Madison-Area Doulas

We love doulas! And just like with birth classes, we feel that finding the doula that’s right for you is key to having the labor/delivery you’re hoping for, so we were really excited when one of our readers suggested we do a post about area doulas.

According to Doulas of South Central Wisconsin, a doula is “a woman who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a pregnant woman and her family before, during and after childbirth. Doulas are trained in the physiology of labor and birth as well as the emotional needs of the woman in labor. It is the job of a doula to ease and speed labor while helping you to have the birth you want.”

Personally, I think that doulas are amazing! Jess and I found our doula back when Happy Bambino still had their Speed-Doula events. We had decided to hire a doula because my OB was part of a larger practice, so I had a 1 in 12 chance of actually having him at the hospital to catch my baby. It was important for us to have someone there with us who was familiar with us as people, aware of our desires as far as labor/delivery was concerned, and also was familiar with the more technical side in case we didn’t entirely understand what the doctor and nurses were saying.

We met with a number of doulas at the event, and it was so interesting to see just how different one doula is from the next! When choosing a doula, it’s important to find one that not only meshes well with your personality, but also one who agrees with your views on labor and delivery. And it’s best to not wait until the last minute before you start looking for a doula, especially if you want someone with experience!

Doulas of South Central Wisconsin is a great resource both in helping you connect with area doulas and also providing you with info on exactly what a doula does.

Jess and I were beyond thrilled with our doula, Lea Wolf (co-founder of Happy Bambino). She helped us through a very long (!) labor that ended with an emergency c-section. Even though I didn’t get the natural birth that I had hoped for, I’m still so very thankful that she was there! We tell all of our expectant friends that they should hire a doula, and we definitely plan on having one there with us the next time we have a baby.

Kat, doula Lea Wolf, and birthday girl Milena

Below, a number of RM readers who hired doulas share their experiences, a few local doulas share their thoughts with you, and my husband Jess gives you a partner’s perspective of having a doula in the delivery room!

The reviews below are personal to the people who shared them. We realize that you may have hired/met with the doulas listed below and had a completely different experience. If that’s the case, please feel free to leave your own review in the comments or e-mail Raising Madison and we’ll put it on the blog! And thanks so much to those who shared their stories!

Mama: Kim, Doula: Lea Wolf

“We had a doula at my daughter’s birth one year ago. I felt very empowered just by her presence. Knowing that there was someone there who was in full support of our decision to have our baby our own way was great. She also helped my husband to support me throughout the entire process. Our doula taught our birth class at Happy Bambino, and the chemistry was just “right.” We both felt she was the right person by the end of our class. Please let me know if you want any more details. Thanks!

Her name is Lea Wolf. She’s the co-owner of Happy Bambino. We met her when we took their birthing class: Confident Birth. During the class, she mentioned that she is also a doula and a photographer. Through talking and a later interview, we decided to hire her. I had premature labor with my other two children. Lea never complained all the times when we called, emailed, and texted her with questions and worries. During my labor, which was 4 days after my due-date, Lea spent most of the time in the background. She was there when we needed her, but mostly stayed out of the way and let me let my body work. When she realized I needed something, like a drink or some chapstick, she encouraged my husband to bring them to me, even before I realized I needed them. During contractions, she showed my husband where to apply counter-pressure on my hips to help with the pain, thus allowing me to have a med-free birth. When my doctor pushed to artificially break my bag of waters, something which everyone, including my doctor, knew I didn’t want, I looked to Lea, and felt re-energized to continue to fight for my rights. A little while later, when I was ready to deliver, the doctor was insisting that I lie on my back. My body did not want that, and so I said, “no.” Lea was there to offer suggestions of other positions that would make the doctor happier, but allow me to be comfortable as well. When we did not immediately need her, Lea was also taking amazing photographs to document our baby’s birth. She also went above and beyond and stayed with us, even though my older children had swine flu, and we had all been exposed.

My other 2 children were born under less than ideal conditions, and this time around, knowing it would probably be my last, I wanted to do things my way. Lea helped me achieve that.”

