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5/15/2009 10:14:00 AM
Birth doulas make experience easier for new moms
Delivering on their promises
Margie Kline, left, and Tammi Hermann assist mothers in all aspects of the birth experience.
TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz
Margie Kline, left, and Tammi Hermann assist mothers in all aspects of the birth experience.
TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz

Cheryl Hartz
News Editor

Keeping young mothers-to-be informed and calm consumes the thoughts and actions of birth doulas Tammi Hermann and Margie Kline.

May is National Doula Month. Doula, from an ancient Greek word meaning "woman's servant," describes a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides support to the mother throughout the pregnancy and birth process.

Between them, Hermann, of Prescott, and Kline, from Dewey-Humboldt, have assisted hundreds of moms in the past 20 years.

"My babies are now having babies," Hermann said, smiling. "I'm a 'grandma doula.'"

Most of the women are under age 25. They run the gamut from married women with plenty of family support and even with nursing backgrounds to young teens on their own.

"I first got into it for the teen moms," said Hermann. "They don't have a clue what's going on. In a hospital setting, with a lot of machines, and people moving around, you feel like you don't have control. We help girls create birth plans."

What the mothers have in common is a desire for the most natural and pleasant birth experience possible.

The birth doulas want that for them, too. In addition to their combined 40 years of experience attending moms in labor, Hermann and Kline have a dozen children between them. The eldest of Hermann's five children is 23, the youngest, 4. A daughter will make her a grandma for real this fall with a bouncing baby boy.

Her daughter already has requested mom as her doula.

"All my kids have seen birth since a very tiny age," she said. "They are all doula cheerleaders, all part of it."

Kline's brood of seven ranges in age from 7 to 30. The last three were born at home. She also has two grandchildren, both of whom she "caught" at birth.

But the doulas' job doesn't begin when the baby decides to make its appearance.

They start by taking the pregnant client's history, and meeting with everyone who will be present for the birth, whether husband, sister, mother, father, friend, or someone else.

Assigned readings - homework - are necessary, as are private birthing classes in the client's own home.

The doulas create a birth plan, including teaching that birth is a natural process and "the doctor is our friend," they said, especially because doulas don't make any medical decisions. They do help the moms make informed decisions.

"The girls don't want medical intervention, but rather a natural approach. But they have to know when enough is enough, in case they really need an epidural to settle down and rest, or even an emergency C-section," Hermann said.

Kline added, "Education is powerful. People find the whole situation intimidating. They hear horror stories, but if we educate, we take away the unknown."

Kline said the last few decades have created a gap in birth history. Whereas for thousands of years girls grew up with family members giving birth at home, now most babies are born in hospitals, at least in the U.S. The doulas help bridge the gap while still cooperating with nurses and doctors. They assist at about an equal number of midwife-aided home births as physician-aided hospital births.

"I haven't seen many 'textbook' births," Hermann said with a laugh.

She said they know of only five doulas in the quad-city area.

"We're not taking the place of anybody," Kline noted.

They do stay with the moms through the whole birth process, unlike nursing staff, which might go off-shift. Kline and Hermann also are each other's backup plan, in case of family emergency or even if two clients end up in labor at the same time.

They've started their own business, Birth Works!, which besides their doula jobs encompasses several birth-related aspects. Kline's big project is creating a birth lending library. Hermann does newborn and birth photography. The business includes prenatal education and lactation (breastfeeding) consultation, and baby slings. "We're all into baby carrying."

They plan to add belly casting and a birth tub to their list of services. They also are becoming certified in "Happiest Baby on the Block," a program that teaches about a newborn's first three months of life.

"We're addicted to birth," said Kline. "I live, eat and breathe it. Not a day goes by I'm not thinking about it."

They constantly improve their own education so they can better help their clients.

Hermann is certified as a doula through DONA International and in the process of re-certification. Kline is certified through the Aviva Institute. She will reach her goal to become a Certified Professional Midwife in about three years.

The doula fee starts at $500, but because Kline and Hermann believe every mom should have a doula, they work on a sliding scale.

"We develop a special relationship with moms and families. It's a calling. You have to be willing to sacrifice and really love women and their babies," Kline said.

For more information, contact Tammi Hermann at 928-445-3214, or email: tammilynnhermann@yahoo.com or call Margie Kline at 928-533-2347 or email: joycatcher7@yahoo.com.

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