Hundreds of aspiring and experienced doulas have completed workshops with Warm Welcome since 2001. Many have gone on to actively work as doulas, or have continued in their path by studying midwifery or nursing. Some have merged their doula knowledge with their work as childbirth educators, lactation consultants, healers, massage therapists, yoga instructors, acupuncturists, nurses, or other professions. Many have commented that the workshop deeply enriched their lives beyond birthwork; empowering them as women, healing their beliefs around birth, and making them better listeners, lovers, and friends. Read on to meet a few of the fascinating people who have come through the workshops! Kristin Smith- Nanny, Doula, Student Midwife
Hello, my name is Kristin Smith and I am a Birth and Postpartum Doula! My passion for pregnancy and babies began when I was very young. I would always pretend I was expecting and many times I would labor under the oak tree at the playground of my elementary school with my friends by my side. My passion for pregnancy, birth and babies was intensified by the birth of my own daughter in 2004. I had taken a hospital childbirth education class that taught the process of labor and what my pain management options. I went into this birth thinking this was the most painful thing I will ever do, and that my body will split in two. Well as you can guess, I was wrong. Not only did my body not split in two, I had a natural delivery. This got me thinking about what was lacking in a hospital based childbirth education class. I wanted to be supported by a familiar face and under the oak tree. I started researching birth and come across Michelle’s website. In 2010 I took Michelle’s Birth and Postpartum Doula trainings. I was so excited to be a doula, but how do I start? I took my knowledge and experience as a professional Nanny, my doula training and combined them both and wrote a business plan. My purpose and goal as a doula is to ensure women get the best possible care within the system they choose. So I made business cards, brochures, joined the GRDN
, attended most Meet the Doula days and talked to every pregnant woman I saw, even in line at the post office.
For the past 3 years since my training, I have worked full time as a Doula. I have helped over 30 families as a postpartum doula, and I have attended births at home and in the hospital. I teach classes monthly at Babies R Us, a few times a year at Grow, and I am now offering a workshop on How to Build a Successful Doula Business, starting in January 2014. My passion for pregnancy and babies was brought to life, and instead of going to work everyday, I get to go and play with pregnant moms and babies! Learn more about Kristin's doula practice at www.blissfuldoula.com.
Lindsay Helwig - Prenatal Yoga Teacher
Since I graduated from the Birth Doula program, I've been on a journey of learning and growth when it comes to the awareness of my body's wisdom and also helping other women. After taking the course, I attended 9 births (or 9 miracles!!!) in a short amount of time. I quickly realized that at this point in my life pursuing midwifery and being on call was not the right fit for me. I am a yoga instructor and found what I learned in the course to be so helpful to my students in my prenatal yoga classes. I was able to offer them the wisdom and support as a doula. This has been incredibly rich and fulfilling for me. I now have mothers cycling through my classes and I have found a perfect balance. The doula course inspired me to create prenatal yoga sequences and relaxation exercises for the childbearing years to teach in my prenatal yoga classes. I began a prenatal program at a local pediatrics clinic. I now teach a weekend workshop for the 200 hour yoga teacher training at my yoga studio. It is my vision to inspire and uplift women through yoga and healing arts. I am by no means a full time birth doula, but the course led me on a path and gave me the tools to integrate my doula studies into my current foundation of yoga for women. I am so grateful for finding this program.
Sam Chaplin - Doula, MSW Student
I decided to seek training as a doula after working with survivors of domestic violence as a legal program intern for Safe Passage. Nearly every woman I spoke with was a mother, and each mother explained that abuse either began, increased, or became more violent while she was pregnant. I had seen this statistic cited in books and articles, but hearing it firsthand is what propelled me to seek doula training. I'm lucky to have a number of savvy, accomplished, smart friends and acquaintances who work in the field of women's health and I began to notice that they all had something in common- Michelle L'Esperance's doula training. I eagerly signed up for the January 2012 training, and raised some extra funds for tuition and books by using an online crowd funding program (GoFundMe.com
). The workshop itself was a life-changing experience, leading me to realize my own potential and passion for serving women as a birth worker.
I am now working as a doula and building my own practice, Ten of Cups Birth Services.
The ten of cups is a minor arcana card in the tarot. I chose this name because it represents joy, fulfillment and contentment that can come from the creation or growth of a family. In the summer of 2013 I became an MSW student at the Smith College School for Social Work. As a clinical social worker I hope to continue supporting women through pregnancy, birth, and all that follows. My belief is that all women deserve comprehensive, accessible, full spectrum reproductive healthcare. I work from a social and economic justice, anti-oppression informed framework-- employing a sliding scale rate and flexible options for anyone seeking doula services. I am eternally grateful to have discovered Michelle's workshop and continue to be excited and surprised by where this work takes me!
