Doula to Doula – Encouragement for Certification

Editors note: I became a DONA International certified doula in 2003, and since that time, have seen lots and lots of fellow doulas complete certification.  What strikes me about certified doulas, is that they have a real, stick-to-it attitude as they work through the process. It takes grit and commitment to complete each step, and at the end, a doula who’s DONA Certified can proudly proclaim- I DID IT!  Today’s blog in the Doula to Doula Series,  newly DONA certified doula Samantha King shares some tips for doulas pursuing certification. #DONAProud  – Melissa

By: Samantha King, CD(DONA)

You just received the call – you’re officially a DONA certified doula!

Before I dive deeper into that moment, let’s hit the rewind button and bring us back to the very beginning. What brought me to want to pursue birth work? Why DONA International?

For starters, the birth of my second son lit a spark in me that has grown by the day. I was lovingly guided and supported by not only my midwife and assistants but my doula as well. Though much time wasn’t spent with these women due to a fast labor, the impact they left will forever be remembered. The energy was divine; the care, top-notch. I walked away from that experience wanting to provide others what was given to me during one of the most monumental moments of my life.

As for DONA International being my organization of choice, it was a no-brainer. They’re the world’s first, largest and leading doula certifying organization, founded in 1992. In addition, five leading maternal-child health experts stand behind the name. One of the most notable being Penny Simkin, a leader in childbirth education and labor support since 1968. Amazing, right?

The certification process was a lengthy one for me, but I’ve known others to fly by the requirements with ease. After attending a DONA approved workshop (Step one!), I was able to land a couple of births.

Not long after, I became pregnant with my third son and knew it would soon be best for my family and I for me to put birth work on the back burner. Despite not being able to commit to births, I tried to stay on top of the behind-the-scenes work. For me, this meant working on that certification to-do list while my baby napped or when my husband occupied the littles after work. When you’re passionate about something, you find the time. 

I recently received that glorious call that all doulas, birth and postpartum, anticipate.


Despite the amount of time it took to check everything off and the moments where I felt discouraged (Hey, starting a business isn’t always the easiest – but it’s worth it!), I DID IT and would do it a million times over. There’s just no stopping you when you’re called to do something.


Here are a few tips if you also happen to find yourself drawn into this wildly, beautiful world of doula work. 

1. Draw up a plan – What’s your birth philosophy? Target market? Have you considered a business name or possibly joining one already in existence? What does your certification timeline look like for you and who can you lean on for support (community is everything!)?

2. Get organized – Purchase a binder, folder, etc to keep your certification documents in one place. All the certification requirements are listed in the beginning of the certification packet, and even better, there’s a handy checklist that’s provided at the end. When submitting your certification packet, organization is key. This not only makes it easy to keep track of everything, but it also makes it easy on the person reviewing your packet. Most importantly, keep copies of everything, just in case.

3. Be patient – You may have births lined up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can count on them being your certification births. DONA requires that in order for a birth to qualify, your support must be continuous and given before or at the onset of active labor. As you know, birth is unpredictable (I’ve attended many fast births!) and client’s needs vary. You may not receive the call to assist until your client is well beyond the active phase of labor, but don’t fret, your presence is still much needed and the experience gained is invaluable.

4. Have fun & be gentle with yourself – While in the certification process, you’re really finding who you are as a doula and how you’d like to shape your business. Just like birth, having a plan in place is of great importance, but you must be flexible. Push through obstacles when they arise and shower yourself with grace along the way.

Lastly, always remember that you possess the skills to care for, guide, and support the families you meet along the way. You need no lavish doula bag to do your job well – hands, heart, and knowledge.

Now friends, get out there & make DONA proud!

Samantha King, CD(DONA) is a certified birth doula and bengkung belly wrap artist. She’s a proud wife and mother to three boys and has resided in the Florida Panhandle for nearly 9 years.

She’s passionate about all things birth and empowering women, which has led her to create her business, Blooming Within Birth Services.


