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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Duprey

Birth Support & Coping Measures | Delaware Birth Doula | Sarah Korbeck, Little Things Are Big Things

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Sarah Korbeck, a Delaware birth doula coaches expectant  parents on counter pressure techniques in thier Newark home.
Birth Doula, Sarah Korbeck, is shown here coaching a couple on counter pressure techniques. At her in-home prenatal appointments, Sarah covers a variety of coping measures and pain management techniques to help prepare couples to work as a team throughout the birth process.

"There are many beautiful paths to holding your sweet babe. If I do my job well, you will feel prepared, empowered and supported all along the way and have a positive story to tell. No matter which path we need to take." -Sarah Korbeck

I first met Sarah Korbeck while photographing the birth of a dear friend's baby. It was a fast labor (3 hours from start to finish) and Sarah was such a calming presence through all the intensity.

Sarah graciously came to my home over the summer where we chatted on the back deck under the shade of an umbrella about why everyone deserves a doula (this includes your partner too) and what it's like to work with one-- from in-home prenatal visits, to that last push, and through those first tender weeks postpartum. Without further adieu, Here's Sarah!

Let’s start with telling me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to go into birth work.

Sure. I have been doing this for about six years now. Prior to becoming a doula, I was a pediatric physical therapist in the public school system. I tell everybody that I spent a lot of money and a lot of time to get an education to do something that I liked, but I that I didn't love-- I never really fell in love with it. Someone was kind enough to tell me they thought I would be a good doula and I was “like what is that?” Like many people, I didn’t know what that was! Many people don’t know what doulas are-- I was one of them. At the time I was teaching infant massage and I reached out to The Birth Center to see if I could teach there. When I did, I realized they were having a doula training that weekend and I was like “ I am an eternal student, I will just see what this is all about.” and knew within half of a day of a weekend workshop that Doula work was where my heart was. So I quit my other job and dove right into this one and have been doing it ever since.

That's awesome! I love that we can fall into our true calling serendipitously, but still draw on all our prior life experience and skill in that new career.

May I ask what were your own childbirth experiences like and how they influence your work as a doula?

I have three kids of my own and realized that even though I had generally positive birth experiences-- they weren’t led by me. I was 19 when I had my first child and I had typical cookie-cutter hospital birth with an epidural and all those things (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with! I support many women now and that is what they want! I am happy for them because that is what they want) When I had my children, I didn't even know what my options were. Through Doula work, I've learned that there are many beautiful ways of doing this process and that every single woman can find out who she is while giving birth. It's really just a need to be a part of that. No matter what, birth is unpredictable-- it never tells us which way it's going to go. But if my families feel like they are supported and they are empowered and that they were a part of every decision-- even if it goes a different way than they had planned-- my hope is that they can still have a positive birth experience. If they can come out of it saying "It wasn't what I expected, but it was okay" or "I did all this preparation and it was exactly as I dreamed" With each birth there's always a different story, but my hope is that it's a positive one.

Sarah demonstrates hip squeezes to an expectant couple during a prenatal appointment at their home in Newark, Delaware.
Sarah demonstrates hip squeezes to an expectant couple.

Do you still teach infant massage classes? Is that something you tie into your doula work now?

It could be, but I haven't. I was teaching on a regular basis, until the pandemic shut everything down. It was really hard to teach infant massage if you can’t be in person, helping moms seeing what they are doing as you are teaching, so it kind of just faded into the background. The other shift that happened during the pandemic was that my doula business exploded. I had so many more families that were really seeking some support during that crazy time. They were being told that they couldn't have their support people in the hospital with them or even at The Birth Center loves. As you know The Birth Center loves to have families-- they want to have big parties there and as many family members as possible.

Every birth of mine at The Birth Center was a big pierogi party!

That is the way The Birth Center wants it to be! But during the pandemic even they could not do that. I got a lot more families needing support because doulas were the exception to the one support person rule-- they could have their one support person and a doula. And that made it seem like it was a little more manageable for those families. It was just a really stressful time for a lot of pregnant women. Coming into pregnancy and labor during a pandemic is tough. Pregnancy makes us nervous enough as it is let alone when you add any other of those other components.

