Relationships take time to develop. When you pick a doula it is best to hire her as soon as you can so you can develop a relationship with her. She needs to be someone you feel you can be honest with and share your inner most thoughts regarding your birth fears and ideals. It needs to be someone you can trust. This is a double road though- it is up to you to make this happen as well as the doula.

We had a client who hired a doula several months out. Although they discussed things and chatted along the way, some things were said or shared that made her question her decision in her selection of her doula. She did not address these concerns. She did not ask for clarification or share her thoughts about what was said or misunderstood. And just like when your partner does a bunch of little things that bother you and you do not address them, the group of them together makes for a sore spot between you. This did not make for a relationship that would foster a great doula-client relationship.

We see women select care providers and find out along their journey that this care provider was not going to be supportive of their ideal birth. But instead of addressing their concerns, they either dismiss them or they decide that perhaps it won’t really make a difference. But this is a relationship that will not foster a great care provider-client relationship.

Do yourself and your doula a favor… in fact do everyone in your life a favor and share with them the thoughts that make you uncomfortable when they occur. Address them so they can either be resolved or so a decision can be made early on to switch doulas if the doula is not a good fit. Sharing early on may have been something that could have allowed the relationship to grow and flourish rather than falter. After all it is about the relationship. Every match is not one made in heaven. But being honest is the best way to maintain relationships that will bring the blessings to your life and your birth!

We had a client tell their doula they did not want a particular doula to be their back up. When questioned about it, they did not feel she would be a good fit since her personality when they met seemed different than what they felt they may need in their labor. We have enough back up options that we certainly are able to accommodate that request. But keep in mind, just as Paul states in the Bible that he became all things to all people to win as many as possible, a doula can become what you need. For instance I have had clients want me to be gregarious and fun in their labors. I have had some ask for almost complete silence in their labors. I have had some who loved the casual conversations in the background that insured them all was normal. Doulas become what you need in your labor. But you need to let them know what you need. Since every woman has her own particular needs, your doula needs to know what you think you will need. But ironically that may change when you are actually in labor. She knows how to be flexible as your needs change.

A doula who is gregarious and funny at the Meet and Mingle may be the quiet, calm spirit who holds the sacred space of labor and birth for you. So, remember just as you may have a different personality at a party than at your labor, so she may as well. Ask questions that will enlighten you to her full personality before deciding she may not be who you are looking for to support you.

I often tell women not to lie to their care provider- don’t expect them to be truthful if you are not willing to be truthful to them. I feel if you can’t be vulnerable and honest with them, your relationship is not one of trust for your labor and birth. This is certainly true for your doula as well. Be honest, be vulnerable, be open- it will help your relationship become what will be most beneficial to you for your birth experience. Understand that misunderstandings occur, but share your feelings if they do so it can be cleared up. Communication is paramount for growth in this relationship.

I spoke to a friend who is a bit older than me. I said the bad thing and the good thing about getting older is you don’t care what people think of you. But the truth is you should always care how others feel from your actions or words. But again, sharing how one makes you feel will help resolve any negative feelings you may have from someone else’s actions. She said that sometimes when we get older we know things, we feel we need to speak the truth- even bluntly- and that those who are not in the same place are unwilling to hear the truth. I think about the phrase, “folks don’t care how much you know, they need to know how much you care.”

Sometimes I think in an effort to share what we know from our experience, we have our comments come across too emphatic and opinionated. I used to think that if you did not fully believe something, then you could not really have a strong opinion worth sharing. Now with age I realize everything is not so black and white. Fully supporting women sometimes means not sharing your opinion unless they really ask for it. As a doula that is often hard to not feel the need to share what you feel is truth that will protect them. But sometimes too much information can overwhelm a mom. It is a fine line in this relationship. We begin to feel responsible for them instead of to them.

Polly Perez a friend of mine- and an internationally known birth advocate shared this with me recently. ”

I had to remind myself the difference between feeling responsible TO or FOR many times….
That is why I wrote the following handout and even put it in one of my books hoping it might be helpful to others.
Hope this will help your in some way in your current situation….

Here is the handout—
The Difference in Feeling Responsible TO and FOR

When you feel responsible TO others….
You show empathy, encourage, share, confront, level, are sensitive, listen.
You feel relaxed, free, aware, high self-esteem.
You are concerned with relating person to person, feelings, and the person.
You are helper/guide.
You expect the person to be responsible for themselves and their actions.
You trust and let go.

When you feel responsible FOR others….
You fix, rescue, control, carry their feelings, don’t listen.
You feel tired, anxious, fearful, liable.
You are concerned with the solution, answers, circumstances, being right, details.
You are a manipulator.You expect the person to live up to your expectations.