Editors note: Samantha is one of our doulas who was impacted by Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle.  She submitted this piece before the storm, and I have been in communication with her since. While she and her family are safe, the entire area is devastated. If you are interested in helping with relief efforts for Hurricane Michael, please contact me at mharley@capitalcitydoulaservices, and I can put you in touch with people who are heading local relief efforts. Our prayers are with Samantha, and everyone on the Florida gulf coast…especially our doulas. 


Doula to Doula- Quick Tips for Attending a Longer Birth

Editors note: The CCDS Doula Collective blog was named by doulas who have trained with Capital City Doula Services to reflect the goal of the blog – to inspire readers with content and to highlight the doulas from the CCDS community.  I believe deeply in our ability to learn from one another, and today, new doula  Sharea Jenkins shares some things she’s learned in her first year as a doula.  – Melissa

By: Sharea Jenkins, pursuing certification with DONA International

Okay! You’ve gotten the call and your client is in labor, ready for your support.

Do I have everything? As a doula, that runs through my mind a few times before even leaving the house.

Labor is slow, but gradually progressing. Time flies as we go from one position to another, the tub, the peanut, walking, side lying, and nipple stimulation.

Sharea practicing counter pressure during her doula training. Also pictured, fellow doula Cimona Seagraves.

Back compressions and belly rubs.

Dad coming in and out.

Midwife reassuring and checking in.

Contractions slow down, everyone dozes off to sleep. Now, it’s just my client and me, both extremely tired; we’ve been up all night…

To say that at times we attend long births, is a TOTAL understatement. These experiences sometimes lead me to doubt,  to wonder.

Am I doing enough?  

Is my role valuable to this family?

Births are hard work and some are very challenging for moms and the team supporting herIn a recent longer birth I attended, I constantly darted back to my memory of everything I learned in my training with Melissa. The birthing scenarios, the information, the hands-on demonstrations; that learning along with going with the flow, helped get me through. So what did I learn from this experience as a doula?  Here are a few things I’d like to share.

FIVE tips for the doula

  1. Never underestimate the power of a good hoodie or cardigan! Yes, even in warmer months, moms get hot fast which leaves everyone else cold.  Also, hospitals are set on freezing! Lol.
  2. Don’t skimp on the snacks and water. Yes, pack more than one snack and a quick meal. You’ll need the energy when you take a break for a bite. Energy bars, pre-packaged oatmeal, noodles, sandwiches, and fruit are some things that are easy to pack. Try staying away from food that has strong odors. Moms are extra sensitive to smells during labor. Also packing a mint or gum just in case can be helpful. Bring a water bottle if you can. Water is essential not only to your client but to you as well, stay hydrated.
  3. Be the master of patience with others. There may be family and friends who are totally over the birthing experience and may express their thoughts. Remember mom is the focus and try to tune them out or involve them. Extra massaging and fanning, fixing a cool face cloth or a cool drink for mom or even helping in positioning can keep others engaged if they are open to helping.
  4. It’s okay to lay down and to take a break. I have rested right beside my clients so when she needed back compression it is easy to be right there. If you can’t lay down try to get the partner or family involved if possible, so you can close your eyes for a minute and recollect.
  5. Never ever forget your hands have all the love, care, and support that a mom needs. They are your best tools. The touch of your hands tells her “I am with you, I believe in you, Trust your body and you are not alone!”

There is no question that a moms body goes through tremendous work with any labor and delivery.

As doulas, our bodies do as well, with all the adrenaline rushing we might not feel the soreness and aches until the next day.

Some doulas have very busy lives to get to right after a labor, but aftercare is important for the doula. Take the time to rest, take vitamins, stretch (get a massage if possible) and love yourself.

There are lessons to learn from every experience but don’t be down if labor has been extremely long.  Taking care of ourselves makes it much easier to be there for the family and to be more prepared for whatever may arise during labor. What we do is not easy at times, but so worth it.

