Featured Doula: Marlee and Megan Malone-Franklin
Marlee & Megan Malone-Franklin Serving Orange County & Long Beach in Southern California.
Hero Birth Services | herobirthservices.com
1. What inspired you to begin your doula journey? Marlee: As the oldest of 4, I grew up around pregnancy and babies. I've always loved being around expecting parents and new babies, and that never really went away! I considered teaching, counseling, nannying... nothing felt quite right in my search for a way to serve families. But when I learned about about birth and postpartum doula work, I knew I had found the right path! Megan: I came to birth work after Marlee and I got married. I'm a planner, so I started doing research about pregnancy and birth in thinking about having little ones together sometime in the future. What I found were so many stories of trauma and disappointment, and I felt like there must be a way I could help make the journey to parenthood easier. That led me first to childbirth education, and then to work as a birth doula.
2. What training/experience do you have? We got started in 2014. We trained through Childbirth International, Stillbirthday, and Birthing From Within, and participate in continuing education every year. We typically serve 2-4 birth doula clients and 1-2 postpartum families each month. We also offer private childbirth education classes (both to our doula clients and others) and standalone lactation support as well.
3. What is your purpose/mission/style as doulas? Our style is compassionate, supportive, and nonjudgmental of parents' choices. As we tell our clients, we truly have no preference for how they birth. Our job is to make sure they have all the information and real-world perspective they need to make the decisions that are best for them and their families. We help our clients prepare for what may be encountered during birth, but also for those challenging moments of facing the unknown that inevitably come up along the way. In addition to providing educational resources, we consider ourselves mentors to parents, assisting them in unearthing their own inner knowing and resilience. We honor each family's journey as uniquely theirs and love to bear witness to the incredible transformation that pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood can bring.
4. What makes you unique as doulas? In our local birth community, we're unique in that about half our birth doula clients plan to give birth without pain medication, and the other half knows ahead of time that they want medical pain relief during labor. Many local doulas specialize in birth without pain medication, but we actually specialize in hospital births, helping families navigate relationships with their caregivers and understand their options as far as procedures, medications, and normal hospital protocol. Our work with parents comes from a trauma-informed background. We are always on the watch for "seeds of trauma" that can be planted during the vulnerable experience of welcoming a new baby. Our primary goal is not to make sure parents can look back on their labors as beautiful, amazing experiences. Our goal is to help parents get through birth - whatever challenging, amazing, terrifying, special moments their journey held - and come through on the other side feeling WHOLE and supported. We are also unique in that we offer bereavement support for families enduring miscarriage, stillbirth, a fatal diagnosis of their baby, or infant death. Our time with these families has been among the most meaningful experiences of our lives, and we are honored to help lighten the immense burden of losing a child, even in a microscopic way.
5. How do you think doulas positively impact birth? In our experience, no one in the birth room - doctors, midwives, nurses, assistants, etc. - is responsible for watching out for the inner experience of parents during their unique journey through birth. That's not to say that those care providers might not be doing their best to take care of parents emotionally in a helpful way during birth - just that they have other important priorities and demands (like safety) that are the main function of their roles and require their time and attention. This means that during one of the most transformational experiences of someone's life, there's a chance that no one will be there for them emotionally. That is where we see doula work coming into play in a positive way. By having someone in the room who is comfortable with birth and the birth environment, who is nonjudgmental, and who is looking for ways to support parents in their own personal experiences (not just keeping them physically safe), parents are setting themselves up for a better experience - even (and especially) if things don't go as planned during labor. Our birth doula clients have described feeling less alone, better able to make good decisions even in stressful situations, and capable of getting through the tough parts of their experience because they worked with us. That's what we love to hear
6. What advice would you give someone looking to hire a doula? First of all, we might be biased but we think you're making a great choice!! :-) In terms of practical advice, we have so much to say on this topic we wrote a whole blog post about it! (https://www.herobirthservices.com/blog/2017/12/11/questions-to-ask-in-a-doula-interview) But if we had to distill it down, the number one thing to look for in a doula is CONNECTION. When talking with this doula, do you feel heard? Do you feel that they understand where you're really coming from, rather than making assumptions about you, your goals, or your values? Do you feel that they truly want to get to know you? Do you feel that they will be 100% supportive of you and your choices, even if you change your mind about something during labor? If the answer to all those things is a resounding YES, they are probably a great choice for you. Resist the urge to get caught in the weeds when hiring a doula. Number of births, one training organization or another, whether they've worked with a certain doctor or midwife, whether they have children themselves, whether/when they require a deposit... focusing on these things will get you A doula, but maybe not YOUR doula. Stick with focusing on CONNECTION and the rest will work itself out. We liken choosing a doula to choosing someone to take a road trip with. You might be stuck in a small, intimate space together for hours and hours... are you going to be comfortable with them in that situation? Finding someone who you connect with will set you up to be able to share the intense experience of labor together in a healthy way, and open the doors of communication.