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Doula: A Witness to Beauty

New Moms Doula Mary Morales Calderon celebrates with Patty, a participant in New Moms’ Doula program, and her newborn daughter, Athena.

“Do you know what just happened!”

Mary Morales Calderon said she wants to scream this from the rooftops every time she witnesses a birth.

As a Doula at New Moms, Mary works with expecting mothers to support them during their birth experience. She said the journey to motherhood is “very special [and] very sacred” so she feels honored when young moms allow her to accompany them.

Doula Mary Morales Calderon smiles with new mother Shaniece, a participant in New Moms’ Doula program, who gave birth on September 11.

“Being a Doula is all about empowering the mom,” said Mary who has worked as a Doula for three years. “I provide physical, informational, and emotional support.”

Pregnant women referred to New Moms are encouraged to engage with a Doula. Doulas provide support and education for mothers from 28 weeks into their pregnancy to six weeks after the baby is born.

According to national research, Doula presence at birth decreases medical interventions at delivery, and reduces labor complications. Doula-supported mothers are also more successful in adapting to new family dynamics, have greater breastfeeding success, have lower incidence of abuse, and lower postpartum depression rates.

Mary said a large part of her work is giving young moms the tools to advocate for themselves and practice speaking up. She said this is important because young moms must continue to advocate for their babies for the rest of their lives.

We sat down with Mary to talk about her role in the Doula Program.

How did you become a Doula?

I am Hispanic, and growing up my grandma and mom would take me with them to visit family and close friends after they gave birth. It was a very woman-centered, women caring for other women sort of thing, and I had just grown up doing that culturally.

I continued this after college. When close friends were beginning their families, I would fly back and support them for a couple of weeks. When I returned from one of those trips somebody asked why I was away, and when I told them they said, “Oh, so you’re a Doula?” and I said, “Well, what’s that?”

I lived in Seattle at the time, which is home to a renowned birth professional institute that trains and certifies Doulas. So, I got all of my education there and then moved to Chicago.

What is the hardest part about your job?

The hardest part of my job is boundaries. Moms are in a very vulnerable time and they get very attached to their Doula. And so I have to constantly remind myself, and gently remind them, that I am their Doula and that our time will eventually come to an end. 

I would say that’s the hardest part, trying to maintain professional and supportive boundaries so that [the moms] know they can do this without me. That’s definitely the hardest part because we grow very attached and connected to one another when you go through something so beautiful and sacred as giving birth.

What is the most fulfilling part about your job?

It’s them choosing me to be one of their support people — sometimes their only support person — to walk with them on this journey to motherhood. Being a birth Doula has helped overcome a lot of sadness in my personal life because it’s really hard to dwell on bad things that are happening when you witness something so beautiful on a weekly basis.

What should people know about New Moms’ Doula Program?

I think they should know that New Moms’ Doula Program is really about empowering the young women in our community with information and support so they can start the foundation of motherhood.

What is a misconception about Doulas that you’d like to clarify?

A lot of people think that if you have a Doula it’s because you want a totally natural, unmedicated childbirth. Modern-day Doulas, like what we are at New Moms, are all about making sure the mom has a positive birth experience whatever that birth experience looks like. 

We are there to make sure that what the mom wants is ultimately what she is going to get. And if things start to detract from what she wants, then we’re there to give her information and tools, so she can make an informed decision and really be in charge of what’s happening in her birth experience.

How does the Doula Program fulfill New Moms’ mission?

One of the things that drew me to New Moms’ mission was that it was all about surrounding young mothers with love and everything they need to transform their lives. And, beginning your journey as a new mother starts with your birth. New Moms’ Doulas help fulfill that mission. We are there supporting [participants] right at the very beginning, right in that exact moment when they become mothers making sure they have everything they need to be a leader of their family.

Any last comments that you’d like to share with the New Moms community?

Being a Doula is my divine purpose, so it’s not just a job to me. I’m just really happy that I get to do this work every day.