Many first time mothers have an idealized vision of how their first birth will unfold. What you read in books or see on television will never fully prepare you for the birth of your child. Birth can be the most empowering or the most traumatic experience of your life. Stacy Seigel, birth doula and co-owner of Doulas of Southern Maryland, says her first birth was traumatic. “I had to have an emergency c-section. It all happened so quickly, that there wasn’t time for explanation,” said Stacy. She recalls how scared she felt and how worried she was about her baby.
Without a familiar face to calm her fears. “I felt very alone and vulnerable with no one to answer my many questions. That experience had a profound impact on me, one that I carry into my doula work today.” As a doula, when one of her clients requires a c-section, Stacy always requests to sit with her, quietly and out of the way of hospital staff, as soon as she returns from the operating room. “Just knowing she has a familiar face can provide so much support for the new mom while her spouse is away with their new baby in the nursery,” said Stacy.
Having a similar experience after the birth of her twins, Samantha Feldman, co-owner of Doulas of Southern Maryland and fellow birth doula shared, “when you are not allowed to hold your children for three days and the nursing staff views this as a casual aspect of birth rather than the traumatic experience it is for the new family, you begin to see the need for better support.”
Learning from their own experiences led both women to seek better birth options for their next babies. Both went on to have empowering births and is where their passion for the profession really ignited. It was the beginning of a better understanding of how supporting women in obtaining their birth goals could make a positive impact. It’s an impact both women hope their clients feel when choosing to work with them.
Recently, the popularity of doulas around the country and here in southern Maryland has grown tremendously. Research now shows the benefits of having a doula present during pregnancy and delivery. It confirms a reduction in the need for medical interventions, lowered c-section rates, and overall better birth experiences with less stress and anxiety for the families. Women who use doulas often have better breastfeeding experiences as well.
Unlike midwives or obstetricians who are medically trained to care for you during your pregnancy and delivery, your doula works in non-clinical ways, offering emotional, physical and educational support throughout the entire pregnancy, labor and postpartum period. The unique term “doula” comes from the Greek word doule, meaning “woman who serves.” And, in essence, that is exactly what a doula does — she serves the laboring mother to help her achieve the desired outcome.
Most doulas have some type of formal training through an agency that professionalizes their role, but Stacy and Samantha both agree that their full knowledge is based on the totality of their experiences. “We each have our own set of tools in our toolbox,” Stacy described. “We take the extra time and effort to educate ourselves on current practices because the role of a doula is forever evolving as birth practices continue growing and changing,” said Samantha.
There is a general misconception when it comes to doula care that doulas only support unmedicated labors and breastfeeding mothers. The reality is they support all women. “Medicated, unmedicated, vaginal, c-section, formula fed or breastfed, we support them all,” Stacy said. “There is a place for everything,” Samantha added. “We teach mothers that there is no right or wrong in birth. We remind them there is no guilt or shame in the choices they make for they are just that, their choices.’’ Both Stacy and Samantha agree as long as the choices a family makes are based on educated facts and not fear, then each family should feel confident in making the decisions that best fit their needs.
Indeed, doulas are the calm in the room. They are both your anxiety medicine when pregnancy hormones take over and your personal Google for all the answers to your much needed questions. It’s kind of like when your sick and want your mom, but instead, you are pregnant, about to give birth, and you want your doula.
The two doulas initially began working together five years ago as back-up doula for each other’s individual businesses. It was only after working closely together that they realized they could bring more to the birthing community of southern Maryland and surrounding areas if they united, thus, Doulas of Southern Maryland was born. They have since become an integral part of the community and have helped more than 450 local families welcome their babies earth-side. This is because when you hire Doulas of Southern Maryland you don’t just gain an expert birth companion, you gain a friend for life. “We have ‘doula dates’ with our clients,” Stacy said. “We get to know them like a friend and talk birth.”
And unlike many other doula businesses, there is no limit to the number of meetings both during pregnancy or postpartum. “If after eight months postpartum you have a breastfeeding question, we don’t want you to sit at home and cry or give up. We want to help you,” added Stacy.
Stacy and Samantha work hard spending time with families, getting to know them and building trust so that in the delivery room they can just preemptively know what their clients need. More importantly, they note that their care is not just for the mother but rather her entire birth team. “There are many dads who fear being left out or replaced. We do our best to help partners know that we work as a team,” Samantha said. “We are there to guide and support them so they know how best to support the mom in labor. All of us are playing an individual yet important role. Our job is to make sure the partner has a level of self-preservation so that everyone in the end is well taken care of,” said Stacy.
New mom Stephanie Gleason can attest to this as she hired both Stacy and Samantha to help with her birth in November. “I used Samantha as my doula for delivery and worked with Stacy for prenatal yoga and placenta encapsulation.” Stephanie and her husband instantly fell in love with Samantha’s personality when they met her. “When I got pregnant, my husband felt a lot of pressure and had no clue what to do,” Stephanie said. “He was the one who solidified us getting a doula because it really helped him learn to support me. We leveraged Samantha’s expertise for the birth of our child throughout the entire nine months. We were clueless and Samantha aided in making things a breeze.” Samantha has since been available for mentorship relating to breastfeeding and all things postpartum. “I loved our experience. I don’t think my husband and I could have done it alone,” added Stephanie, who was in labor for 16 hours. “Even my mother was put at ease by Samantha’s presence, knowing I was in good hands. My husband thinks it’s the best money we’ve ever spent.”
Echoing the Gleason’s statements are many of the Doulas of Southern Maryland’s mothers, including Hillary Charalambois, who moved to the area in 2016. Newly pregnant at the time, she was told by a friend about Stacy’s prenatal yoga class. “The first time I met Stacy was enough for me to decide I wanted to have her guidance and expertise during my birth experience. I felt such a sense of reassurance and confidence in my ability as a woman,” Hillary said.
When it came time – Stacy didn’t just live up to Hillary’s expectations, she exceeded them. “Stacy was absolutely instrumental in my birth experience! I labored naturally for more than 40 hours, both at home and in the hospital. She was by my side giving breathing advice and suggesting moves and exercises I do alone or with my husband’s help in order to get our baby to move down into position,” said Hillary.
Both Samantha and Stacy are spinning-babies trained, meaning they can help turn the baby in-utero during birth if needed. In fact, Stacy was so integral in the birth of Hillary’s first son that they hired her again for the birth of her second son this past October. “Stacy’s care for her clients is unrelenting. I wish we weren’t about to move again to our next duty station because I want Stacy there for my [hopefully], next birth.”
ARE YOU PREGNANT? Contact Doulas of Southern Maryland today to set up a meeting with Sam and Stacy. The earlier, the better! Visit doulasofsouthernmaryland.com to learn more.