DOULA - dou·la <ˈdo͞olə/> noun: derived from the Greek meaning, "a woman who serves," is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
You typically only ever hear about a family hiring one doula -- yet I hired three doulas for my first and only child, born in 2012. Not that I felt I needed that many additional birth companions to aid my husband and myself through the birth process, but after I met them and learned about their unique skill set, I worked hard to budget for the expense to include them in my birth preparation, labor support and aftercare.
As I started my family late in life, I had cared for other people’s children, traveled, and professional career, before I dipped my toe into the realm of parenthood. I dove into the search for a doula initially like I was hiring an employee, but I soon realized that process was much different. The emotional connection, energy, and personalities of these women along with their training, and the skills they brought to the table were key.
After several phone interviews, the first pair of doulas I met a duo of doulas working as backups for each other, I hired immediately! One doula was planning a working vacation to help birthing moms in Haiti during my birthing time, but as my pregnancy went postdates, she had returned and was able to attend my birth. The other doula was attending midwifery school at the time and was not able to attend my birth, but as my husband was to return to work overseas just two weeks after our daughter's birth, she was hired to help in my postpartum period.
As a birthday gift shortly after learning I was pregnant, my mother purchased a package of prenatal massages from a wonderful multi-talented young woman who was not only a trained aromatherapist and craniosacral therapist, but once in treatment, I learned she was a recently trained birth doula as well. As part of her training, she was required to attend births and I requested her presence as an additional doula to aide with comfort measure support, setting the scene with scent and provide a release after birth to help my pelvis realign.
All three doulas were all informative without being pushy, while also being funny and humble. I knew then that their calm and youthful energy was what I wanted to surround me during my pregnancy and birth. They started all these wheels turning in my head -- WAIT -- I have choices for my birth?! I can ask for what I want?! I can change providers at 26 weeks?! -- YES!
It was a journey of stepping into my body and taking power over my body, not with their permission, but with my own...
My birth was uniquely enhanced by these doulas, with their informative guidance, nurturing care, and confidence in me and my ability to birth my baby.
My search to hire a doula placed me on the path to become one myself.
I was determined to share all that I learned from them with other women seeking the same empowering birth experience. I had read many books during the preparation for my birth, just as I had to ready my body during the long period of trying to conceive this child. After birth, I began to read all that I could find on labor support and the art of becoming a doula myself. Once we arrived in Mississippi from Florida when my daughter was just over one year old, I started to meet a very small group of very special women through the local positive discipline parenting groups and the local La Leche League chapter who were either were doulas or who had hired doulas, which is rare in Mississippi. I knew I had found my people and how I could "pay forward" the gentle and loving care I received from my doulas -- by becoming a doula in my new community.
I completed my first birth doula training in Texas the year we arrived in Mississippi after discovering that at the time there were not any doula training programs being conducted any closer. In my first year as a doula, a local experienced doula, took me under her wing and shared her wisdom, asked permission for me to attend a home water birth with her, as well as included me into the birthing community of mostly local doulas as a babywearing and prenatal yoga resource.
Birth is my passion because I believe that how we birth matters to babies, mothers, families, and our community. Serving and nurturing families through the transformational life experience of birth is rewarding and never seems like a job -- it is an honor just to be invited!
Birth transformed and delivered me not only a sweet child but a career and lifestyle where I get to watch people transform into families before my eyes...
"If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it."
– John Kennell, M.D.
I'm a Certified
Birth & Postpartum Doula
“Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.”
I started my yoga adventure around 1997 after graduating from Texas A&M University, and beginning a stressful career as a regulatory manager and environmental consultant. I have struggled with anxiety and depression, as well as upper back, neck and shoulder pain since my pre-teen years. My mother encouraged me to try yoga for stress and pain relief. It wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I learned that mothers are always right! I found strength, emotional release and tension relief in a dedicated Bikram yoga practice. Fate and personal circumstances took me all over the country and abroad to live and work and I practiced many different styles of yoga, including Bikram, hatha, restorative / yin, Dahn, ashtanga, and vinyasa, wherever I landed.
I'm a Yoga Alliance Registered
(RYT-200) Yoga Teacher
At 38, I undertook the process of readying my body for pregnancy, birth and motherhood with yoga. I had long struggled with weight fluctuations and fatigue due to a thyroid condition, I turned again to yoga to gently and steadily gather the mental, spiritual and physical strength I would need for the natural midwife attended water birth I desired.
