Helping women give birth is how this doula was born

AT WORK

March 15, 2006|By NANCY JONES-BONBREST | NANCY JONES-BONBREST,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jamillah Nasir

Doula

Woman's Work Birth and Family Support Services, Baltimore

Age --39

Years on the job --Seven

Salary --$23,000 a year

How she got started --Nasir, a mother of four, found herself unofficially offering support to several friends during their childbirths. After helping a friend who delivered twins, the nurse on duty suggested that Nasir would make an excellent doula. She checked into it and signed up for training.

Certification --Nasir is certified through DONA International (formerly Doulas of North America) and as a lactation counselor through La Leche League International and the African-American Breastfeeding Alliance. Doula is Greek for "woman's servant." Unlike a midwife, a doula does not provide medical care.

The job --As a doula, Nasir usually works with two expecting mothers each month. She serves as the birth coach and labor companion. Nasir is on call 24 hours a day and is among the first to be called once her clients go into labor. She offers her clients three packages of services. These could include creating a birth plan, childbirth education, attending the labor and a postpartum visit. During labor, she offers coaching, massage and aroma therapy. "If a woman is not comfortable and not feeling safe, she can hold herself up from birthing."

Experience --Until last June, Nasir also worked as a birth assistant at the D.C. Developing Families Center. She said she assisted in over 100 births while at the center.

The fathers --Nasir said she is not there to take the father's place, but rather empower him and provide a personal experience for the family. "If we're in the birthing room and the mom says her back is hurting, I show the dad the proper massage technique and then will go and do something else for her. This way she remembers his hands on her and that he's doing things and she's not thinking he's not connected to the birth."

Long waits --Nasir stays with the mother throughout labor. The longest lasted just over 24 hours. "I leave every birth exhausted. I'm massaging, coaching, it's work."

The good --"I love the idea that I'm actually helping to nurture families."

The bad --Being on call. "Not knowing what your day is going to be like. You don't have a typical day."

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