If I’m hiring a midwife, why do I need a doula?

I’ve often been asked, “if I’m hiring a midwife, why do I need a doula?” To me, asking a midwife why you would also need a doula is like asking a schoolteacher why you would also need books. No, you wouldn’t absolutely have to have books in order to learn. You could use the Internet. You could listen to stories your teacher recites from memory. But, you would be limited to your teacher’s perspective.

World Doula Week 2015A birth doula is like a library of tools for labor support that goes beyond the clinical skills a midwife or a doctor can offer you. Labor support is her specialty. That’s the whole reason she’s there. A midwife is there for your safety. That’s her primary role. Yes, she does also provide labor support, but that’s secondary to your safety. Doulas have unique skills to help you progress, feel more comfortable, and support you emotionally, spiritually, and physically, so you can have the best possible birth experience.

For this blog post, I’m referring to birth doulas. There are other kinds of doulas, too (LOVE THEM!). More on other doulas in a future blog post…

Doula work is HARD! It requires a strength that is almost impossible to put into words. Doula work and midwifery work are not the same. Sure, some doulas become midwives, and some midwives also do doula work. Our skills overlap in some areas. But, the roles are very different and require very different skill sets.

In addition to support for the mother, doulas are support for the mother’s partner. That, to me, is one of the biggest benefits of having a doula at a home birth. I’ve heard partners express concern that the doula will somehow replace him at the birth or diminish his role. Nothing could be farther from the truth! A good doula will help the partner so he can be the best possible support person. Sometimes, a little direction (“maybe try a little pressure here on her back”) or suggestion (“some labor aid might be good”) can be priceless when you’re going on very little sleep and are wondering what to do next. Sometimes, a break so the partner can get a catnap can help bring some fresh energy back to the room. Laboring women benefit from endorphins to help them get through the labor; laboring dads don’t, but they can hire a doula to help them out!

A mother talks about her home birth experience with her doula:

11069562_10102134401309617_319468984_oMy doula taught my husband how to help me. She went so far as feeding him lines from the other side of the door where I couldn’t see her. That was what he and I needed. I needed reassurance from him and he didn’t know what to say. After our first birth with a doula, my husband said he didn’t want to have any more babies without her involved.

An experienced doula shares her own experience in having a doula serve her at her birth:

I had doulaed a few moms but had our first 5 children with only my husband. When our 6th came along a friend asked me if she could come to our birth and help as our doula. We decided to have her come, even though my husband was just perfect for me at our births. He is a man that NEVER shows emotions and says very few words. After that birth he said with GREAT EMOTION as he swung around and threw his hands in the air, ‘that was GREAT!!! I am NEVER doing that again with out a doula! It totally took the monkey off my back!!!’ We had a doula for the last 4 births. I loved it and he did too.

Doulas at home births can help in so many ways. Whether it’s taking pictures, cooking meals, making cold compresses, fanning mama when she’s hot and sweaty, giving a pep talk, massaging away a leg cramp, getting the birth pool ready… whatever… doulas are an important part of the birth team.

And, of course, whenever you plan a home birth, you do need to plan for the possibility of a home birth transfer to the hospital. It does happen sometimes. Your midwife will be with you as a support person, and depending upon the situation with her backup doctor it can be a really positive experience. But, experienced doulas are very accustomed to supporting women at hospital births. In fact, they may be better at supporting you at the hospital than many home birth midwives are (don’t throw rocks at me please, sisters!). Doulas just see a lot more hospital births than we do, have more experience with a wider variety of hospitals, and, for many reasons, are likely to feel more comfortable working in a hospital setting than we do.

This week was World Doula Week. Birth Outside the Box featured at least one doula every day this week on our Facebook page. A total of eleven of our local doulas were featured this week. In addition to what Birth Outside the Box did, there was a blog challenge and a flurry of other activity all geared towards increasing awareness and towards honoring the work these incredible doulas do to support families. It was nothing short of amazing to see the outpouring of love for this profession. Clients commented about their skill and about how much their presence meant to them during their births. I hope these doulas felt boosted by this affirmation that their work is important and worth the sacrifices they make in order to serve their clients.

