When Kimberly Sebeck was a small child she was preoccupied with pregnancy, birth, and babies. The birth of her own daughter in 1997 was riddled with peer pressure from medical staff and treatments she did not want. Kimberly remembers, “This was not the peaceful experience I had envisioned and carefully planned for. The experience left me thinking, “There has to be a better way to do this.” I began researching and decided becoming a doula was exactly what I wanted to do.”
My husband and I encountered continual pushback on our efforts to deliver naturally from the doctor on-call and nurses. If we had not had Kimberly, I know we would have undoubtedly caved to their recommendations. ~ Heather
Midwifes and Doulas
A doula is an unlicensed but certified witness to birth. A doula performs in a non-medical capacity and provides support to women and their families before, during, and following birth. While the State does not require doulas to be licensed, Sebeck says, “Most doulas choose to keep up their certification with a national organization that has grievance policies.” A midwife is a licensed medical professional who, amongst other things, assists in the delivery of a baby and performs other gynocological servies.
In 2001, Sebeck completed her doula training through Childbirth and Professionals Postpartum Association (CAPPA) in Atlanta, GA. She also became certified as a Childbirth Educator. She works under the business name Knoxville Doula.
Sebeck says her first solo professional experience “was amazing.” She says, “I knew this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. It all felt so natural to nurture and support a woman in labor and help her partner be more relaxed and involved. The parents loved having me there and hired me a few years later for another baby’s birth.” To date, Sebeck has witnessed 202 births!
Sebeck says, “A doula helps to empower, educate, and support an expectant mother. Navigating all the choices available can be confusing and overwhelming. A doula will discuss your local options with you and help you decide what type of choices are right for you. Doulas do not make decisions for you. Doulas respect your right as a mother, as a couple, to make the best choice for your family.”
I needed an advocate so that my husband and family would not have to navigate the unknowns of labor, birth, hospitals, protocol, or paperwork, alone. It is my hope that all pregnant women would have the loving support that a Doula provides and that they would be fortunate enough to have someone like Kimberly by their side. ~ Kimberly Rundles
“During labor a doula will offer emotional and physical support, as well as suggestions of how to keep labor comfortable, help your partner enjoy the experience…offer another set of hands, and generally do whatever it takes to help you have the birth experience you want. A doula will provide unbiased and evidenced based information and sources to help you if your planned birth takes a detour due to circumstances. A doula will also offer immediate postpartum support and breastfeeding help,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot from witnessing different labor and birth scenarios.”
My labor experience didn’t go as we had all planned (infection that ultimately let to a c-section), but Kimberly offered up different ways to try to keep me comfortable throughout the whole process–19 hours of natural labor. ~ Barb Banbury
A Doula’s Life
Sebeck advises that a doula needs to “be willing to work long hours (sometimes over a day long). Due to the unexpected nature of childbirth, Sebeck says a doula “should plan on missing some family events, sleeping with a phone under your pillow, and surviving on coffee and protein bars — but to experience and cherish the breathtaking moments of families being born.”
Sebeck says, “Being a doula isn’t a hobby. You are witnessing and sharing in one of the most extraordinary experiences of someone’s life. Network with other birth professionals and watch for burnout. Ask for support from your peers and your family. Always keep learning and staying current with relevant information.”
“This is my life’s work. I feel incredibly blessed to have been asked to be a part of such a special and miraculous occasion. It’s hard work…but it is the best feeling to know that I, along with other doulas, are making a difference in the lives of a family. “Peace on earth begins with birth,” always plays through my head if I’m tired and up all night at a birth. It gives me strength to know doulas are helping to change the world for the better.”
(c) Debra Dylan, 2013