I recently had an essay published in the latest edition DONA International, a magazine produced by DONA, my certifying agency. The article is regarding the BirthWell Partners Doula Retreat I attended last Spring. I am thrilled DONA accepted the piece and look forward to submitting more articles in the future. 

Here is a link to the PDF of the essay

Following is the transcript: 

Relax and Re-Charge: BirthWell Partners Second Annual Doula Retreat provides an opportunity for doulas to learn, grow and refocus

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Doula Retreat hosted by BirthWell Partners at the Kanawahala Program Center in Chelsea, Alabama. 

The purpose of the retreat was to provide an opportunity for doulas to relax, recharge and network with other doulas, as well as share stories and techniques with one another. Additionally, the retreat offered educational sessions to assist doulas with professional development and continuing education.

As a birth doula in a state with restrictive laws governing birth choices, I found the retreat rejuvenating and encouraging. The itinerary included many exciting and informative sessions, including two presentations by obstetricians in Alabama. The retreat was a safe place for doulas to share their victories, frustrations and love for birth work. The late nights were filled with laughter, crying and inspiring birth stories.

The retreat opened with a presentation by Dr. Joshua Johannson from Cheaha Women’s Health and Wellness in Anniston, Alabama. He presented on the impact of birth practices on breastfeeding. Dr. Johannson explained the sequential hormones released during birth and the immediate postpartum period. I learned if these hormones are interrupted or compromised it can negatively affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed. For example, if a retained placenta interferes with the normal decrease in the mother’s progesterone level after delivery, it can prevent other hormones from producing breast milk. Dr. Johannson believes immediate skin-to-skin contact for mother and baby is one of the most effective practices care providers can encourage for a positive breastfeeding experience. 

Dr. Jesanna Cooper from Simon Williamson OBGYN Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, gave a personal and insightful presentation. Dr. Cooper spoke of her own journey as a mother and physician. She shared how her complicated breastfeeding relationship with her first child caused her to question common standards of obstetric care. She also fielded questions from doulas regarding birth plans and how doulas can better support mothers in the hospital setting. 

I especially enjoyed learning from obstetricians who respect childbirth and value doulas. At the end of their presentations, both doctors held a question and answer session and made time afterwards to speak with several of the doulas. I was encouraged to interact with care providers in Alabama who support doulas and their positive impact on a mother’s birth experience.

Other sessions included presentations on encouraging mothers in the early postpartum period, doulas and social media, how to assist clients in finding evidence based care and properly responding to a mother’s emotional needs and anxieties.

On the last day of the retreat, we participated in a low-ropes course. The course afforded a unique opportunity to practice team-building and communication skills. I appreciated how each member of the team was necessary to solve the various challenges we were presented. I was reminded of the value of teamwork and how a caring companion can help you reach goals you thought were impossible. 

BirthWell Partners plans to host another retreat in spring of 2016. Proceeds from the event support the Community Doula Project. For more information about BirthWell Partners, visit

What I am Reading

Currently I am reading The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta. This book has been on my reading list for a while, however with clients having babies and taking care of my own family, I am just getting around to it. The book discusses labor dystocia and non-invasive techniques to treat or prevent challenging labors. The book states 60 percent of all cesareans (primary and repeat) are attributed to labor dystocia (pg. 3). I have been in several births where a stall in labor or a long labor created difficulties for the mother both emotionally and physically, as well as made interventions more plausible. My desire is to learn more about these non-invasive techniques to help my clients navigate long and difficult labors. Although I have not completed the book, I want to share a few insights from the opening chapters.

At the beginning of the book, the authors outline premises the book is build upon. One specific point I appreciated was the premise women are treated as the key to the solution not the problem. Often times when a woman’s body is not cooperating as expected in labor, the woman and those supporting her can assume something is wrong with her body or labor. This assumption may lead to unnecessary and unwanted interventions. On the contrary, I have noticed when a woman is well supported she often intuitively knows what to do. For example, I attended a birth where the mother had a premature urge to push. It was very strenuous on her body physically and emotionally. She was literally grunting through every contraction but only at 6 centimeters. She found herself in the open knee-chest position without any coaching, which was perfect for her situation. It was a great learning experience for me to witness a mom listen to her body and work with her labor.

Another premise I took note of was, “Time is usually an ally, not an enemy. With time, many problems in labor progress are resolved. In the absence of clear medical or psychological contraindications, patience, reassurance, and low or no risk interventions may constitute the most appropriate course of management.” (pg. 5). In the previous example I gave, the mother also experienced slight swelling of her cervix due to the premature urge to push. Her doctor and nurse encouraged her to continue laboring and check again in a few hours. At the next cervical check she had no swelling and had dilated a few more centimeters. She went on to deliver her baby vaginally, unmedicated and with no interventions.

Obviously, there are times when lifesaving interventions are needed and necessary for the health of mother and baby, however waiting a few hours before medically intervening can be an effective technique for managing plateaus or long labors. With my pregnancies I always asked for reassurance from my care provider that as long as 1) I am okay and 2) the baby is okay I would like as much time as needed to deliver my baby. Thankfully, this was fully supported in both of my deliveries especially with my first which was a long labor. 

Have any of you read The Labor Progress Handbook? What did you think? Has it been helpful in your role as a doula or during your labor?


Natalie Hewett, Birth Doula and Now Blogger!

I’ve been told many times I should start a blog (special shout out to my Mom and Kathleen!). So here we go, a blog about one of the things I am most passionate about: childbirth. My plan is to post information helpful to other doulas, current clients and those interested in childbirth related topics.

Thanks for stopping by!