From the first pregnancy test to the first week home with a newborn, every mother needs support in her pregnancy journey. Giving that support is the mission of The Birth Haven, Kentucky’s first 24/7 on-call doula group, now open in Lexington.
A doula is a professional who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the entire family during a pregnancy. They are not medical professionals, but rather act as a resource liaison and personal support system.
Julie Six, owner of The Birth Haven and a doula for eight years, knows how important it is to have an advocate for your childbirth wishes. Her first child was born in Kenya, Africa while she was doing mission work. She had no choice but to have an unmedicated labor with minimal monitoring.
“I thought ‘how can I do this?’ If I had been (in the U.S.) I would have said ‘hook me up to everything!’ I was scared,” Six said.
The birth of her first daughter was very hands-off, with no IV or constant fetal monitoring.
“That’s what I loved about it,” she said. “They treated me like the healthy, low-risk woman I was.”
She returned stateside before the birth of her second child, and encountered little support for the birth plan she wanted. She wanted another nonintrusive, natural birth, but was met with resistance.
“I wanted intermittent monitoring, to decline an IV and nobody would support that,” Six said. “I finally found someone 45 minutes away who agreed to my wishes, and even then I had to be protective of my birth preferences.”
The hospital where she had her baby offered a free doula service. After working with the doula, she realized she wanted to give that support to others. She became DONA and CBI certified and had post-partum training as well.
In 2008, Six and her family moved to Lexington. She met other doulas through Baby Moon and began to teach Hypnobabies childbirth classes. But as her business grew, she knew she needed her own space to pursue her vision for a doula group.
“I wanted to bring a group of experienced, well-respected doulas together to provide back up services for each other. People who were qualified and felt like this was their calling in life,” Six said. “Also, we are mentoring new doulas about the scope and ethics, and how to communicate with families and care providers.”
The group currently consists of seven doulas, all who have pledged to abide by the DONA standards and practices.
Twice a month, The Birth Haven will host a “Meet the Doulas” speed-dating event. Families can attend for free and take a few minutes to meet each doula. They can either choose to hire a particular doula or stay within the on-call rotation of a certain group.
Instead of at-home visits, families will attend “Centering Visits” at The Birth Haven. The visits are held twice a month, and parents can attend as many as they want throughout pregnancy.
“It’s a time to bring up questions you may have, connect with other families and discuss a focus topic of the day,” Six said. “We’ll talk about how to create a birth preference list, how to choose the right childbirth education class, fears in pregnancy, things like that.”
A common misconception of doulas is that they are only meant for women seeking natural, unmedicated childbirth. Six said that is absolutely not the case.
“Our motto is, ‘It’s not my birth. It’s yours.’ Every woman needs support in her birth journey. Everybody needs somebody to be there,” she said.
The fees for the group range from $400-$900, depending on the doulas experience level. The fees include unlimited Centering Visits, the doula staying through the entire birth up to two hours postpartum, one at-home post partum visit, and help locating resources throughout pregnancy.
The doulas of The Birth Haven are also informed about healthcare providers and coding so they can help with health insurance forms after the birth for doula services. Currently they serve Lexington, Winchester, Frankfort and Stanford, but Six said other areas will be considered on a case-by-case basis
Six wants women to know that it is never too late to use a doula. The 24/7 on-call service means any woman can call in a doula if she needs the extra support.
“Women will say ‘I don’t think we need a doula,’ and then afterwards they realize ‘Maybe we should have,’” Six said. “It’s never too late. You could go into labor at 3 a.m., pay online, get the on-call number and have a doula show up within two hours.”
The first Meet the Doulas event will be held Sept. 3. Pre-registration is required. Six hopes that when families visit The Birth Haven, they feel safe and comfortable, just like the name implies.
“I just wanted a place where women could come and feel safe to discuss all their birth needs and pregnancy questions,” she said. “This is a safe place here, we’re not judgmental, and we can all just support each other.”
Julie Six is mother of Haven, 9; Liam, 7; and Emerson, 5. She is a certified doula and owner of The Birth Haven. Learn more about the doula group on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.