My sister was pregnant and gave birth during Covid to her first baby. It was a lot. She felt very isolated throughout that process. She couldn’t show off her baby bump to friends, she had a drive-by baby shower, and she sequestered herself for the last two months just to keep herself and the baby safe.

Yes, that was what it was like. Many of my families would stop all contact with other people within a month of their due date to make sure that they were well. They were always worried that their partners couldn’t be present for the birth if they got sick or how it might change their birth plans if they got Covid. So they just hunkered down and let very few people into their lives-- I had the privilege of being let into that space. It was a very interesting time. I feel like we all grew a little bit though that.

A husband offers his wife hip squeezes: Practicing hip squeezes helps partner's prepare to offer support during labor.
Doula's like Sarah not only provide support to birthin women, they also support and empower partners! By practicing hip squeezes, this partner prepares to offer support during labor.

What are some of the reasons that women might want to hire a doula, besides needing that extra support during a pandemic?

I believe that people deserve doulas. Women can absolutely birth without a doula, But many of us go into birth not knowing what to expect and even when you've done it before-- and I know that you can speak to this being a mother of four-- even when you've gone through one or two times, that doesn’t mean the next one will be the same.

I think many first-time families hire me because there are so many unknowns and they want to learn as much as they can, and have someone guide them through the process, and help them advocate for themselves. They often say that “I want you to advocate for me”, but in working with them, I get to teach couples how to advocate for themselves. Part of having the confidence to do that is being educated-- knowing the process, what's normal, what's important to them-- all of those types of things. So that they can have educated conversations with their providers during their pregnancy, so that we're not having them during labor if we can help it! And there are always going to be things that we have to process and talk about during labor, but if we can do as much in advance as possible.

Birth Doula Sarah Korbeck discussing pain management option during an in home prenatal visit with first-time parents in Newark Delaware.
Sarah discussing pain management options during a prenatal visit with first-time parents.

In terms of education, what types of topics do you address during prenatal appointments with your families?

I usually get together with my families twice prenatally. we get together that first time around 28 to 30 weeks, and then the second time we get together around 36 weeks. I spend a good amount of time getting to know them as human beings. I think that's the one component that most medical providers just don’t have the time or capacity to incorporate into their practice. Even in a midwifery model of care, Midwives at the birth center for example, are busy and they are taking care of many, many women and many families. In spending so much time with my families, I get the opportunity to almost be a friend coming in through the door.

I become familiar with what is important to them, the way they envision their birth unfolding, and what concerns they may have. That sparks a lot of conversation during that first prenatal and when they have concerns I can educate them about the process, let them know what their options are, or describe what it looks like, from my experience, at the hospital or at the birth center. This usually calms their concerns and they start to develop their own realistic vision of what they can and can't do. I always tell them that it is their birth, and their baby, and their body and they truly can do anything that they want, but it helps them know what to expect from providers and everybody around them.

How much time do you spend with families during these prenatal appointments? What techniques are you teaching them that they can practice as part of their labor prep?

or each appointment we're spending three hours together, and that's just a snippet of time, so I usually encourage them to do a decent amount of preparation on their own. As much as birth is something that our body does on its own, if we are a first-time parent, it is something that we've never experienced before and it requires a lot of understanding and endurance and there is a lot of mental preparation. I like to share some things that they can do to prepare mentally as well as physically for their birth. As I get to know them, what resources would serve them best. Everybody learns differently, so they might want videos, or books, or an educational program that they can walk all the way through. I share some of my favorite resources like Hypnobirthing and Spinning Babies-- things that they may not know even exist. Resources I never knew existed during any of my pregnancies.

Birth Doula, Sarah Korbeck, demonstrate one of the way to offer relief with a rebozo during a prenatal appointment with an expectant family in Newark, Delaware.
Sarah demonstrate one of the ways to offer relief with a rebozo during labor.

I usually give them a little bit of homework too, and that just looks like "hey, I want you to take at least 15 minutes or 30 minutes a day if you have it to spend in some kind of preparation." Whether that is turning the lights down and put on some music that they may have playing during labor and practice breathing, working on their pelvic floor, or aligning their bodies.

