Whenever I have the chance to catch up with Chris Golcher of Christine’s Care and Compassion, I’m not surprised at all to hear that she has recently completed yet another certification to add to her already broad set of skills as a birth worker. Chris has been a birth doula for 7 years and has attended over 50 births during that time. Along with working as a birth doula, she’s also certified as a postpartum doula, a lactation counselor, a childbirth educator, an aromatherapist, an herbalist for the childbearing years, a certified Friend of Breech Babies, a certified bereavement support person and a newborn care specialist.
Chris makes her home in Fittler Square, having been a Philadelphia resident for just about as long as she has been a birth worker. Many years had passed since her own experience of birthing and raising her own babies when at age 51 her best friend attended a birth doula training and shared with Chris about the work. The idea of birth work rekindled the same passions that she had felt in her own years of early parenting. Her job as an office manager for a physician was offering no comparable sense of passion, and so Chris took the leap into the world of birth work.
Now that she works to support people through pregnancy, birth and early parenting Chris easily identifies this career as the most fulfilling work she has ever done in her life. She thinks that it’s amazing that she could find work so rewarding in a career that she didn’t even know existed until she had already lived on earth for over half a century! Now that she’s doing this work, she’s found it to be even more rewarding than she could have ever expected.
It’s not just gaining such an impressive collection of certifications that makes Chris stand out - it’s the way that she takes this knowledge and applies it as wisdom in the way that she honors the wishes, dreams and goals for each individual client’s birth. She recognizes that it’s her unique role to support a woman in the choices for what she wants for her childbirth and postpartum experience. This wealth of tools and the expertise that Chris has developed in using all of these skills enable her to expand her clients choices and options, translating Chris’ skills into her client’s personal power.
While she is honored to help and support people through any and all kinds of birth preferences and scenarios, Chris feels like she is able to use her greatest breadth of skills when she supports a client who wishes to have a natural, unmedicated birth. She recalls an “in her element” moment, using hydrotherapy in the tub along aromatherapy to help support a laboring mama through her contractions.
Chris has experienced a variety of hospital settings for birth, and especially likes to support births at Pennsylvania Hospital, Einstein Montgomery and The Birth Center at Lifecycle Woman Care. She sometimes finds it challenging to work in hospital setting where evidence based practices aren’t used, however she knows as a doula she has a special role there to help her clients know what the most up to date evidence supports, so that her clients can make informed decisions in any and every birth place.
Chris names a few favorite books as ones that she regularly recommends for expectant clients to read - Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, The Birth Partner, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and The Baby Book by Dr. Sears.
For those who might not have the time to read a book cover to cover, she likes to send clients to these websites - Spinning Babies, Evidence Based Birth, La Leche League, Kelly Mom, and Ask Dr. Sears.
After a long labor Chris shows care and compassion for her own self by sleeping as much as she can and having a healthy meal. If it was a really physical labor for her, she will treat herself to a massage or a chiropractic visit. When she is off-call, she loves to go visit her family, or have them come to the city to visit her. I’m sure that Chris doesn’t play favorites of her three grown children when it comes to who she visits with, but if any family member were the favorite, it would probably be her 18 month old granddaughter who would win out. Chris has found so much joy in being a grandparent!
When I’m helping someone explore their options for area doulas, I’ll often ask if they envision their doula being more like a peer, a mother or a grandmother. There is the benefit to having someone younger and carefree who hasn’t had their own children, those who are currently parenting their own young children, and is so beautifully exemplified in Chris, a doula who possess the wisdom and maturity that only comes from reached “grandmother status” Chris’ years of experience in life contribute to the sense of calm and maternal comfort that she brings to the birth environment, that her clients express and appreciate.
Check out my interview with Chris to get a sense of her bright yet calm presence, and look below for information for how to get in touch with Chris if you’re interested in hiring her as your doula.
ChrisGolcher@gmail.com * preferred method of communication
Birth Doula Fee - $1200
Serving the Greater Philadelphia Area - Up to one hour of travel from Center City
Facebook - Christine’s Care & Compassion
There are many, many reasons why I like Marcella and have eagerly recommended for people in my classes to consider her as their doula. Sure, just from being her Facebook friend it was clear that she was a smart professional, a loving mother and well-respected and esteemed by the people in her life. But it was the opportunity to meet her face-to-face for the first time that has forever endeared me to her. When my own baby #4 was giving me utter grief from within the womb (that’s a story for another day!) Marcella reached out with encouraging words, and took time out of her busy life as a birth and postpartum doula, placenta encapsulator and mama to four of her own (who she also homeschools!) to make a meal for my family.