Sharea is originally from Connecticut but has been a Tallahassee resident for over 18 years. 32 years old, she is the owner of Supporting Hands Doula Care and is working towards becoming DONA certified. Sharea has a 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, together they cook, exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Along with being an active doula, she volunteers at women’s centers and shelters in the Tallahassee area.

Mamas Want To Feed Their Babies

Seven thousand and thirty.7030. Seven ZERO THREE ZERO. 

That’s an important number.  The number of days my oldest child lived under my roof until he moved to his first college apartment just a few short weeks ago. Full disclosure, we are lucky to live in a city that has three great colleges, so he didn’t have to go far, he’s a 27-minute drive from home, to be exact.

But as you can imagine, this move has forced us to reflect back on the early days, months, and years of parenting.

As we were planning and packing and moving, my husband and I started to talk about what kinds of things our dear son would need in his first apartment. The essentials, clothes, bedding, towels, rugs, shower curtains, dishes, kitchenware, you name it, we collected it.

And then there was food. 

At first, my husband was thinking that we would give our son his budget, and he’d buy his own groceries from the start…but…

Mamas like to feed their babies. 

An early feeding session with our oldest, the one who made me a mama.

I shared with my partner of 20 years, that I had the desire to help our kiddo stock up before the big move (and give him the grocery money too).  I spent the evening cooking freezer-friendly meals and making a list. By the next day, I had a dining room full of groceries before lunch hour (bought by none other than dad, himself).

You see, daddies want to feed their babies too. 

Lunch date with our college-age son about two weeks after the big move.

It may seem like the idea of feeding a college-age student is way off from the idea of feeding an infant child, but at the end of the day, we want our offspring taken care of, no matter if they are a few hours old or senior citizens.

Did you see this news story for this year old mama who wanted to take care of her baby? She moved into the same retirement home as her 80-year-old son, so she could look after him. How heartwarming.

For many, it starts with pregnancy and birth…and it never goes away. For a lot of parents, especially in the early days, “taking care” of an infant is internally measured against the ability to successfully feed the baby. Time and time again, I see parents with feelings of accomplishment when their babies are well fed, and feelings of defeat when faced with feeding challenges. Mamas and daddies want to feed their babies.

Okay, so, what’s the connection here to our work as birth professionals?

Today, with great excitement, I want to discuss the recent accreditation of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. What is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), and what does it mean, you ask?

It means a lot, a whole lot.

According to the Baby-Friendly website, “The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or safely feed with formula, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.”

As a labor doula, childbirth educator, and lactation counselor, I have been working with birthing families in this facility since 2003, and in that time I have seen a major shift in the way that providers care for new families.

From moving away from the newborn nursery (separating moms and babies for hours at a time), towards routine skin to skin after birth and “rooming in” to keep moms and babies together, (a Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice); we’ve seen a BIG change in policy and practice!

In becoming baby-friendly, facilities must educate, promote, and adhere to the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding, AND agree to the International Code of Marketing Substitutes to Breast-Milk.

The Ten Steps are endorsed and promoted by maternal and child health authorities in the United States, including, the AAP, AAFP, ACNM, ACOG, The CDC, The Surgeon General and more.  Adherence to the code of marketing is a big commitment, as it has a significant financial impact for hospitals.

Becoming baby-friendly is a commitment of time, resources, continuing education, and it’s an investment of MONEY. This investment will lead to more support to new families as they transition to parenthood.

Baby-Friendly hospitals support practices that are more, well, friendly {read: healthier} for babies.

The benefits of breastfeeding are well studied and documented.  We know it’s healthy, safe, and has the potential to save lives. Take for instance the almost 20% lower rate of childhood leukemia for the baby who’s breastfed for six months, or the lower rate of sudden unexpected infant death (SUIDS, formerly SIDS) for the breastfed baby.

