I was hemorrhaging and to make sure it wasn’t still inside me he ordered an x-ray. 

After the x-ray, I finally got to hold my baby and try to nurse her!  She did not have a good latch.  It had been three hours since she was born and hunger had set in. 

Breastfeeding was uncomfortable and I could not feel my legs.  I also still did not really know what had happened… I was disappointed Dr. G. never came in to check on me after I made it back to the room. (So much for being her patient.)

I held my baby all night.  I continued to try and nurse her with little luck.  Instead of sending in a lactation consultant or a nurse who could help me get a latch, one nurse gave me a nipple shield.  (Hindsight is 20/20, the nipple shield may have saved my breastfeeding journey! But it led to many weeks of stress and anxiety that I could not feed my baby without it- Why couldn’t I be coached on getting a better latch instead of using an artificial nipple?) 

In the morning, two nurses came in to help me out of bed and into the bathroom where I passed out and they had to use smelling salts to wake me!  I returned to the bed weak, helpless, and groggy. 

Eventually, I moved to a postpartum room.  Those nurses barely came into check on us.  One did come in to give the baby a bath but did not welcome my help with my child…

Discharge Day:

A well respected and favorite OB discharged me.  She told me three things: 1 Here are your prescriptions for Oxycodone and ibuprofen, 2 you can sit in a bathtub or sitz bath a few times a day for swelling and pain relief, and 3 you need to make an appointment to see this specialist in a week.  (At this point I still have not been told what actually happened, she had the perfect opportunity to show some sympathy and do her job, yet nothing, she didn’t want to be bothered either, I was not her patient….she lost my respect.)

I was so scared to leave the hospital! I cried, a lot. I did finally take a shower but still felt numb, weak, and terrified.

The First Days Home:

I don’t remember much except that I was helpless.  (A feeling I do not do well with!) I did not take the oxy but did take ibuprofen for pain and swelling.  I was uncomfortable and spent a lot of time in bed trying to nurse.  I would cry every time she nursed.  I would look down at this perfect little human and knew that I loved her but could not express that love with words.  I continued feeding her and holding her. But all I really wanted to do was leave.  

The Specialist:

A week later I went to see Dr. S., an urogynecologist.  She was wonderful! Smart, direct, and caring.  Finally, someone explained what had happened, she even had an illustration.

She informed me I had an infection in the laceration and listed what we would try to do to fix it.  Surgery was a last resort. My instructions were to sit in a sitz bath at least three times a day, take a whole concoction of antibiotics and drink Miralax to make sure all my stools were super soft! (gross, I know)

I had follow-up appointments weekly.  The only time I left the house was to go to the doctor.  I continued to be devastated and uncomfortable. I blamed myself for the tear and the infection.  I continually thought about what I should have done differently. Not pushing the way I did, not laying on my back, also what did I do to get this infection? Did I deserve it somehow?

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The Last Resort:

Finally, at five weeks, post-partum, Dr. S. said we needed to go in and surgically remove the infection and repair the tear.  I lost it.  I was so nervous.  I was hoping to go my whole life without any major surgery…

I had two options for hospitals.  I will not go back to the hospital I delivered my daughter in for as much as a hangnail. So I chose a different location.  The surgery was scheduled for the next day. 

I was not prepared to leave a five week old at home without me.  I had no bottles or formula.  No milk pumped.  I barely had the hang of breastfeeding (I was still using the nipple shield).

I had total faith in Dr. S. to get me repaired and keep me safe.  But major surgery is still frightening. 

The surgery was successful and Dr. S. informed me it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be, the infection also was localized and not systemic and she repaired the other trauma to my vagina.

My recovery nurses at this hospital were so sweet and compassionate.  They helped me set up the breast pump and kept all my milk frozen for me.   

I continued to see Dr. S every other week until I got the all clear to resume all normal activity two and a half months postpartum!

The New Normal:

It took me months to feel completely comfortable in my skin (squatting scared me, I felt like I would just rip into a million pieces). At about eight weeks postpartum, I had breastfeeding down!  I nursed my baby lying down, standing up, one handed, with a pillow, without one! 

I continued to have feelings of anger and grief.  I still blamed myself but was mad at the hospital OB.  I didn’t know who to blame.  

I changed to a more positive outlook shortly after.  I realized it could have been worse (I could have died; it could have been a 4th degree tear going through my rectum completely)

The whole experience made me stronger and I couldn’t love my daughter any more than I do! 

Baby #2

I had a lot of anxiety after finding out we were pregnant with baby #2.  I feared that I would tear again, get an infection, and not be able to take care of a two and a half year old and a newborn. 

