Doulas can ease the difficulties of giving
November 20, 2001
|Sonja Parker, a
doula, holds a book she shares with clients about
teaching "birth from within" at her Durango office on
By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the
Firefighter medic Steve Stahl wanted the
birth of his second child to be personal and private. But his
wife, Penney, wanted to have doula and hypnotherapist Sonja
Parker present at the birth because of complications in her
first pregnancy. Penney Stahl said she was reading Birthing
From Within when she was struck by a comment about
"It said something about how you wouldn’t
climb Mount Everest without a Sherpa, so why would you give
birth without a doula," she said.
Steve Stahl said his reservations evaporated
as soon as he met Parker. The Stahls practiced hypnotherapy
relaxation techniques with Parker before the birth, then she
joined them at Mercy Medical Center when Penney went into
"I was in transition, that point where most
women feel they can’t go on, and she was right there with me,"
Penney Stahl wrote in an e-mail to friends. "(Parker)
reassured me, then got cheek to cheek with me as I breathed
and pushed. With Sonja there, I was able to go from screaming
to breathing, and I got back in control."
Steve Stahl said that with Parker tending to
his wife’s needs, he was freed up to "receive" their daughter
Gretta as she was born, rather than the physician.
Doula is a Greek word that means "a
supportive companion (other than a friend or loved one) who is
professionally trained to provide labor support," according to
the Doulas of North America Web site.
"It’s pretty awesome work," Parker said. "I
Parker, a retired nurse and grandmother,
offers hypnotherapy and doula services through her Durango
business, First Breath. She charges a flat rate of $200 for
all services related to a birth. She has also volunteered to
work for free with pregnant teens through San Juan Basin
"Every birth I go to is like the first,"
Durango resident Tracy Hay trained to become
a doula after attending a friend’s birth.
"We found out later that a woman in the next
room was laboring by herself," recalled Hay, a mother of two.
"I thought, ‘No one should ever have to do that alone.’"
While Parker is a birth doula, Hay is a
postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas assist with chores and
care of other children so a mother can focus attention on her
Amy Ginn, a nurse midwife and co-owner of
Southwest Midwives, said doulas are an asset in the delivery
"They’re the perfect complement to the kind
of care we give," Ginn said.
By tending to the needs of mothers, doulas
give midwives more freedom to focus on the medical aspects of
the birth, Ginn said. Nurse midwives perform the role of a
traditional physician but differ in their approach to
maternity care, Ginn said.
"We believe pregnancy and birth are normal,
healthy events in a woman’s life," Ginn said. She and her
business partner, Mary Louise Walton, use Mercy Medical Center
for their patients.
Dr. Richard Grossman, an affiliate of Four
Corners Ob-Gyn, supports the work of nurse midwives and
doulas. Grossman, whose second child was delivered by a nurse
midwife, said the use of doulas in Durango is fairly new but
that "the concept of women helping women has been around for a
Another physician, Dr. Leanne Jordan, said
there are concerns over homebirthing and coming to the
hospital with a doula offers the best of both worlds.
"It’s great that doulas come here to the
hospital," she said. "Mothers can have the safety net the
hospital provides but with the birth as they want it to
Anne Grad, of Pagosa Springs, said working
with Parker in August during the birth of her daughter Iris
gave her the confidence to adhere to her natural birth
"Childbirth can be scary – you don’t know
what you’re getting into," Grad said. "But it doesn’t have to
be dramatic or unbearable."
For more information on doulas visit