Updated: Apr 4
Last week (March 22-29) was World Doula Week. To celebrate these special birth workers, Chloe Lessard, Medical Student Contributor for Huddle Up Moms, spoke with Roanoke’s very own Molly Greene. She wears different hats as a doula, midwife-in-training, and mother of three.
Disclosure: Although we wish we could publish our entire conversation, this interview has been edited for length and clarity to fit the blog format.
HUM: What is a doula? What are the different kinds of doulas?
Greene: A doula is someone who is hired by a birthing person to support them and a partner if they have one through the prenatal to postpartum journey. A lot of times people hire doulas thinking it’s just for the birth space, but there’s so much that goes into it beforehand and afterward that is, I think, so equally important in making that birth experience a positive one. Our goal is to make sure they are able to make informed choices the entire time, that they feel good about the choices that they do make, that they feel supported through anything that comes up.
There are birth doulas who encompass all-the-things in terms of prenatal, birth, and postpartum, and then there’s postpartum doulas who just focus on the postpartum time. A lot of us do birth education.
HUM: How do doulas help with the journey to motherhood?
Greene: There are definitely statistics out there about how having a doula significantly increases your chances of being satisfied with your birth experience, and there are statistics that say that if birth experience feels positive to you that you have a lesser chance of having a postpartum mood situation. I just think that we help people feel at peace and just feel better about everything that comes their way during this intense transition. Something that we do is remind people that, you can do this, your body was made for this, and no matter what happens in that birth space, you’re doing this and it’s incredible.
HUM: Tell me about your path to becoming a doula.
Greene: I think that birth has the potential to be so beautiful and empowering, but I also think that it does have a real potential to be traumatizing and just scary. I got into birth work to really help people through the journey, to have a safe space to land any big emotions, a reliable place to get evidence based information and just be someone who people know they have in their corner the entire time.
HUM: What is the most rewarding part of being a doula for you?
Greene: I love witnessing the transformation of either a person to parent, or parent to parent times whatever number. It’s always so inspiring to me to see people walk through it and become a whole new person at the end of it. I also love witnessing the dad’s journey because, you know, we think we’re clueless, but dads really need a little extra hand-holding sometimes.
HUM: What is the most challenging part?
Greene: To be totally honest, it’s finding how to make it work and how to strike that balance of nurturing my own family in all the ways I want and still providing this intensely intimate service to the people in our community who deserve it. I have three kids and a husband and a life and goals. But I just feel so passionate about the work that I do that I just know I have to keep figuring out how to make it work, and how to make it work without any significant cost to my own family. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
I just think that we help people feel at peace and just feel better about everything that comes their way during this intense transition.
HUM: What have been some of the most special or memorable moments of your time as a doula?
Greene: My fondest moments are always right after baby’s born, and you just see relief wash over the birthing person, however that looks for them. Sometimes people cry, sometimes they laugh, sometimes they’re just shocked–it takes a moment. But it’s always such a beautiful moment. That’s probably the moment that I appreciate the most. Just seeing them get to that point, because that’s what it’s all about: that moment where you have done it and you get to hold your baby and soak up the start of this whole new life.
HUM: What tips would you have for moms considering a doula?
Greene: First tip: do it. If you’re considering a doula, finances are always the first thing on peoples’ minds. Can I afford it? What does it even cost? How do I know that I’m getting a good doula? I would recommend seeing who’s in your area, deciding who resonates with you, finding out how much it costs and how you’re going to be able to afford that. A lot of us do payment plan options. Some of us do sliding scales. What we do is really hard, and to sustain it, it is very helpful to have paid clients. But we also feel really passionate about birth work and we’d never want someone to not have a doula because they feel they can’t afford it. So if you feel like you can’t afford it or know that you can’t, talk with your doula because we’re all pretty creative. We won’t ever turn someone away just straight up because of money.
If you have a partner, get your partner involved in the process, because we’re here for them too in a big way, and having them meet us may help them understand more about what we do and might help them understand that financial cost. Don’t ever be afraid to ask all of the questions.
HUM: What advice would you give to an aspiring doula?
Greene: If you have a calling to get involved with birth work, and specifically to be a birth or postpartum doula, I strongly recommend researching who you’re going to be training with and really figure out the differences between the trainings that speak to you. Find out what it is that they’re all about. what will you really get out of this training. Will you be able to step into a home birth setting, a birth center setting, a hospital setting and feel confident in what you have learned? Starting out as a new doula, birth work is all about striking that balance between confidence and humility, because, as a doula, you should always be learning, always be observing, always be furthering your education so that you can best provide for the people in your community. Each client is so different, and each experience is so different, and there’s always something new every single birth. Having a really solid foundation I think is a very important first step.
And, talk to the doulas in your area! Get connected. This is community-based care, and this should be a profession with a strong community feel amongst us.
HUM: What are some of your favorite books to recommend to your clients? (Cliff Notes!)
Birthing From Within (England and Horowitz) - Addresses the fear element to birth and helps people soften that response.
Hearts & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy & Birth (Davis) - Describes the history of birth and other topics in a digestible way. A more technical read.
Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art (Nestor) - All about the history of breath and explains different breathing techniques. Reminds you how much of an effect breathing has on your whole body and psyche.
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body on the Healing of Trauma (van der Kolk) - On trauma’s effect on us and the different modalities of treating trauma. Not recommended during pregnancy.
Real Food For Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition (Nichols) - Explains the effects of nutrition on pregnancy. Includes meal plans and a background on how food plays a role during pregnancy in various cultures.
So hug a doula this week!
Molly Greene and her husband moved back to Roanoke from Charlottesville, Virginia in 2018. They have three babes together, and have had a challenging and rewarding time figuring it all out. They love listening to music and getting outsides.
You can find more information on Molly Greene’s doula work here: https://mollyclairedoulacare.com/.
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Written by Chloe Lessard
Chloe Lessard is a first year medical student at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, she spent the past few years conducting research on birth defects and volunteering as a doula in San Diego, CA. She brings a background in health journalism and greatly values opportunities to share patient narratives. When she takes study breaks, Chloe loves to read, dance, and take film photos.