Think about your best friend. It could be a childhood friend or a newer friend. Think about what you love about them. What made them your friend? Think about how they will tell you the truth but lovingly so as to cause you little pain in hearing the truth. They support you. They encourage you. They are there no matter what- true unconditional love. I have a few friends like this.

Now think about being a friend to yourself. Think about how you talk to yourself. Are you being gentle, supportive, encouraging and loving? We need to talk to ourselves as if we are our best friend. Our bodies and minds are listening to the things we say internally to ourselves.

Change the way you speak to yourself and you will find your body and mind will respond in a positive way. Affirmations and positivity go a long way to rebuilding our brains synapses. We can begin to heal the negativity that we fed ourselves for so long.

Don’t wait- start today. Make a new best friend!

Sometimes a new client comes to us and tells us what type of birth they desire. They want a gentle birth with as few medical interventions as possible. But herein is where the issues come up. They have been going to their gynecologist for years and do not want to change. But their gynecologist, who may very well be an excellent one, is not a low management obstetrician. Or their doctor will only be doing births at the hospital that has the worse statistics for natural vaginal birth in the area. Or they are too busy to take classes so they have watched a few videos and skimmed through a couple of books and feel that will prepare them enough. Or they have invited their mother to attend as well. She had a horrible birth experience and talks about it often. She is unsure why her daughter does not just elect for a scheduled cesarean birth.

Do you see a pattern of issues? We have a ton of birth experience. We understand what the environment will be with these compounding issues. We want to guide them gently toward the integral keys to helping them achieve the birth they desire. We know it will take some preparation and some evaluating the best possible environment to help achieve it.

The questions are: do we just lay out the truth as we know it based on years of experience? Do we just move forward with their plans although we know it will be difficult if not impossible upward climb to have the birth they desire? Do we hope they will do the preparation in order to be able to advocate for their birth dream?

I have been known to lay it out clearly to my prospective clients. I often ask them if they want me to be totally honest. But if they say yes, I don’t hold back. I explain the 95+ epidural rates at area hospitals, ob anesthesia that needs to stay busy and therefore epidurals are constantly being offered, the nurses who rarely get to see a natural birth, therefore, are not usually equipped to support them, the 40+ cesarean rates, the docs who share call with other groups whom you will never see in pregnancy but could be with you in labor. I explain the medical model of birth vs the midwifery model. I share evidenced-based practices vs convenience based practices. I encourage them to take a non-hospital comprehensive based class which will equip them with many tools for labor and birth and even postpartum.

Sometimes they take this information to heart and do their research and change the trajectory of their labor and birth. Sometimes they do not. We can’t want their birth dreams to become reality more than they do. We can not protect them from fear being spoken to them at every prenatal- too big of a baby, placenta getting older- without any evidence, their age causing them to be categorized high risk, etc. We can not teach them the tools they need in the midst of labor. We can not help them work through fears that they refuse to have dealt with during their pregnancy. We can not make their support team truly supportive. We can not speak for them in an attempt to protect them.

I am a gardener. When I go to the nursery to buy a plant. I read the tag, I speak to the horticulturist, I read my gardening blogs. If I want that plant to do well, I need to set it up to win with the right soil, the perfect amount of water, the suggested amount of sun. I can not expect the plant to do well if I don’t follow the suggestions on how to make it flourish.

We believe it truly does take preparation and research to reach your dreams. We feel strongly it takes a gentle birth pie in its entirety to help make that work. We are there to support you- but we employ you to listen to the years or experience that we have to offer guidance to help you achieve the birth you tell us is your desire.

-Teresa

This week I spoke to a client. She is a first-time birther and giving birth at the Atlanta Birth Center. She had told one of her co-workers about her birth ideals. This co-worker decided to share it over lunch with a large group of others whom she works with. They began to berate her, tell her what they thought of her wanting to go to the birth center and not get an epidural. They were rude and quite discouraging. She felt discouraged and needed to get encouraged by me. They also nicknamed me her Dalai Lama! She liked that one thing enough to change my phone number in her phone to just that.