At the end of the day, the BFHI supports breastfeeding as well as a more family-centered approach to the transition to parenthood, which will absolutely lead toward better health for moms and babies.  While breastfeeding support is a cornerstone of the BFHI, many other baby-friendly practices come along with it.

More skin to skin time, delayed cord separation,  and delayed newborn bath are a few we see being implemented as standard care. It’s a mind-shift, from the days of checklists and getting things done quickly after a newborn arrives, to understanding the importance of The Magical Hour after birth, and honoring the transition a baby and family make from living in utero to in the world around us.

Baby-friendly accreditation is another step in the right direction and shows that our hospital has made great strides to shift with the times, and ultimately support better and better care for families. 

The accreditation is something to be proud of, as it shows families and the birth community that the hospital is committed to healthy, safe, practices for new families.

Successful feeding is not only essential for a healthy baby, but for many, it makes a difference in the emotional health of the family.

I am grateful for those who made this shift happen. It means that we as a birthing community have an eye on the future, and in collaboration, we can make big changes for the betterment of maternal and infant health.

To the TMH lactation department, the nursing staff, the midwives, the doctors,  and admins and others, thank you for your part in making birth better for families in Tallahassee.



you are making a difference for families in our community.

Well Done, My Friends.

Thank you.

And to my own college-age child now living on your own, wanna come over for dinner?  

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

Melissa Harley, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), CLC, LCCE, FACCE is an advanced certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, lactation counselor, and certified childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring families and professionals is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.


Simple Support Every New Doula Needs to Succeed

Not too long ago, I was sitting at a traffic light at a busy intersection when something caught my eye.  My then 15-year-old was driving, which I’m sure the parents of new drivers out there understand, is a bit nerve-wracking.  Imagine our surprise when we saw these two little ducklings frantically running about the intersection like they had no idea what direction to go.  After a harrowing journey, the ducklings made it across the road and into the safety of the waiting ditch on the other side.


Melissa’s teenagers. Aren’t they sweet. 🙂

It struck me how sometimes in life, we all have a little ducklings moment; running through a busy intersection just trying to get to the other side.  My teenagers, are sometimes those ducklings, trying to grow into adults and launch out into the world.  New parents are sometimes those ducklings, as they care for their newborns for the first few weeks. New doulas are sometimes those ducklings as they begin their journey into birth work.

Becoming a doula can be a journey that’s filled with mixed emotions. Excitement about what’s next,  confidence about your path, but for some, there’s also a bit of uncertainty. The doula training workshop is a great jumping off point to learn hands-on skills, role play communication with potential clients, and to explore setting up and marketing the doula business. After the workshop, a new doula can sometimes feel like the little duckling in the road.  Which way to go?  What’s the best path to take?

Close up small duckling on the asphalt roadBut unlike the ducklings that I saw frantically running through the road, we also have resources right by our side to guide us.  My teenagers have us, their parents, and a whole slew of other awesome adults to encourage and help them.  New parents have care providers, family members, postpartum doulas, support groups, other parents, lactation consultants and counselors, and many others who are ready to support them exactly where they are.

And the new doula also has a whole host of resources at their fingertips.

From contact with your doula trainer, to support from DONA International leadership, guidance is just a moment away. Here are a few ways that we strive to support new doulas as they launch their doula careers.

From your trainer:

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t offer some sort of doulaing to a doula.  From new to seasoned doulas, near and far.  Trainers are equipt to offer some support for the basics, and many of us have a structure that upholds a more intimate level of assistance. Basics would include quick questions about getting started, communicating with providers, SOP/COE, certification etc. Sometimes a quick answer is all you need, while other times a bit more in-depth support is necessary.  What I call second level support includes that extra level coaching in things such as business coaching that is specific to your area, or for more detailed support, we offer virtual consults.  These consults are great for when a doula wants to go a bit deeper, talk more about their specific business needs, or seek guidance beyond the basics.  Technology affords us the ability to be face to face and to really dive into your specific situation!

