This past Sunday afternoon at Yoga on Main in Manayunk, the room was full of birth energy and a sense of birth empowerment. Doulas from the Philly Doula Co-Op, a doula collective serving the greater Philadelphia area, met with potential clients, touting the benefits of prenatal yoga, what their doula co-op can provide, and what exactly a doula does.
A doula, a person providing non-medical support to women and families during pregnancy and labor, is still one of the more unknown forces for most pregnant women and couples.
“I like to refer to a doula as a facilitator,” says Maria Brooks, of Mt. Airy, and one of the more experienced doulas in the co-op. “We are there to help women feel empowered to advocate for themselves.”
Doulas aren’t nurses or childbirth instructors, do not do medical interventions, and don’t help deliver the baby. They are there “to be an extra person for emotional support” said Cathy McCormick, another doula in the co-op.
The co-op was founded in Philadelphia to bring the best support to women in this area, by relying on the diverse backgrounds that each of their doulas come from. Stacy McIntosh-Brix, the director of the co-op, explained that depending on what your doula was trained in, they could even bring supplemental support in yoga and accupuncture to your prenatal and labor experiences.
Rebecca Buffum and Bill Becker, of Chestnut Hill, are due in July but wanted to start getting as much information about the birth process as possible. “We’re old, but new,” Becker joked, as he and his partner explained how they were first time parents. They didn’t know what the role of a doula was, but knew they needed to feel more empowered during the whole journey. “We didn’t have a clear expectation of what a doula was or what they did, and when we met a woman at our house, she made it feel like all our choices were already wrong, and we were only 17 weeks in.”
Rachel Montgomery, another guest at the meet-up – due in March of this year – also felt a push for a more empowering birth. “I heard my mother’s birth story and it sounded horrible and painful.” She had heard about the role of doulas in her nursing program and was excited to hear professionals talking about how births did not have to go the way her mother’s did.
Toward the end of the afternoon, the doulas went on “speed dates” with their potential clients, getting to know one another and seeing if anyone was a good match. As the other doulas gathered in the lobby they shared tales of their birth highs and how they became doulas.
“Nothing is better,” said Jenise Lemon, who began as a childbirth instructor. “You get a call at three in the morning and you’re dressed and out the door in five minutes. It’s a complete high.”