Here is a sampling of the local doulas our area is blessed to have serving our families (listed in no particular order!):


Kaylie Groenhout

Kaylie Groenhout, Doula: Carte Blanche Doula Co.

Kaylie Groenhout, Doula: Carte Blanche Doula Co.

Carte Blanche Birth Co.

Birth can be awesome, intense and transformative. My hope is for pregnant women and their partners to find their collective inner voice and author their own birth story.

Families ought to be respected, honored and loved during the birth process, not treated as patients along for the ride. I help mothers and their partners explore their options during pregnancy so they can make whatever decisions are best for their family. As your doula, I support whatever those are. I believe in you, your body and your baby.


Bergen Howlett

Two Rivers Childbirth

I have been a doula in Loudoun county for more than four years. The challenges we faced after our first daughter was born brought to stark attention the gap of postpartum care in our country and I felt called to became a postpartum doula to help fill that gap. Last year I trained as a birth doula to better provide continuity of care to my clients. I firmly believe in a family’s right to welcome their children in whatever setting they choose. I love supporting my clients at local hospitals and birth centers, but I have a true soft spot for homebirth families. In fact, in 2011, when I noticed a lack of childbirth education designed specifically for homebirth families I wrote my own with the guidance of local midwives and teaching is one of my greatest joys. There are few things better than watching a new family blossom and grow right before my eyes. I love reminding mothers and fathers of the strength and intuition they already posses.


Shannon Klee

Wise Path Birthing

Shannon Klee, Wise Path Birthing

Shannon Klee, Wise Path Birthing

I was blessed to discover, early in my Mama career, that birth can be a peaceful, quiet, and epic experience…lots of hard work, sure, but not always the terrible horror that the movies make it out to be! My first birth was totally unmedicated, and I would not have chosen to do it any other way. Of course, when my second child was born surgically, I also discovered that medical interventions can be wonderful and lifesaving! My job as a doula is to help you discover what your best birth looks like, and support you and your partner in giving you your best odds at achieving that. I serve the entire northern Virginia area, and want to be there for you as you birth at home, or at your chosen birth center or hospital.


Jen Clancy

Jennifer Clancy: Birth Services

Jen Clancy

Jen Clancy, doula from Jennifer Clancy Birth Services, and her beautiful family.

We know the value of supporting mothers in pregnancy. Nutrition and emotional well­being are the two of the top factors that determine the success of pregnancy and level of confidence in parenting one’s child. As a doula and student home birth midwife, I learned quickly that outcomes are more favorable when mothers were optimally healthy. I saw first hand in my own two pregnancies how much impact my diet, environment and lifestyle choices had on my gestation length and health of our babies. My confidence grew when I listened to the needs of my body and spirit as a new parent; allowing inner balance and healing to take place. I believe every new mother desires to achieve not only a healthy baby, but a healthy woman who feels successful and supported. Teaching child birth classes and providing doula support, counsel, prenatal health coaching, encapsulation and birth pool rentals enables me to help other families identify and reach their own personal and family health goals during their childbearing years. My goal is to continue work towards credentialing as a Certified Professional Midwife while helping to sustain a community of birth professionals who promote time honored and evidence based practices with the families at the helm of informed decision making.


Emily Smith

Doorstep Doula Birth Services

Emily Smith: Doorstep Doula

Emily Smith: Doorstep Doula

You are Unique! Emily Smith provides personalized support for your birthing year and beyond! Meet Emily L. Smith- Professional Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist:

I have more than 17 years of experience working with women, babies, and children, beginning as an au pair and nanny, then training as a labor doula in 2008. I soon expanded my skills as a trained hypnodoula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, placenta encapsulator, and Blessingway consultant. Contact me at www.doorstepdoula.com or doorstepdoula@gmail.com, 719-373-3069.