From your regional leadership:

DONA International has set up a contact system that involves state/area representatives and regional representatives.  These leaders are doulas themselves, and they live and practice in your region (and sometimes in your state/area).  The SPARS and Regional Directors are a great touch point to get questions answered about doula work, to process a birth, or for guidance and sometimes mediation in tricky situations. Local leaders are a wealth of information and support, and they can answer most questions.  If they come across a topic or question that they don’t know the answer to, they can easily find the resources for the answer! Here are some of those resources to help you connect with your state/regional leadership.

DONA Southeastern US Regional Director- Tonya Daniel:

To find your state rep, visit the DONA International Staff/Leadership page.


Doulas that come through the Capital City Doula Services workshop have the option to be immediately added to our private Facebook group JUST for those that have completed the workshop. This Facebook group is a perfect place for my student doulas to support each other and get some support from me.  I’m a big believer in peer-to-peer mentorship and know that we can learn so much from one another, so our Facebook group is designed to be a great place to connect without the worry of some of the bad internet behavior you may see in other groups.  Ain’t nobody got time for that in our group!  I am exceedingly proud of the collaboration and support that happens in our private group.

In addition, DONA International members have the ability to join the DONA Member Facebook Group(for members only), as well as a large DONA community group(anyone and everyone).  These groups can be a great place for mentorship.  Monthly, DONA International hosts Twitter chats using the hashtag #DONAChat. Doulas from all over the world get together on Twitter to talk about all things doula.

All in all, there are many ways for doulas to recieve guidance Hands Holding a Baby Chickwhen they need it. Sometimes it’s just a click or call away! New doulas can rest comfortably in the fact that there is no need to feel like the duckling in the road. Be confident in your skills and reach out for support as you continue on your journey.

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

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Melissa Harley, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE is an advanced certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, and certified childbirth childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring  families and professionals  is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.



When Doulas Give Birth- Britney’s Story

Editors note:  I’ve always thought that when a doula gives birth herself, she brings a really interesting point of view to the experience.  The new Capital City Doula Services blog series, When Doulas Give Birth, will include guest post from some of the doulas in the CCDS Doula Collaboration; a group for the doulas that have trained through my DONA approved doula training workshop. Britney’s guest post below is the perfect one to kick off the series. It holds special meaning for me as a doula trainer, as Britney herself AND her doula Lisa were both my doula students (in separate workshops) and have both become exceptional doulas.  Thank you Britney for sharing this honest look into how being a doula yourself affected your own birth experience, I’m honored to include it on the blog.     -Melissa

By: Britney Asbell, CD(DONA)

Britney Asbell

DONA certified doula Britney Asbell, husband Tyler and DONA certified doula Lisa Maddux moments after Britney and Tyler welcomed their second child, Tucker. Photo credit Heather Dimsdale, Two Little Loves Studio.

Just shy of my daughter turning 18 months old, I realized that I was expecting our next child. I could not hide the excitement of experiencing another pregnancy and birth, but this time as a doula! I felt more in tune with my body, I just knew that knowledge was power, and I knew so much more than I did through my first pregnancy and birth experience (which was amazing in itself!).

As “labor day” quickly approached, I was doing all I could to make sure my baby was in the most optimal position for birth. I watched my estimated delivery date come and go, which was no surprise to me as my first was born a few days past 41 weeks. As 1:00 am rolled around on December 15, 2016, I felt as if that might be the day. The cramps I felt became more regular and increased in intensity. My doula mind knew I was experiencing contractions; however my mindset in trying to compare this labor to my first became so confused. It all just felt so different.

There was no back labor, no slow build up; it was hitting me, wave after wave of contractions. I soon called my doula to join us. As Lisa Maddux CD(DONA), arrived at my home, she suggested we go ahead to the hospital. I initially questioned her and said maybe I should walk around just a few minutes more but, before I could make it down the stairs, I knew in my mind it was time to go. We arrived sometime between 3:30-4:00 am and I was checked at 4-5cm, 80% effaced. I immediately thought to myself “we are here too early!” I thought having the knowledge, a doula mindset if you will, would help me through this labor.