But I told her you would not seek courage from someone who had no courage. How did she expect those who did not understand her ideals, who were clueless on her path of preparation, who only sought to be medicated in the journey to offer any courage? They had no courage, no understanding, no desire to even understand- they only chose to sit in uneducated judgment. You don’t ask a blind man for directions. He may know how to get there using counting steps or sounds, but he does not understand the directions you need.

I had lunch with an upcoming client a few hours after this phone call. This first time birther- also giving birth at the same birth center, made an astute comment, “You do not need courage if you never do anything that scares you.” Wow, I thought, exactly!

Often times folks offer opinions out of their lack of understanding or knowledge, but with good intentions. They do not know what they do not know. But when they do, you can choose to recognize their heart and thank them without any intention of following their advice. But when folks try to push their agenda on you- disparage your ideas- and are basically rude imbeciles, I think it is appropriate to call them out on it!  “You may not have intended to be discouraging or rude, but I find your comments just that. Could you please keep those ideas to yourself?”

Be careful who are you listening to. Seek encouragement from those who had shown courage. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” I can guarantee that doing so will be a way to grow your courage! We need to fill women with great courage when it comes to birth and parenting.  We need to share our courageous stories to help their courage grow.

 

 

 

Teresa

I have been thinking a lot about what is the most important thing that i can impart to a pregnant mom to prepare for labor. As a crone ( the older,wise woman, healer and guide). I would have to say it is learn to let go of fear. We have clouded birth with so many fears and horror stories, it is no wonder that women enter this time with such trepidation.  At one time it was a mysterious time that was not discussed. Those women were often given drugs so that they had little memory of birth and therefore it was indeed a mystery. Then for a short time, natural birth was promoted and it was a time of wonder and power. But then medical advancements allowed medication to be safer and women did not even venture into the time of being able to find their power and strength.

If I were to sit with you, talk openly about birth- what I personally experienced and the over 670 births I have witnessed, I would tell you about how strong you become during labor. I would tell you that you are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. I would tell you that as your labor unfolds, you will know what to do- whether it is to move, or howl or ask for medication and intervention.

I can tell you stories of watching women become warriors. I can tell you of incidences where women reached down deep within and found a strength they had no idea even existed. My advice as an experienced crone is to tell you begin to look at birth as a mystery that will unfold. You need not know the journey’s path to be able to walk it. Just walk it with courage. Let go of the stories you have heard. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Move into the mystery with curiosity and openness. Embrace the unknown and step into your labor without fear.

You were made for this. Your body is ready. Your baby is ready. Let go.

Teresa Howard

Often times we get asked when interviewing clients, where do you live? Clients want their doula to live close to them or close to where they will birth. That makes sense, right? Well, maybe not.

In Atlanta no matter where you live, there could be traffic at most any time adding minutes if not even an hour to a drive. And heaven forbid it snows! But we rarely- I mean rarely ever miss a birth. Since every doula in our group will attend you at home in mid labor, we may be with you prior to going to the hospital. Most every doula in our group will attend births at most hospitals in the metro area regardless to where they live. We do try to keep our drive during non busy times to be a hour or less.

Teresa is an exception to this having recently moved to Athens. But where she lives is very close to 85 and also 316. She can be on the highway quickly headed to you when you need her. She continues to doula for clients in Atlanta but limits the locations. The locations are under an hour and twenty minutes. Recently she had a birth in Atlanta and made it under an hour and ten minutes easily. That was a rapid drive.  She actually arrived within minutes of her client.

When chatting with experienced doulas, they will tell you that most calls for a mom in labor occur in the middle of the night- or actually early hours of the morning. There is rarely traffic to deal with then. It is rare for a woman to have such a rapid labor that she does not make it to her birth location- in fact so rare that the media covers it when it does happen- reassuring it is not common.

Usually a woman knows something is going on in early labor. This is why we ask you to contact your doula in early labor to give her a heads up. This allows her to reschedule events she may have coming up, prepare to be ready to leave as soon as you need her, gas up her car, put her bag in the car, shower, etc. So, you see where she lives may not be as important as you may think. Teresa believes that in over 660 births, it has happened less than 1% of the time.

