Doulas offer an invaluable service to mothers by providing physical and emotional support during labor. They are trained professionals who will help a mother to advocate for her wishes during childbirth and beyond. While they are not covered by medical insurance most doulas work on a sliding scale based upon a mother’s means.
My birth story reads like an advertisement for why doulas make all the difference during labor…
A few minutes after I was in the OB screening room I saw Whitney. She walked up to me, held my hand, and rubbed my forehead with her thumb. The instant I felt her thumb between my eyes I relaxed for the first time since 2:00 a.m. Even though my contractions were getting stronger, they were a million times easier to handle with Whitney teaching me how to ride them like a wave and blow them away.
Whitney immediately started advocating for me and our birth plan when the nurse in the screening room wasn’t very pleasant.
During labor, Whitney kept encouraging me to change positions. I would sometimes respond with “no” or “after a few more contractions” because I was afraid of the pain, but she was always right and I always felt better after I followed her advice.
Whitney kept pressure on my lower back and told me to listen to what my body was telling me to do. It wasn’t like in the movies where someone tells you to push and then everyone counts to ten; I just completely let go mentally and gave my body control once more and it was magical. My body knew exactly what to do.
It truly was a magical and empowering experience! While I know my husband and mother were there to support me I can’t imagine how things would’ve gone without Whitney, my incredible doula, helping me through an unmedicated birth.
Whitey believed in me and my body well before I did! She is the inspiration for a project I started encouraging plus size women to work with doulas: Plus Size Doula Connections. I know many women are fearful about inviting a stranger into the most raw and naked experience of their life. I thought having a list of doulas with experience working with women of size would help to alleviate some of that anxiety. Plus size women are at a higher risk for c-sections and doulas decrease that risk so this project became a passion of mine!
An idea that started in May of 2011 has grown into a list of over 100 doulas throughout the world! There’s also a Plus Size Doula Connections Facebook page with over 680 followers. The project is working and women are connecting with experienced doulas!
One recent connection was with a dynamic doula named Shannon Santamaria and a beautiful mama, Michelle, looking for support. Below are pictures from Michelle’s labor and Shannon sharing with us why she’s passionate about being a doula.
Shannon Santamaria, Labor of Love Doula Services
Antelope Valley, California
I began training as a doula in 1995 but then had 3 more kiddos and one has special needs so my doula-ing was put on the back burner. I was privileged to serve a few friends each year and that kept me in the loop and fueled my passion for helping mommas rock their births!
In 2011 we felt our family of seven could handle me starting a formal doula business. It turned out to be a very busy first year, with 21 births and half as many already scheduled for 2012! I’ve been blessed to attend such a variety of births… from cesarean births, induced, medicated, non medicated, home birth, stillbirth, relinquishing mom, premature, high risk and birth center. Funny, I don’t feel the need to add “plus size” to the list, although I’ve supported many plus size mommas. Sure, some of my mommas have had higher weights than others, but I honestly haven’t considered it to be a defining criteria. Are there issues to address? Yes. But there are issues with all mommas to address. My 98 pound momma needed to have confidence built in her ability to birth a baby when her ob is saying her pelvis is too small. My 307 pound momma needed to boost her confidence in her strength to labor un-medicated when her epidural was unsuccessful. Both had unique needs, but both had the most important thing in common… they are amazing women becoming fantastic mommas!
I think groups like Plus Size Birth are great! Women in general like to feel connected and common. We don’t want to be “the only one” in anything. Just like working moms will want friends who also work, or single moms want to connect with other single moms, I think it’s great that plus size moms have a community where they know they “aren’t the only one”. Thank you for providing this community and helping these mommas realize that they not only need, but deserve to be respected!
I have seen remarkable courage and confidence in all my mommas. Some start out already armed with a lot of information, and others are just getting started. I love meeting them where they are at and being a part of their journey to the next level. For some, this means learning about healthy pregnancy nutrition, others about confidence in their body and others in overcoming fears or insecurities. Each momma has a special place in my heart and I love being granted the gift and honor of supporting them during such an intimate and once in a lifetime event. No matter how many babies a momma has, they only get to deliver each one, one time. Keep rockin’ your births mommas!
Click here to learn more about the Plus Size Doula Connections project and if you’re a doula who wants to be added please e-mail me a picture of yourself, contact information, and your doula philosophy to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge to be added to this list. Be sure to “like” Plus Size Doula Connections on Facebook!
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