However, I found I was being pulled out of my labor-land and trying to wear my doula hat. I kept playing scenarios in my head of what would happen if I stalled, how would I cope through these contractions, would I feel rushed to deliver? So many questions were whirling through my mind. I struggled to shut out the thoughts, put my doula knowledge aside and just follow my body. Deep down I knew that’s all that needed to be done.

I did not have to play the doula role; I had my own doula to do that for me.

I found reassurance in her answers to my questions as I helplessly looked at her and asked “what should I do?” The gentle looks she gave, the reassuring answers, the knowledge of how to approach me all put me at ease. It was surreal at moments, watching her, I could see myself. I would sometimes think ah, I know this trick or yes, good idea!

As labor progressed, I became better at shutting down my knowledge and allowing my mind and body to enter a very primal state. Once I was able to fully shut it all down, things progressed quickly. I went from 5cm to holding my son in about 40 minutes. He was born at 6:12 am on December 15, 2016.

At one point, just moments before I pushed, I looked my doula in the eyes and told her I needed an epidural. She gave a little laugh, knowing that was not actually me saying those words, and told me it was too late and that it was almost over. In that moment I knew she was right, I knew I had what it would take to finish this process, and I was so thankful to have her by my side.

Through this pregnancy and birth I found that while knowledge is power, it can also totally get in your head at moments and often times make you question things that should not always be questioned. My mind was often questioning what ifs of labor or wanting to come up with a game plan. As the laboring mom, I felt that was not my job, so turning it off and giving in to the process became the winning idea for me!

Giving birth as a doula with a doula by my side was an even greater experience than I expected. I felt more of a connection, it was as if we were not only a friendship or doula/client relationship, but we had a deeper bond, a stronger connection…

it was a sisterhood.

 Britney Asbell CD(DONA) has been a DONA International birth doula since April 2015 and a Breastfeeding USA Counselor since April 2016. She is passionate about birth, breastfeeding, and the early postpartum period. When not assisting mothers in birth or with breastfeeding, she can often be found loving on her own babies, hiking with her family, or traveling. Britney lives in Kathleen, Georgia with her husband, Tyler and children, Lana and Tucker. Find Britney on Facebook @britneyasbelldoulaservices or Instagram @britneyasbelldoula. Photo credit: Two Little Loves Studio

Doula tips and tricks: To shadow or not to shadow, that is the question.

You know those cute little boxes of chocolate that are oh, so popular around this time of year? The ones that have assorted flavors/fillings with the cute little map of what’s inside?

One of my favorite things to do with the  box  is to pull out my favorite candy and open it up aWoman Eating Box Of Chocolates Sitting On Sofa At Home little by smashing it on the bottom to see what’s inside. There’s something satisfying about seeing and feeling the familiarity of the chocolates that I like and the ones I don’t, by looking inside the depth of their sugary goodness rather than just reading the name of the chocolate on the map. My favorite, the chocolate covered caramel always looks and feels the same, and I could just skip the peeking(i.e smashing) step and pop it into my mouth when I find it by name, but there’s just something comfortable about opening it and feeling it- for myself. How does this apply to doula work, you ask?

Recently, I finished teaching a DONA International doula workshop in which a doula-to-be asked about “shadowing” another doula before acting as a doula on her own.

This is not an uncommon question for doulas in training, in fact, I probably field this question in each and every doula training I offer. In my years as a doula, I have worked in collaboration with several newer doulas who have had a desire to see another doula in action before they are in the birthing room with a family one on one. I think shadowing can be valuable.

My rule of thumb for shadowing is that the parents have to feel like it’s a benefit to have two doulas, AND the new doula has to participate, not just watch. The newer doula should be helpful and have a role that everyone is comfortable with. There are a few reasons for why this is important.