During our prenatal visits, we practice a little bit of breath work-- simple in and out, getting that connection with your body and feeling what happens when you breathe in and feeling what happens to your body when you breathe out. And I teach them that when we breath out we let go tension. If we can practice that on a regular basis then it becomes second nature to us, versus if we don't practice these breathing techniques and we try them for the first time in labor it doesn't typically work as well. I want it to feel natural for them and they get to know themselves.

And then I do some spinning babies stuff with them so teaching them how to balance their body, because a balanced body usually births much easier than one that is not balanced. Most of us are not in good balance especially when we are carrying a human on the front of us and our ligaments are starting to relax. So I try to see where they are, give them some tools to start their preparation and try to encourage them to be purposeful with their mental and physical preparation.

Birth Doula, Sarah Korbeck sets this mama up with pillows to show her how she can relax comfortably and help her baby move into an optimal position for birth.
Sarah sets this mama up with pillows to show her how she can relax comfortably and help her baby move into an optimal position for birth. This is the final resting position in the Spinning Babies "Mile Circuit" for those that are curious.

I send them an email that has lots of resources including things like hypnobirthing training and spinning babies daily activities because a lot of people don't really know how to prepare their body. As a physical therapist, it resonates with me that you have train for birth. If you were to train for a marathon, you would do specific things to make sure that you are prepared, that your body is strong enough, and has the endurance that it needs to complete the race.

Most women have no connection with their pelvic floor, and those muscles are a really a big part of how your birth goes. If you're able to connect with your body that way and have a nice relaxed pelvic floor you will probably have an easier time giving birth. For many years, women have heard that they need to do a hundred Kegels a day and that's all you need to do. But we have since learned differently now-- we shouldn't be focused solely on tightening the pelvic floor. I try to teach women the learning to relax their pelvic floor is something that's going to be beneficial to them.

What does that second prenatal appointment look like at 36 weeks?

By that point, they've done some at least some preparation or taken a childbirth education class. They have an idea of what they want. I make sure that if they want to put together a birth plan, I help them with that. Then we walk through how birth can go, the stages of labor and what those can look like, and then practice some comfort measures with their partner because it's really important! I want partners to have a toolbox of their own to support their birthing person. As there doula, I never want them to feel that I am there to take their place, or that they are not good enough and that is why they hired a doula. I want them to feel like I'm there for them as much as I am for for the birthing person. I want for them to feel like we are a part of a big team. As a doula, I am there to give them tools and to fill in the gaps when they need to be a human being-- when they need to rest, when they need to eat, when they need to take a walk and get some air- because birth has some intense moments.

Delaware Birth Doula Sarah Korbeck teaches a couple how to use the rebozo as a labor aid.
Sarah helps couples add comfort measures like the rebozo to their "tool box".

As a couple, I have them practice as many comfort measures as possible so that they are feeling confident in those. It is also an opportunity for her to practice giving everybody feedback because that's important for her to be comfortable to do that when she's in labor. A lot of times, when women are in labor, they will hold back because they don't want to be perceived as mean, or demanding. It’s hard for women to ask for what they need-- to make it about them and I feel that birth is the one place I would like to encourage all women to do that. That is going to be how you will have the best experience. There is no hard feelings when you say that something isn't working for you. It only helps us, help you more.

doula Sarah Korbeck guides couple during an in-home prenatal visit to prepare for birth

So as we're practicing, I'll also walk them through a pretend surge. We talk about the words we use to describe what is happening in our bodies during labor because they are super powerful. They can use the word "contraction" if they want, but calling it a "wave", or "surge" resonates differently in our body. A "wave" or a "surge" feels like it's something that supposed to happen and that it has power behind it. Versus the pain associated with the word "contraction" which can bring tension into your body. I always let families take the lead, but encourage the use of replacement words if they like them.

We practice until they are feeling comfortable, until they are having a big tool box. We practice a lot of different things like labor positions, counter pressure, and double hip squeezes-- things like that that, again, I had no idea even existed. My sweet husband would have loved to have had a doula guiding him, because he just didn’t know what to do, just rubbed the same spot on my arm over and over. He wanted to be helpful, as all partner's do, they want to be able to make it better, but they they haven't had a baby, they haven't been through his process before, they don't know. I talk about how we don't talk to they're partner during surges, unless we are saying words of encouragement and we save conversation for those moments in between. all those tidbits that are so helpful in getting them through this process- that is going to challenge them both.