Emily Shier and her doula Gretchen Struve

Mama: Emily Shier, Doula: Gretchen Struve

“My name is Emily Shier and I had the support of doulas for each of my three births. I am also a doula myself, and very aware of the importance of having just the right kind of “fit” between a family and a doula. Each of my births were very different and each required different support. I hired a Madison doula for my last birth, in August. Her name is Gretchen Struve and she is also a certified massage therapist. Although we have teamed up to “doula” families professionally for a long time, I was the mama and she was the doula last August. I’ll share just a few of the highlights that still remain in my mind – ways that she helped my family have a rejoiceful birth that we will carry in our hearts forever:

Gretchen was supportive and flexible with me in late pregnancy, rushing to me when I had a “false start” without an ouce of disappointment or judgment. She gracefully eased her way into my home, being present and helpful but allowing my husband and I the space we needed without feeling like we had to take care of a guest. She is energetic and gave loving attention to my 3 and 5 year old boys and a much-needed bike/run with my 1 year-old chocolate lab (something I was very much struggling with in the final days of pregnancy). And for my labor and birth, she ensured every detail that I wished for was covered without my even having consider it. She never questioned a request, my health care provider (a certified nurse midwife) found her to be helpful and wonderful, and there’s nothing I would change about my third son’s birthday. She was MY perfect doula for my most healing and awesome birth.”

Mama: Kristina Vack, Doula: Emily Shier

“When I found out I was pregnant I knew that a natural unmedicated birth was my goal. When researching methods of achieving this goal I learned about doulas and how much they increase the chance of having a natural birth. I asked my midwife if she had any recommendations for a doula and she recommended a woman whom she’d had good interactions with in the past. This woman turned out to be my doula, Emily Shier, founder of Beautiful Birth Doula Services.

Before hiring Emily I interviewed two other doulas but I really clicked with Emily’s easygoing nature and steadfast belief that my body was capable of birthing my baby on it’s own. My husband and I met with her three times before the birth in person where we discussed our birth plan as well as anxieties that come with having a firstborn. Emily was totally there for me as I went past my due date 9 days. She would call or text to see how I was doing and calm my fears.

During my labor Emily was absolutely invaluable. Knowing that she was there to be our support, just for us, really made the difference. She was able to center me when I was distracted by the intensity of a contraction. The suggestions she made and information she gave helped me to become less fearful and have confidence to birth a baby without drugs. She provided reassurance for my husband that he was doing the right things. He was actually able to catch our daughter! I count my labor as being one of the greatest achievements in my life. It was actually fun. I know Emily Shier was one of the main reasons I was able to birth my child the way I wanted. For this my husband and I are forever grateful.

To top that, Emily met with us a few times after the birth of our daughter when I was having serious breastfeeding issues. Although she’s not a trained lactation consultant, she was able to share her own experience with how tough breastfeeding can be sometimes which helped me feel less isolated.

My husband and I recently watched a DVD of the birth of our daughter (which Emily recorded and created for us) with Emily. I’m still, two months after the birth, bewildered by how empowering my birth experience was and how privileged I am to share it with such an amazing labor support professional.

If anyone out there is on the fence about hiring a doula my husband and I want to let them know that we would pay double Emily’s fee because her help was that instrumental in our positive prenatal, labor, birth, and postnatal experience. I would not think of going through childbirth without her.”

Doula: Emily Shier

“I just had my daughter in mid-June with the help of a doula. We found her using I wanted a natural birth and felt a doula would help with everything that involved. She was a wealth of knowledge and answered many questions since this was my first child. I labored at home far longer than I would have without her help, and I’m really glad I did. There was no reason to sit at the hospital and have contractions when I could be more comfortable at home, and she helped us choose how long to stay at home and when to leave for the hospital. My husband found her invaluable, working ‘behind the scenes’ as he says. She helped him with many details which really helped him support me. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.”

Doula: Hannah Bernard-Donals

“I had a doula at my labor and delivery and we couldn’t have done it without her. I had a long labor, and she was there at each step to help me relax and my husband, too. She helped me make decisions when I was tired, and post partum connected me to a fantastic lactation consultant. I will always use a doula in the future!

FYI – my lactation consultant was Adria Cannon, who works with Happy Bambino.”

Papa: Jess Schuknecht, Doula: Lea Wolf

“A lot of men probably hear the word doula and either don’t know what it means, or if they do think they don’t need to worry about one since they won’t be the ones pushing a baby during childbirth. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out a number of women would believe that a doula is only for them. As a man who spent over 24 straight hours with our doula, Lea, while my wife Kat was in labor, I would like to tell you that a doula is a wonderful thing for all involved in the labor process.

Lea was amazing. I know Kat appreciated her to no end, for her support, and for always having a trick or a suggestion to get through a rough patch. Even our doctors and nurses warmed up to her, because she never pushed an agenda like they seemed to think she would. She was simply there for us, to help us get the birth we wanted as much as possible. Whether it was the different heating pads she had, or sneaking food in for Kat to eat, she was always at the ready.

