After I delivered my first child in 2007, I felt unexpectedly lost. I was working as a physical therapist and had extensive knowledge of anatomy and many medical procedures. I had gone to the hospital birth classes, read the books on what to expect, watched countless episodes of A Baby Story, and had a birth plan. None of that seemed to matter when I arrived at the hospital with leaking amniotic fluid and was told I should not get out of the bed. For the next 24 hours, I was allowed very little active participation in my birth, no chance to make an informed choice, no understanding of the reasoning behind the actions taken to my body, and very little communication with my caregivers. I learned later that my baby was in a posterior position during most of my labor, of which I spent in bed unable to move and stretch my body to allow my baby to descend and rotate into a more ideal birthing position. I developed some complications after my epidural, I couldn’t feel my body during pushing, and I ended up with a significant episiotomy and a baby in the NICU displaying signs of an infection with unknown origin.
As I tried to move on from this experience, it surprised me that the most enduring negative impacts of my birth remained not from healing medically, but from the feeling of loneliness and confusion during the journey. I later learned of the prevalence of this impact from talking to women with similar experiences and by reading the work of Penny Simkin, another physical therapist and one of the world’s first formal doula trainers. She observed that women remember their births vividly and accurately for decades afterwards, and that their feelings towards their experience rely less on the length of labor, complications, or interventions than from the way they remember being treated by their caregivers (Rediscovering Birth, Kitzinger, 2001).
As I began to connect with other women over their birth experiences, I realized how much I was drawn to support them and their families. The women in my church, my family and my community drew from that passion and gave me the privilege to come alongside them through their births. Over the last 10 years I have been blessed to support these beautiful women as they became mothers, and I have learned from each and every journey. I went on to deliver my next 3 children with little medical intervention, secure in my knowledge of my options having learned more about myself, my rights, and my capabilities from each birth.
I was inspired to continue my education, and pursued doula certification and attended workshops that brought together my knowledge as a physical therapist, the knowledge of birth workers throughout history, and my own experience as a mother and friend. I completed my doula certification in the summer of 2019 through Childbirth International, and attended my first Spinning Babies workshop a few months later.
I often tell my clients that I do not regret anything that happened during my first birth, as it gave me the vision to do what I do today. The one thing I do regret is not having more images from my births. As a lover of photography, I realized that another meaningful service I could offer families would be to include birth photography to journal their birth experience, available either combined or separate from my doula care.
Hence, in March of 2019, Mama Bear Doula Care & Photography was “born.” Thank you to the women who have allowed me to support them in their births, and who have taught me so much. Thank you to my friends, my family, my doula sisters and the labor & delivery nurses, doctors and midwives who have encouraged and mentored me as I provide doula support to the women Eastern North Carolina. My dream is for all mothers to feel supported throughout their births, empowered with the knowledge of their body and respected in their choices of care.
“Birth is not only about making babies. It is about making mothers; strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their inner strength.”
- Barbara Katz Rothman
- Barbara Katz Rothman
Blessings to all the Mama Bears and their families!
~Lou Gilmore, CBD (CBI)
Certified birth doula, photographer, owner of Mama Bear Doula Care & Photography