Do you ever work with people without a partner?

I have only had the privilege of doing that in a few different situations. During Covid, I had a couple of women who had a partner, but they were only allowed to have one person with them and they actually chose me. And that was such a double-edged sword for me. I double checked with them to be certain that they were sure. In one of the situations, they had another child at home and the partner needed to be home with them . She would not have had anyone if I had not been there, so that was fine. And then I had another one and where she had to choose between myself and her husband because she really wanted to have an unmedicated birth-- this was also their second child. She knew what her husband was able to give, he was really busy in that time period too, and she knew that he might not be able to give his full focus. So we talked about it as the three of us and they both agreed that, to reach her birth goals, she needed a certain level of support-- from me.

I was a single mom for five years and I would absolutely adore working with younger single moms if ever that opportunity arose. Where it gets a little tough is the cost of having a doula often deters those women. We do have a group program and a private program at The Birth Center which allows more families to have doulas because it is a lower cost for the group program.

Does that mean that you get who ever is on call?

Yes, and the private program you pick whoever you would like to work with.

Do you just work with The Birth Center?

I am probably 50/50 at this point. I started out with The Birth Center which has no trouble if I take my own private clients as well. Through the years, I have gone from getting most of my families coming directly from the birth center to the majority of my families being repeat families, or those families that I have supported sending people directly to me. I have also had the privilege to create really good relationships with some of the OB's at the hospital. This is a passion of mine, because I think that these relationships can change outcomes of hospital birth. Hospital birth has a bad rap and for good reason-- there can be a lot of quick intervention there and sometimes people feel that those interventions are unnecessary-- someti9mes they are and sometimes they aren't. Having a doula that has a good relationship with the providers and a good relationship with you can help to bring everybody onto the same page. This collaboration is something that I try really hard to do.

Coming from my own birth experiences, now knowing what I know. I had a view of my birth that I didn't need to have because I didn't understand where the birth provider was coming from. If somebody had been able to explain that to me, then I would have viewed my birth differently/ Now I do, but it took years and years to change that perspective. There is really great value in getting to know providers a and creating relationships with them so I think that the OB's and midwives at the hospital can see that and sometimes they send someone to the birth center as a whole and sometimes they just send them directly to me.

a mother breathing through  a practice surge.
Breathing through a practice surge.

Is the support that you give to families who choose to give birth unmedicated at The Birth Center and families who choose an epidural at the hospital different? How do you support birthing preferences for the families you work with?

I approach every family very similarly. The biggest difference for me is that if they are at The Birth Center, it is a different model of care-- the midwives allow the family to take the lead-- whereas at the hospital they have a different perspective where they feel that it is their responsibility to lead the families. And so I would say the biggest difference is that at The Birth Center their aren't interventions like epidurals available-- there concerns come from "can I manage this without an epidural" What happens if something goes wrong"-- they are thinking about all the things that aren't present-- so we talk about how we can manage it, and how The Birth Center handles certain things so that they can feel comfortable. And on the other side, families going into the Hospital are worried about the opposite-- they are worried about too much intervention. We talk about the ways that we can reduce that intervention.

I teach all of my families how to have conversations with their providers-- talking about the benefits and risks of things that are offered to them because at The Birth Center and at the hospital no matter what we are doing-- whether we are doing nothing, or whether we are intervening in some fashion, there is always risks and benefits. For the Birth Center, it might be helping families understand when hands-off is a risk in itself, or when it is a benefit. Same goes with the interventions at the hospital, sometimes intervening is a risk, and sometimes it is a benefit. If they can feel that they are educated enough to have good conversations then whenever anything is happening, whether it is lack of intervention or intervention that they are worried about, they know how to have conversations and they know that I am there to support those and create space for them.