It allows us to protect the sacred space for the mother so that she is completely comfortable during the birthing process.

We’ve heard of mothers who have proclaimed that they felt like a “watched pot” by all of the staff, family members, medical students, and others involved in their birth. The last thing we want to do as doulas is to add to that stress and tension by having another body in the room just observing. We want to protect the very delicate hormonal dance that her body is doing as it builds to the time of birth. We want to be seen as ones who fill the gaps, helping families how they most need us. At the same time, someone else’s birth is not about us, it’s about that precious family in the making. If we bring a “shadow” to just watch, we may be actually shifting the intent(to train a new doula) and the focus a bit.

Just like the box of chocolates, doulas need to get in there and “feel” it.

Box of ChocolatesThey need to grab the chocolate that looks like the truffle and they need to break it open and see the truffley goodness inside, and they may not be able to fully do that as a shadow.



They need to intuitively feel- in the moment- how they can best serve the family they have the honor to be with.

They need to get to work and learn to ebb and flow with the waves of labor. They need to be given the space to learn when it’s best to put the hands-on skills they’ve tried into action, and when it’s best to just be present. They need to get in there and experience labor and birth first hand- as the primary doula.

Just as I believe that women enter into birth with exactly what they need to accomplish the birth of their child, I believe that new doulas who have completed my training(or one of my very skilled colleagues), enter into birth with what they need as well.

One of our great mentors, sometimes referred to as The Mother Of All Doulas, Penny Simkin once said that the most important thing that doulas can bring with them into a birth is their heart and hands. It is in that vein that I know that doulas who have taken a quality training and are working through the certification process have the tools to be effective doulas- right from the start, shadowing or not!

Each new doula brings something special to the birth of a baby, and we desire for our doulas to feel empowered to trust that they will have exactly what that family needs at the time that they need it. It is often through the experience of walking alongside a family, that the doula will truly get a good feel for what’s inside the beautiful and exquisite doula client relationship, and how they can best serve families in the moment.

While shadowing can be of value to the doula, it does not take the place of hands on training that comes with the first solo client.  While it can sometimes bring a bit of fear for a brand new doula to take on a solo client, right from the start, be reminded that you bring value. Your training, your at-home learning, your investment of time and resources,  your heart, and your hands, all bring important things to the birth.  Will you feel more comfortable as a doula after a few times, of course you will, but can you do it right out of the gate- you bet you can!I BELIEVE YOU CAN BE A GREAT DOULA!

Just as we explore confidence building with our clients, you too can take responsibility for building your own confidence.  I believe that YOU can be a great doula, now what are you doing to believe that too? It’s time to grab that box of chocolates and see what’s inside, I’m betting there’s something really amazing waiting just for you.

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

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Melissa Harley, AdvCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE is an advanced certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, and certified childbirth childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring  families and professionals  is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.



Jumping back in…

Hello blog world…its been a while.

Have you ever had the same task on your to-do list…. every. single. week? And, every single week you move it to the next week because it didn’t get crossed off as complete?

Last year was such a big year as I managed several very large projects. Sometimes I managed my heavy load easily and with grace, and other times I fell flat on my face. It was a year of immense learning both in skills and in spirit.  I was pushed to the limit of what I thought I could do, and then some more.  It was a year of collaboration, and working with others in new and fun ways.  It was a year of late nights and early mornings… and at the end of the day, the experience taught me a few things about myself and the world around me.

The increased responsibilities taught me how to manage my schedule a bit better.

