By: Melissa Harley
Late January was filled with fellow DONA International doula trainers at the 2016 DONA Trainers Retreat in Clearwater, Florida! And all I can say is, the last several weeks have filled my doula trainer cup! Almost 50 DONA trainers (both birth and postpartum) gathered to learn, grow, and support one another. From the late night pillow talk to the morning coffee chats, the relationships formed at this event were exceptional! Collectively, we are an amazing bunch!
The event kicked off with a champagne reception to celebrate our first retreat, the work that we do, and each other! The feeling in the room was light and celebratory and many expressed joy and awe about being together.
Most meaningful to me during the first evening of the retreat was the big group circle time where we were able to come together and honor each other for all kinds of things- distance traveled, years training, leadership roles, and our roles within in this amazing organization.
During our circle time we were also able to hear from trainers as they shared a few heartfelt stories about our founders(Annie Kennedy, John Kennell(late) Marshall Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin) from funny to inspiring, what a gift the founders have given to our profession by their vision, guidance, love and support! It was really neat to see the different perspectives and hear from my colleagues as to how the founders touched their lives. There was even a bit of levity as we heard not only touching stories about the impact of each founder, but also some fun tid bits about them as well! I’m always so impressed with the warmth and approach-ability of our founders, their teaching spirits and their humble quest for learning.
Day two was filled with speakers, conversation, collaboration, learning, and sharing. We started the day hearing from Patty Brennan, author of The Doula Business Guide, moved into Innovating Education with Sharon Muza and ended the day with Amy Gilliland’s workshop on curriculum writing for advanced doula workshops. As you can see in these photos, I had such fun with fellow trainer Wendy Scharp from Portland, Oregon as we went through Sharon’s activity on facilitating a learning activity around positions for pushing!
In-between speakers we had lots of casual conversation about our work as DONA International doula trainers, our organization, maternity care, and the work of the doula in today’s society.
Saturday afternoon brought on our celebratory CAKES! 5 decadent cakes were awaiting our break-time and they were delicious! If you know me, you know that I feel that EVERY celebration deserves CAKE! And we were celebrating, after all, we were celebrating being together, being trainers and BEING DONA! There were hugs, tears and of course lots of laughter! It was a wonderful way to take a moment and celebrate the great things happening with DONA International. Saturday was a great day, from learning as professionals to growing in relationship with one another, it was SO good! I was even honored to sit on a panel among these skilled trainers to discuss how we mentor doulas beyond the workshop.
The afternoon ended with an opportunity for me to sit down and talk with our DONA International president- HeatherGail Lovejoy, and our founders (Annie, Penny, & Phyllis); where we were able to share a bit, and hear a bit. I’m calling it a Key Life Doula Moment as it was truly a precious conversation and I will hold it near and dear along my journey as part of the DONA International family. It was magical!
Day three met us with a wonderful breakfast spread and more conversation that led into our learning sessions with Jessica English and Kyndal May. The sessions were extremely educational and eye-opening. We were able to put some terms to trends we’re seeing in the doula world, and we were able to strategize ways to better communicate and to further the mission and vision of DONA International.
As the retreat came to an end, our founders, Annie Kennedy, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin shared a bit from their perspectives. Annie led us in a time of sharing of what was meaningful to us, Phyllis and Penny shared from their hearts, and at the end of it all, Penny herself declared 2016 “The year of the doula!” You can imagine the cheers in the room as we all agreed we ARE in an amazing place and headed into uncharted waters of more and more families receiving the support of a doula in birth and postpartum.
On a side note, after the closing of the retreat I got to do something really fun, take a selfie with one of my mentors, Penny Simkin. The last photo I have of Penny and I together would have been in 2007 just after she and Kathy McGrath led us through 4 days of how to become a DONA International trainer! It was a bit of a full circle moment as I was reflecting on my current involvement on our DONA International Board of Directors in the role of Marketing and Public Relations Director!
I was so deeply touched by the retreat, it was a lovely time of fellowship with other trainers and was exceedingly meaningful to see the leaders in our industry come together. The excitement in the room and on social media during and after the event was such a treat. As a member of the planning committee, hearing from others in attendance as to how the retreat spoke to them and helped them feel valued is such a gift. And, speaking of the committee, let me just say, they rock! It was a successful event that would not have taken place without a tremendous amount of teamwork, and it was wonderful to watch it all come together!
All in all, I’m just in awe. There are such great things in store for this organization, fellow members, doulas, and for families, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for us all.
My doula trainer spirit is refreshed and my cup filleth over, I am honored to walk in the midst of this moment. #weareDONA
Always growing, ever learning, much loving,