Birth Doula, Ann Arbor Doulas |

My Doula Story

Kathleen Ruvalcava DoulaMy childhood was filled with birth, babies, and breastfeeding. Many of my earliest memories involve accompanying my mother to her midwife appointments, and as the second oldest of nine children, there were plenty of those! My favorite part of the prenatal exams was helping the midwife palpate my mother’s belly to check the baby’s position. I remember hoping with each and every exam that they would let me try to find the baby’s heartbeat through the midwife’s fetoscope. Playdates involved all the moms nursing their babies and telling their birth stories, and it seemed quite normal to me to sit by the mamas with my little baby doll at my breast and listen. We always had various books laying around around the house, and by the time I was 10 years old, I had casually read all of my mother’s birthing and breastfeeding books, and thought I was pretty much an expert.

I officially attended my first birth when I was 11, and interestingly enough, it wasn’t the birth of a sibling! One of the goats on our mini farm happened to go into labor while we had a family midwife friend over for dinner. She talked me through the goat’s birth process, as we stood back and supported the goat in her work. That experience sparked the little birth fire in my heart. The following summer, my beloved cow Gen gave birth to her first calf in the pasture early one morning. I think I really felt my destiny calling me.
Fast forward a decade and I found myself 1000 miles from family, pregnant with my first child, and facing birth and motherhood with little support. I knew birth was a big event, but I just thought it would all happen naturally. I was made to do it, right? So I showed up to the hospital for my induction, sincerely planning on winging it. I had watched episodes of the birthing shows of TLC, and knew there was a difference between the births on TV and the births of my siblings. I knew in my head how birth could look, I just didn’t know how to get that to happen in reality. After 20 hours of pitocin and every seemingly normal intervention, I gave birth to my first son. It wasn’t until then that I realized that if I wanted a certain type of birth environment, I had to plan for it, not wing it and hope for the best!

Once I got home from the hospital with my new baby, I needed help, and didn’t know where to turn. My mother in law and sister in law came over and cooked delicious Mexican food for me, but neither of them had breastfed their babies, and I had somehow managed to lose the instruction manual to my leaky, engorged breasts and flat-as-a-pancake nipples. (Oh wait–that’s right! Motherhood doesn’t come with a manual!) I felt so isolated and forlorn. I didn’t have my little cackle of other mother hens like my mother had. I didn’t have a smart phone to google stuff, and ended up deciding to bottle feed after a few bouts of mastitis. It wasn’t my breasts or my baby that was the problem; it was the lack of hands on encouragement and knowledge that I was missing.

With my next pregnancy, the doula thing happened. A friend of mine had just had her second baby, and was telling me about another friend who was a “doula”. I suddenly realized that’s kind of what my mother and all her friends had been for each other! They may not have had a term for it, but the women certainly lived out the idea of supporting, coaching and serving each other. I learned the importance of building a birth team before the big day arrives, and in empowering myself with education about evaluating risks in the birth process, and learning to make informed choices. It makes sense, right? We plan everything else, from our trips to Target, to our vacations and weddings! I daresay the birth of our children trumps all other bigs days, and it only makes sense to invest time and money planning for the team of support.

I finally experienced breakthrough in breastfeeding with my second baby. By then, several of my friends had also become mothers. And you know what my favorite thing to do was? Sit with some tea and feed our new babies and talk about mothering, birthing, babying, and all the amazing, unique ways the world of becoming a parent unfolds for each of us.

In the summer of 2009 and the fall of 2012, I suffered the losses of two pregnancies. Even then, my doulas and midwives rallied around me, grieving with me. I was not alone. With my third and fourth births, I had doulas by my side, coaching, supporting, and believing in me. They bolstered me with my own strength and empowered me with their knowledge. They helped put together all the puzzle pieces that I already had within myself.

Determined to help other new mothers, I began studying everything I could about evidence based care, joined a midwifery practice for a brief time as an assistant, and began filling my “doula box” with all the tools I could find. In addition to my current work as a doula and student midwife, I work as an OB tech in a busy hospital. In just the past three years of work in the birth field as a doula and tech, I have participated in over 300 births, and it never gets old! Just when I think I’ve seen it all, another baby will enter the world and say “Oh, you haven’t met me yet!”

One of the biggest things each birth teaches me is that every family needs someone who knows them and their goals for their baby before the birth process begins, and can follow through with the before, during, and after birth care of the whole family. Birth doesn’t end when the baby is born! That’s when the birth of the new family is really beginning. We are not meant to do it alone. There is a strong community of love, strength and support out there for you and your family. You deserve a team of people to cheer you on as you bring your new little one into the world. I would love to be that person for you!

If you are interested in my birth doula services please contact me here.

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A little bit about Kathleen

When I’m not at a birth, you can find me home with my four children cooking, watching FRIENDS reruns, and talking about birth and babies. I am certain that together, we in the birthing community are helping to build future generations where parenting comes from a foundation of support, informed choices, and unity. I’ll make some tea, you get comfy and let’s talk about your birth.

I would love to meet you!

“Whenever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life.” – Ina May Gaskin

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