Our first face-to-face meeting was at my own front door, with Marcella bearing the gift of Shepherds Pie and homemade soup. In that moment she embodied the doula spirit - showing up, being a compassionate nurturer, handling a million things and making it look easy, possessing the kind of warmth that makes it feel natural to share a hug even when it’s the first time you’re meeting in person.
So let me brag on Marcella a little, give you a glimpse into who she is, how she works and why she just might be the absolute perfect doula for you. Marcella is a DONA Certified birth doula with 8 years experience and over 115 birth under her belt. She’s also a postpartum doula and offers placenta encapsulation services.
Like many doulas you may meet, it was her own experience as a birthing person that led to Marcella’s becoming a birth doula. As she tells it, “After feeling unsupported and uneducated about the birth process after giving birth for the first time in 2007 to my daughter Sofia, I knew I wanted to know more and to give birth differently the second time. After seeking out much information and different care providers I had given birth for the second time to my first son in 2009 and left the experience feeling very positive and empowered. After having given birth in completely different way and knowing I did it and it was possibility for other birthing people to as well, I wanted to support them and play a role in bettering birth experiences for others!”
Ultimately as a birthing person, Marcella has personal experience giving birth in a few different ways. After her first medicated hospital birth, she had a second and third births in the hospital, unmedicated and midwife-supported, welcoming son Joey who was caught by midwife Sue Brunk, and another son, Roman who was caught by midwife Vicky Ferguson. Finally, baby number four, her son Adrien, came at home under the care of one of Marcella’s birth heroes, CPM Karen Webster. Marcella feels, and I have to agree, that having these different birth experiences helps her to better support her clients.
On top of her service to clients and care for her own family, Marcella has managed to continue to grow and learn professionally, attending workshops such as Dancing for Birth, additional labor doula training through CAPPA, Hypnodoula training, as well as several workshops focusing on Optimal Fetal Positioning and Pelvic Bodywork and Rebozo training through Blossoming Bellies.
One of Marcella’s favorite resources for the clients she serves is Evidence Based Birth. She wants to make sure that she is able to provide her clients with up to date, evidence-based information so that they can make informed choices about providers, birthing locations and the way in which they want to give birth. Some other favorite resources are the films The Business of Being Born and Why Not Home. In addition to her own home birth midwife Karen Webster, Ina May Gaskin, and Penny Simkin are among Marcella’s “birth heroes.”
Marcella describes what it feels like to her to be “in her element” as a birth doula —
“The births that I attend that, in the moment, when my client is struggling to manage labor especially if they have previously been managing well, they suddenly are having a hard time and it becomes clear that at this point they may decide to seek other pain management. When it is clear to me that since I encouraged them to get in a certain position, encouraged their partner to try something else, I used certain comfort touch measures or gotten them something to provide more relief this is when I definitely feel like I’m doing the work I should!”
You’re probably wondering how someone with four kids of her is able to handle the demands of the on-call life and manages to show up for labors that could start at any time and might go on for 4 hours, 14 hours or 24 hours. Marcella shares, “It has taken some getting used to being on call, going to a birth and then not knowing when I’ll return home with a family of 6 of us. I am in a much better place for this work now from practicing better coping techniques personally. Knowing that it always works out as well as having the support of my family.
When it comes times to bid farewell to each brand-new-family she serves in order to return to her own, her ritual for unwinding after a birth prioritizes an immediate trip to her own bed to grab a little make-up sleep. After that she enjoys time with her family and their post-birth tradition of ordering dinner out - sometimes Thai food from Circles or Celebre’s Pizza - watching a moving, relaxing and heading to bed early. When she has the chance to be off-call, she’ll take advantage of a weekend getaway with her family or partner. In the winter that might mean heading to the Poconos or Poughkeepsie, New York for fun in the snow, skiing, snowboarding or tubing. In the summer months, Marcella sets aside time from taking birth clients and focuses just on some postpartum and placenta encapsulation clients so that she can getaway with her family to their model trailer home-away-from-home at the Jersey Shore. Beside leaving Philly, it’s just nice to take advantage of pockets of time off-call to spend time with friends knowing that she can stay up too late and not worry about being called in for a birth.
