With great excitement, I am happy to say that I just completed my doula training intensive workshop. After three long days and over 27 hours, I am now a DONA trained doula on my way to becoming a DONA certified doula. Although this process is intensive and will take several more months to complete, this 3-day course is a big chunk of what is both essential and required.
To my utter surprise, the training class was taught by THE most well-known and respected doulas, Debra Pascali Bonaro. She has been a doula for over 30 years and an advocate for bringing pleasure, delight and consciousness into the birthing experience. Debra has trained thousands of doulas and birth professionals around the world in practices of gentle labor and birth support. She is also the creator and director of Orgasmic Birth, a documentary that illuminates the intimate nature of birth as a powerful female experience.
The class was held at Birth Day Presence, a premier provider of childbirth education and doula services in NYC. Upon walking into the bright yellow studio, I immediately felt a sense of calm and serenity. Pictures of babies and families decorated walls and comfy black couches framed the perimeter. There was baskets full of baby dolls to practice infant care as well as large purple birth balls to play with numerous comfort techniques. There was also plenty of space to stretch, move around and get cozy, with yoga mats and extra pillows included.
The class consisted of over 20 women, ranging in age from a young 23 year old girl seeking the beginning of her career to an older woman who had 14 children and over 60 grandchildren. There were numerous yoga teachers, childbirth educators, fitness trainers and nurses, with a nice majority of the women also being mothers. Despite our varying ages and backgrounds, we all shared one intention – to help empower females and offer our love and support to all laboring women.
Day 1 began with a film about childbirth that had the entire group teary-eyed. I didn’t realize how much watching this miraculous life event would trigger feelings inside of us all. Then, after Debra’s sweet intro and bio, we broke into groups to complete several activities that enabled all of the students to get to know each other. During this first hour, there was lots of chatter as we shared experiences, accomplishments and dreams.
Soon after this initial ice breaker, we dove right into the course. Debra spent one whole day focusing on childbirth education, teaching the basics of anatomy, unique hormones that females experience, different stages of labor, the history and medicalization of birth and a slue of other topics. We also learned about different interventions that are available to all women, such as epidurals and IV’s, as well as debating their risks and benefits. We investigated the alarming rise of C-sections, how to develop a helpful and effective birth preference plan and ways to make birth both mother and baby friendly.
The second day of training shifted away fro childbirth education and focused more on the role of being a doula. We began by discussing commonly held fears shared by all pregnant women, such as body changes, level of pain, lack on control, and serious medical complications. Addressing each of them, we brought awareness to ways we can abate and calm mothers before labor begins. Debra also got very clear on the boundaries of being a doula, what is allowed and what must be avoided. The class discussed the benefits of having a doula, such as less interventions and C-section rates, greater satisfaction with birth experience, shorter hospital stays and an easier time breastfeeding….plus, there are no side effects! And aside from all this fundamental information, we learned that the most important aspect of being a doula is our uninterrupted presence, plus love and kindness, to all laboring women.
By the end of day 2, it felt that the class became a small family. We knew each other intimately and all felt genuinely supported, embraced and celebrated. We even had a surprise visit from one of my other favorite doulas and female advocate, Miss Latham Thomas, author of Mama Glow.
Me + Latham Thomas
By day 3, we were ready for the hands-on practice. Playing on birth balls, we rocked and swayed hips. Rebozo’s, or Mexican shawls, were wrapped around bellies and shoulders as an effective way to minimize pain. We tried the double hip squeeze, played with different birthing positions and discussed ways to help mothers who choose epidurals and those that need C-sections. We even learned techniques for effective nursing as well as what the necessary tools are to carry in a doula bag. But most of all, the highlight of the third and final day was the knowledge that a doula can help support and be of service to a woman in ANY and EVERY kind of birth. The benefit remains unchanged.
Playing with the Robozo
In addition to practical knowledge, facts and statistics, Debra used a variety of other training tools to help us gain more knowledge and respect for birth. We watched numerous videos and documentaries on a wide variety of topics, from gentle at-home water births to guerrilla midwives in South America. She also emphasized birth art and gave us an opportunity to create our own piece of art around our experience. We broke off into small groups often, not only as a way to share and swap ideas, but to develop a deep connection with all the other women in the group. Just like a doula recreates the circle of support for a woman in labor, this class created a similar circle of support where all women are loved, accepted, cherished and valued. Armed with a new love for pregnancy and birth, I left that class feeling thoroughly energized, excited and inspired.
My Birth Art
As if that wasn’t enough, I had the honor and privilege of attending my very first birth just one day after training. Talk about divine timing!
After I wrote my first doula blog over three weeks ago, a very good friend called me to ask if I can attend the birth of her third child. She was 37 weeks, I wasn’t sure if my training would be completed before the baby’s arrival, especially since she could have her baby at any time! But after our initial discussion, we agreed to hope for the best while remaining open to the possibility that I might not be able to make it.
Imagine our surprise when my friend’s contractions began just two hours after I completed the course! By 5am the next morning, we were at the hospital, settling into the birthing room and a few hours later, we welcomed baby boy into the world, surrounded by much love, peace and positivity.
To protect the privacy of my friend, I cannot delve into too much detail but I will say this….Attending the birth and witnessing the power of the female was one of the most powerful, intense, amazing, emotional and absolutely EXTRA-ordinary moments of my life. My friend was phenomenal before she shared this experience with me but now I see her as a true warrior woman. I respect now, more than ever, the blossoming, intuitive force females are given to create and birth life!
Being a doula for my first birth created such a high that lasted for days. A high that swelled my heart, burst my boundaries, intrigued my dreams and reaffirmed my path to care for and support all women. Not only that, I feel extremely grateful to my friend for trusting me, for sharing her vulnerability and allowing me to practice my new skills in such a safe, loving way. I am so deeply appreciative to Debra and the other women in the doula training course who prepared me so well to be the best doula I could be.
Experiencing birth and helping my friend cope was incredibly empowering. I felt of service in a more profound way than I have ever have before. But probably the best part of this whole process was when I had the opportunity to hold the new baby, only one hour old. Snuggled right up against my chest and held close to my heart, it was love at first sight…Pure bliss. And I’m not even the mother!
Baby boy only 1 hour old 🙂
Here’s to happy births and babies!