As the load increased and the tasks began to pile up, I sometimes felt like I couldn’t keep up.  Out of pure desperation for a bit more order, I started making long lists on paper so that I could scratch them off as they were completed. That led meTo Do List to find a paper planner that I could use as a place to also keep tasks on a weekly calendar. For the first time in a very long while, I gave up the convenience of digital planning and went back to the good ole faithful- pen and paper.  After a lot of searching and exploring (thank you“plan with me” YouTubers of the world) the more expensive planners like the popular Erin Condren or Plum Paper, I landed on a great planner from target which is a spin off from The Day Designer by Whitney English. I LOVE this planner. It has place for monthly and weekly and lines that I can put tasks on. It worked out SO well. This year for 2017, I’m using a combo of my paper planner and a bullet journal. I know the new bujo lifestyle is going to take my planning, organizing, mostly orderly self- up a notch!   It’s amazing how much writing things down on paper helps you stay organized even more so than just using digital schedulers.


The missteps taught me that everyone (even the type A perfectionist in me) makes mistakes, and that there’s peace in seeking forgiveness, and moving on.

Messing up is hard.  It’s even harder when it involves others you care about, but at the end of the day, there is peace in owning up to the wrong, seeking forgiveness, and letting go.  It’s a process that can take a long while, but the calm that comes when you let go is worth the journey to get there.

The collaboration reminded me that working together often takes a project from good to great.

For some folks collaboration can sometimes be a bit of an inner struggle (*raises hand*). Vacillating between working in collaboration and taking ownership to get the job done, is a challenge.  But every single time I worked to collaborate this past year, what I was working on was taken to the next level. Others make us better.  A few times I had to quell that little voice in my head that wanted to take it personally if my work wasn’t just perfect as is, but with that at bay WE were able to do great things together, project after project.  This taught me how amazing it is to work with others, in teams, with common goals and how shared success feels together.  It was bonding, was fulfilling, it was amazing to fully embrace true collaboration.

The late nights and the early Mornings taught me that there are limits to what I can do, and there are limits to what I should do in order to be healthy.

The physical sacrifices of the year were immense, and now that I’ve pushed through it, I can look back and see that I should have had some healthier boundaries.  I gained weight, stopped exercising, and sat on my computer far more than I should have.  So recently, I’ve started to take back my health- mind, body, and spirit.  I’m allowing myself to close the computer at times, making scheduled time for exercise and working to get my plank to look something like the image below.  I’ve also changed my eating habits.   The reduction in sugar and carbs led to a massive migraine, but nfitness training athletic sporty woman doing plank exercise in gym or yoga class concept exercising workout aerobicow that we’re through that, I can feel the difference all-around!   For my overall health, this year I commit to 1) exercising regularly, 2) eating well most of the time, and 3) protecting family time and weekends OFF. I might even read a book.

It feels so good to indulge in a deep breath and to take time for me and those I love.

So here we are, a year later, several life lessons learned, and the word “blog” still on the task list. 

It was a sacrifice and a bit of an act of commitment to move the task forward, week after week and to not get rid of it for good.  The sacrifices experienced including the pause of keeping the blog going in exchange for the lessons of the year, helped me stretch and grow as a person, as a woman, as a wife and mother,  as a doula, as a trainer, as a leader…and guess what was here waiting patiently and quietly on me just to jump back in.

Scratching the word “blog” off my task list this week and it feels so good. I wonder, what are you scratching off your to-do task list this year?

Now off for a long soak in the tub.

Always growing, ever learning, much loving,

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Melissa Harley, CD/BDT(DONA), LCCE is a certified birth doula, approved birth doula trainer, and certified childbirth childbirth educator.  She is the owner of Capital City Doula Services (CCDS) and this blog.   While working as a doula led her to the childbirth profession, mentoring  families and professionals  is one of her greatest joys.  To contact Melissa, please visit our contact us page.



DONA Intl 2016 Doula Trainers Retreat; Let there be CAKE!

By: Melissa Harley

Dona RetreatLate 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.


Melissa Harley and fellow DONA Intl Trainer Wendy Scharp participating in the pushing position activity!

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!


Melissa Harley and Wendy Scharp, can you tell we’re having fun!


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.


DONA International Trainers Mentoring Panel- (left to right), Jesse Remer, Penny Lyon, Ann Pollack, Melissa Harley, Sheri Deveny

 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,

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