Courtney Hill Wulsin - Prenatal Yoga Teacher, Acupuncturist
In the winter of 2009 I graduated from Michelle’s Birth Doula training. I had taken the course not planning to attend births and be an active doula, but to feel better prepared to teach mindful, educational and empowering prenatal yoga classes. The training felt more like mother and world prep than just doula prep and I left the training far more aware of the amazing centerpiece of the female lifeline. At this point I had been a yoga teacher for two years and was seeking out a new healing modality and things rapidly started to fall into place within a month of finishing the doula training. By mid-spring I was applying to acupuncture school and imagining a wellness practice based around women’s gynecological health, fertility, prenatal care, birth preparation, labor assistance, and postpartum recovery.
Close to five years later I’m the very content owner of Window of Heaven Acupuncture & Yoga
. I did go on to take Michelle’s Postpartum Doula Workshop, which is really training on how to be an amazing person in the world, as every detail felt relevant for every person’s life not just those practicing to be Postpartum Doulas. I also was lucky enough to take a fertility class with her to learn how to chart cycles and use nutrition to increase reproductive health. I have additional training in acupuncture/acupressure in labor and delivery as well as utilizing Chinese Medicine during pregnancy and the postpartum period. I get to treat women during the work week and be home for dinner, but I still get to feel babies kick, take women’s pulses during a contraction and empower families with strategies for a successful birth. Michelle’s trainings made me realize how much women’s self-esteem and future health is wrapped up in the birthing year. Though professionally I use the information from her training every week without fail, it is the way I use the information in my personal life that has been the greatest gift. Knowing how to walk into a household with a new baby and be of service is something I will always treasure.
Kate Lucy - Smith Graduate, Student Nurse-Midwife
Doula training was not on my radar when I was studying women's history at Smith. I had seen the poster for the training, did some internet searching about doula work and realized that it might be a way to put my passion for women’s rights to work in a very direct and real way. The moment I walked in to the first day of doula training, I knew I had taken a great leap towards a diverse, vital, heart-focused kind of work which has put me on the path to becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife.
In nursing school, I was able to work as a doula for a free labor support service to women in Baltimore. After I graduated, I taught childbirth education classes and postpartum assessments for refugee mothers in the city.
I am now studying to be a Certified Nurse-Midwife through Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky, a distance-learning program which focuses on community-based care for rural and underserved women. Frontier also teaches entrepreneurial skills, which will serve me well as I work toward my dream of starting a birth and women's health center in my home state of Vermont.
Whether your path continues in the direction of birthwork or on to other pursuits, doula skills are useful in surprising ways, and doula training is a good education for women thinking of having children themselves or supporting friends and family in labor. Kate welcomes you to be in touch with her with questions about doula training or the CNM program at Frontier.
Jane Goldstone Sarouhan - Experiential Educator, Mother, Doula
on in my own pregnancy I was blessed to come in contact with a few very
special doulas, midwives and childbirth educators. The role each played
in my beliefs about pregnancy and birth was profound, and I knew the
moment my daughter emerged that this was a legacy of caregivers I wanted
to join. Less
than a year later I learned about Michelle's doula workshop. I didn't
know much, but I knew I had to go. I signed up immediately. Michelle is a
wonderful doula and midwife, but just as importantly she is a fantastic
teacher. She facilitated an extremely comprehensive, informative,
empowering and hands-on training that was both professional and
have a wonderful and established career in experiential education, and a
very full personal and family life, so I knew that being a doula would
have to fit into my existing commitments. Upon completion of Michelle's training I launched a very simple blog
and further outlined my philosophy and services in an information
packet for prospective clients. I then posted a flyer at a local
midwifery center that I was a newly trained doula looking to volunteer
my services. I had 3 families contact me right away! I have since made
presentations about what a doula does, as well as facilitated prenatal
care groups. I continue to attend 2 to 3 births a year. My hope is that
in the future when time allows I will be able to take on many more, but
for now I feel so privileged to support even one woman in her journey of
pregnancy and birth!
Marissa Potter - Mom, Certified Childbirth Educator, Doula
I was first called to birthwork as a teen, but growing and birthing my own children was, for me, an essential ingredient in feeling ready to assist other women through their pregnancies. My own three pregnancies and the births of my two children, less than two years apart, reaffirmed that supporting birthing women and families is my life’s work. Twelve years after first discovering Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery, and after years of studying and learning about birth and supporting pregnant and postpartum friends and family, I completed birth doula training with Michelle.