Upon moving to Madison, MS from Tampa, FL in 2014, I enrolled and completed Joyflow Yoga's teacher training with Debi Saraswati Lewis. In 2015, as no programs existed near me in Mississippi, I traveled to Texas to complete my 95 hours of prenatal yoga teacher training specialization with Stacy Wooster of Beauty Blossom Birth at The Yoga Room.
My teaching style and motivation to teach prenatal, postnatal and family yoga stems from my desire to draw from a place of honesty and experience. I wanted to offer what I had been looking for when I moved to Mississippi, but couldn't find.
My aim as a teacher is to help everyone feel included, nurtured, and heard.
Now that my daughter is old enough to join my group classes as my assistant, she attends all of my family flow yoga classes around Metro Jackson.
She reminds me daily why I teach -- to stay flexible in body and mind.
I attribute all that I have learned about my body from listening to it speak during yoga classes I attend, my personal practice and the classes I teach. As a result, I believe yoga has given me the ability to enjoy so many more years with her and my family.
My current private and group yoga class offerings include: Family Flow, Prenatal & Yin / Restorative classes.
During my search to prepare for the arrival of my daughter, I discovered HypnoBirthing® and was onboard from the moment I read the recently departed Mrs. Marie "Mickey" Mongan's words above. I firmly believe that we ARE our thoughts and beliefs, so I was determined to fundamentally change the way I had been trained to see and think about birth. All the horror stories, dramatic movies, and cultural fascination with the "I almost died" one-up-manship was not what I truly knew about birth, yet all that misinformation still held a prominent place in my mind. I listened to my mothers account of her births, my sister's quick birth of my niece, witnessing my nephew's birth (my first unofficial doula job), and read countless positive birth stories in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth book and others -- I KNEW a different way was possible.
My mother was 19 when she had me (I was 20 years older than that when I gave birth!) and we grew up together almost like sisters. She described her labor as rhythmic "gas pangs" which didn't surprise her but when she alerted her mother and my grandmother asked how far apart were those gas pangs she realized she was in labor. It was 1973 and "saddle block" epidurals were all the rage. I was born, all 8 lb - 12 oz of me, without much fanfare or her ability feel and move her body at all. Yet five years later, when she was planning to give birth to my sister, she aimed to have a different experience. She read Dr. Frederick Leboyer's book Birth Without Violence and chose a birthing center that practiced his method. It was one of the most fantastic birth stories I've heard since -- the softly light room, the warm bath that kept my sister calm, my mother's ability to take a shower immediately and leave for home very shortly after the birth.
I'm a certified HypnoBirthing® & HypnoMothering®
practitioner, a HypnoDoula, and had a HypnoBirth
“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
-Marie F. Mongan
My sister was young as well and a U.S. Marine when she had her first child in 1998. I was not able to attend her birth as it went so fast, but was enroute from Texas to visit her in North Carolina and arrived immediately after. When she was 8 months pregnant with her son in 2000, I took the summer off of graduate school to live with her and help her with her 2 year old and preparations for her birth. She was a single mom and I was her only birth companion. I didn't know it at the time, but I served as her doula. I learned so much from witnessing that birth and it is still etched into my memory. The breath, the movements, the instinctual needs of a mom whom has no fear -- she heard our mother's stories as well. She knew that she had me there as continuous support to care for her unconditionally, although I was untrained at the time.
My HypnoBirthing® journey began when I was 26 weeks pregnant, after changing from a traditional obstetric practice a midwife attended Andrea, whom just like our doulas had never had children, had this energy that I was looking for during my preparations. The classes were amazing and allowed me to dig deep into the fears and limiting thoughts I still held and let them go... birth center for my prenatal care and birth. My husband was doubtful, but on-board as he knew his role in caring for me after the switch was to be much more involved.
