Doulas provide outstanding support to expectant moms. From the first signs of pregnancy to postpartum care, a doula has been trained to provide continuous, non-medical assistance to a woman and her partner in labor.
At Breath of Life, a doula becomes part of your birth team. Together with our midwives, they work hand-in-hand with you to provide you with maximum care and comfort during labor and birth.
Recently, we interviewed doulas Jessy French-King and Jillian Camisasca-Lopina. In this two-part series, we talk about how they knew they wanted to become a doula, why a doula can help give you the best birth experience, advice on pain management, and more.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to share your wisdom with moms through this interview.
Jessy, how and when did you know you wanted to become a doula?
Jessy: I have four children, and giving birth opened my eyes to the strength and beauty that women have. My labor and birth were positive experiences, but I realized that not everyone could say the same thing.
It makes me sad that there are so many women that have negative birth experiences or don’t have the support or education to enjoy the profound moments of their pregnancy, labor, and birth. I decided I wanted to kind of help change that. So, for years, I just talked with friends, supported my sisters, and tried to fill in the gap for the people I knew and loved. And then, somewhere along the way, someone said to me, “Jessy, why aren’t you a doula?” It was one of those deer-in-the-headlights moments. Like, “Yeah. Why am I not a doula? I don’t know.”
So, I took this big leap and started doula training and that’s actually where Jillian and I met each other. The two of us have been working together ever since.
You two are a great team. Anyone who has either one of you as a doula is very fortunate. Jillian, did you always want to be with women during labor and birth?
Jillian: In a way, yeah. I’ve been interested in the birth world from a young age. My mom taught childbirth education classes in our home, and I would attend the classes as a kid. I loved it!
Then, my youngest brother was born at home, and I was there for his entry into the world. In a way, that was my first doula moment. I remember coaching my mom from the things I learned in her classes. I’d pay attention to her and make suggestions like, “Mom, why don’t you do some pelvic rocks? Why don’t you get in the tub?” She said I was a help to her, and I thought it was fun. And then, in college, I shadowed a midwife and a social worker, and I was able to see how I could work in the “professional world.”
And then, I took my interest in birth and turned it into a birth photography business. Like Jessy, one day, one of my photography clients asked me why I wasn’t a doula. She noticed that I had the skills and experience in the birth room that lent themselves to coaching and encouraging women. So, that’s when I was like, “Yes! I’m going to do it!” And I’m so glad I did.
Jessy, when a woman is either thinking about getting pregnant or finds out she is expecting, what advice do you give first?
Jessy: Everyone expects something different from their birth plan or their labor experience, so the first thing I advise is to educate yourself. Dive in and ask questions to your mom friends, read books, sign up for classes, and go on tours of facilities. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make right away is who your care provider should be, and that’s not always a clear decision for first-time moms.
What should they be looking for in a care provider?
Jessy: You want to make sure you’re choosing someone who aligns with your values and what you want from your experience. For example, if you know you want to experience natural birth without medication, then you need a care provider who is experienced, supportive, and can properly address any concerns you have.
Jillian: I totally agree. Choosing a care provider and choosing your place of birth is one really big factor in your birth outcome and your birth experience. A lot of new moms don’t realize how different each provider is. There are so many variables, even from one hospital to another. Throw in all of the options for birth center, home birth, and whatever choices you may be considering, and it can be challenging to narrow it down.
One thing I think every mom should seek is support. No matter how you want to give birth, you’re going to need support.
What would be the best way to get the support a new mom needs?
Jillian: Well, of course, I’m pro-doula. I wish all moms knew about doulas and what an incredible resource we are. A doula is to birth what a wedding coordinator is to weddings. Couples spend a lot of time planning for their weddings and researching the venue, choosing who is going to marry them, and sampling food to get the best cake and dinner. To make that all less stressful, they work with someone who can make sure their day is perfect, right? In the same way, a doula can be a great shortcut for the best birth experience. We know the providers in the area, we know the birth centers, and we have relationships with midwives. We can match expectant moms with the right provider for them.
That’s great! A lot of women think their spouse or partner is adequate support. Why is a doula still a good idea, even if a woman has a support system in place?
Jessy: As doulas, when an expectant mom doesn’t have a partner, we step in and fill that support role throughout the whole process; but, when there is a partner involved, we provide support for the partner as well. A lot of times a woman’s partner may be a little skeptical about why she would need a doula if he’s there, but then by the time they are at a postpartum visit, 100% of the time the partners are so grateful for us. It had never occurred to them how taxing and long the labor process could be for them.
Jillian: That’s true. Dads have a lot going on during birth. They’re making phone calls to family and feel responsible for not leaving mom alone. So, we’re there so the partner/ support person can go to the bathroom, get a snack, and take care of their own needs while the laboring mom receives continuous support.
Jessy: Jillian and I both like to say that your partner knows YOU, but we know BIRTH. That means, together, we make a perfect partnership. Your partner knows how you like to be touched or what words to use, but Jillian and I know certain labor positions or types of massage that may ease the experience. We all work really well together.
How is that different from the support of a midwife?
Jillian: It’s an added layer. The midwife is the first layer of support and is an experienced guide in monitoring and ensuring safety at every step of labor and birth. Then, we are an added layer of assistance. Our main goal is comfort, whether that’s physical, emotional, or mental. Midwives and doulas work together to create a positive birth experience for our clients and their partners.
How do you mentally help moms prepare for the birthing process?
Jessy: That’s an excellent question. First, we encourage them to take birth classes. One of the many reasons I love Breath of Life is because of the classes they offer moms. There can be a lot of fears that come from the unknown. Then, when you add in the opinions of family, friends, or our culture, being pregnant may be a stressful time for women.
Birth classes provide education on the whole process and prepare you for what to expect. They’re really empowering. Mentally, they ease fears.
Jillian: Agreed. Education is key. And so is open communication. Moms need that person who can ask, “Hey, how are you doing this week? What’s going on with YOU? What are your fears?” Then, they can talk through those things.
Some moms come to us with previous birth trauma, too. We can help address that and work through their concerns so they can feel at ease and be more relaxed.
We’ll look forward to talking more in our next segment about how you help women work through physical pain and getting some of your insider secrets to labor and birth.
Our Breath of Life Doula Team provides full-service support and is an extension of the midwifery team. When choosing to add our doulas to your care team, you can count on receiving seamless support. Our doulas are focused on our clients and are committed to providing the utmost level of care for you! You can meet our Breath of Life Doula Team at our monthly Meet the Doulas Night.