But in those rare situations, we have a list of hospitals in the metro area and who is the closest doula to each hospital, just in case we need to send someone rapidly to you.  So, choose your doula based on who you connect the best with, who best meets your needs and less about where she may live.

I have been the owner of Labor of Love for over 20 years. I have grown one of the most successful doula businesses in the nation. This is the oldest and most experienced group of birth professionals in the state of Georgia. I have been at 648 births in the last 25 years and have loved this opportunity. I have taught thousands of students during that time.  I grew the company from only providing labor doula services to becoming a full service company providing most everything that any pregnant or new family would need.

I decided a few years ago to cut back on the number of births I would take each month to allow more time for my family – being grandparents is quite fun! My daughters and my five grandchildren live in Athens. We have recently decided to move to Athens to be closer to them. So, what does this mean?

I am not leaving birth work. I will work with Delandra for Labor of Love as I have been doing. I will continue to doula and teach classes. I will teach in the Decatur location and hope to grow some classes in Athens as well. I will also do birth doula work in Atlanta and Athens. It is often easier driving in from Athens to the city than coming from outlying burbs. So, I will ask for a bit more of a heads up, but plan to do births in the metro area of Atlanta and grow my Athens birth work as well. 

This move means that I think it is in the best interest of Labor of Love to have a local birth professional overseeing the work for the company. And therefore it is my great pleasure to pass the baton of ownership to Delandra Vinson. She has been the most active doula in our group and is the second most experienced doula in Labor of Love with over 200 births. She has a strong and wonderful presence in the birth community around Atlanta. She was the perfect choice to take over my “baby.”

I think you will find the transition seamless as Delandra takes the reins. Labor of Love will remain a strong presence offering excellent service and helping families in the transition to parenthood. I am moving, but will continue to leave my mark on the birth community in Atlanta!

Teresa

I am so excited about becoming the new owner of Labor of Love! This is a wonderful opportunity, with such a powerful presence in the Atlanta birth community, and I am honored to be stepping into this leadership position. Over the past 20 years, Labor of Love has provided so many valuable services and loving guidance to families all over the metro area, and I look forward to offering the same level of service and quality of support for at least 20 more! Thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way. Please continue to do so. I look forward to hearing from you!!

Delandra 

apprenticeship offeringsAn apprentice doula accompanies your mentoring doula to your labor and birth. If the prenatal has not already been completed, she may also attend that meeting. It is a time for her to not only observe but also assist the mentoring doula. She has already attended a doula training with a certifying organization prior to attending your labor and birth. This is an opportunity to learn through observation of an experienced doula as well as obtain some hands on experience as well. She will be acting only under guidance and supervision of the mentoring doula. It is great having a second pair of hands to massage, hold, press, rebozo, etc. She will stay throughout the duration of the labor and birth. Often we encourage her to be the photographer and note taker too. We would love to have you consider inviting our apprentice to accompany your doula. This addition to your labor and birth is at no extra charge. So you are getting two doulas for the price of one! You will be helping her toward her certification, but even more, you will be helping her gain valuable skills and experience. You will find our current apprentices on the Meet Us page with the notation of Apprentice. Please let your doula know if you want to include either of them. Thanks!
 
 
 
 

I get calls from women looking for a doula. They often do not know who they want. Sometimes they give me a bit of information about themselves and hope I can tell the who to pick. I don’t. Sometimes they call and say they want a particular doula and say that their friend loved this doula. But I remind them that they need to figure out who they love rather than pick a doula based on a friend’s recommendation. Sometimes they tell me their midwife suggested a particular doula. It is the same response.. You get to pick your doula.

duplicity

Sometimes folks are looking for a mother doula- someone who is older and will “mother” them. Sometimes they are looking for a sister doula- someone their age or near their age. Sometimes first time moms feel they want to be “protected” by having a strong doula- one who will speak up for them or drive them to stick to their original convictions. Sometimes moms feel they need a gentle, soft voice in labor.

