Homemade Mother of the Week: Kristen Stroh Spangler, doula

This post is the 11th in the series “Homemade Mother of the Week.” If you know a woman who is thoughtfully sharing her passion for the planet, families or the well-being of others, please nominate her for this special recognition.  Send an email with all the details to maureen@homemademothering.com

This week, I am very excited to introduce you to Kristen Stroh Spangler.  Kristen is a fellow mom and cloth diaper enthusiast who recently decided to become a doula, a trained professional who offers emotional support and gentle encouragement to a woman before, during and after childbirth.  I’m so inspired by her ambition to help women during such an intensely emotional and overwhelming time.

Homemade Mother: Welcome, Kristen! I’m so glad we can chat. To start, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Kristen Stroh Spangler: I grew up in Oak Lawn, IL, but have lived all over Illinois. I went to college at Southern Illinois University and studied elementary education. After completing the teaching program, I student taught in Springfield, IL, and stayed there for 2 years and taught first grade. I then took a job in the Chicago area as a Reading Specialist in Brookfield, IL. Currently, I live in Oak Lawn with my husband Matt and 14 ½ month old son Parker.

HM: Why did you decide to become a doula?

KSS:  I decided to become a doula after my own birth experience and journey in parenting. We had our son at home, in a birth tub, with a midwife. At that time, I did not know the real differences between a midwife and doula (besides that the midwife is a medical professional). Our birth experience was amazing, and opened the door to a world of “natural birth” way beyond what we thought we knew. My son also had a had time latching on to nurse, and after all of this I became involved in some moms’ support groups-both supporting myself, and offering support to others. I have gained so much knowledge and passion through these groups, and so I started to research all of these “crunchy” (our word for super natural/sort of hippie-ish) ideas surrounding natural birth. I knew that my body was made to birth my baby, but I didn’t realize how much support I would need as a new mom, and I finally thought to myself, ‘What if I had had that support during pregnancy, labor, and delivery?’ That’s when I decided to become a doula so that I could be that support for other women.

HM: What kind of education was required?

KSS: I chose to train through To Labor organization after looking at the variety of birth work trainers. Becoming a doula is hard work – to begin with, you have to attend a 3 day (28 hours) intensely overwhelming training workshop. This was the most difficult for me, because I have a very attached, loving, nursing toddler (who refuses to take a bottle) at home, but I also have a great husband, so we were able to work it out while I was gone. After the workshop is completed, you must read a series of books revolving around being a great birth partner and support system and looking at the sad reality of birth in this country. I heard this great quote the other day “If we want to stop delivering our children via surgery, then we should stop hiring surgeons to delivery them.” In the meantime, each doula in training must attend 6 births – and be hands on (not just an observer). After all of the requirements are complete, you must take a certification exam to become certified.

HM: Do you think there are any misconceptions about doulas or who uses a doula?

KSS: I think there are misconceptions about doulas – so many people are not familiar with doulas, most people say, “Oh, like a midwife?” Clearing that misconception up is difficult, because in a way, some people then think a doula is ‘just’ a labor assistant. However, once people become more familiar with how important and influential doulas can be, they are more interested in the birth work. In my opinion, the majority of women who hire doulas are more natural-minded, and want a natural drug-free and intervention-free birth. I have since learned that some women want the support of a doula even in scheduled caesarians.

HM: What is some advice you’d give to an expectant mother who wants a natural delivery?

KSS: The best piece of advice I would give an expectant mom about wanting a natural birth is to be involved – be an active part of your prenatal and childbirth care.  Ask questions, do research, be vocal, passionate, and informed about what you want.

HM: What is some advice you’d give to a first-time father or partner? What can he expect while his partner is in labor? What should he do to make her more comfortable?

KSS: Advice for the partner is a tricky one…my hope is that most partners want to be the primary support to the laboring woman. It can be a difficult time because they will never physically or emotionally understand what the woman is going through. While the woman is in labor, it can be intimidating for the partner because it is unfamiliar, but if they are informed and educated before the process begins it is less of a shock. However, the best thing they can do is similar to the advice I would give to the expectant woman – be informed and involved in your birth. And, do everything and anything you can too make the woman feel love, comfort and support.

HM: What does it feel like to help a woman give birth?

KSS: As a new doula, I have not yet had the experience of helping a woman in labor, but I can only imagine that it will be one of the greatest feelings in the world because you are guiding her through one of the most difficult events of her life.

HM: What do you like to do in your free time?

KSS: In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my boys – my husband and son. Our little family enjoys outdoor activities, such as, the zoo, and the park. I really enjoy cooking healthy meals for my family as well. As a stay at home mom, I enjoy shopping with my little man, and attending playdates while my husband is at work. It’s nice to get out, and watch my son play with the other kids.

Check out Kristen’s page at http://www.facebook.com/BirthReborn

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Written by Maureen

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