ChicagoDoula on Social Media

Ichicago-doula-thumbnailn case you’d like to see more of what’s going on with me than what’s on the blog these days…please come find me on social media!

One place to look is Instagram. It’s been been a little over a year since I joined there and my pictures are of a life that is not always birth related, but still part of who I am. This reflects a big part of my approach to doula-ing in general – that I’m a real, whole human and not just my job(s) – even while my jobs allow me to do something I’m passionate about.

I like to think I bring my perspective and values as a Chicagoan and a doula to everything I see, and that I use what I experience (in both real world and on the Internet) to help me with being a doula.

I invite you to look over my shoulder, and to read, listen, and engage. ChicagoDoula is also on Facebook. And of course, my Twitter feed is right over there on the right –> –> –>    I hope to see you there!

Given Pause – An Appendicitis Story

I’ll never get to support my partner through labor and birth, simply because he’s a cis man, and well, it’s biologically impossible.

Of course, as a doula, I’ve supported and backed up birth partners again and again. I have a pretty good sense of how difficult it is to see one’s loved ones in pain. So why would I ever need the experience of supporting my partner myself?

After all, I know how to stand with clients – those in labor as well as their partners. I know how to help them through the uncertainties; how to facilitate communication with medical staff; and help clients build the confidence to cope with the intensity of transition or unexpected events. And, as a mother I have supported my children though pain and medical and emergency room visits time and time again.

I know how to “doula” my family as well as how to help others “doula” theirs. Or I did anyway, until it was about MY. PARTNER. And therefore, all about me.

Until the morning when I found myself packing all three wide-eyed, worried children into the car and driving their incredibly pale and, clearly suffering, dad to the ER, ushering them into a tiny triage space, and looking over to see a monitor showing his blood pressure was 60/20….wait, What?

Despite years of experience looking at and interpreting meaning from other people’s monitors, I could barely take the numbers in: “That’s not a blood pressure…that’s…woah, that is way too low.” I suddenly had no more doula skills at that moment, or in many of the moments that followed.

I struggled to call them back of course, and for most of the experience that followed, I did manage it. I was able to do what needed to be done: get the kids to a friend; get back to support Mr. K; stay by his side as he struggled through coping with the unknown, and pain, and waiting. There was so much waiting – first for a diagnosis: appendicitis, then for surgery, and eventually, through recovery.

Woven in between those moments of handling everything though, I lost it. I completely lost it. The fear and the uncertainty, relatively small in hindsight, became oh-so-large to me when I could not tell what was happening as the pain and intensity increased for him.

We had been told it would be hours before surgery and moved to a room to wait. In those moments as he lay there on his back with the pressure building and the feeling of being about to explode breaking through the morphine, he was convinced, and being pretty convincing, that his insides were going to burst any minute.

Granted, I know appendicitis is minor in comparison to so many other things. I feel certain now that we had the benefit of care we could fully trust and which was among the best in the world. Other loved ones have experienced and pulled through much worse. But until that day I had never truly looked at the possibility of the complete and utter end of my own reality with my partner. I had never considered myself possibly about to lose him, or ever been so unable to help anyone cope, most especially him.

Was his appendix truly about to burst as he feared? Did the doctors really know? Could things have changed that rapidly for him? He was in mental agony, the surgeon was busy, the nurses simply couldn’t respond fast enough, and I had no way to stop it or to “shut him off” as he was pleading.

Finally, he vomited and then came relief. We sheepishly understood that this was what had been causing the unbearable increase in pressure. Puke.

Man could I have used a doula right then. And for a brief period after he was finally able to sleep, I sat there and lost it. I sobbed and shook – at the fear and the uncertainty and just the sheer need to shake out the adrenaline.

So what happens for me as a doula now that I’ve gotten to experience losing my shit in a hospital setting over my partner’s appendicitis? Am I some sort of super doula, impervious to the unknown and never to lose it again? Better than ever at supporting both mamas and their loved ones? Nope. And maybe a little, yes.

Perhaps I have a few more drops of compassion to offer clients, gained through finding compassion for myself in that moment and in the days that followed. Through looking back and seeing how neither Mr. K. nor I could have done anything differently given what we knew, and that even if I would have myself behave differently now, I was doing only the best I could in the moment, as was he.

And with that new knowledge, and that new understanding, I hope I am just a wee bit better at being a doula – for myself and for others.

ChicagoDoula Goes to School. And Has a Baby. And Other Things

We’re writing this post to announce some changes at ChicagoDoula.  Amy and I have had a very full five years.  We’ve been gestating people and ideas and certifications.  We’ve been trying to blog here when we can – which is not often. Twitter has been a bit easier to use, so you may have seen some of Amy’s tweets there.

Five years ago when Amy joined me in using this identity, we had a lot of ideas about how we would develop the concept of ChicagoDoula.  And then we got busy.  Very busy.  Amy had a baby and I went to midwifery school.  Amy and her partner began raising the baby (along with their older children) and I spent three years assisting at a high volume home birth practice after earning my CPM credential.  Along the way there were other treats, like a house fire, pneumonia twice and appendicitis once, children starting school, and daughters going away to college, even a small part as an extra in a movie!  You can read more about the appendicitis and possibly some of these other things in future posts.  More recently, as the baby blur started receding, Amy began turning her attention to our joint venture again.  And then I began nursing school. (i feel like there should be a comedy drum riff here.  Ta Dum BUMP! )

So here we are, with Amy returning her to focus to ChicagoDoula as well as her new role at Chicago Volunteer Doulas (also the likely subject of a future post) while I am heading into another adventure that will take me farther away from the birth world for a while.  So we’ve agreed that it’s time to make some changes. Although I’ll always be a doula in my heart and will sometimes practice as a doula, and continue training doulas, Amy will be heading up ChicagoDoula from now on.  She’ll own the name and steer the business.  I will remain here as a friend, adviser, guest blogger and occasional back-seat-driver (meaning I still get to keep the honorable title of co-conspirator and, she says, ChicagoDoula emerita.  (Any actual doula work, doula training or monatrice work I might continue doing will be offered under my other long-time business banner of Women’s Way: Empowering Families in the Childbearing Year)

Why am I going off to nursing school?  I’ll probably blog about that at some point.  In the meantime, we have all sorts of ideas about how we want to see ChicagoDoula evolve over time, but I’ll leave it to Amy, as the New Management, to carry the conversation forward while I go back to studying.