Check out the links below for more information about how to reach Marcella and follow her on social media. Below that you'll also find the YouTube link to my in-person interview with Marcella.
firstname.lastname@example.org *preferred communication method
Birth doula fee: $1000
Serving the Greater Philadelphia Area and South Jersey
Fb: Born With Love Birth
How to do justice to Seena with words on a page? Impossible! I’m so glad that there is the companion video for you to enjoy alongside this post, because the energy, compassion and treasure that is Seena just cannot be captured in mere type font.
I first met Seena when I interviewed her as a prospective member of the Philly Doula Co-op, (from which I have had to retire to being an honorary member but of which she is still an active member.) Seena has so much enthusiasm for the work that she does and that was evident just on the phone, but oh-so-evident when she spoke passionately about her love for birth work upon our first meeting. It’s clear that Seena has integrated the wisdom from her personal life’s journey along with her different skills as a professional to become the kind of person who is such an ideal fit for doula work.
While I’ve sat through meetings with Seena and enjoyed coffee dates with her around Philly, it was coming to her home for our interview together that gave me an even greater appreciation for all that she has to offer. Seena seems to have focused in on the richest parts of life, and pushed them to the front and center. Her home is filled with her own artwork, with books that have taught her along the way, with evidence of the special meaning that her faith tradition brings to her life, with pictures of her family through the many stages of life, down to her own in-home studio where she can teach private yoga classes or hold Soul Collage gatherings. There are things that we *know* are sweet stuff of life, the most important - family, creativity, faith, work & home balance - and Seena’s home shows that she has made these things a priority. I think that’s key to why Seena seems to have so much to give!
Seena is the kind of person who you might describe as a firecracker - a small package, but with lots of energy! She credits the influence of her parents for her ability to tap into both the gentle and powerful parts of herself. She describes her father as “gentle” and her mother as “anything but,” so she grew up understanding the time, place and purpose for when to offer gentleness and when to offer firmness. I can easily imagine someone choosing Seena as their doula because they know she will offer a calm presence, but will also rise to the occasion when fierce & enthusiastic encouragement are needed, or when a firm placing of the foot helps to hold the space for a birthing person to feel protected from unwanted medical interventions.
Being a part of the Philly Doula Co-op gives Seena the confidence to serve her clients well, knowing that if something unforeseen arises that causes her to need backup, she has trustworthy colleagues to rely upon. She will often find herself at a birth reaching out to the other members of the co-op to help give her encouragement, fresh insight or to help troubleshoot a tricky situation while at a birth.
I love how Seena describes her after-birth ritual, which you should just watch the video to hear in her own words. As doulas, we often say to pregnant people that “how you do life is how you will do birth.” That seems to follow for doulas as well, that a wise doula will use all of the best parts of themselves, all of their best strategies from life to apply towards their birth work. Seena’s after-birth self-care rituals of warmth, water, nourishment and rest and holding space for her own recovery all reflect the mindful approach she takes toward life - or what she describes as “sacred attention.”
I’m always, ALWAYS so happy when I hear from one of my birth class students that they have chosen Seena as their doula, knowing for certain that they will be cared for above and beyond.
Check out the links below for more information about how to reach Seena and follow her on social media. Below you'll also find the YouTube link to my in-person interview with her - enjoy!
email@example.com*preferred method of communication
Birth Doula Fee: $1200
Serving Philadelphia, The Main Line and South Jersey
Facebook: Birthing Mindfully
I know no other way to start this post than to express how humbled and grateful I am to be able to welcome Elizabeth Weinstein as the very first doula featured on this blog, and to be my very first live-interviewee. When I first heard of her, I wondered as someone with whom I share a first name, a neighborhood and a profession if people might confuse us for one another. After having the chance to learn more about Elizabeth, to hear about her passions, her particular collection of life experiences, skills and the wisdom she has to offer, all I can think is that it would be utter flattery to be mixed up with her! I’m not sure if there are others who should belong to the “Birth Workers Named Elizabeth Who Live in West Philly” club, but I can’t say enough how great I think it is to make up 50% of the current membership, and to get the excuse of this project to get to spend some time with the other 50%.
