Ring…Ring. Yawn. Shake off the sleep. Ring…Ring. “My phone! Mary (pseudonym) must be having her baby. Time to kick into action as a massage doula. What time is it?” 4:15 a.m. Good, I think, I’ve gotten most of a full night’s sleep. I jump out of bed, throw some cold water on my face, brush my teeth, put on the carefully laid out clothes that have been waiting for just this moment, and off to the hospital I go. Such starts my favorite kind of day as a massage doula.
Make no mistake, getting up at 4:15 is not high on my list of things to do, but there is something calming and quieting about the wee morning hours when I know within a few hours, I will be witnessing the miracle of birth.
My interest in prenatal massage began early in my massage career. I earned my initial massage certification in 1991, and in early 1993, I became certified as a prenatal massage therapist. I immediately dove in, started working on pregnant women, and started attending labors, although at that time, I had only learned four strategies in my labor support repertoire, one of which I quickly abandoned because everyone told me to stop because it hurt.
Within in a few years, I started hearing about doulas. I had no idea what they were doing that I was not, but I thought if I only learned one new thing, it would be worth it. I got certified with Doulas of North America, and also took advanced doula training from Penny Simkin. It was after this training that I coined the term “massage doula” to refer to a certified prenatal massage therapist who is also certified as a massage doula support person.
Armed with a wide range of new techniques, I assisted over eighty births before retiring my private practice a few years ago to focus on teaching and to take on the role of Director of Education with the Institute of Somatic Therapy. With all of those births, my moms averaged under five hours of labor, only two needed C-Sections, and the vast majority birthed entirely drug free. My star client had three babies, with the total labor time from all three births only 4.5 hours (2.5 hours the first baby, 1.5 hours the second, and only 30 minutes the third).
As a doula, I could share many stories, some funny, some harrowing. I know that I will treasure my doula years forever. Not having any children of my own, I feel lucky to have been able to have so many through the experiences with my clients. I have said many times how grateful I was to have been able to watch miracles happen for a living.
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Judith Koch is the Director of Education at the Institute of Somatic Therapy, an online continuing education provider. To earn your massage doula certification, click here.