Key Peninsula has two doulas—professional birth assistants—working in partnership at the Harbor Doula Group. They are Michele Hill and Karen Ramirez.

Hill, mother of three, was already interested in becoming a doula when she moved down the street from Ramirez.

“I was fascinated during the birth of my best friend’s baby, and it felt natural for me to nurture her even though I had not had any formal training,” Hill said.

As the two young mothers became friends, Hill shared her excitement about becoming a doula with Ramirez. Soon Ramirez, also a mother of three children, found she wanted to join in.

“I have always been fascinated by pregnancy and the birth process. Being able to comfort and empower a woman’s journey is very rewarding,” Ramirez said.

Their journey has taken them to Bates Technical College, where they received their training. PALS (Pacific Association of Labor Services) certified Hill. Ramirez has applied for her certification through DONA, Doulas of North America, and hopes to get it soon. To complete certification, the doula must have extensive study and attend three births with documentation of these births. She must also have good references from the parents, doctors, midwives, and nurses who were present at the births she assisted.

The word doula comes from ancient Greece. It means “women’s servant.” Today the word refers to a professional birth assistant. A doula provides informational, physical and emotional support to mothers and their partner before, during, and after birth.

Because doulas understand the range of medical procedures presented to pregnant women and those in labor, they can offer information to the couple to help them make better choices.

A doula doesn’t take the place of the doctor, midwife, or nurse, but is part of the prenatal team. The mother, not the hospital or the insurance company, employs her.

The doula does all the nurturing tasks. She brings quiet harp music, aromatherapy, massage oil, microwavable rice packs for labor pains, high protein snacks, bottled water, lip balm and mouth wash. By making the woman comfortable and relaxed, each birth becomes personal and special.

Beyond making the mother at ease and giving more maternal satisfaction with the childbirth experience, there are physical benefits to having a doula, the two women said: shorter labor, fewer complications, and reduction in the need of pain medications and epidurals.

Besides attending at births, they offer private home childbirth classes, as well as classes taught in public health centers. They also have postpartum services, which include teaching mothers to care for their infants, light cooking or cleaning, and help with household needs. Harbor Doula services include 24- hour, on-call help, along with assistance choosing a birth plan.

Confidentiality is very important, and records are treated as any medical staff would. Hill expressed both women’s thoughts, by saying, “A doula magnifies the miracle of birth by mothering the mother.”

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