Getting Your First Births: On Site Intensive

This month we are having a series of articles on ways that birth doulas can get their first few births and have some experience under their belt. In future installments, we’ll highlight other ways to do that, including volunteering, marketing and apprenticeship. If you are interested in being interviewed about how you got your first births, please contact me!

For many new doulas, getting those first certification births can be a huge obstacle right at the beginning of their doula career. In this series, we’ll talk about the various ways it can work to get your first few births.

One way is through the Two Leaves Midwifery birth center in Orem UT. They do month-long doula programs, where you come stay on site and attend doula births at their birth center or in client homes.

Liz Stika is the owner and lead midwife at the birth center. She followed a dear friend into a career as a doula, where she learned to hold space, believe in the capabilities of her clients, and be an anchor for them during the birth. Then she took a job working with youth in a wilderness program, and further developed those skills. Eventually she returned to doula work, bringing with her stronger abilities. After a precipitous birth where she caught the baby when the midwife didn’t make it, Liz discovered a passion for midwifery.

Doulas who come to work with Liz (and her midwifery partner Sarah) for a month will get a full orientation on the birth center and all the labor tools they have available, they will attend all the births that month where clients want doula support (her practice averages 6-8 births each month, most of which want doula support). Additionally they will have the opportunity to see how Liz and her team work with clients to create labor support plans and how they process the experience with clients afterwards. Because the program is short, these may or may not be the same clients where you attend their birth.

Participating in the doula program costs $200 and includes staying in the dorm at the birth center. The dorm area has shared bedrooms, kitchen facilities, a study room with a library of books and a living room area. Participants will need to have a car and a smartphone, and agree to be available 24/7 during the 4 weeks. This is strictly a doula program (Liz runs a similar program for student midwives who will be handling midwifery tasks.) so all your tasks will be doula tasks, not midwife assisting tasks like cleaning up after births. You’ll get mentoring and feedback during and after births, and Liz and her staff will be happy to fill out all your certification paperwork.

Hope Dillree is a doula and midwifery student who went through the program to get some of her early births. I asked her about her experiences with the program. and she shared this:

When I was able to go to Two Leaves Midwifery I was able to be alone in the room with the mother and I realized how much more I needed to improve my tools in my toolbox. The midwives really stay out in the hallway and allowed me to have that full doula role in the birth.
Both midwives know tricks of the trade they are able to pass on to you. Sarah taught me a lot about the rebozo. I’d read about it in my classes and was given some background on how to use it, but it wasn’t until I actually was able to get hands on work and use it with a client that I felt comfortable to use it on my own with clients.
Most of my doula clients are having hospital births, so I find that all the skills that I learned from the home births that I have done with TLM have allowed me to a large dynamic of skills to take with me to the hospital births.

I asked Hope how she spent her time when she was not attending births, since she’d come from out of town to complete the program:

Downtime between births is really variable. Sometimes there were births back to back. Sometimes 2-3 days with no births. Usually they come in waves. There was another student there, so we ended up exploring the area, we would go hiking and swimming, and go to the movies. Kept our phones on us and a change of clothes in the car, so we were ready to go to a birth. I actually had a lot of fun. A lot of experience and a vacation at the same time, so I really liked it.
Sometimes you can do extra things at the birth center if you would like. There is time to study and practice, for example, you could practice rebozo techniques before the next birth. You can review past births with the midwife, and she can help you identify things you can improve and study.  There’s a study room with some books on site you can use, too.

If you’re looking to work mostly with unmedicated births and want to get lots of experience rapidly, this program, or one like it, might be the one for you!

If you’d like more information on Liz’s doula program, you can contact her through Two Leaves Midwifery. If you know of similar programs for doulas in your area, let me know and I’ll add the information to this post!

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