Skeptical SIL Turned Doula Spokesperson

doula Here’s a delightful, eloquent, funny post from, a mother of three who had never heard of a doula before recently attending her brother and sister-in-law’s second birth.

If you’ve had a doula or been a family member who has worked with one, or you are one yourself, you’ll find lots to relate to here. There are so many things to love about this piece and the way it personalizes the benefits of doulas. Here are just a few highlights that I particularly like:

– She’s is so right-on about the whole Pacific Northwest vs. Midwest crunchy-by-association thing. And the doula=birkenstocks and patchouli oil thing! As someone who grew up in Chicago but lived in Portland, OR, I get that. All. the. time. And yes, I recycle, but nuh uh, I do not wear patchouli or Birkenstocks. Doulas really do come in many forms – as evidenced in her post as well as here and here.

– Doulas work the room! We definitely do. This is one of the under-discussed but utterly worthwhile and fulfilling parts of my job. When I am doula-ing, I often get to meet fascinating, loving extended family members. We go through such an intense experience together as labor unfolds and their new little one arrives. It is always an honor and a privilege to be “their doula” and an honorary member of the family, even if just for a little while. She may give short shrift to dads, but she is right that a doula will be helpful for everyone in the room, not just mom.

– Do we all have that person in our family who snaps pictures like the author of that blog?! I certainly do in mine. And I recognize and have given that “universal look of annoyance” to a tee.

A word of caution: there may be potential triggers here for some folks in the author’s description of a contrasting birth she witnessed where there was no doula present  – and things did not go well for the birthing mother or her labor support team. But if you can, don’t let that stop you – in fact it makes the post that much richer.

Enjoy. And here’s to the converted!

A New Advocate for Birth Justice at Chicago Volunteer Doulas

I am delighted to share that today Chicago Volunteer Doulas (CVD) announced that Jeanine Valrie, MPH will take over the position of Program Director for the agency. I am both a Volunteer Doula as well as a board member for CVD and an email sent from the agency this morning to volunteers states:

Jeanine brings a strong background in maternal-child health and program coordination with her. She graduated from The George Washington University with a Masters in Public Health in Global Health Policy and has studied midwifery for the out-of-hospital setting. Jeanine has led programs with community groups in both Chicago and Washington, D.C. Jeanine is active in areas of social justice and very committed to CVD’s expansion to serve more women. She has experience presenting at conferences, including just this past weekend at the ICTC Conference in Florida! And to top it off, Jeanine is a doula and lactation consultant, happy to support you all in your endeavors as birth workers. (hyperlink added)

She joins Executive Director, Michele Shade, phD, as one of the agency’s two paid staff members. Jeanine begins shadowing outgoing Program Director, Jinnie Hoggarth, CD(DONA), today and will fully transition into the position in the next two weeks.

This is also a notable occasion for the agency not just because Jeanine will make a great addition, but also because it’s a sign CVD is growing up! It marks the first full-fledged, paid staff change since the agency incorporated as a non-profit after years of being coordinated by its foremother, Sue Gottschall, CD(DONA) and a host of other dedicated volunteers.

Chicago Volunteer Doulas also includes over 80 Volunteer Doulas who provide on-call labor support at four Chicago hospitals; traditional one-on-one doula support at hospitals across the Chicagoland area; birth preparation classes and new mother groups.

Find out more, and consider giving the agency your support as well!

Rest in Peace, Adrienne Rich, Hero of Mine

One of the very first books that ever really affected my outlook on life was Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich. Looking back from where I stand now, as a doula, birth mentor and advocate for those who have survived gender based violence, it had a much bigger impact than I realized at the time…20 some years ago.

The book took me on a tour of the history and place of birth in our culture that, before reading it, I had only understood in a very narrow way. As her poems would later in my life, her words went right to my gut, my heart and my mind. Here is just one small bit that planted a seed with me long before I became pregnant with my first child; and stays with me even now as I parent my third newborn:

“A woman preparing to swim the English Channel or to climb in high altitudes, is aware her system will undergo stress, her courage will be tested, and her life may even be in danger; but despite the demands to be expected on her heart, her lungs, her muscular coordination, her nerves, during such an effort, she thinks of it primarily in terms not of pain, but of challenge. The majority of women…come to childbirth as a charged, discreet happening: mysterious, sometimes polluted, often magical, as torture rack or as ‘peak experience.’ Rarely has it been viewed as one way of knowing and coming to terms with our bodies, of discovering our physical and psychic resources.”

Adrienne Rich died this week at the age of 82. Her passing comes as I emerge from the fog of the last year of pregnancy, birth and parenting a newborn. And the coverage has reminded me: of how much I/we owe to our ancestors and foremothers; of how truly privileged I am; and of how important it is to write, to speak and to take power and foster social change whenever and wherever possible as I continue this balancing act that is being a mother.

Thank you so very much, Adrienne. Rest in peace, hero of mine.


Safe Transports Save Lives

With the defeat (46-71) of the Home Birth Safety Act at the very end of the last legislative session, the Illinois legislature decided that Certified Professional Midwives in Illinois shall remain unlicensed. The Coalition for Illinois Midwifery (CFIM) is re-introducing the bill in the new session and it has a new number, HB2940. In the meantime, however, Illinois home birth families have again been left without legal, licensed providers throughout most of the state.

To help alleviate the danger in which this places home birth mothers and newborns in need of emergency transports, together with this bill, the CFIM is also introducing the Home Birth Integration Act, HB1665. This is a new approach designed to save lives in the event of a hospital transport. This bill would help eliminate the fear of repercussions for transporting to the hospital from a planned home birth with an unlicensed midwife. It is already being compared to infant Safe Haven laws which allow parents in crisis to anonymously bring newborn infants to hospitals, police or fire stations and be shielded from any subsequent arrest or prosecution. The bill has been assigned to a committee and needs to pass through this step before it can be voted on by the full House of Representatives.

Please call or email your reps to voice your support and ask them to sponsor HB1665. Roxann MtJoy at wrote this article about the bill and the site has also begun a petition you can sign today to ask your Illinois state representative for support.

Call for Birth Stories from LGBTQ parents

Ever look for a collection of LGBTQ-centered birth stories? Then you may have noticed how hard it is to find one! If you’d like to help remedy this situation:

Fabulous Chicago doula, Kristen Ethier, is collecting birth stories from lesbian/queer/gender non-conforming/FTM transgender parents. Send her your stories or re-post this if you know someone who would!