So, find a care provider and a doula who will feel responsible to you. And be responsible yourself and share your feelings- after all it is about developing a relationship. Be open and honest. Let her know what you think is important and will need. And then know you will be fully supported in your labor and birth!

The person who filmed and edited this film sent me this link

Do You Doula? the video

I thought I would share it. Although I am always a bit concerned with doulas who feel the need to “save” other women due to their birth experience… I do think that can be the initiating impetus that drives some women to become doulas. So although the very first frame makes me a bit concerned- the rest of the film does share some good information regarding doulas.

I think doulas are definitely there to be a birth guide of sorts… a childbirth professional there to remind the parents of their original plans. But also as a support system to help the mom and dad know that they are strong and can do this. I think the message of this film does share those thoughts.

If you have questions about what a doula does and how she interacts with you and the staff, this may be very informative to you. I am a certified doula and I do think it is important to understand that training does set some doulas apart from the friend who is there calling herself a doula. She may not understand how best to work in the medical situation. But having a support system is imperative.

How a woman feels about her birth is something that will be with her forever. Being listened to and respected is paramount and doulas do make an impact with helping her feel this way.

Brenda at South GA Birth Services has a blog and offers podcasts of different birth related subjects. She recently interviewed me and has the podcast up for you to listen to if you are so inclined. It is about being a doula- becoming a doula and what a doula does.

Hope you enjoy it!

Brenda has since moved to the Atlanta Metro area as a home birth midwife. You can find her at

How Do I Know What I Know?
by Teresa Howard

Experience is something that comes from many sources. I feel that I learn something from each birth I attend. I have personally given birth three times unmedicated. I think my experiences were good ones and I want that for others. I have breastfed all three of my children and was a La Leche League leader for many years. That too is an experience that I cherish and love helping new moms make this a good experience for them as well. Experience comes in many ways- personally having done something, training by other in techniques and being involved with someone else while they are doing it.

I began as a doula in May of 1992 when a friend asked me to come and be with her as a companion to her and her husband. I did this again for a friend in February of 1996. Later that year, in July, I was asked by a friend to be there for her at her fifth birth, my third as a companion. In 1997 I again offered to come and offer guidance to two friends in April and again in November. Then a special invitation to accompany a mom who was my second birth came in January of 1998. I offered my help to a teen friend in March of 1998 and soon after took my doula training as I was hooked at being at births!

My first professional doula birth was in May of 1998. By year end I had attended my 27th birth. The year 2000 allowed me to attend my 100th birth on Christmas Day! In February my youngest daughter gave birth to a son- I attended as her mom and she had a doula- but I feel I used my doula skills at that one for sure! In May 2003 I had the privilege of doulaing my oldest daughter at her birth – that was my 200th birth! At the end of 2008 I had completed my 400th birth as a doula. I average three births per month now and stay really busy.

In the past I have enjoyed being the state representative for CAPPA as well as a labor and postpartum doula trainer and a lactation educator trainer with them. I now stay quite busy running a company of a dozen doulas who cover most of the metro area. I really get affirmation after each birth, after each childbirth class I teach, I know what I am doing now is definitely what i am supposed to be doing. I have found my calling! So many people don’t enjoy their work or don’t find it fulfilling. That is certainly not my situation!

As a company we have done close to 900 labor supports as a group!

• DONA Labor Doula Training, Anne Tumblin, RN
• When Survivors Give Birth, Penny Simkin, PT
• Precipitous Labor, Emergency Childbirth, Debbie Pulley, CPM
• Birthing From Within, Pam England, CNM
• Joy of Labor, Northside Hospital
• Prenatal Parenting, Frederick Wirth, MD
• Lactation FastTrack
• Midwifery Workshop, Ina May Gaskin, CPM
• Psychotropic Medicine during pregnancy and lactation, Z.Stowe, MD
• Infant and Child CPR
• Another Look, Breastfeeding and HIV, Miriam Thompson
• Physiologic Closure of the Cord, Anne Frye, CPM
• Spinning Babies, Gail Tully, CPM
• Advanced Doula Training- Massage and Reflexology, Donna Johnson, CMT
• Advanced Lamaze Training- Mission Impossible, Ann Tumblin, RN
• Supporting Women through Perinatal Death, Miriam Maslin
• Escorting Women on their Inner Journey, Miriam Maslin
•1st Advanced Skills for Birth and Postpartum Professionals with Leadership from CAPPA

Advanced Doula Training in Acupressure Techniques for Pregnancy, Labor and Postpartum 2014


• Dancing For Birth Trainer Certification Workshop with Stephanie Larson

  • BOLD Training for Childbirth Facilitator Training and Certification

• LLLI conference 1980
• DONA conferences 1998, 2000
• CAPPA conferences 2000, 2001, 2002* 2004*, 2007, 2008, 2014
• Georgia LLL Conference 2001
• Summit for Safe Motherhood 2001
• Gentle Birth World Congress 2007
• International Cesarean Awareness Network 2009