I jumped right in and attended close to 20 births in my first year as a doula. I invested hundreds of hours in building my practice as a business and creating trusting relationships at several hospitals and with related practitioners in my community. I saw a lot of beautiful and difficult births and spent a lot of time processing them. There was a huge learning curve in the beginning. Adjusting to the on call lifestyle took time, and it became very clear very quickly that birthwork is a commitment that my whole family has made, not just me. It really does take a village.
It's been more than two years since my training and I will attend my 50th birth before the end of 2013. I take 3 birth doula clients per month, teach independent childbirth classes, and offer birth photography to my clients. I love what I do, it is such a meaningful way to support my family and my community. Slowly I am finding the balance between being fully present for my clients, and taking good care of myself so this work can be sustainable for me over the long term. I have never been happier in any work I've ever done. It's an honor and a privilege to serve growing families in this way. Read more about Marissa's work at www.BellyfullBirth.com.
Chaya Aronson -
Mother, Registered Nurse, Arvigo Abdominal Massage Therapist
I am a registered nurse. During my maternity rotation in nursing school,
I witnessed a birth where the mother gave birth and then everyone
present was with the baby, while the mama was still doing the work of
birthing the placenta and getting her tear sewn up. I, the student
witness, shyly stepped up and asked if she wanted to hold my hand. She
grabbed on for dear life. I thought, "Every woman should have someone
who is designated to stand by her side no matter what happens during the
birth." It turned out, that very concept already existed. It was called
a "Doula". I had no idea.
I had been flirting with the idea of taking Michelle's
doula course for as long as I have known her. I finally decided to go
for it when I became pregnant, as my passion grew stronger around how
much it matters how we bring our babies into the world. I work in the
world as a practitioner and teacher of the Arvigo Techniques of Maya
Abdominal Therapy, working with women around balancing pathologies of
reproductive and digestive systems, as well as supporting women in their
fertility, pregnancy and childbirth. Becoming a doula seemed to be the
natural next step. Read more about Chaya's work at www.PurpleRoseHealingArts.com
Wilberthe Pilate - Nursing Student
I signed up for the birth doula training during my
junior year of nursing school. I had known for a while that birth work
was a passion of mine, but looking to the future I knew that as a nurse I
would likely be working on a labor and delivery unit in the hospital. I
was drawn to do the birth doula training in my desire to finally step
into the world of birth work, and to feed my perspective of birth as a
beautiful, natural, intuitive process for the mom/parent-to-be and the
Because of my intense schedule and workload for
school, I have not gotten as far on my doula journey as I'd like to be
now; I completed the childbirth ed observation (tons of fun!), and
connected and talked to a couple of potential doula clients for my
volunteer births, but unfortunately those didn't pan out. Now, I am
working towards graduating in the spring. I am
doing my OB clinical rotation this semester, and so much of the
information I learned from the doula training has been popping up, and I
have the opportunity to be on call with some nurse-midwives which I am
very much looking forward to. As I think about the future, I am thinking
about going the postpartum doula route, which I believe would be more
forgiving of my strict and hectic schedule. Through the past year I've
been exposed to other areas of nursing that excite me, but I would love
to also do doula work in addition to being an RN, since I will always be
deeply passionate about pregnancy and birth and supporting new and
Christine Eck - Mother, Doula, Ayurvedic Practitioner
My journey towards working with birthing women and new and expecting families began as an exploration of my own wellness during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I was working towards a certification in Ayurvedic medicine when I became pregnant with my second son. I quickly learned that the consciousness behind caring for a mother’s mind, body and spirit made countless differences in my own application, and I realized that I wanted to continue to work with women as I embarked on my own professional practice.
Michelle’s birth doula training was a natural step for me in gathering all the support measures I hoped to offer to families in this community. Her training was profound, and deeply enjoyable! I loved her message, her skills, her instincts, and the beautiful connections I was able to make during those two weekends.
After finishing my training, my volunteer births and childbirth ed requirements, I did feel ready to support families in a professional way. Each birth I have attended has felt more comfortable, and I have noticed more confidence in myself each time. Offering birth doula support has been a perfect addition to the Ayurvedic pregnancy and postpartum care that I am so passionate about. Each birth has been a lesson, a gift, and a truly satisfying way to share my skills and support with a birthing mother and her partner. I have chosen to offer a variety of services for families, and so I do not take on more than one birth client every couple of months. I love the variety of sometimes working with new families, and other times with expecting ones, sometimes offering traditional Ayurvedic dietary, herbal or spa treatments, and other times helping mothers and babies in and around their homes to rest and adjust.
I am grateful for the area we live in, for its opportunities and its wide range of options for birthing women. We are truly lucky! Read more about Christine's work at www.RedSpringAyurveda.com.
