Let’s get to know each other…
Hey, I’m Jessica. I'm the owner of Birth Kalamazoo. I've been teaching and doing doula work in the Kalamazoo area for almost 15 years. I love families, and I love this community.
I got interested in birth as a student at Kalamazoo College, and my senior capstone project was a journalism series on midwives. I set that interest aside after college and I went on to work for about a decade in marketing, public relations and journalism. After I had a great birth with my first baby, my own doula, Kerry, challenged me to build on my experience to help other families have great births too.
I already had a great career, but the more I got to know other new moms, the more I saw the need for better births. People didn't have the same information I'd had for my birth, and they were not having great experiences. I decided to get trained to teach childbirth classes.
This is me, teaching my childbirth class. My student just gave birth in an upright position and now she’s enjoying skin to skin afterward. (It must be a long cord!)
I started off teaching Bradley Method classes, which is the technique I had learned as a mom myself. The longer I taught, and as I started attending births, I realized that Bradley Method wasn't the right match for me. I wanted to expand my toolbox of teaching techniques beyond just deep relaxation. I also wanted an updated curriculum and materials, and to soften some of the hard edges of Bradley Method's philosophy (it almost felt like "natural birth or bust" sometimes, and I was seeing some women with complicated births really benefit from an epidural or a cesarean). In 2008, I sat for the Lamaze International exam and transferred my certification.
As I was finding my footing as a childbirth educator, my students were asking me to come to their births. So I figured I'd better get trained as a doula! Even after more than a dozen years, it's an honor every time I get to support a family through their birth experience. I still get a little teary at every single birth.
Today, I’m an advanced certified birth doula, a certified postpartum doula, and a certified childbirth educator. I also train new doulas and childbirth educators as an approved trainer for DONA International and a program director and trainer for Lamaze.
I started Birth Kalamazoo when I was getting more requests for doula services that I could handle on my own. I also saw that we could have an even bigger impact by working together for change and to support new families. Birth Kalamazoo isn't just one voice, it's a collective. I love that collaboration and shared vision.
When my travel schedule keeps me hopping, I loving knowing that we have a team of really skilled doulas that I've personally chosen, trained and mentored. I feel like clients are always in good hands with their support.
Being a doula trainer and Lamaze trainer has been an interesting and exciting twist in my calling as a birth professional. Creative, interactive adult education has become a big passion for me. It's really rewarding to train up new doulas and educators, who are able to touch so many more families than I ever could alone. If you're interested in getting into this work, take a look at my training site, Heart Soul Birth Pros.
My day-to-day life
I live in Kalamazoo with my husband and our two boys, Aidan and Quinn. Outside of my professional life, I’m a hockey mom, baseball mom, soccer mom, and band mom. And I’m also just a mom, trying to raise two kind and awesome human beings who will do good in the world. I love my book club, volunteering, and being out on the lake — any lake — as much as possible (my dad was a charter boat captain, I think it's in my blood).
Pretty much every Tuesday night, you’ll find me teaching my childbirth class. That connection with pregnant families keeps me really grounded in the heart of why I love this work so much. It’s incredible to see them grow and change over our weeks together as they get ready to meet their babies. I also still attend births as a doula and also occasionally get to care for a postpartum family.
My client’s husband emailed me this photo after their birth, with the subject line: “This is how your clients see you.” It really captures the joy I feel in this work.
AdvCD/PCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE
If you’re interested in the alphabet soup that I put after my name, here’s the breakdown:
• AdvCD(DONA): DONA certified advanced birth doula (there are fewer than 60 of us around the world)
• PCD(DONA): DONA certified postpartum doula
• BDT(DONA): DONA approved birth doula trainer
• LCCE: Lamaze certified childbirth educator
• Lamaze accredited program director and trainer (no letters for that one)
• FACCE, fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators (advanced honor from Lamaze International)
I’m also co-author of a research study, “Home Birth After Hospital Birth: Women’s Choices and Reflections,” published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. I’ve been invited to speak at a variety of events, including:
• AWHONN Michigan Conference, fall 2018, on how labor and delivery nurses can help people have better births
• DONA International Conference (keynote speaker in 2016, many times for breakout sessions)
• DONA International Trainers Retreat (twice)
• Lamaze International Conference
• Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital, Annual Obstetrical Conference
• University of Michigan Health System Nurse-Midwifery Service, Terri L. Murtland, MSN, CNM Lectureship and Education Series
I’m the former editor of DONA International’s International Doula magazine, and my writing has been published in dozens of magazines, newspapers and blogs. I have completed advanced training in rebozo use for birth, Spinning Babies, traumatic birth and healing, cesarean reduction, VBAC, pregnancy and birth after infertility, and creative teaching for adults.
I'm so glad you're checking out what Birth Kalamazoo has to offer, and I hope we have the chance to work together in some way. Every service is here because I really believe it can help you have a better birth and a better fourth trimester with your baby. I can be reached by email at email@example.com if you need anything. I'm always happy to connect.