Of course, when we are in labor, the last thing we want to think about is creating space for those conversations. if we are doing things well we are able to go inward and we are trying to keep all those conversations to a minimum. To bring someone out for a conversation can be very disruptive. For them to just be able to go, "Oh yeah, we talked about this, it feel very familiar. Sarah knows how I feel, my partner knows how I feel, we feel prepared for this conversation." And me knowing my families, I can say "remember when we talked about this in our prenatal and this was important to you? Now would be a great time to talk to your provider about this" or, if something is happening unexpectedly, it can help if we can (and 99% of the time we can) to slow it down, break it down, so that everybody understands what is going on and so that it doesn't feel as overwhelming. because birth can feel overwhelming at times. There is such an intensity to it all by itself and then you add anything to it and it can be too much. And that is part of how you experience your birth. If you look back and feel like "oh it was intense but we felt equipped" vs. "it was intense and it felt stressful".

Like it came at you all at once.

Or it felt like they weren't being heard. That is a big one. People just want to know that providers are hearing what is important to them.

Birth Doula Sarah Korbeck of Little Things are Big Thing Birth Services,  practicing pressure points for coping in labor.
Sarah practicing pressure points for coping in labor.

I'm sure that there are many women who need lots of hand on support. I was curious about how you support people who withdrawal inward and just need space?

We talk about this as we are practicing comfort measures. I tell them many, many times that "this is going to be trial and error for us". You have not done this before, or even if you have done this before, you may be able to tell me "this is what I normally need" and that is great for me to know, but this birth could be different. So I come into every birth with an open mind and go "let's just see what she needs". People often ask me "what is your doula style?" I think that when people google, "what questions to ask your doula", that much be the number one questions that comes up and it makes me giggle every time because honestly, if I am a good doula, my style is whatever they need. I have absolutely no trouble and love being super hands on. I have been in showers with people and half-way in tubs-- I am willing to be in the center as much as they need. But I also know that there are plenty of people who just do better if you create a bubble around them.

How do you do that?

It's just a matter of protecting their space. If nurses or providers are coming in loudly or quickly and I can see that that is interrupting them. Or is somebody, even their sweet partner is trying to be so very loving and helpful-- I speak from my own experience- My own sweet husband kept trying to talk to me through my surges because he wanted to make it better. My mom had to pull him to the side and say "I think she does better if we stay quiet during her surges"

A very wise mother!

Yes! And that is what I can do. I can gently, and understanding where everybody is coming from- these partners just want to care for them, but they just don't know. I can gently say, " I can see how much you are worried about her. It seems if she does better if we only talk to her during her rest times" to help guide them a little. And then when they get it and they realize that they can protect that space, Then they have something to do. Or I might give them a job of like "all I think she needs you to do is to lay your hand on her shoulder-- just a calm presence" Or if we find that she likes something like counter pressure or a hip squeeze than I can suggest "let's just do this and see how it goes" and once they realize that what they are doing really helps her, then they can feel helpful.

a prenatal birth doula visit with Sarah Korbeck.
Practicing pressure points on the sole's of his wife's feet.

What other support are you able to provide for partners?

We are typically chatting a bunch on the phone a lot before I even come into the room, so I usually have a pretty good picture of how they are doing before I even arrive. On the phone, I am giving them suggestions for what to do and how to manage at home. When I get there I sit back and watch for a little bit. They may have figured out something that I may have never even tried that is working for their person. So I always acknowledge all the good things that I am seeing, and then I immediately offer to give them a break.

Because they have usually been doing this for a little bit of time before I get to them! Some of them are like "Nope. I've got this" and others are like "Yes, thank you so much"-- they just needed permission to be a human! I tell them that this is your chance because we still have sometime ahead of us typically. We've talked about this in the prenatals so we know it's OK wit her. I might even set up a bed for them. If we are at the hospital I might convert the coach into a bed, turn the lights down for them to take a nap and be like "I have her, you go rest." Or if they are hungry, I feel like they might like to take a walk. I am always going to note the times and spaces where I feel like that is safe for them to do-- that they are not going to miss anything that their person is taken care of. They usually take me up on it very gratefully. They power nap it and they come back when they are ready.

