My “baby” is all grown up! Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I started my business, (“my baby”) what was known back then as Mother’s Matters. In 1991, there were no other doula agencies in the Metro DC area, so I was on my own. The positive = no competition; the negative = no collaboration.
It seems just like yesterday. I was faced with a major change in our life. My husband had been transferred out of town, the family would stay back and he would commute. I needed to work closer to home or at home to be closer to the children. I could no longer travel to DC to my job as a Director of Nursing for Maternal Infant & Women’s Health. I was searching for something to do, drawing on my experience. Consulting was a possibility. I learned about a new role in caring for the new mother, called the “doula”. My good friend and colleague, Ann Schramm, introduced this whole new concept to me. After explaining how a doula helps the new mother during the postpartum period, I thought, “Hmmm… that sounds similar to an Early Discharge Program I developed for a hospital”. And that was the birth of Mother’s Matters. I would draw on my experience and develop a postpartum doula service.
So, with the support of my husband, and the patience of my boys, I moved full speed ahead. I would camp out at Reston Library, researching per capita income for the local counties and birth rates for the local hospitals to see if this would even be feasible. After the research, I wrote a business plan and began networking. No one I networked with had a service operating at the level I wanted to take this to. It had to be professional, based on regulated standards, such as those from the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Hospital Administrators and Maternal/Child Health leadership welcomed me for presentations. But most OB’s were skeptical, snickering at the word “doula”. I chose to keep the title, thinking ahead that in the future it would represent a new role in health care. Others, friends & family, thought “WHO would do this type of work?” and “WHO would use such a service?” But I persevered and within a few months, I developed marketing tools and a training manual to train women in the community to practice as doulas. Lots of writing…probably why I don’t like to write now! L I met with the Small Business Bureau and a lawyer to assist with developing contracts for staff and clients.
Then came the real challenge – running the ad to hire doulas. No one had even heard of the term! This was the scary part. I had just left a full time position as a Director of Nursing, a role that I had become accustomed to after almost 20 years. And here I was embarking on new ground, throwing around a word, that was not your common household word back 20 years ago, and it still isn’t common! The word “doula” is now more widely recognized by professionals in the field of Maternal/Infant Health and by those expecting a baby. Doulas have even been widely covered in the media and in literature.
By June, 1991, Mother’s Matters was established, licensed in the State of Virginia and began as a postpartum doula practice serving the Northern Virginia area. Within a short period of time, based on the needs expressed from current and prospective clients, overnight services and a variety of levels of care were added to the program and we expanded to cover the Maryland and DC Metro area. In 1992, we brought a key trainer from DONA to train those interested in Labor Support. Also in the early 90’s, Mother’s Matters was sought out by a local hospital to develop a “Getting Started” RN/Doula plan for all their new mothers discharging from the “Birthing Inn”. Mother’s Matters became licensed by the Department of Health in Virginia and provided these services for two years.
By the mid-nineties, Mother’s Matters added a comprehensive Lactation Support Program, offering complimentary visits & phone consultations to all clients, as well as support to local businesses to assist the breastfeeding mom returning to work. In 1998, due to a trademark application conflict, Mother’s Matters was required to change its name. And so, our service was named Mother & baby Matters, Inc. with its own new logo, accepted by the Patent & Trademark office.
In the following years, many women have been drawn to the role of the doula. They have attended our trainings and begun practicing as doulas; providing loving, caring support to new mothers. Many have left this area and have continued to practice as doulas in other areas of the country. And (surprisingly to my family & friends), the new moms did request our services (with accolades!) and some moms have used us over the years for their second, third or even fourth child! We have provided services for those experiencing postpartum depression, for families with twins & triplets, for those whose babies had reflux and who desperately needed a break, for families who needed help getting their babies on a good sleep schedule and for lots of families who needed guidance or respite after coming home from the hospital or following adoption. We’ve also helped many babies with special needs; like preemies or those who have had surgeries.
And now, almost twenty years later, an email or phone call comes in from a frantic mom (or dad!), overwhelmed with postpartum changes and responsibilities. It’s just as exciting now as it was then to be able to say “Help is on the way!”
Yes, my “baby” is all grown up!