MothersCare Doula Services is owned and operated by two friends, Sheila Marley and Susan Shepard. It began in 1993, but its beginning actually occurred with the birth of Susan’s twins in November of 1992. These babies were the fourth and fifth for Susan.
She writes: My pregnancy was unexpected and overwhelming. I knew that even for me, a woman who could juggle quite a bit, that these babies on top of my other three might just send me over the edge. I didn’t realize this until years later but when I had my oldest son at 19 years old, I had a doula. She wasn’t called a doula but that is what she was. She was my mother. And like her mother before her, when a daughter had a baby, you went and quietly guided the transition, made meals, cleaned, kept the laundry going and did whatever was needed so your daughter could heal and adjust to her new baby. My mother showed me how to give the baby a bath, answered by nursing questions, and just gave me this quiet reassurance that it was all going to be fine.
With baby number two, my mother had become ill and I was living below my closest friend. My closest friend became my doula, and made us meals, did our laundry and helped me rest so I could take on my new life as mother of two.
Two years later, I had moved away from that friend and my mom had passed away during the pregnancy. So with baby number three, I felt uncomfortable asking for help. Why would I need help? I’d done this two times before. I refused all help and decided I could do it alone. Well for a year after her birth I felt overwhelmed. Not depressed exactly, but more like I couldn’t catch my breath. I remember when she was 13 months old literally feeling that I had caught my breath, caught up with my life somehow.
Well a year and a half from that point I found out I was having twins. I knew that it was going to be way too much for me to do it on my own, and so did my good friend, Sheila Marley. Sheila said “too bad for you, we’re helping you” in response to my saying I wasn’t comfortable having help. She organized all of my friends to cook and clean for us. She began it two times a week when I was 6 weeks away from delivery. After delivery, she had meals coming to us every night, and someone coming to clean. On one of those days, two friends, Jean and Beth, came over. Jean had brought all the makings for an eight course turkey dinner (the babies were born in November), and both she and Beth were going to clean. Beth said “we’re your doulas!” “My WHAT?” I replied. She said, we’re here to help you after you have a baby. That’s what a doula is.
I had never heard the word before. But at 4:00 in the afternoon I was in my robe, my house spotless, turkey wafting through the air, babies contentedly sleeping, other kids happily occupied and I said “Wow, this is why people hire help!” It truly was an epiphany. I always thought it was so noble to do it all myself. But the feeling of being loved and safe and nurtured that I felt, was truly eye-opening. I could really see why we as women need help. How different this felt from the postpartum after my third baby. After two weeks of having the rest and support I felt like I could take on my life again. The two weeks gave me the needed respite to heal and think about how I was going to mother five children. The support helped my husband so he could work to support his growing family.
This growing family was going to cost a lot to support so I was feeling pressure (from myself) to find a way to help provide for our family. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere, I also knew I wasn’t going to bring more kids in to our home so I was wracking my brain as to what I could to provide income. It was during this time I read an article on doula services. I spoke to Sheila about it. She also had for her own reasons and desire to find a good way to make needed income. Combined with my recent epiphany, stressing over how I was going to help support our family, and intense prayer, it was not surprising that I awoke at three in the morning with the idea of starting a doula service. It all came together.
I ran downstairs and checked the Yellow Pages for doula services in the area. There were none. I waited for 7:00 a.m. (a fairly decent time to make a phone call) to call Sheila. I blurted out my idea and she said “you’re a genius!” I wasn’t a genius but the idea fit us both because she had experience working with a nursing home agency and I had a lot of experience with mom’s and postpartum.
I made a phone call to the National Association of Postpartum Care Services in February of 1993 and found out some information on starting an agency. It was all very scary but it had to be followed through on. Sheila and I spent the next 8 months putting together our business, and on October 15, 1993 we put our phone in. On October 16 the phone rang! We looked at each other in horror and amazement and excitement. We answered the phone and it was our first client. A mother of five who had struggled with postpartum depression in the past and was home with a newborn.
We’ve been answering the phone ever since and have been happily providing both loving postpartum and labor doulas to meet the needs of families in our area.
We count it a privilege to be “let into” families to help them at this really delicate and important time of life. MothersCare is privileged to assist families at such a special time.