Guess what? Our doulas can be all those things. They mother, they support you like a sister, they help you find your voice and help you stick to your convictions but they also gently guide you with a soft voice when you desire and need that. When you meet a doula, spend a bit of time asking her about her experience- her methods of care. Being strong and being soft, being loud and funny and being laid back and quiet are all within the realm of each of the doulas in our group. They are like chamelions and become what is needed in that situation. Do not underestimate the quiet doula, can she roar when it is needed. Do not overestimate the gregarious doula, she can be a gentle, quiet spirit in the room as well.

rewards

I had lunch with my son recently. We were discussing fees. He was amazed that doulas in the Atlanta Metro area who had only a dozen or more births of experience were charging fees much higher than mine. We discussed how a jeweler may have a diamond in a special case marked $50k and the jeweler across the street had the same diamond- exactly priced $10k. What is the value in the diamond? It is whatever someone is willing to pay for that diamond. But there is an underlying tone that the higher priced diamond is really better. He challenged me that my fee should be one of the highest since I have been a doula for 24 years and accompanied 660 babies into the world as a doula. But I said my target client could not afford this fee.

That led us to a discussion on who my target client is. I want a well-informed couple…. meaning I want them to take a great childbirth preparation class. I want them to choose a location for their birth and a care provider who offers them options and respect. I want them to be making decisions that will more than likely lead them to a gentle birth. I know that if they were to take the classes we offer they will most likely have a shorter labor and less trauma, if any, at their birth.

The burn out of many doulas is due to having to watch women treated badly at birth by their care providers. The hard part of supporting an uninformed client, one who may not have taken the time to educate themselves on birth, is the difficulty of educating them while in labor. It usually means a longer, more arduous labor and often an outcome they do not desire. It does not serve them, the baby or the doula to have a birth like this.

So this led me to determine that the best way to price my services is in packages. I wanted to keep my class fees separate from my doula fees but wanted to reward my clients for their preparation by lowering my fee based on their preparation. After all,  if I truly believe the classes we offer and the beliefs I have on other choices makes their births easier, the fee should be less too. (This is off subject- but for the doulas who are now charging women an hourly rate on top of their base fee if the labor goes over 12 hours, I wonder- are they reducing the fee if the birth is really fast? If it is hourly they want- it seems that is should be turn about fair play.)

Here are my reward packages: all fees include unlimited doula support starting at 38 weeks* until birth- and include all of our regular services per our agreement. *I am fully available for texts, phone calls and emails from the time I am hired and even after the birth.

  • If you hire me strictly as a labor doula, taking no classes with our company or any other comprehensive class, the fee is $1240 
  • If you hire me as your labor doula and take the BOLD Wisdom for Birth Couple’s class or the FUNdamentals classes with Renee or even another comprehensive class elsewhere the fee is $1135. There are a few other non-LOL classes that may qualify as a comprehensive childbirth class. Hospital classes, online classes and hypnosis only based classes do not qualify.
  • If you hire me as your labor doula and take the Wisdom for Birth couples’ workshop and the Aligned and Ready class and choose a preferred provider, the fee is $1030.

I am rewarding you because it makes my job as your doula one of love and support rather than dodging bullets and having to prepare you while in labor or at a lengthy prenatal which turns into more of a crash childbirth course instead of the time of dreaming about how to make your birth vision a reality. You may have noticed the Aligned and Ready class is in the greatest rewarded discounted offerings. I do this because I believe it is rare to have a malpositioned baby if you take this class- and it is often the malpositioned baby that causes longer labors.

I am sure some folks will not understand this approach. Some will suggest I just combine the class fee into my fee- but since others are teaching some of those classes- not just me- it is difficult to do that. I really see it instead of being a combo discount, I see it as a reward program to you- thanks for doing the preparation that I believe is needed for a gentle birth.

This is just something I offer at this date, although some of the other women with Labor of Love are considering it. Thanks!

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