How did I get here?!?
After studying graphic design at the Atlanta College of Art, in 2004, I began working as an art teacher at an elementary school in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta. To supplement my income, I provided childcare to five families all with babies under the age of six months and in one case, a newborn infant. All the babies were born at Northside or Piedmont hospitals, and four had been delivered surgically after a failed induction of labor on the first day of their 41st gestational week.
What in the world?
It seemed strange to me that ALL the labors were induced and most resulted in a c-section. These families took the conventional route of using an obstetrician for a low-risk pregnancy, and had not considered hospital midwifery care with OB partnership. Most of the couples took a birthing class recommended by their OB or was provided by their hospital, and each planned to use epidural anesthesia for labor and delivery.
The parents who c-sections told me they had trusted their doctors and followed their medical advice without questioning alternatives, benefits or risk factors for the proposed interventions. Their childbirth classes hadn't prepared them adequately to know any options beyond what their OB on-call provided on labor day. I was even told by a few of the parents this had made them feel powerless during their labors, unable to make informed decisions, and felt this contributed to their trouble breastfeeding and bonding with their newborn babies postpartum.
I heard the call!
It was clear to me that I had a lot to learn about the current over-medicalization of birth in America and how this matter affects new families. I read everything I could get my hands on that pertained to pregnancy and childbirth. (Read Pushed by Jennifer Block. Holy cow! My skin crawled.) I watched the Business of Being Born. I was beginning a new chapter of my life helping women feel empowered to birth babies however they wished to do so and take on parenthood with confidence and gusto. I was doing this (and still am) in a gentle, loving manner, with no personal agenda other than providing accurate labor information and emotional support.
After a summer backpacking trip in 2007, I decided to teach part-time and also work as a nanny for two children. Over the next couple of years, I completed my training and certifications to work as a Birth Doula, Hypno-Doula, and educator of The Happiest Baby on the Block. For some time, I offered postpartum support to many neighborhood families and provided on-call help with their older children during labor.
By 2013, I had attended over 250 wonderful birthday parties! To serve more Atlanta families than I could do so on my own, I asked my trusted doula companions to join me in offering guaranteed birth support, prenatal classes and infant care services. Hence, The Happiest Doulas agency began.
In collaboration: Spearheading new services for Atlanta and beyond.
I am lucky that my agency includes the most talented and caring people that work in the profession. In collaboration, new projects are incubated and a handful of projects launch each year to offer pregnant and postpartum people the best services available in Atlanta. For example...
Jeni Standard is a dear friend of mine and has been my main back-up doula for 8 years. She completed her certification as a Lactation Counselor in 2015 and since, we've designed MilkDrunk, an organization of breastfeeding experts offering in-home private lactation consultations intown Atlanta and Decatur, Peachtree City, Marietta and Roswell, GA. Jeni and I also whipped up a little biz called MamaFare, which provides personal, in-home culinary services for new parents. Imagine not having to cook, rely on take out, or deal with a "meal train" when you need proper nutrition for breastfeeding and the postpartum demands of taking care of an infant.
Julie Trotter is a newborn care specialist, birth and postpartum doula. She introduced herself to me in 2013 and asked to teach her comprehensive newborn care class exclusively to my doula clients. Since then her lesson plan (and client base) grew so quickly, we launched Parent Nurture, which is a collective of infant care specialists, registered nurses and a pediatric nurse practitioner, to offer private, in-home newborn care lessons and parent-shadow sessions to help new parents tackle the issues pertaining to colic, poor sleep habits, and infant care.
Alexa Gumm is a childbirth instructor, birth doula, and one heck of an artistically-talented woman. With her eye for design, she helps parents envision nurseries, playrooms, and big-kid rooms that even Pinterest couldn't help them conjure up. Alexa is a professional interior decorator and after a brief hiatus (she's a mom to 4 girls) she began designing nurseries again after her move from Dallas, TX to Roswell, GA in 2015. After personally using her skills to help decorate our classrooms, I asked Alexa to create new design packages for our clients to obtain through Gummdrop Design.
A bittersweet day arrived in the summer of 2016 when Lauren King moved from Atlanta to Nashville. While I was happy for her and her family's new opportunity, it meant I was losing a trusted and beloved member of my team. She helped design the agency's intensive childbirth class and was the main provider of the private in-home lessons so without her, I would have to fill the void she left in the Atlanta area and act as her substitute. Big shoes to fill! Less than a year following her move, Lauren phoned to discuss the possibility of her teaching with the agency again while living in Nashville. Since she wouldn't be offering doula services and would only teach, for us to best highlight her childbirth and parenting lessons, we created Launch! Drawing together a team of Lamaze instructors and infant care specialists, we provide private, personalized prenatal preparation in two metro areas of the southeast.
My awesome circle of friends and colleagues are currently working on more projects and a few other ideas continue to swim around our heads. It brings me great pleasure to see my teammates many talents and passion projects come to fruition, allowing us to offer unparalleled service to the perinatal families of Atlanta and Nashville. Stay tuned for more announcements soon...
Beginning late February 2018, I will split my time between Atlanta and the beaches of Tampa / Saint Petersburg / Clearwater. I've already met some spectacular birth doulas living in this area of Florida and we are eager to create a new chapter of The Happiest Doulas.