My HypnoBirth was all that I had dreamed! I stayed pregnant (and loved every second of it!) almost until I knew a deadline loomed for transfer back into hospital care at 42 weeks and 6 days. I labored for almost exactly the amount of time (less than 6 hours) I chose during the Neuro Linguistic Programming exercise she conducted in our class and gave birth at 11:58 pm, 2 minutes before the day I was expected to report to the hospital for an induction. I listened to my HypnoBirthing® Rainbow Relaxation track over and over again in the car on the way to the birthing center, once we arrived and while I took an almost 5 hour shower -- turning the water on to splash on my belly during every surge and off again as it subsided. When I began to breathe my baby down as I felt the unmistakable Natural Expulsive Reflex, I alerted my doulas, my husband and the birthing room staff -- whom had all left me to shower in privacy as I was doing so well and being so quiet...
They were all taken by surprise when it was confirmed by my midwife that I was in fact completely thinned and open (although I requested to not be told any specific numbers during my labor as I knew that it would not tell anyone how much longer labor would last -- I later learned that I was 9.5 cm at this point.) She asked if I would like to continue laboring in the birth pool and I was so encouraged that my birthing process was almost at its end, I nearly ran to the pool!
The birth pool was bathed in candlelight and essential oils were heavy in the air. Our doulas, birth assistants and the midwife gathered around the room, all focused on me and my husband as we climbed into the warm water. It was so pleasant and inviting, the water aided in making me feel weightless while allowing me to move quickly with little effort from hands and knees to leaning back onto my husband's chest. He expertly employed comfort measures such as hip squeezes and counter-pressure, thanks to all the advice he was given by our doulas.
I repeated over and over,
"Thank you, thank you, thank you..."
as his strong hands made our daughter extremely intense progress into my pelvis feel almost pleasurable, and very rewarding.
I received her into my own hands and out of the water onto my chest. We were quickly warmed and dried with towels as the water drained.
She was alert and perfect in every way...
I stood and carried her to our birthing suite bed, where we cuddled, nursed and started the journey to get know one another.
I had done it -- I had the HypnoBirth of my dreams!
HypnoBirthing® had such a profound effect on my birth, that when I trained to become a doula, I knew that I could only do it if I was a HypnoDoula and could guide families using the HypnoBirthing® techniques. Yet again, I traveled to Texas from Mississippi to train with Dr. Vivian Keeler, Amazing Births and Beyond, Vice President of the HypnoBirthing® Institute.
As a certified HypnoBirthing® Practitioner, I get the pleasure of introducing a different approach to birth, as well as see and hear how calm and gentle the birth experiences have been for most of the couples whom not only listen to me in class but actively practice and incorporate relaxation in their lives.
In 2016, trained to become a HypnoMothering® Practitioner to teach workshops and share tools with parents to relax and enhance their relationship with their children.
I'm a Evidence Based Birth® Instructor & Childbirth Educator
“Evidence Based Birth® exists to make a lasting positive impact on the lives of mothers and babies around the world.”
I completed the Evidence Based Birth® Instructor program by founder and author, Rebecca Dekker, Ph.D., RN, APRN, in 2019. This engaging training examines current birth-related research, interpreted into layman's terms and a guide for both parents to obtain and providers to give evidence based care. I want to help make evidence based care the "norm" for birthing families in my community, as it takes on average, 15 years for evidence to be put into practice in our hospital system.
I feel that I will never be completed with my training and I am VERY okay with that possibility!
I am constantly reading books that draw me deeper into the birthing world, learning how to read medical journals, learning how to respectfully request evidence-based care for the families I serve, how to journey on that fine line between advocacy and holding space, understanding the current birthing climate both locally and globally, and meeting as well as compassionately interacting with all the stakeholders.
Evidence Based Birth® Instructors birth professionals specially trained in how to help families get evidence based care. I am one of only about 100 Evidence Based Birth® Instructors around the world!
I applied to become an Evidence Based Birth® Instructor because I believe that every birthing person deserves a positive, respectful, and safe experience. Sadly this is not a reality for most women, but I’m proud to be joining forces with professionals and parents around the world to ensure that things change for the better!
It’s been a whirlwind summer of 2019! My very last of seven HypnoBirthing Babies for the summer has arrived... I’m still catching up on sleep, but no rest for me — off to my next adventure -- becoming an Evidence Based Birth Childbirth Educator!
I’m not leaving the HypnoBirthing family as an educator, I’m just adding to my tool belt!
I’m enjoying the science, the research and the solid foundation this class gives without losing sight of the soft side of VERY necessary relaxation, affirmation, reducing the fear-tension-pain cycle, eliminating the use of medical words with negative connotation & hands on partner comfort tool practice!