I told Donna we were expecting as soon as we found out because I knew I wanted her to be there.  She was an amazing resource and coach the first time around!  One of the first things we discussed was what provider I should use.  It didn’t take much convincing to know I should switch to a practice with Midwives. 

I broke down in tears at each Midwife appointment. I was so nervous to birth again.  They comforted me and really encouraged me to be positive. (I read positive birth affirmations daily and those positive thoughts made me believe and trust my body going into my second birth)

The pregnancy was uneventful and healthy and I enjoyed spending quality time with my oldest while she was the only one.

I thought labor was fast the first time…

On the way to the hospital my water broke in the car.   Upon entering the hospital we were met by Donna and my midwife.  Both were so happy to see us.  They were both encouraging and calm and no one was annoyed to be caring for us.  It was a positive experience from the moment we got there!

I birthed my son about twenty minutes after getting to our room.  I was coached and talked through the whole birth.  The nurses were welcoming to both Donna and the midwife.  Everyone respected each other’s position in the room. 

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I labored in positions that were comfortable to me and I was not yelled at to push harder.

My son’s entrance into the world was calm. 

My vagina was in one piece. 

I felt empowered because my body did what it was supposed to do. His birth was a completely different experience because of my caregivers and I am grateful for that.    

My advice to any soon to be mom, veteran or not, is to choose your provider wisely, research birth positions and use them, but also be ready for anything!

XOXO,

Cori

 

An Exercise: Being Strong in Labor

This exercise was created by Virginia Bobro, formerly of Birthing From Within and Pam England. Check out Pam England's new book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth, or a local Birthing From Within class for more juicy exercises. This exercise was adapted by Cat Ennis Sears, BFW mentor, for the RD Blog.

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When you're pregnant, a lot of things can alert your worry muscle. Maybe you've heard birth stories from others, things you'd like to avoid, and you are thinking of how you would want things to go differently. Maybe you're worried about your support options, logistics, or needing medical support that you were hoping to avoid. 

Sometimes, we get into a state of avoidance. We put our fingers in our ears (positive birth stories only, please!) with the hope that blocking out the thought of unwished for events will prevent these things from occurring. While it's true that fear is not helpful in labor and birth, and adrenaline can decrease natural birth hormones that make labor safer and more efficient, the act of total avoidance (trying to avoid fear at all costs) paradoxically arises from a place of fear. And completely avoiding the thought of unwished for events does not decrease the likelihood of those events occurring, but does increase the likelihood that you will be unprepared for those events, should they occur.

A positive visualization of how you would like your birth experience to go, without qualifiers and without "if's" and "but's" is the first step toward trusting birth. It's important to know what your ideal birth would look like, what you are hoping for, what your dreams and goals are. Visualization is a powerful tool that evidence suggests actually changes our brains, and can in fact change outcomes.

So go ahead and visualize your ideal birth, without qualifiers, without "if's" and "but's."

Next, I invite you to go one step further in your preparation for birth, and visualize not only your perfect birth, but visualize something unexpected happening. And (this is the important step) don't stop there: visualize how you and your support people will cope with that unexpected event. Visualize yourself being strong and present, giving birth in awareness, being there for the moment, no matter what happens. What, specifically, would help you cope with something you were hoping to avoid? Is it a prayer, is it holding your partner's hand, is it closing your eyes, playing a specific song, or just focusing on your breathing? Close your eyes and see yourself doing that thing.

Birth is unpredictable. Our bodies are fallible. And if something unwished for does occur, it does not mean you did something wrong, or weren't prepared enough, or should have done this or that differently. You can truly trust birth and postpartum when you know that you have coping resources you can pull on, should an unwished for event occur. This is a deeper kind of trust.

Being Strong in Labor

With your partner or support person...

Each of you fold your paper in half twice (once horizontally, once vertically) so the fold-lines make four quadrants. 

In the first quarter: Draw the first image that comes to mind when you think of being strong in labor.

The second drawing: Draw being strong in a long, prolonged labor.

The third drawing: Being strong in a cesarean birth.

The fourth: Being strong in... [choose a situation that is personally powerful to you, something that you are working to avoid]. 

Share your images with your partner.

Did anything surprise you? Was there anything you hesitated to draw? Did not want to draw? The takeaway is that we are often much stronger than we realize. And, in my mind, all of this is already within us. In some ways, this is an exercise in intention.

 

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Nathaniel: A Birth Story

Yesterday, Shea heard his brother's heartbeat. He said, "my brother," and put his hands on my stomach. He smiled shyly and wanted to hear the heartbeat "again." I'm so excited for them to meet each other.

Nathaniel Ashe Sears, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, born December 19, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.