For me, Lea was nothing short of a lifesaver. From the moment she got there, it made me feel more at ease just by someone else always be around in case I panicked, or broke down, or merely needed a break. She would suggest things to do to help the labor along that I had forgotten or never even known about, but always in a helpful context and never like I was a dummy. When a doctor or nurse would explain something that I didn’t totally follow, she would clarify it for me or ask them a question that would get me the answer I needed. Through it all though, and I can’t stress this enough, she wanted us to have the birth that we wanted, and merely wanted to aide us in getting there.

The telling point came when a decision on a c-section needed to be made. Kat had been in labor for about 32 hours at that point, and the baby wasn’t coming. We had tried different positions and pressures, and had even given Pitocin a go. In those last few hours, I had watched my wife appear as defeated as I’d ever seen, and all I could do was stand by and do this or that little thing but ultimately feel helpless. When it was decided that a c-section would be necessary, things moved very quickly. We had badly wanted a natural birth, but Lea was right there to tell us that there was nothing wrong with it, that we hadn’t failed in some way, and that we had done everything we humanly could to get the birth we wanted. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you get to hold your baby in your arms no matter how they get there.

As Kat was prepped for surgery, I broke down crying in Lea’s arms. I was completely burnt out and frazzled, and just wanted to meet my daughter and have both she and my wife be safe and healthy. While I put on my fancy white jumpsuit so I could be in the OR, Lea talked me down to a calmer state. As we waited in the room right off the OR for the go-ahead for me to go in, we shared small talk: what our families were like, etc. It was reminiscent of when we were auditioning doulas trying to find one we liked, and on our subsequent get-togethers. Finally, it was time for me to go in, and she gave me a hug and said she would stop by later to meet Milena.

I can honestly say that I do not know what I would have done without her. I’m sure that we would have felt rushed into choices we didn’t want to make. I think we would have gotten more frustrated more easily. More than anything, though, I know we would have a had a much more difficult time than the one we had. Doulas do different things for anyone helping with a labor, but make no mistake they are invaluable to everyone involved.”

Michelle Ellinger (

“I am a birth and postpartum doula in Madison and have the bulk of my experience in postpartum work. I have been a postpartum doula for 4 years, working with 16 families with a combined 200+ hours experience.

In 2006, I became a postpartum doula. My main goal in the beginning was to help women and babies learn to breastfeed. I was in for a surprise – I learned there was FAR more to it! In my work with families postpartum, I have spent anywhere from a few hours to several weeks helping with the adjustment of adding a new person to the mix. Some families will hire me so that they may take a nap for a few hours, and know that their baby is well taken care of in the next room. I have been hired by families with twins, triplets, special needs babies, closely spaced children, first babies, third babies. I have been hired several months before when a mom is anticipating possible adjustment difficulties or has had a history of postpartum depression. I have been hired weeks after baby is here, with the ability to schedule a visit to help out sometimes the very next day. I’ve served as respite and a resource for parents of colicky babies. I’ve helped mamas who need physical support while recovering from unplanned (and planned) c-sections. I’ve rocked babies in chairs, sat on mama’s beds while they gaze at their newborns, ironed clothes for a baptism (really!), made lunches, learned to use many-a-dishwasher and washing machine, fed two babies at once, helped latch a baby on, cried with mamas, and cried with papas. This work is not for the faint of heart, but it is so important to honor this period of time and give the support that’s so needed. I love to see the family emerge and parents’ confidence build.”

Doulas of South Central Wisconsin: (608-245-0333)

Can’t afford a doula? Contact Small Miracles Doulas.

Did you hire a doula to help you through your labor & delivery, or are you a local doula yourself? We’d love to hear from you as well!

Let’s talk Doulas

We love doulas! And just like with birth classes, we feel that finding the doula that’s right for you is key to having the labor/delivery you’re hoping for, so we were really excited when one of our readers suggested we do a post about area doulas. But we need your help!

Did you have a doula at your labor? Tell us about your experience! How did you find the doula who was right for you (or did you end up with a doula who wasn’t what you had expected)? We’d love to hear what your partner thought about having a doula as well.

Doulas, we want to hear from you too! Tell us about yourselves – why you became a doula, how people can get in touch with you, etc.

Please e-mail your info to: raisingmadison[at]hotmail[dot]com