Mari Stutzman Smith

Celebrated Birth

Mari Stutzman Smith, Doula, Celebrated Birth

Mari Stutzman Smith, Doula, Celebrated Birth

Mari has always enjoyed working with people. Even as a young child, she knew her passion included serving individuals and helping them when they needed it the most. Mari has been a part of organizations and missions that have kept her serving around the world. She has traveled from Australia to Central America and throughout the USA helping others. It wasn’t until she became pregnant with her first child that she realized a calling to become a doula. Throughout her pregnancy, Mari focused her energy and resources into getting informed about her birthing options. Naturally, she hired a doula and experienced first hand the benefit of having an advocate and rich resource during her birth journey.

Mari is doula trained and certified through toLabor. She has attended over 100 births and has been working as a full time doula serving Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. for over 5 years. In the past, Mari has taught childbirth education classes. Mari is knowledgeable about birth, experienced in interpersonal relationships and excited to share in your birth journey.

Other passions include spending time with her family of 5, traveling, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, supporting local/organic farmers in providing sustainable food, and environmental accountability- both globally and individually. Mari has a B.S. in Marketing from George Mason University and has long-term aspirations of attending Midwifery school.


Tara Beth Olson

Tara Beth Olson, Doula

Tara Beth Olson

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2003. In 2007, after the birth of my second child, I became interested in birth work and decided to become a doula. In addition to homeschooling my four children, I have worked as a birth doula since 2008. I believe birth is a transformational moment in the life of a woman and her partner, and that a woman should be supported in the way she wants to birth. I also believe pregnancy and labor should be supported with evidence-based care. With support, mothers can trust themselves to make informed decisions about necessary, or desired, interventions. I help my clients learn relaxation and meditation techniques they can use during labor and delivery. Through education, planning, and practice, we build trust in each other, in your birth team, and in your body’s ability to birth.


Nicole Bruno

Sacred Journey Birth Services

Nicole Bruno, Doula

Nicole Bruno, Doula: Sacred Journey Birth Services

I graduated with a degree in Music from the University of RI. In preparation for the birth of my daughter I took a Bradley Method class and that is what launched me into the birth industry. I certified to become a teacher and in 2012 began working as a doula. My business model is continuity of care, from pregnancy through postpartum. My mission is to help local families attain their birth vision and gain confidence as new parents through support and education. My purpose and role in your birth and postpartum care is to leave you feeling empowered about your choices and happy with your experience, even if medical needs arise. In my spare time I enjoy being with my husband and my 4 year old daughter, as well as our 4 cats.


 Tiffany Shank

Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany Shank: Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany Shank: Peaceful Doula Services

Tiffany supported her mother’s VBAC birth in 2007, this birth sparked her passion to support women during pregnancy and childbirth. Tiffany has an enthusiasm for supporting each woman’s birthing philosophy. She is considered an amazing asset by all the families she has served over the past three years. Her wish is to help each family educate themselves about their birth options and to give birth with confidence.

Tiffany trained as a Doula and Childbirth Educator in 2012 and immediately began supporting women in her community. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her amazing husband and one year old daughter.


Jenn Whitaker

Jenn Shane Whitaker, Doula

Jenn Whitaker, Birth Doula

I’ve always known that birth was something I was passionate about, but it wasn’t until the birth of my first two sons that I realized that passion could be turned into action. After the birth of my first son, I knew there could be a better way. His induction resulted in a Cesarean I feel never would have happened had I had the right support and knowledge to help me make different choices. My second son was born at home with midwives and the two experiences could not have been more different. The two births together made me realize I could help other women achieve their best possible birth experience, with the safest and healthiest outcome. My third son, born at home in the water in June 2013, made me appreciate my calling as a doula even more! I’ve kind of “done it all” now!