He holds his tiny hands up to the glass and says, “There, Mommy, I want to eat there!” Inside is a pool hall, completely inappropriate for a toddler. “No, Shea, just one more door down.” I drag him into Ipanema. I don’t know it yet, but active labor will start in less than 12 hours. I wanted to take Shea out for dinner, just me and him, knowing that the time of his being an only child is getting shorter. I am having near constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that don’t stop when I sit down, stand up, walk, lay down, take a bath, drink water, or anything. They are just constant, lasting for 2-3 minutes with a 30 second break in between and it’s been that way for 2 days. It’s exhausting but I try to ignore my too tight abdomen as I pick Shea up and carry him through the door of Ipanema. I am expecting to go past my due date on this one too, and I don’t take any contractions seriously. Only if they are deep low, and getting longer, stronger, closer together. I decide, only then will I pay attention. Thinking back, I realize how almost heroic it is that I went out for dinner alone with a two-year-old while I was in actual early labor.

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Christian: A Birth Story

By: Gloria Miles

Every mother, every child, has a birth story. This is mine; this is the story of my firstborn, the story of transformation into motherhood. Birth, motherhood, all of it, transforms people into clearer versions of themselves. I learned things about myself through the pregnancy, labor, and the days that followed. I was stronger and more vulnerable, impatient and more stubborn than I thought I was. 

Labor began hours after I thought it had. I was sitting playing a card game with my husband and his friend as gentle contractions moved through my abdomen. I could feel them coming and going, but I didn't focus on them. 

Later that night, I couldn't sleep. At this point I'm not sure if it was discomfort or excitement or both. I advise women to go to sleep when contractions begin, but I know that most first-time mothers will ignore the advice. I was also the excited first time mother who could not possibly sleep with the thought of holding my brand new baby on the horizon. Of course, actual labor was hours away, and the actual birth wouldn't occur until later the next day. 

At the hospital, I was contracting away, but the first vaginal exam gave me bad news. I was only four centimeters, almost fully effaced. The obstetrician told me I had a choice: pitocin or I could go home. 

I chose pitocin. How could I go home? 

I had heard terrible things of pitocin, especially how severe contractions could get with it. With bated breath, I signed consent forms and a bag of pitocin was hung next to the IV fluids. I smiled broadly at the addition and looked at my husband. "Are you ready?" 

He laughed and told me, "I hope so." 

Six hours later, I was fully effaced and only at a five. The pitocin had strengthened the contractions, but they were very tolerable. The nurse stated it was time to break my water. I didn't want to, but I felt that since I had agreed to pitocin, that what followed needed to be agreed to as well. 

Two contractions after my waters were ruptured, the pain intensified in the center of my pelvis. My eyes grew huge and I looked over at my husband for help. The pain is still something I can't really explain. I squirmed on the bed, not knowing I could have stood up or walked around, even attached to the bags of fluid. After an hour, I was in tears and begging my husband to find the anesthesiologist. 

Mercifully, the anesthesiologist walked into the room ten minutes later.  The epidural was placed and my husband almost passed out after seeing the needle. He was carefully led to a couch where he sat for a few minutes to recover. I didn't care at all. The medicine ran through my back, my abdomen, my thighs. It felt warm and wonderful. I started drifting off and fell asleep. 

I was woken up a few hours later by a nurse. Another vaginal check. I was at a nine! Party time! I didn't realize that it would be a few more hours before I'd be ready to push. It took almost another hour to reach ten centimeters and then even more time for baby to "labor down." 

When the nurse stated I could begin pushing, I was energized. It was time to meet my baby! The first forty-five minutes or so, I pushed with intensity and for as long as I could hold my breath. The next forty-five minutes was much harder. I had napped for a few hours earlier, but aside from that, I had been awake for a day an a half. I hadn't eaten as per hospital protocol. I was very tired. 

"I can see the head!" my husband proclaimed.

I looked up at him, hopeful. 

"Yeah! When you push, you can see," he paused and held up his hands and made a small gap that could probably fit a quarter, "about that much. And then it goes away." 

I wished that I hadn't had the epidural. Then, I could have kicked him. 

This kid is never coming out, I thought. 

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was only for an hour and a half, but I worked hard that entire time. 

"Do you want to feel the baby's head?" the nurse asked. 

I paused, reluctant to feel such a small area and discourage myself.  When I reached down and felt around, though, I felt so much of the baby's head.  The term is crowning and the nurse was buying time for the OB to arrive. I looked at her and grinned. He was almost here! I actually was moving my baby.  The worst part of having had such a heavy dose of epidural medicine was that there was no feed back of my progress. I could not feel anything aside from a general pressure that felt like it had always been there. 

The doctor walked in at that moment and smiled at me. "Looks like we're having a baby!" she exclaimed as she put on her gloves. "Give me just a second and to sit...and alright, go ahead and push with the next contraction." 

