A Doula Is Born
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Sarah Martin is making the lives of mothers-to-be a whole lot easier. The certified HypnoBirthing practitioner and newly minted doula has created ConfidentBirth to equip women with the knowledge and the right mindset to approach the most momentous time of their lives with self-assurance.
“When you’re educated, you’re confident. No matter what happens, no matter what path your birth takes, you can meet it,” noted Martin, who lives in Rye with her husband Will Jovanovich, their two children Peter, 4, and Clara, 19 months, and their three dogs.
Childbirth instruction was not on Martin’s radar when she graduated from Smith College in 2007 as a Government major. She served in student government and worked with young children as an America Reads tutor, but it was her personal experience in the labor room that compelled her to play an active role in the birthing process of expectant mothers.
When she was pregnant with her son, she and her husband took a hospital birthing class. “I thought we were so prepared,” said Martin, who discovered during labor that she was one of the three to four percent of women for which an epidural, a common method of anesthesia, is ineffectual. “In my mind, I had no other options and it ended up being quite traumatic.”
In addition to the physical demands, Martin did not have any kind of relationship with the doctor on call. “I felt helpless,” she admitted.
Two and a half years later, when she was pregnant with her daughter, the young mother was determined to have a much more positive experience. Living in Manhattan at the time, she found a reputable doula in New York City, from whom she learned the HypnoBirthing method.
“I had the polar opposite experience and ended up having the most calm, peaceful, beautiful birth with Clara,” she said. “This time profoundly changed me. I became a calmer person in general.”
Not only was her labor and delivery exceedingly more pleasant, but Martin’s post-delivery days were more relaxed and balanced. “The calmer you are as a mother, the calmer the baby is,” she remarked.
Her experience had as profound an impact on a new career, as it did on her family life. Martin traveled to HypnoBirthing International’s training session in Virginia and earned her certification. HypnoBirthing is a comprehensive childbirth education class that incorporates both the physical and psychological aspects of childbirth. The mother of two started up ConfidentBirth to bring this concept to families throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties.
“Watching families be born is precious,” she said. “I don’t think it gets better than that. It’s the most beautiful, transformative experience and to support a family during that time is magical.”
As a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, she teaches mothers-to-be how to be better prepared and how to go into a deep state of relaxation and self-hypnosis, which simply means concentrated, focused awareness. Consequently, they can remain calm and increase their comfort throughout labor and birth, be it in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home. During a five-week course in a warm and spacious sunlit room in Martin’s home, expectant mothers and fathers/birth partners meet once a week for two and a half hours.
Martin covers the physiology of birth, how the uterus functions, and how fear and anxiety affect hormones in the body during labor and birth. In addition to self-hypnosis, participants learn breathing and deep relaxation techniques and visualizations. Fear release is also a powerful part of the program. As Martin explains, it’s critical that pregnant women attempt to overcome the many real fears they have, from being able to function and care for a newborn despite sleep deprivation to financial challenges and going back to work.
In addition, Martin spells out the many choices a birthing family faces within the healthcare system, so they can make more informed decisions and create a birth plan together. To that end, Martin felt it would benefit budding families if ConfidentBirth offered doula services, as well as HypnoBirthing classes.
As a result, she trained with DONA (Doulas of North America) International, the world’s leading training organization. As a certified doula, she offers two prenatal and one postnatal visit, unlimited email/text support throughout pregnancy, and is on call at the 37-week mark. During labor, she is there, unlike the typically disruptive shift changes of hospital nurses. Martin stays until after the baby is born and helps lactating mothers with the initial latch when breastfeeding.
“We’re not there to replace doctors,” explained Martin. “We’re there to take the guesswork out of it, provide information and emotional and physical support before, during, and after labor. It’s important for the mothers to feel comfortable and safe.”
Martin is currently getting ready for ConfidentBirth’s upcoming session of classes, which begin July 21 for five consecutive Saturdays from 11-1:30. The fee is $500. Private sessions are also available.
In the meantime, Peter keeps asking his mom, “Are you going to have the babies?” Not exactly, but she will be playing a vital role in welcoming them into the world.
<For more information, visit ConfidentBirthWestchester.com, call 914-303-3488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Martin with her children
Photo by Jo Bryan