Sometimes the women that I am supporting really want their person close the entire time and we may not get to lay down and take a nap or go eat a full meal, but we will just take turns in whatever is working and that way they can at least get something to nibble on or sit down for a few minutes. Or I may make sure they have a chair to sit on or have a pillow near by. Just recently I had a birth in which the mom was laboring in the shower and all she needed was her partner's hand when she had a surge. So I put a chair just by the shower and I tucked a pillow in between him and the wall. He would fall asleep in between surges, she would call his name, he would quick wake himself up, reach out, and she would hold his hand through the surge, then we would drift off and fall back asleep. I do my best to support them so that they can support their people.

About lengthy labors-- are you there for the long haul?

Pretty much. Sometimes inductions can be very length and they should be. If they are done well, we are tip-toeing our way into labor. I may come and go in that process. I may support them on the phone at first, or if they want me there for the start of an induction I can do that. And once we get the mall set up and we are just in the waiting phase I may encourage them to rest and I will go home and do the same. And wait for them to need that next level of support.

Most of the time if they have gone into labor on their own I am supporting them on the phone until they feel like they need that next level of physical or emotional support. Once I join them am there for the long haul.

Sarah demonstrating the pressure point between the forefinger and thumb.
Sarah demonstrating the pressure point between the forefinger and thumb.

The only other things that happens is that if they decide to take the help of an epidural and we can tuck them in again and rest, I may curl up on the coach and sleep in their room if they are ok with that. It really just depends on their labor. If I feel like there is enough time and I feel like it would be better for them, I might go home for a little bit. Sometimes if you are in the room they continue to talk to you and they should be resting-- because it is our human nature to talk with the people that are in the room with us. In this case I will come back when things change again. but Most of the time I stay the entire time once they are in active labor. I might come earlier if they need me but generally people are calling me in as they are shifting from early labor into active labor. And I stay until there is a baby and sometimes that can take a long time. I have supported families for 36 hours and you grab your little power naps when you can, f you can. But I find that as long as we are in it together than it's fine. If they do take an epidural and get some rest, that's when those long labors get a little harder for me because I'm not moving and shaking anymore. But it is still important for me to stay with them because I can help them change positions. I usually take a little nap, and help them change positions, then take a little nap and help them change positions. We do that until we are pushing.

Once we have a baby, I stay for 2-3 hours to make sure that they are recovering well and that the baby is doing well. And then when the golden hour is over and they can't keep their eyes open anymore, I give them a big hug and tuck them in again before they go to their postpartum room, or if they are from the The Birth Center they might be getting ready to go home. I stay at the Birth Center until they start to talk about discharge . I check on them via text or phone call over the next couple of days.

What are your postpartum visits like?

I usually visit around postpartum day 5, but that is really flexible. I have many families that say, "Can you hold off until we feel like we have gotten ourselves together?" and other families are like "Please come help me!" Postpartum visits are meant to serve them. They about whatever they feel like they need. If they need extra hands-- if they feel like they need me to help, so they can take a shower or have a good recovery nap-- then I always tell them they can always call me in earlier than day 5. Most of the time though, they are pretty busy with learning how to feed their baby, family that has come in to help them, there are pediatrician visits. They are supposed to be resting and recovering but they have so much going on that adding one more thing can feel like too much. I let them know that, "this is for you. If you need me there early-- great, I will be there. If you want me to wait until two weeks after, that's ok too."

But most of the time, I come in and we spend a good amount of time processing all that happened during their birth. Birth is a big deal -- it surprises us in many ways-- some good, some challenging-- I feel like birth is given to women so that they can recognize all that they are capable of. When they take on this new thing called parenthood, I am hopeful that they have a positive enough birth experience, that when it comes to the challenges of parenthood, they feel like: "if I can do that, I can do this".

I get to fill in the gaps when it comes to their birth story, help answer questions, and give them a safe space to have whatever feeling they want and need to get out about their birth. Some are glowing with pride and feeling so strong; and others are feeling pretty raw and in need of a safe space to say "that really challenged me in ways that I didn't anticipate and I don't know how I feel about that". I am there to let them know that it is ok to take some time with that, get them some resources they need if that conversation isn't enough.

