Hub City Doulas offer support through birth process
Frances Pierce and Jillian Potter want the public to understand that doulas aren’t the hippie all-natural birth pushers that some people make them out to be.
Instead, Pierce and Potter, both of Hagerstown, want to help correct the misconceptions about what doulas really do under their shingle of Hub City Doulas.
Doulas, they said, don’t recommend natural-only births. They don’t offer medical advice. They are there to hold a mom’s hand through her journey, as well as offer coaching for her partner.
“A doula is a puddle sitter,” Pierce said. “We sit there and we help you manage your labor. We don’t leave. We start at the house if you want. We will transition to the hospital with you. We will start at the hospital if that’s what you want. We’ll be with you to provide an ice towel, massage, position changes, just words of encouragement. Anything that you need.”
Doulas are not midwives, she said.
“The midwife is your medical person,” Pierce explained. “We do nothing medical. We are there strictly for physical and emotional support.”
Potter said before a mom’s due date, she’ll reach out to hire a doula. During their first meeting, she and Pierce both meet the mom as a team because if one is not available when baby decides to come, the other will be with mom.
“Once someone hires us, we schedule an appointment just to talk about their birth plan, what they envision it to look like,” she said. “We tell them things to consider that they haven’t already. But we’re also available to them.”
That means if Mom reads a post on Facebook and starts freaking out or wants to someone to talk to with answers, she can reach out to them.
“We’re going to them with information or provide them sources where they can find the information,” Potter said. “Our job is not to say, ‘this how you do this’, or ‘this is why you should do this,’ it is to give them the resources so that they can educate themselves and decide what’s best for them and their families.”
Becoming a doula
Hub City Doulas was started a year ago by Pierce, 48, who has been a massage therapist for 15 years. In addition to adults, Pierce also does prenatal massage. Nearly nine years ago, Pierce had her son and it was her midwife who suggested she might become a doula.
“You have a newborn, you’re not going to embark on a brand new career with a newborn in your arms,” she said. “Some people do, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that.”
But figuring that she might want a goal when her husband retires and they move to a warmer climate, Pierce decided it was time to take the steps to become a doula.
Pierce met Potter, 32, through her LuLaRoe business. After spending 10 years in banking, the last eight of which was with a major mortgage company, Potter had become a full-time mom after her fifth daughter was born. She said she had complications during her last pregnancy and her daughter was born early. She and her husband decided that Potter should stay home with the baby.
When Potter found out Pierce was a doula, Potter was excited.
“I started having babies before a majority of my friends, so I supported a lot of my friends through their pregnancies and I knew it was something that I was good at, and something that I wanted to do,” she said.
But after she and her husband talked about the possibility of becoming a doula, she decided that now was the time. After training, she and Pierce became partners with Hub City Doulas.
Once a client hires Hub City Doulas, Pierce said they are on call 24/7 until mom gives birth. When a mom decides on when to hire a doula depends on the mom herself. Labor support packages start at $900.
“Every individual is different,” Pierce said. “I’ve had someone hire me when they were 20 weeks pregnant and I’ve had them hire me at 38 weeks.”
Potter said women usually think about a doula when “you get to the point when you’re at your doctor’s appointments and the doctor asks if you have thought about pain relief options.”
And that’s different for each mother.
“A lot of people think that only first-time moms get doulas and that’s not the case,” she said. “A lot of moms get doulas for every single baby whether it’s No. 1 or No. 10 because of the value of what that doula brings. So somebody who’s had a doula before, they will hire someone earlier on.”
Another misconception is about the birth plans the doulas support.
“We support everything. If you want a little bit of pain medication; if you are hands down you want that epidural we’re there, too,” Pierce said. “It’s not our choice. It’s not our birth. It’s not our decision. We’re there to support the family through whatever decisions they make. We even support through Caesarian births.”
Potter said the need for a doula is that sometimes births don’t go as planned.
“Things can change and happen in birth at any moment,” she said. “You could want A, B and C and anything can alter that. The benefit of having a doula is that we’re there for our clients and care about them, but we’re not as emotionally attached to the situation as their partner is. So we can say, ‘OK let’s take a moment to talk about this’ and guide them through the process. ‘How are you feeling about this?’ Maybe they just need an explanation in different terms. Maybe they just need someone to say, ‘this isn’t what you planned, but it’s still going to be OK’.”
Since starting the business, Pierce has guided three births, while Potter has been involved with two births.
In addition to being a doula, Pierce is also certified as a certified placenta encapsulator through ProDoula. Potter also plans to become trained, probably in the spring.
“For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine has been using placenta afterbirth to help women to recover,” Pierce said.
Although there haven’t been any huge studies on placenta, it has been a staple in Chinese medicine for centuries. Pierce said the placenta is taken to the home in a special transport kit that they provide along with instructions. Pierce said she’ll arrive at the home, prepare the kitchen, then steams the placenta for dehydration. She will clean up, then come back the next day to grind the placenta and put into capsules.
“We give you general guidelines (on how to take it). It’s all how mom feels on them whether she needs a little more or a little less,” she said.
Chinese medicine believes that the hormones the woman has produced are in her placenta so she is ingesting her own hormones. It is said to help to bring a woman’s iron level back up after birth, increase lactation and can help either reduce or prevent postpartum depression.
As for the future, Pierce said they “want to be the one-stop doula resource in Hagerstown or the Washington County area.” In addition to labor and birth support, Potter will be certified to teach childbirth education classes. They hope to one day offer lactation support, prenatal fitness classes and have an entire team of doulas.
Potter said it’s really about giving as much to a mom as they can.
“For me the reason we do what we do, birth is important and it is special, and there so many things how that birth happens and circumstances behind the birth,” she said. “Our job is to guide the mom or the partner or whoever their support system is to guide that person so that hopefully when they look back at it. ... They felt they had control.”
“They felt empowered to make the best decision they could with the information they have,” she said.