Q&A With Doula, Jordan Shenberger

interview by bAILEE bRUCE
photography by brittany phillips 

We've all probably heard the term before, but never really knew what a doula was or what exactly they do. If I'm being honest, this interview helped me understand a little bit more about their world, and has urged me to shed more light on these selfless humanitarians. I believe there are still a lot of questions and misconceptions in our modern-day culture around the work of a doula. I think every woman deserves the opportunity to be introduced to the unique kind of personal care and support that a doula can provide during such a transformational and monumental time in a woman’s life.

I had the opportunity to chat with a local doula by the name of Jordan Shenberger to give you more of an inside look at what they do and how they are showing up in the community to support mothers, families, and newborns alike. From birth preparation to post-partum, Jordan shares her own journey in what it’s like to be a doula. She’s a beautiful, kind soul with a natural gift for nurturing. Her professional, yet loving and calm energy is evident as she tells us about the life-giving work she does.

In your own words, how would you explain the work of a doula? 

In short, being a doula is to empower and educate but it truly is such an intimate role to play in someone’s life. We often want to put a profession in a box, but when you’re working with people, all bets are off and the lines get blurry. Some aspects are more tangible: cooking, sleep training, educating on all your options. There are many times that I think we just need a place holder-- someone to be still with us and hold the space we may not be able to hold for ourselves. Someone to remind us that we are capable of much more than our emotions would lead us to believe. As my mentor Kamala says, “We are there to be a selfless servant.”

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"We have taken the power away from the intuition that lies in the female body and put it in the hands of people that don't reside within our skin.

We know how to birth our babies; we just need gentle reminders."

How did you arrive at wanting to be a doula? What did your training consist of? 

I never had a draw towards conventional jobs growing up. I did humanities projects in other countries in my early twenties, most of my work being with women. Because of that, I've had the opportunity to see both ends of the coin. In the United States, we have every possible resource to help us care for our children but we lack community. In the countries I've visited, it's a village effort. I want us to come back to that. We don't have to be an island of one--I think this starts with nurturing mothers and encouraging them to nurture themselves. 

I did my training through Child Birth International and we study physiology of pregnancy and labor. I also pull resources from eastern medicine like Ayurveda as well as western labor and delivery knowledge. There are many philosophies about the “right” way to have your baby, but I believe that if we have all these avenues, as someone in birth work, I owe it to my mamas to pull from every well if it means they will have the best experience possible. 

Describe what it is like to work with a client pre/post-natal. What do your services consist of? 

This looks a little different right now since I am unable to do births in hospitals due to COVID restrictions. Prenatal, I help families establish a birth plan and give recommendations on prepping the body for birth. Post-natal starts from the moment you have the baby. I help facilitate placenta delivery for moms who choose to encapsulate, and also bring meals to the hospital so that they can start to re-nourish the body as soon as possible. Once the family comes home I usually cook 2-3 meals a day, help with the baby, and assist with overnight support as well. This can be as long or short as they feel I am needed, but I prefer to stay through the traditional postpartum period, which is typically around 42 days. Every family and their needs are different but this is usually a baseline.

 

What do you believe is the most important aspect of being a doula? 

Death to ego. It is not about me or what I would do or how I or anyone else would birth or raise our children. It is about the family in front of me. I am there to show you potential paths and encourage you in what you choose to do. 

Talk about your passion for cooking and how nutrition is vital for pre/post-natal support. 

I wholeheartedly believe that food is medicine. The food that is eaten during pregnancy not only impacts the baby’s health but it is also preparing your body for birth. I have seen a new mother’s mood and milk supply turn around in a matter of days just by eating nutritious foods that the body can absorb. Beyond that, I also think there is something energetically special about someone preparing a meal for you. I try to make a conscious effort to slow down and set intentions when preparing meals for my families. 

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What do you feel is the biggest misconception about doulas or natural birth in general? 

I often get a lot of surprise when I say that I do hospital births as well as at home. In Oklahoma, it is common for doulas to do more hospital births than home. I love home births but I think women taking the hospital route need a doula just as much, if not more so, than my home birth mamas, and I’m happy to help them navigate that. We have taken the power away from the intuition that lies in the female body and put it in the hands of people that don't reside within our skin. We know how to birth our babies. We just need gentle reminders.

What are some of the biggest challenges with postpartum that most women experience? How do you assist your clients and their newborns during that time after birth? 

I think fear is most common. It’s an overlooked symptom of postpartum depression and it's a hard one to contend with. I think having another human there puts a lot of families at ease, I don't think the fear goes away but I try to carry some of the weight and reassure them of their intuition. 

If you could give any holistic advice to support first-time mothers what would you say?

I have been told time and time again that the food aspect of having a doula is something that most families didn't realize they needed but it makes such a difference. One to heal the body after everything it has accomplished but even from a more practical sense it takes the pressure of nourishing yourself and your family and allows you to be present and soak in every moment with your new little one. 

What is your most memorable experience thus far in being a doula? 

I recently was part of an unassisted home birth for a close friend of mine, and I’m still in awe. Despite preparation, there is still a sense of risk with home births. But the level of peace and trust she had in her body was inspiring and everything went beautifully.

As someone who is naturally a caregiver for others, how do you take care of yourself as well? 

I protect my slow morning routine, spend time outside moving my body, and I take an absurd amount of baths. 

If someone is interested in working with you, how can they find you?

Best means of contact is through email: jo@jowatsondoula.com 

I prefer one on one connection due to the intimate nature of what I do. I have an instagram (@jowatsondoula) and a website www.jowatsondoula.com that are a work in progress.