During that visit, I provide resources for postpartum support-- whether it is resources for breastfeeding, or a postpartum doula, or whatever they need to feel like they have some confidence going into the next couple of weeks. Because as new parents, we always feel like we don't have it figured out.

My oldest is going to be 12 this year and I still don't have it all figured out!

We talk about how their body is healing and how their body is feeling no matter what path they took-- whether they had an uneventful vaginal birth they are still going to feel sore and their body is going to feel different than before they were pregnant and before they had their baby. And if we ended up with a belly birth, we are going to talk about incision care and make sure that they are able to move around as much as they can. And we are talking about taking it easy too. In postpartum, we are often taking on too much, too early. I get to teach them the way their body tells them that they are doing too much-- if your bleeding is increasing or something like that.

Essential Oils are sampled for use as aromatherapy during labor.
Essential Oils are sampled for use as aromatherapy during labor.

Most of my families are at least attempting to breastfeeding. I am not a lactation consultant, but I have been trained to do first feedings by the lactation team at The Birth Center. I can usually pick up on concerns and red flags. I almost always recommend a breastfeeding consultation anyway, but sometimes I need to help them get in sooner than later. I do have connections with lactation at The Birth Center and some outside of The Birth Center. So I can help them get appointments if they need them because usually day 3 or 4 we are either feeling like "ok this is hard and I've got it" or "this is hard and it's not working and I'm losing my mind!" Anything I can do to help them feel like they are not failing and that this is a normal part of the process.

I think that there is so much reassurance that comes with the weighted feedings. Sometimes that's all you need to know if that they are actually getting something. Lactation Consultants can give you that piece of mind.

Yes, the biggest question I get is are they getting enough-- am I doing enough for my baby. So to give them that piece of mind is huge. And to be able to give them the feedback too of like-- "talk to me about how often you are feeding, we changed a diaper, I am hearing swallowing" I am able to give them all that positive feedback and reassure them that "I know you can't see what's going into your baby, but things are happening. When you take your baby off your breast, they are content and have that beautiful milk-coma face. trust that your baby will tell you in they need more. and that is it not abnormal, especially on day three of four, for your your baby will cluster feed if they need more milk.

That is another thing that I have heard a lot from first time mothers during my newborn photo sessions. They are like: "this baby eats so much!"

(At this point my Mother-in-Law interrupts for a minute asking where the car battery is for my three-year-old's blue little tike's mustang convertible. I turn back to Sarah)

He loves that car. It's a problem because it has a turtle mode and a rabbit mode and it was only secured in turtle mode with a screw, so I have had him take off before. There was one day where he took off and drove around the whole block in it. He drove around the corner and I couldn't see him. I was barefoot, I had Hugo on my hip, I am a tender-foot so I was hobbling after him. It is really fast, it goes like 8 miles and hour.

Your mother-in-law knows that it has the rabbit speed?

I think that my husband has since screwed turtle mode back in place. That time did me in-- he ended up going around the whole block, then he abandoned the vehicle and ran the rest of the way to the house butt naked. It was just like an episode of COPS.

That is comical. Comical and stressful all at the same time, I am sure.

(They must have found the car battery, because I can hear Mad Max laughter and Shrieks of joy from the front yard)

Yes, we had a big conversation about how that is not ok. We need to be able to see him while he is driving at all times and we never drive in the road. Sometimes we will go on dog walks and he will stay on the sidewalk in turtle mode and it is very fun for him but yes (big sigh), hopefully he won't drive away on her!

Anyways, How many birth do you attend in a month?

I usually take 2-3 per month which doesn't sounds like a lot.

That sounds like a lot to me! Right now I am only taking one birth photography client a month, but my children are all pretty young and that is all my family can manage.

Some doulas take 4-6 a month! Not that I haven't had 4-6 births happen in a month because babies come when they come. I am apart of the group program at the birth center, so I am on-call on certain days for them as well as having clients of my own. My private clients always take priority, so if I'm on call for The Birth Center and one my clients needs me, one of the other doulas will take over. But because of that, and the fact that babies some early and babies come late, I have had the month where there was seven babies in one month.

Whoa. Did you feel like you needed a month off after that?

