“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.
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!
We just had the Western Pennsylvania La Leche League conference with guest speaker Marian Tompson. It was wonderful to hear her speak. Not only is she one of the seven original founding mothers of LLL, she was also the first president as well. I was able to speak with her after her session and gave her a copy of my book: Doulas’ Guide to to Birthing Your Way, which I signed for her. As she thanked me for the book, she told me she was glad to see that I had put La Leche League Leader after my name as one of my credentials. She was also glad to see that Dr. Kennell had written the forward to the book. She knew Dr. Kennell and was glad to see he was still out and about.
At the conference I spoke on two topics: “Influencing Breastfeeding Behavior through Advocacy & Action” and also “Communicating with Health-Care Providers: How to Be an Effective Health-Care Consumer”. I was able to speak about several ways women in Pittsburgh can help accomplish our goal of having a breastfeeding culture. It was a fun conference and it was great to see so many mom/baby nursing dyads!
Today I received a personal message from Soka Gakkai International President Daisaku Ikeda, congratulating me on our book: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way. He also thanked me for sending him a signed copy. President Ikeda is my mentor in faith and I can’t describe how happy I was to get his message. Yay!
Doulas’ Guide is now for sale in the Lactation Center at Magee Hospital. The Lactation Consultants told us they are happy to offer it for sale. This was a banner day for our book!
Here is a short video clip showing two mothers giving birth at home. Both mothers, during the pushing stage of labor, are pushing the way their own bodies are guiding them. No one is telling them to hold their breath for a count of ten or telling them that they are pushing wrong. They are following their own instincts. This is the way we encourage mothers to push in our book: Doulas’ Guide to Birthing Your Way. When a mother follows her own urge to push, she often enjoys pushing and birthing her baby, rather than feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.