Giving Birth To My Doula Work

If you had asked me as a little girl what I wanted to be when I “grow up,” I probably wouldn’t have said doula or lactation consultant.  In fact, I am absolutely certain that I had no idea what either of those terms even meant. Indeed, even into my adulthood, I hadn’t given birth or postpartum life a second thought.  In our society, this fleeting part of a woman’s life is usually private.  A pregnant woman is celebrated at her baby shower and soon enough there is a birth announcement with smiling faces.  Birth is typically glossed over in conversation and phrases like “as long as mother and baby are healthy,” minimalize the transformative event that is birth.  When I became pregnant, myself, I felt unprepared to face birth and sought more support.  

I found myself in a google search, “what is a doula?” and “what do doulas do.”  My previous preconceptions of doula support included a woman with dreadlocks who practiced yoga coming along side a pregnant woman to be her emotional support person, bringing lavender oils and singing folk songs with a ukulele during birth.  I was pleasantly surprised to find there to be a versatility around the types of doulas and the support they provide.  I found a wonderful doula who fit with my family and was able to provide the type of support I desired...which did not include any singing!  

Ultimately my birth wasn’t what I had originally envisioned, but my doula (shoutout to Amanda!) was with me each step of the way providing both emotional and physical support.  I felt empowered after I gave birth, but also shock at how much birth is minimalized and trivialized in our society. 

Birth matters.  It matters to the new mother and it matters to the new family unit.  

It was only after my own childbirth experience that I knew I wanted to support women and their families during theirs.  This catalyzed by leap into birth work and my training to become a doula -- and I have never looked back. I remember attending my first birth as a doula: when the baby was born, I wiped my tears onto oversized surgical scrubs.  Watching a new family come together in an OR room confirmed what I had experienced myself: birth is magical.  It is transformative.  It is the foundation on which parenthood is built.  

I have been honored to attend births since 2019.  It is never lost on me the privilege I have to be invited into such a sacred, vulnerable place.  My hope is that the women and men I support can navigate birth with confidence and will be able to say, “I was an active participant in my care,” instead of, “my birth happened to me.”  I doula because mother’s (and father’s) experiences during birth matters.  I doula because women deserve to feel supported. 

I doula because birth matters.

About the author

Chelsea Johnson is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and birth doula living in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. After graduating college and spending 8 years in a corporate gig, Chelsea left to pursue her passion for helping new moms and babies navigate the joy, and often uncertainty, that accompanies pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery. Birth aside, Chelsea’s recipe for a perfect day includes hockey watching, bread baking and coffee drinking. To learn more about Chelsea, visit Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh:

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