At this point I could tell when to push due to the tightness of my abdomen.  A few more pushes and she asked that I stop pushing.  

My husband told me that it was the weirdest sight, the doctor grabbing his son's head and (from his perspective) pulling until the body was somehow dislodged. 

I felt the strange relief of a body sliding out and heard a loud cry. I didn't even look, I collapsed back and closed my eyes. The cord was clamped and he was placed onto my chest. The abrupt placement of my baby and rough toweling roused me and I looked down. Dark gray eyes looked around and he cried again. I wanted to bat the women away. 

Leave us alone.

The pediatrician entered and looked at my baby while the obstetrician delivered my placenta. What a strange and hectic time! He immediately declared my son too pale and wanted him under the warmer. After some negotiation I bought about ten minutes to try skin-to-skin before resorting to the warmer.  He left.  By the time he came back, my son had pinked up and was beginning to root.  This satisfied the doctor and I was left alone. Well, as alone as someone in a hospital can be postpartum. 

My husband and I gazed at our first-born.  We thought he was perfect, cone-head and all. I couldn't believe that I could create such a beautiful creature. I didn't realize how perfect little newborn toes and fingers were, how delicious they smelled, and how arduous a process it could be.  It couldn't always be that involved, could it?  I let that linger in the back of my mind until I became pregnant with my second. 

The birth of my first was such a learning experience for me. I love it also, because it is the day that I met one of the first people that have changed my life in such a profound way. I didn't realize that while a mother is a teacher, a child teaches more; I'm still learning. 

 

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Who is Richmond Doulas: Cat Ennis Sears

Doula Spotlight
Cat Ennis Sears     
"There are no standard paths. Points of comparison do not exist. Each of us is so totally unique that our processes are bound to be like no other. Linear progress can be planned when you have a goal, when you have a map, but not when you explore the unimaginable unknown. The dreamworld of creation can make your reasonable mind dizzy with its changing grounds.  Nothing can control your intuition; this is its beauty and power. Life flows throughout it, ungraspable, unmeasurable." --Michele Cassou

Business Name: Birthing From Within Richmond
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: Childbirth education, certified birth doula, certified postpartum doula, acupressure
Years in practice: 4
Number of families served: ~31 births, ~13 postpartum families, ~40 childbirth education students (that overlaps)
What is your fee? $700 (birth), $25/hour (postpartum), classes $150-200

Cat is the eleventh doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here

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Parenting and Birth Doula Work

Parenting and Birth Doula Work
You mean, you just go to a birth when you’re called? What do you do with your kids? What about work?

For a lot of people, it’s not sustainable to just up and leave your job responsibilities and/or leave your kids with someone to go to a birth. Childcare and job responsibilities are the number one reason why there is such high turnover in doula work. Maybe as this profession grows, we’ll figure out other models that allow more people to enter and stay in this field—perhaps a pregnant person would hire a team of doulas who take turns being on call. But for now, most doulas work on the model of being on call 24/7 for their clients. On one hand, this consistency and certainty that the person you've built a relationship with will attend your birth is one of the reasons why, I think, doula presence can be so effective. But on the other hand, while being invited into a birth space is a sacred invitation, the logistics are not always easy to arrange. This blog post will explore how to make the logisitics of being on call 24/7 a little easier.

This is a two part blog post. Part One  will explore the resiliency of your children, and how to prepare and reunite with your kids. Part Two will explore different options for resources on where to drop your kids--other doulas, your friends/family/neighbors, your partner, paid childcare. Stay tuned and join the conversation!

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Newton

Who is Richmond Doulas: Sarah Newton

Doula Spotlight
Sarah Newton
"You are already doing what you are telling me you can’t do! You ARE strong enough."
Business Name: All Things Doula
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: Certified birth doula, twice-trained postpartum doulaBirth Doula, DONA
Years in practice: 6.5|
Number of births attended: 93 ( 95 by the end of the year)What is your fee? $875 / this fee varies by military discount, etc.

Sarah is kind, competent, friendly and so knowledgeable about all things birth! If you're pregnant, do yourself a favor and set up a time to sit down with this knowledgeable and compassionate woman.  New to Richmond this year, I think she is such an asset to our birth community! She never hesitates to reach out for support from the birth community, and also is so generous with sharing her own wisdom and is supportive of newer doulas in the area.

She is the ninth doula featured for Who is Richmond Doulas. If you want more info on what the series is about, click here.  

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Who is Richmond Doulas: Hunter Moore

Who is Richmond Doulas: Hunter Moore

Who is Richmond Doulas: Hunter Moore
Business Name:
The Mindful Birth
Facebook, DoulaMatch
Services: Birth Doula, toLabor
Years in practice: 1

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.  

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