Elizabeth first felt inclined to pursue birth work many years ago after reading the book The Red Tent. She describes it as both an intense and clear calling. Elizabeth says, “Birth work for me is deeply about story telling--it is about listening to the stories of women and birthing people, listening to their histories, their traumas and fears, their hopes and visions, listening to their bodies and their brilliance. As a lifelong dancer, I love to find ways to help people feel closer to their bodies, and birth is one of the most intensely physically transformative experiences in the life cycle. As a survivor, I cherish the opportunity to build safe spaces for women and birthing people to be powerful, unguarded, and brave.”
Although she trained as a doula at that time, professionally she has focused most of the ten years in the meantime working as a professional dancer and movement educator. It’s only been in the past two years that she began working full-time as a birth doula, in that time supporting more than 30 births and working towards her certification with Birth Arts International. Those in-between years however had been more of a training ground than a detour, as the experience teaching embodied movement shaped how she would ultimately work as a doula. I love how Elizabeth describes it -
“For me, physical connection, movement, body-based mindfulness practices, and a deep trust in the innate wisdom of the body are essential for ease in labor and transition into new parenthood. Prenatally, I work with all my clients to practice movement strategies for labor that will both create optimal space for baby to find their way earthside as well as offer natural pain relief for the birthing person. I incorporate partners in all of this work so that they can feel equally equipped to encourage and offer movement suggestions during labor or offer soothing physical touch. Mindfulness and breath work are also essential tools that I offer clients. I recently started teaching a workshop with choreographer Leah Stein called "Deep Listening for Childbirth" This is a workshop for expectant parents that offers movement, sounding, and improvisation strategies for labor and childbirth based in me and Leah's years of experience as movement educators.”
I supposed that it’s the way that Elizabeth has surrounded herself with and connected herself to sources of support and demand that have helped her to maintain health and vibrancy as birth worker. She partners with several individuals and groups such as The Philly Doula Co-op, Maternity Care Coalition, Inner Circle Midwifery’s Inner Circle Doula Network and Britt McCollum of Blossoming Bellies to make sure that she’s resourced with the knowledge and back-up support that busy, growing doulas need. She’s giving back what she receives from these sources as she offers her services working as a backup doula for MCC’s Doula Program at Riverside Correctional Facility and offering back-up to her fellow Philly Doula Co-op members, as well as many others in the Philadelphia birth worker community.
Elizabeth performs her work very personally, focusing on the individual people she is supporting, but also with the greater world and future in mind. She says this -
“Birth, in my mind, sits at the intersection of some of the most important struggles of our time--access to safe and affordable health care, reproductive and racial justice, building safe and connected communities, climate change and environmental justice, the effects of mass incarceration on families and communities. I do not mean that birth work for me is only political--it is first and foremost a deeply personal practice. However, birth is our way into the world, and I cherish knowing that my work as a birth worker can possibly help create the change we need for future generations to live healthy and whole lives.”
As all doulas must, Elizabeth is sure to practice especially mindful self-care following a birth. For her, the most important things after a birth are “submerging myself in water, eating a good meal, sharing the story of the birth with a close friend/confidant, and getting lots of sleep. In the summer months, if I am attending a birth outside the city, I will find the nearest body of water to plunge myself in. Other times a pool or my bathtub will do the trick. For a while, my favorite post birth meal was getting a whole fish from the Jamaican spot on my block. If you really want to win my heart, I would recommend having a meal prepared for me when I get home. Sleep is also important, and I find that the more births I attend, the faster I am able to recuperate. If I get home from a birth during the day, I will put myself to bed, wake up around dinner time, and then sleep through the night and wake up feeling refreshed. Prayer and ritual are also an important part of feeling balanced and in-line--I wear a special necklace to all births and thank the holy spirit for the safe arrival of new life after every birth. “
For Elizabeth, working as a doula is her dream job. It gives her the chance to take all of the very best of her experience and skills, and apply it towards healing some of the harshest of this world’s present realities. She describes it perfectly - “Each of the facets of my work brings out the best in me and I cherish the opportunity to work with families across all stages of the childbearing year.”
firstname.lastname@example.org *preferred method of communication
Birth doula fee: $1150 (with sliding scale/payment plan options available)
facebook: Elizabeth Weinstein
Check out my conversation with Elizabeth below!