~Rachel

Give it up on #GivingTuesday for Chicago Volunteer Doulas

And I don’t just mean applause! Will you please join me in making a donation today?

Rachel and I aren’t just running businesses and making a living as doulas who happen to live in Chicago, we also take our obligation of service to Chicago’s communities of pregnant, laboring and postpartum people and families very seriously. One of the ways we do this is through our support of the organization Chicago Volunteer Doulas (CVD).

I have been personally involved at CVD as one of the volunteer doulas since 2008 before the organization even had 501c3 status (as an official non-profit). I also serve on the board of directors, most recently as co-chair. I have become more and more involved in supporting CVD over the years because I see that there are multitudes of pregnant people who are left in the gaps between those served by community based doula programs and those who can afford the fees for private doulas.

These are the people who would otherwise not have doulas. This is where CVD comes in. CVD provides on call doulas to four different hospital midwifery programs in Chicago as well as offering traditional model private volunteer doulas to families with incomes under $50,000 per year. Until community based doula programs have expanded to meet the needs of unserved populations, and/or government funding and insurance reimbursement for private doulas is common place, volunteer organizations like Chicago Volunteer Doulas are essential part of changing birth culture. And so is our support.

I have volunteered at community based doula programs such as HealthConnect One, and also continue to work privately. I believe adamantly however, that *any* pregnant people or families who want a doula, need and deserve access to doulas.

One way that my co-blogger, Rachel, supports Chicago Volunteer Doulas in changing birth culture is through consistently offering a scholarship position in each of her DONA International doula trainings for a woman of color who is also a CVD volunteer. This is also, in my humble opinion, one of the ways Rachel is awesome, but I digress.

CVD is just a small part of changing birth culture, but for many Chicago parents, it has been an essential resource. Will you join us this Giving Tuesday and give what you can to Chicago Volunteer Doulas? Then please spread the word to others!

Thanks, friend!

New Resource for Pregnant Trans* Parents

H/t to Radical Doula for information about this new website designed to help trans* parents find trans* friendly providers: Trans Birth:

Trans Birth is a directory created to connect trans* and gender non-conforming people and their families to midwives, OBGYNs, and doulas who provide welcoming care to our communities.

Categories include Midwives, OBGYNs, Doulas, and Other Providers. It does not have a category for Childbirth Educators/Classes, but perhaps that could be included under Other Providers.

As of this writing there is no one listed from Chicago or Illinois. Let’s change that! If you’d like to be listed, here’s your chance.

Who Is ChicagoDoula?

So Amy is trying to get me to blog. I have to say, I have never considered this and am not so sure how good I’ll be at this. I’m only here because she has the smarts and the drive to get us both here. Maybe I can start by giving you the back story. For the past 15 years, I’ve practiced as a childbirth educator, doula, doula trainer and occasional midwife’s assistant. I’ve used the web since the beginning and have always used the screen name identity “ChicagoDoula.” But as the web developed, I remained a very basic user – email, the occasional instant message, web-browsing.

I always thought I should make more of it. I even took a website design class. I created a draft version of a very pretty website. And it sat there on my computer for years. I had no idea how to get it published. Two years ago I finally figured out that I needed to purchase a domain name. So I did. But that sat there too. When Facebook came along, I figured it out to some degree, though I only have personal pages – no business page.

Then along came Amy, a new doula on the block, with some really neat ideas. She hoped to develop a website and call it ChicagoDoula.net. I agreed to this because after all, though I’d been using the name for years, I did not yet have a website and thought I would never get around to it. Amy began building the site and after a time we realized it was something we could work on together. We began to think of ChicagoDoula as a concept rather than a specific person and several months later, here we are.

Who is ChicagoDoula? She is a little bit of everything, just like the city she serves. She is an activist, a doula, a mother, a midwife (of babies or ideas or communities), a mentor and a student. She is experienced and wise, yet she is fresh and enthusiastic and full of new ideas. She is knowledgeable about a variety of childbirth preparation techniques and is comfortable working with them. She believes that life is precious and she also believes in a woman’s right to make a full range of decisions about her reproductive health care – whether that means choosing to terminate a pregnancy, choosing an epidural for labor, or choosing a homebirth with an underground midwife. She strives to help women understand the full implications of their choices and help them find their innate power, so their choices are not driven by fear. She understands that there is no single right answer for any given situation. She is willing to support women in whatever choice is right for them.

ChicagoDoula loves her city and the people in it. She joyfully serves families from all walks of life. She is ever-hopeful with a strong vein of cynical, anti-racist, queer-friendly, working on recognizing her privileges as well as her own internalized oppression, challenging others and herself to see and understand things differently. When faced with obstacles, she looks for creative solutions rather than struggling to achieve particular outcomes.

She envisions a world where all women get the support they need across the spectrum of pregnancy, labor, birth and parenting – a world where every woman in every community has access to the information and support she wants and needs so that she can be affirmed in her choices.

She envisions a world where women are respected, safe, honored and empowered.

In short, ChicagoDoula is many things. We invite you to get to know her, us, as we continue posting here and continue building our websites.