Ottilia Schafer - Smith Grad, Nursing Student, Volunteer Doula
I became interested in childbirth at Smith College in a seminar on the history of midwifery. A few months later I met Michelle during a class she taught on the current practices surrounding childbirth and was inspired to become more involved. Shortly after I attended her doula training program and set out to start caring for women in labor.
The next summer I worked at San Francisco General Hospital as a volunteer doula and was able to attend 3 births. Although they all were induced labors that resulted in c-section, and the first time I met each woman was when she was already in active labor, the experience was incredibly rewarding. Helping women in labor and working with the nurses in the unit helped me decide that I wanted to become a nurse. At Smith I chose to focus my academics on the medicalization of childbirth and the current culture surrounding childbirth in America.
After graduating from Smith I started taking nursing school prerequisite classes and was a nanny before working in health care administration and management. During this time I attended the birth of a co-worker’s friend who wanted doula support and was finally able to see a natural birth and work with a couple prenatally, during labor, and postnatally. I am now in nursing school at Samuel Merritt in Oakland, CA and look forward to my upcoming women’s health rotation and plan on continuing to volunteer at SF General in the coming months. In the future I may decide to become a midwife, but for now I am looking forward to graduating in May 2014, passing my board exam, and finding a job where I can continue to support women during their transition into motherhood.
Feel free to contact me via email with any questions about Smith College (and getting Smith to pay for Michelle’s doula training), taking 5-college classes about childbirth, the 5-college certificate in Culture, Health, and Science, Michelle’s doula-training course, nursing school, volunteering at SF General, or anything else!
Tatiana Berindei - Mother, Birth Doula, Reverend, Musician, Student Midwife, Doula for the dying
For me, being a birthworker is a soul-calling. 4 years ago I began to answer that call, seeking out training after deaths in the family led me to a deeper understanding of the preciousness of life and the importance of living it to its fullest. I began with a Midwifery workshop at The Farm in Tennessee, took Beth Moonstone's Basic Midwifery course and found my way to Michelle's totally amazing Birth Doula workshop. For me, being a doula is a step on the path to Midwifery, but the content of Michelle's course and the way she presented her information I found to be invaluable. Michelle herself is an amazing person, teacher and friend whom I continue to learn so much from.
Since taking Michelle's course I have not been as active a doula as I would have hoped, taking time off to have my own baby - a veritable educational experience in and of itself and one I knew I would have to have for myself to truly be able to serve birthing women. I have also, since the training, become an ordained Minister of Walking Prayer through a two-year program with the Center for Sacred Studies. I consider working with women in labor to be an incredibly sacred thing and my Ministry studies have been very closely intertwined with the space I hold when I am with a laboring woman. I have also been in training to support people through the dying process, as I have become aware of the similarities between the birth and death processes and know that I have the innate ability and calling to hold space for both. Currently I am a woman of many hats, mothering my toddler, taking doula clients, offering spiritual direction and facilitating ceremonies, seeking out a midwifery apprenticeship, volunteering with hospice and occasionally playing some gigs out with my husband as the music duo Viatsa. Learn more about Tatiana's work atwww.sacredgateway.net
Alli Cwalinski - Doula, Nanny, Student Midwife
My name is Allison Cwalinski, and I have been a doula since 2009. As long as I can remember, I have asked my mother to re-tell my birth story. She absolutely loved pregnancy, and enjoyed giving birth. I feel fortunate to have my first ideas and perceptions of birth to come from a confident and happy woman. It was surprising to find out that many women in our society are having less than positive birth experiences, often due to a lack of information and support. When I saw an advertisement for Michelle's training and what a doula does, I was sold! Michelle carefully made topics approachable and understandable, and I really felt like being a doula was something I had inside of me. I appreciate how much she respects the process of birth, and honors each mother individually. I loved the workshop so much that when the opportunity to re-take it in January 2013 came up, I happily joined in!
Since attending the doula training, I have supported families at hospital, birth center, and home births. I have watched women overcome some of their biggest fears and obstacles, and feel honored to witness the transformation of families as they grow. I am currently working towards becoming a Certified Professional Midwife. One of my favorite experiences as a student midwife was taking a trip to Senegal with the African Birth Collective in 2011. Our team of women went to volunteer at a rural birth clinic and bring much needed supplies. During my one month stay there I attended 20 births, including 2 sets of surprise twins!
I am still happily serving as a birth and postpartum doula while I continue towards becoming a CPM. I intern with Michelle and her midwifery partner Jessie Groneman, and together they have taught me so much about the kind of midwife I would like to be. I look forward to welcoming many babies in my future!
Check back soon for more graduate profiles! (Are you a course graduate who would like to be featured? Just email me!)