Author Archives: tbailey

I Will Miss Dr. Kennell

Dr. Kennellweb“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

-Dr. John H. Kennell


I’m missing Dr. John Kennell, who died recently after a long illness. I met him when he came to speak at our 2003 doula conference. My family was lucky enough to have dinner with him and talk to him, about birth among other things. He co-wrote The Doula Book and was a founder of our current doula movement. He was an indomitable spirit who encouraged me and Jan Mallak in our quest to write our own doula book. When we did, he graciously wrote our foreword and endorsed our book. He was a founder of Doulas of North America and a great believer in the helping hand of a doula in labor. As a doula myself, I know he will be missed.


DONA’s website says this about Dr. Kennell:

“It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the August 27, 2013 death of one of our beloved founders, John H. Kennell, MD. A pediatrician, Dr. Kennell and his colleague, neonatologist Dr. Marshall Klaus, conducted the earliest controlled trials examining the effects of continuous support on labor outcomes. They noted impressive results.

In 1992, Drs. Kennell and Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin and Annie Kennedy founded Doulas of North America (now DONA International) to train and certify labor support companions. His famous quote about doulas has inspired families and birth advocates worldwide: “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” (1998)”

Here is a link to the short video, The Essential Ingredient,: Doula, which has Dr. Kennell speaking about the doula movement.



Admiring the Rebozo

Last week I took a master class on that amazing piece of cloth, the rebozo, with Gena Kirby. Gena has an amazing passion for the rebozo as a cultural staple as well as a tool to use during birth. She helped us understand much more about our attitudes towards both birthing moms and dads and our place in the birth as doulas. She gave us this quote (a common saying from Africa):

“Being pregnant and giving birth are like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge and they can greet you on the other side but you walk the bridge alone.”

She went on to say that the rebozo was like the rail of the bridge. Sometimes you don’t need to use the rail, having it there is support enough. Sometimes the rail is essential. It depends on your journey.

Below are three photos I took during the class. The first shows a laboring woman supported by 2 rebozos while pushing. The second shows the laboring mom being supported under her shoulders while the rebozo helps her move her baby. The third shows the laboring mom holding the ends of the rebozo while she pushes. Thanks to Gena, I’m incorporating some new ideas and techniques into my doula practice!


World Breastfeeding Week 2013

World Breastfeeding Week 13


Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2013! In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, please support the nursing mothers that you encounter. How do you support them? Bring a new mom some supper. Help nursing moms feel welcome in public. Let a nursing mom know you support her efforts.

This year’s theme is “breastfeeding support, close to mothers,” and highlights peer counseling. As you can guess, La Leche League does a lot of peer counseling. One reason to consider going to your local La Leche League meeting is that even when breastfeeding goes well, you can get continuous support from moms who are nursing and overcoming the same hurdles you might be facing in raising a new baby.

I’ll be celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in three ways. I’m going to be at Sunday’s “Babies R Us Breastfeeding Expo” at the Bethel Park store. I’ll be representing La Leche League. On Monday, I’ll be teaching new doulas to be peer counselors for breastfeeding moms. And throughout the week, I’ll be helping new moms work through any difficulties with home visits.

Remember, breastfeeding is about more than human milk, it’s an important part of the mother and baby relationship. La Leche League calls the nursing mom and baby a “diad”. Whenever you can support nursing mothers, you are also supporting happy babies!

The Starfish Principle

Starfish on beach

Why continuous doula support is so helpful for making labors easier and more enjoyable has been studied quite closely. I have a theory of my own. I think it has to do with the Starfish Principle. You can find the starfish story in our book: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way. The basic idea is that a young girl finds a beach covered with starfish far from the water. She sees they will die unless they get back into the sea. She starts to throw the starfish back, one at a time. Her mother tells her not to bother, she can’t possibly save them all. But the daughter is determined, she can save some, one starfish at a time.

As doulas we only have one client at a time. Therefore, how that one labor goes really makes a difference — to us! There is something special about having a small sample size. You can make a big difference to one woman. It is harder to make such a big difference to many women.

Because she is our one birth, this month, this week, this day, we work as hard as possible to make a difference for her. As we make a big difference for her, we enjoy that big win, too. Just as we are one for her, she is one for us. Her joy in meeting her baby is our joy. Her success in breastfeeding is our joy as well.

I learned early on that I can’t be at all the births all the time, even just the Pittsburgh births. There are way too many! But I can be at one special birth to one special mom and dad. And I can make a difference!