Most women are understandably terrified of one of life’s biggest events: Childbirth. For Martha Lerner, Miami native, certified birth doula and self-described “birth nerd”, the study of childbirth was something in which she was always interested and about which she was always passionate.
From an early age, she regularly took birth classes and studied breastfeeding for fun. Her birth nerd reputation grew and friends regularly consulted with her during their pregnancies. After her own rocky and unpredictable childbirth, she decided to devote herself to demystifying the miracle of childbirth by easing women’s fears about birth.
As a birth double, Martha is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical and informational support during childbirth and often works in tandem with a midwife and ob/gyn in a hospital, birth center or home birth setting.
Over the years, Martha has learned that women’s biggest fears about birth are c-sections, ptocin and of course, labor contractions/vaginal birth pain. In her role as doula she supports the laboring mom and also coaches husband/partner/significant other during the often unpredictable stages of childbirth to help mom ease her fears and her pain so she can have the birth she desires.
Pregnant women seeking less ptocin, less childbirth intervention and natural, vaginal birth make ideal doula clients.
Martha shares that doulas are associated with less labor time, decreased pain medication during contractions and increased birth satisfaction rates. She starts by learning as much as she can about her prospective client. She has a lengthy prenatal Q & A to determine birth goals and fears, to ascertain the stages of pregnancy and to offer relevant postpartum suggestions.
Throughout the 9 months of the pregnancy she meets with her clients often to help them prepare for the big moment. She encourages expecting moms to also use ancillary birth services like chiropractic care, acupuncture, lactation consultation and massage therapists to help further inform mothers of what to expect while at the same time reducing childbirth fears.
A postpartum home visit is also included in her birth packages. And unlike many of her colleagues, because of her love of photography she also offers pregnancy, birth and postpartum photoshoots.
After the Q & A, if Martha feels that her client is unquestionably attached to her ob/gyn, or wishes to birth in a hospital unsupportive of doulas or with an exorbitant c-section rate, she may decline that mom’s doula request. Since her mission is to reduce the stress and apprehension that all births can produce for women and in order to do that she needs to work in an environment in which she is comfortable and her services are welcomed.
According to Martha, the only stated disadvantage of hiring a doula is the financial burden it may impose. A less experienced doula may charge between $800 – $1000, while more experienced ones charge between $2500 – $3000.
Fear may be the overriding theme of birth, but Martha gushes that the miraculousness of birth coaching is the biggest high or joy as a doula. For Martha, the biggest challenge is birth’s inevitable complications at times, such as long labor times, and some hospital’s frustrating adherence to 40 week pregnancy guidelines after which some doctors insist on inductions and interventions. But the joy the birth brings on all levels is what makes it all worth it.
Martha recalls a home birth that occurred unexpectedly during the grandfather’s birthday party. So instead of singing happy birthday to grandpa, the guests were congregated at the birth instead. Now that was an unforgettable birthday celebration!
Martha sees herself and other doulas as an integral part of a fearless childbirth experience for women. Each birth is unique, but her presence to calm and reduce fear no matter the circumstance, fulfills her wish to make birth less of a dread and more of an empowerment.
In today’s overly medicalized and worst case scenario landscape, doulas such as Martha emphasize pregnancy education, postpartum care and confidence in a woman’s bodily capabilities.
She is a dynamic part of the South Florida childbirth community and is available at zenmamalove.com.
Beth Cooper is a Philadelphia Pennsylvania native. She has lived and practiced in Oakland Park for 21 years. Her practice, called Sunshine Chiropractic Center, focuses on family, pediatric, pregnant women, back pain, and auto accidents.
Fitness, running and yoga are her passions. Beth loves spending time with her 11 year old daughter and husband Rob of 20 years when not working.
She loves to support and utilize local mom and pop, entrepreneurial businesses whenever possible. She volunteers for Poverello Live Well Center weekly as the agency’s chiropractor and has done so for over 10 years.