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Do Doulas Do it Better?

A trio of labor coaches gives us the download

Saying doulas are having a moment is almost as silly as heralding the trendiness of kale. But, there you have it: Today’s labor coaches are increasingly young, Birkenstock free, and in demand.

And none more so than the ladies of Brooklyn’s Carriage House Birth. Helmed by Domino Kirke (sister to Girls actress Jemima Kirke) and partners Samantha Huggins and Lindsey Bliss, the center guides urban moms through the entire business of having a baby — whether they’re headed to a hospital, birth center, or delivering at home.

The hip, funny earth mamas told us what to look for in a doula and what myths about childbirth really make them cringe.

q&a!

What’s your cocktail-party explanation when a stranger asks what you do for a living?
Lindsey: I’m a pregnant lady’s BFF, a labor cheerleader. I offer informational, emotional, and physical support before and during labor. [But] we are waist-up only! We don’t deliver babies.

Doulas, baby nurses, midwives, lactation consultants — it can be a little confusing for the uninitiated. What does a doula do for an expectant mom that she wouldn’t get from someone else?
Samantha: We are your birth teacher, trainer, sherpa, guide, and interpreter. We are as hands-on as needed of us. And we are continual care throughout the entire labor, birth, and the first few postpartum hours. … We are the comfort and emotional support for the whole family. And we are there for the whole shebang.

What made you decide it was something you wanted to do?
Samantha: If you are supposed to be a birth worker, you get kind of slapped in the face with it one day. You know it. It’s not for everyone.

It seems like having a doula is becoming more popular — at least among the first-time moms we know. Is that something you’ve noticed, and if so, why do you think that might be?
Domino: Oh, for sure. I think it’s always been there, but the media seems to be running with it these days. … [And] Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born definitely shook things up. I guess natural birth is in again! Doula work is ancient, of course, so whatever the reason, we’re all better for it.

Samantha: Maybe people have realized that we aren’t just a bunch of hippie witches? There is a lot of evidence now that states that women who use doulas have a much higher chance of successful outcome to their births.

At Carriage House Birth, you talk about being a sort of village for pregnant women. Why do you think that’s so important?
Domino: In New York, at least, most women don’t have their families around. I was pregnant in the city, on the fricking subway, so overwhelmed by the information, and no one was holding my hand through it. So we wanted to create a safe haven for birth workers and families, to be a one-stop shop for all things prenatal and postpartum.

doulas!

What kinds of moms tend to work with doulas?
Samantha: You know, these days, it’s the whole spectrum. High-paced executives, dancers, homemakers. Yippies, yuppies, hippies, hipsters. They are all there.

We all have a mental image of the woman in the hospital bed, screaming at her husband while giving birth. After being present at so many real births, are there any myths about the birthing process you wish you could dispel?
Samantha: Do not even get us started on media and birth. Ladies, for 99.98 percent of you, your water breaking does not mean that your baby is going to shoot out like a rocket at the grocery store. I promise. It also does not mean that you will hate your partner or that your vagina will explode. In fact, labor is pretty uneventful most of the time. In fact, a good portion of a long labor can be a little ho hum.

Any false myths about doulas?
Domino: That we’re really for home births and natural birthing, but that’s not true at all. We almost get more hospital first-time moms who have an OB practice where there are six or seven doctors. They want a woman they’ve chosen themselves, who will be there unconditionally on the day, regardless of who’s on call. They want that source of ever-present support.

What advice do you give pregnant women most often about labor?
Lindsey: Learn to embrace chaos.

What’s one birth that really stands out in your memory?
Domino: I worked with a woman having a home birth this past year. She herself was adopted, and the baby would be the first relative she ever met! She had a long labor, and together we went on quite the journey. I witnessed lots of slow crying, letting go. I felt so honored to be their doula. The babe was 11 pounds. Born perfectly and peacefully at home. Still one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had as a doula.

I imagine it’s pretty mind-blowing. What kinds of emotions do you, personally, experience as you help a woman give birth?
Samantha: This is where I tell my clients that I feel like such a selfish person. I get to watch women be born as mothers, partners as fathers or as mothers, the couple be reborn as a team, as partners in this epic journey, and the baby, oh my. This whole family becoming a new family. It is the most magical thing ever.

Photos: Stephania Stanley for DailyCandy