When you first meet Callai, she will be kind enough to let you know her name, rhymes will “ballet”. Isn’t that so helpful and just like a doula to help minimize doubt and provide education?! So meet Callai! She will take you behind the scenes and share all about what doula life is really like, what made her want to be a doula and how she serves pregnant families.
What made you want to become a doula?
With my first pregnancy, the research I did helped me decide I wanted to try to avoid pain medication and other medical interventions during labor, but I was skeptical that I could actually do it. It felt like all I heard were horror stories about the messy and unpredictable nature of birth, so I decided to hire a doula to help normalize the birth process and coach me through the intense sensations of labor.
My doula, along with my mom, my partner, and my midwife, helped me bring my daughter into the world the way I had always envisioned. I labored at home until I was fully dilated, then arrived at the hospital ready to push. With my second baby, who came along about two and half years later, I relied on the same doula with the same wonderful result. I was sold on the benefits of doula care and wanted to be able to provide others the same kind of emotional and hands-on practical support that I was given.
I had very positive birth experiences with my two children, thanks in part to my doula. I wanted to be able to provide others with the same kind of support and education. My personal and professional experiences have left me with a deep passion for the art and science of childbirth. Plus, I have perpetual baby fever, and working as a birth doula helps give that maternal urge an outlet!
What kind of doula training did you take?
When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew there were a lot of options out there (hospital birth vs. home birth, midwife vs. OB, epidural vs. no pain meds) and didn’t know where my preferences fell on the spectrum. What was best for my baby? What did I want for myself? I had no idea. So I started reading and researching, and I never stopped. More than ten years later I’m still at it–always educating myself and learning more about labor, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum so that I can be the best doula and educator for my clients.
Immediately after my 6-week postpartum checkup with my son I signed myself up for the ICEA certified childbirth educator and birth doula programs, and I’ve been teaching prenatal classes and supporting clients during birth for going on 8 years.
What is your doula style?
At the bottom of it all, I just want to be helpful. I am always looking for ways I can make the moment better, whether it be through offering a sip of water, noticing when an encouraging word is needed, suggesting a new coping technique to try, or just being a calm presence and a hand to hold.
What advice do you give to someone hiring a doula?
Make sure you hire a doula that you feel a personal connection with. The doula who is the best fit for you might not be the one with the most experience or a certain kind of certification, but will be the one who makes you feel comfortable from the very start. A doula should be equal parts friend and mentor, so go with the doula you’d love to meet any time for coffee.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a birth doula?
The most rewarding thing is seeing the pure joy on my client’s faces when they hold their new baby for the first time. There is nothing like it, and it is such a privilege to witness. I feel so much pride in knowing I did my small part as their doula, in making their baby’s birthday a positive memory.
What’s the most challenging thing about this job as a doula?
The most challenging thing about being a doula is definitely the unpredictability. When I’m on call I never know when I’ll have to go to work, or when I’ll be coming home. But that’s also part of the excitement! Birth work keeps you on your toes.
What’s one of your go-to items in your doula bag?
Snacks! It’s important to keep your energy up during labor, whether you are the laboring person, their partner, or the doula. I make sure I have several snacks in my bag that are high in calories and easy to digest, like Clif Bars and PB&J sandwiches. It’s part of my job as a doula to ensure everyone stays nourished and keeps their blood sugar up.
What would someone be surprised that you do as a birth doula?
Some might be surprised to learn that as a doula, I am happy to support people who plan on getting an epidural. There is a pervasive notion that doulas are only for those who want a medication-free birth experience, but that definitely isn’t the case. About half of my clients either plan on using an epidural ahead of time or decide during labor to use an epidural. My job is to support their decision without judgment. There is still a lot that a doula can do for clients with epidurals, including helping to time the placement of the epidural optimally, helping to change positions once mobility is limited by the epidural’s numbing effect, suggesting helpful tools like peanut balls that can help labor progress, and giving partners a break if needed.
How has being a birth doula changed you?
Being a doula has helped me become more patient and stoic. There’s no rushing birth, and no way to tell beforehand how a labor will play out, so the only thing to do is exist in the moment.
What’s your birth philosophy as a Portland doula?
The memories we make while giving birth last with us for a lifetime. They are pivotal, vivid, and definitive in a way that few other life experiences ever are. I believe that all people deserve a positive and peaceful childbirth story, and to have their preferences and wishes honored, whatever they may be. I believe that doula support is appropriate for every birth setting and every birth plan.
I am dedicated to supporting families during their transition to parenthood through personalized emotional support and evidence-based education. I want to provide all of my clients with nonjudgmental support that meets them where they are at and gives them the tools to be able to communicate effectively with their partner and medical team to be active and engaged decision-makers.
During labor, I strive to create a calm environment and reduce anxiety by normalizing the birth process, encouraging helpful movements and pain coping techniques, and providing hands-on comfort techniques. I also work to keep birth partners as involved and useful as possible, always respecting the deep bond that exists between a laboring person and their chosen birth partner.
What are some of your loves and interests outside of birth work?
I’m a total bookworm. I’m always chipping away at my to-be-read stack and I set aside quiet time every single day to read a few chapters. I also love classical music, including going to live performances, tuning in to All Classical Portland, and playing the piano.
As a doula, how do you include the partner in birth?
I love to show partners how to meet their partners’ unspoken needs, and to help them use touch and massage effectively. A partner’s familiar hands are always an important labor coping tool. As a doula, I don’t take away from the partner’s role, but enhance it so the birthing person feels even more supported.
What is included in your doula support?
I’m also a certified childbirth educator, so in addition to providing prenatal meetings, on-call birth support, and postpartum meetings, I also offer in-home childbirth prep classes.