*also emceed

• Georgia LLL Conference 2001
• Joy of Labor Training, Northside Hospital 2001
• Stillwater Yoga Prenatal Workshop 2002
• Prenatal Yoga in Athens, GA 2002-2007
• Natural Mama Expo 2002, 2003
• Interviewed and Appeared on REAL MOMS, REAL STORIES, REAL SAVVY Leading the Way in Women’s Health Programming on Public Television
• Panel for questions and answers Birth, the Play by Karen Brody
• International Cesarean Awareness Network:Concurrent Session 2009

Sherpa: “The term sherpa is also used to refer to local people, typically men, who are employed as guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas, particularly Mt. Everest. They are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain, as well as having good physical endurance and resilience to high altitude conditions.”

At my last birth, (my 400th as a doula!) the dad said that just as they had used me for their first birth, they would not consider having a baby without a doula. In fact he sings my praises to many pregnant couples. His sister was present during the labor and just after the birth and she was told by both the mom and the dad of this baby, that they need to hire me when they have their first child!

But a comment that the dad said resonated with me. He said just as you would not climb the Himalayas without a Sherpa, you should not give birth without a doula! I loved the statement. It made me feel like smiling! It was great because I consider myself a birth guide.

If the dad or the woman’s mother or sister want an active part in the labor and birth, I am more than willing to step back and only offer suggestions along the way. But when the other support people need or want to step back, I am there to offer any support needed. But considering myself a labor sherpa is kinda sweet! Thanks Trey!

What does Doula mean?

  • The most favored female slave in the Greek household of yesteryear.
  • A servant to meet your needs and your partner’s in labor and birth and the time just after the birth.

Who is a Doula?

  • A companion who knows the road you are about to travel in pregnancy, labor, birth and in the journey of bringing home the new baby to your family.
  • A friend who is there to provide continuity of care- by your side throughout labor, no matter how long.
  • A “birth guru” of sorts who knows what your options are for pain management and relaxation methods, well versed in these ideas.
  • A support person who is there to help you have the birth of your choice without any hidden agendas on how your birth should be. (more…)
A doula is a professional birth guide. Her role is one of non-intervention and non-clinical in nature. She gently guides through her words, suggestions, and knowledge of birth to assist a couple in having a birth that is in line with their birth desires. Many doulas will come to your home in labor to assist before you leave to go to the hospital, for hospital-planned births. The question that arises in labor is when should I have my doula come.
The idea of coaching the woman in labor is one I am uncomfortable with. The birth guide and partner should be there to support the woman but not direct her. If a woman is walking the path of her labor and doing well, I do not think someone should tell her how to do things differently. If she begins to fall off the path and needs assistance- encouragements, affirmations, suggestions, that is when the birth guide should offer to gently guide her back onto the path. Listening to her body and what it tells her to do is paramount. (more…)

Sometimes women think if they are considering an epidural they don’t need a doula.

As doulas it is not about us and what type of birth we want. Or what kind of birth we had personally. We are there to support women and help them to make informed decisions that are right for them as individuals. But, I tell moms if they would be sorely disappointed if they don’t get an epidural then I am probably not a good doula choice for them. The reason I say that is that many women who have considered an epidural an option, find that they don’t need one once I am there offering many other options in pain relief. It is not the doula’s roll to insure you get your epidural if you are not asking for pain relief and are coping well with the contractions. Many moms are wonderfully surprised when they find that they can manage without an epidural after all. Much of the pain experienced in childbirth is related to fear. The doulas support and presence can enable a mom to let go of her fears and enter a safe haven to birth.
If you have a doula, does that insure that your labor will be one that an epidural won’t be used? (more…)

Having a doula be with a mom in labor has many values. The initial value, if you are able to do so prior to the labor, begins during pregnancy with a relationship building that will encourage the mom’s ability to relax with the doulas help based on a relationship of trust that has been built and established during this time .During this time, the doula can point the mother in the direction for obtaining more information in order to better educate herself as to what her options will be for this upcoming birth. I am available via the phone to answer questions that arise during the pregnancy. In labor the doula can act as an advocate for the couple. She can also be the clear mind that will help the couple achieve the birth that has been planned for, if at all possible. The woman will need mothering during labor and birth, a doula can act as this mother without the emotional entanglements that sometimes occur when it is actually your own mother. After the birth, a doula can assist in helping the bonding time to go smoothly and offer assistance with breastfeeding, if it is needed.

Women don’t need to be “delivered” if they are allowed to give birth. (more…)