I believe that every woman can have a positive birth experience when she feels empowered in her decisions. Just like no two labors, babies, or moms are alike, there is no one way to give birth. Whether it’s a hospital, home, or birth center setting, I am here to help women make the best choices for herself and her family, as well as provide her with my support before, during, and after the birth of her child.

Before becoming a doula, I worked in the corporate world as a Web developer for various government agencies in the area. I spent nine years as a contractor before staying home to be with my boys after the birth of my second son. Becoming a doula has been great for me to both follow my passion and tap into the adult socializing aspect of an office job–with less traffic. Sometimes.

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from James Madison University, and I am trained and certified with DONA International. I am currently studying to become a Hypno-Doula through Hypnobabies. I attended a Homeopathy for Doulas training with Dr. Diderik Finne in January 2012, and am now offering Homeopathy services for before, during, and after labor and birth. I also offer the use of TENS units for pain management in labor. My clients have been loving their TENS units!


Tara Campbell Lussier

Begin Within Birth

Begin With BirthI am a mother, wife, birth doula, yoga teacher and holistic nutritionist in the Northern Virginia area. I started Begin Within Birth to combine my loves of everything about birth, bellies, babies, and the childbearing years. I gave birth to my twins in August of 2009, and they became the best part of me. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I comprehended how much love my heart could hold. I needed a lot of support with the pregnancy, birth and postpartum/nursing time with my twins, and am forever grateful to those that helped me during this most important time. When we became pregnant again, I looked forward to a VBAC, or vaginal birth after cesarean. In February of 2012, I gave birth at home, and achieved that dream. I then went on to have another home birth VBAC (HBAC), in September of 2014. We are blessed to have four beautiful chidren and words can’t express how grateful I am for them every day.

I feel that as a birthing woman I have had a wide range of birth experiences to draw from… From my first birth, a cesarean at 36 weeks due to preeclampsia, to a long and arduous vaginal birth, and finally to a short and blissful birth. I am passionate about meeting you wherever you are on your birth and motherhood journey.


 Marina Kessenich

Transitions Doula Services

Transitions Doula ServicesI am a DONA trained, Madriella certified, and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Doula as well as a Birth Arts International trained childbirth educator with a passion for supporting families from all walks of life through their journey to becoming parents. In addition to those services I am also currently working towards my lactation educator certification through Birth Arts International.

As your doula my goal is to assist you emotionally as well as physically throughout this wonderful and powerful time in your life. I hope to help you and your partner feel confident and secure in your choices before, during, and after the birth of your child. I especially encourage open communication between a woman, her partner, and her care provider. All women are entitled to seek the birth that feels right for them.

For a woman to experience the best birth possible I believe it is important for her to be in a place where she feels safe and comfortable, therefore I support and have experience with both in and out of hospital births. I am familiar with a variety of different childbirth education courses such as Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, Lamaze and many, many more.

I am a doula because it is an amazing privilege to spend my life helping other women; because I believe birth is simply incredible; because I myself could have used the support of a doula during the birth of my own daughter.

As a Childbirth Educator my goal is to help you prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for childbirth through a dynamic, thorough, and informative series of classes. I do not teach any one correct method of giving birth but instead help couples to equip themselves with the knowledge and self awareness they need to seek the birth experience they feel is right for them.


Jocelyn Bataille

Mama to Mama Doula Services

Jocelyn Bataille: Mama to Mama Doula

Jocelyn Bataille helps a mom by using a Rebozo

I found my way into doula-hood after the birth of my second son, and I greatly enjoy serving this wonderful community of mothers. Birth is such a pivotal moment in life and I feel so privileged to be able to help families enjoy the birth of their baby. At Mama to Mama Doula Services, LLC, you will receive the most premiere doula care in Northern VA.

Aside from my passion for birth-work, I also enjoy reading, traveling, running, and good conversation over coffee. I am also heavily active in volunteer opportunities in the community.

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