About 20 years ago, a friend of Kathy Pehlke’s asked two things of her.
That friend asked Pehlke to videotape the birth of her second child and to also keep her 3-year-old daughter entertained during it.
“It was incredible – to be on that end,” Pehlke said.
Shortly after that, another friend asked her to be with her when she gave birth to the child she had chosen to place in adoption and Pehlke was there during the delivery.
Some time later, Pehlke was flipping through the channels on her television when she came across a birth story.
“There was a woman helping another woman with comfort means during the birth, and she had a title,” Pehlke said.
That title was “doula.”
Pehlke had no idea how to spell the word when she went to her computer to learn more about it.
“I was about 49 years old at the time,” she said. “I worked in a very male-dominated environment.”
At the time, she was working in the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department and was intrigued with the idea of helping women with their birth experiences.
In 2003, Pehlke completed her doula training at St. Mary’s Birth Center in Milwaukee.
She became a Certified Birth Doula in March of 2004 and is a member of the Doulas of North America.
“To date, I have helped with 50 births,” she said. “I just feel privileged to attend these births and witness this wonderful miracle. How cool of a job is that – to see a miracle every time a baby is born.”
The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek and means “a woman who serves.”
Today, the word refers to a trained and experienced professional who provides a birthing woman with physical, emotional and informational support at childbirth, Pehlke explained.
She said some think a doula is a midwife, but a doula is not. “The difference is I do nothing medical,” Pehlke said.
The primary concern of a doula is the mother, although the doula also supports other family members who are present during the birth of the child.
Her business is called Birth Journey Doula Services, and Pehlke said that many of the women she works with want to try to achieve a drug-free birth.
And, 90 percent of the time, those women are able to do so.
“I think a lot has to do with good education and good support. Those are the two key things,” Pehlke said, “to having a natural birth and trusting the body – that it knows how to birth a baby.”
She stresses that she does not replace nurses, doctors or the dads and that her role is to provide continual support while the mother is in labor.
Doulas work with expectant families three to four months I advance of the estimated due date, providing prenatal education o the different stages of the birthing process and assisting in the development of a birth plan.
A doula stays with the woman throughout her labor. “It’s called mothering the mothering,” she said.
Pehlke said that in the seven years that she has been a doula, she has worked with many of the same mothers as their families grow.
“I do stay in contact with many of these people. They’re like lifelong friends,” she said.
Pehlke provides doula services within a 60-mile radius of Waupaca and typically takes one birth per month. She has two back-up doulas.
Her initial consultation with expectant parents is free of charge, as she explains what a doula does and how she can help them with their birth plans.
Pehlke can be contacted via her website – www.birth-journey.com.