Yes, I felt like I needed a little vacation from my job after that. So that's what I do. I take a little time off, reset, and go back to it. Birth work can be a lot. So that is why I try to take just 2-3 births a month. I have stopped caring when people's due dates are- babies come when they come-- and I actually, at this point, I feel completely comfortable taking two people with the same due date. I used to try to perfectly space them two weeks apart and then those babies would be born within a few days of one another. I have only had two babies come on the same day and it worked out that at I was able to be at both of their births. So in six years, and over a hundred babies, that is pretty good. They don't typically overlap-- they seem to all want their own moment. I have had four births this month. It's great when birth goes well, but sometimes birth has some challenging moments.

Essential Oils are samples for use as aromatherapy during childbirth.

How do you handle a complications with the baby after birth or helping parents navigate a NICU stay for instance?

Usually if there are any complications with the birth-- if they feel the baby needs extra support, I try to guide the parents with what is going on. Sometimes it looks like "Well I have just had a baby, but I don't know what is going on with them!" They are worried about their babies. As a their doula, I am going back and forth between them and the staff, helping their partner stick close and feel comfortable to be near their baby, and explaining things as they are watching what is happening-- as their baby is being helped. I come back to mom and make sure that she is taken care of. I fill in the gaps as much as I can. It's hard not knowing what is happing. A lot of times the baby is ok, they just need a little extra support. It's my job to let the parents know that.

I have had one baby that made us worry for a few minutes. It was at The Birth Center, Sarah Grace is a super seasoned midwife there, she handled it will such grace and calm. This baby came out fast and furious, swallowed a whole bunch of fluid on his way out, and he wasn't able to clear it on his own. They allowed him to be on his mama's chest for as long as possible, until they realized that he needed more help than they were able to give him there. They were able to clear a lot of the fluid with some suctioning and CPAP. They have all those things at the birth center too. So I was there to say "Ok, mama, this is what is going on. You're baby is doing this, so Sarah Grace is going to do this." I was there to explain what was going on and fill in the gaps.

That baby did need to go to the NICU. Sometimes when they have an eventful entrance and they have little trouble at first, they burn through all their sugars and need to go to the NICU until they get themselves regulated. Or they may need to go to the NICU because they are working too hard to breathe. Their respiratory rate may be a little higher than they would like to see so they take them into for observation or for some oxygen.

So I am there for the parents. I make sure they have all the information they need to feel comfortable and I am there to support their emotions. They imagined holding their baby after giving birth and they are not and that is difficult emotionally. I stay until the dust has settled, they feel at peace enough to rest.

At the hospital there is something called couplet care and sometimes parent's don't know that those kinds of things exist-- where mom and baby can have adjoining rooms. So just trying to help them set up things like that and see if they are eligible-- making sure they know all that is available for them. And making sure that they are ok too. That someone is paying attention to them, that not all the attention is on the baby. They just did this really hard thing and sometimes they can get kind of left behind when their are complications with baby.

Sarah, you are so knowledgeable and have such a calming presence. I would feel so supported, if you were my doula even if things didn't go as planned. Thank you so much for sharing!

How can people connect with you?

People can get in touch with me on my website:

Through The Birth Center:

On Instagram:


Or through Email:

Kind Words about Sarah:

"Having a doula was an instrumental part of my birth story and experience. It turned a 36 hour labor, that could’ve been viewed as traumatic, into a story that I look back on with gratitude, and empowerment. Throughout my birth there were many twists and turns that didn’t go “as planned” but my husband and I still felt safe and supported and a very large part of that was due to our doula. She physically helped for 40 hours and during the 17 hours unmedicated, she was continuously providing counter pressure and support. When we transferred to a hospital she made sure we still felt in control of our choices, and that we were in the best hands. She increased our confidence heading into birth, especially for my husband, during her home visits. She was always a text away throughout my pregnancy, and during those initial days postpartum, when you just need someone there. She was our rock. I truly can’t imagine what we would’ve done without her and we’re forever grateful. I can’t recommend enough to expecting mamas the impact a doula could make. I think finding someone with the energy you want in your birth space is huge. You and your partner (or any support person) will forever be grateful!"

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