Written by: Chelsea Sosa
Haley Thacker, age 23, is the mother of two beautiful boys, Hayden (age 2) and Harper (4 months). Amber Pendergraph-Leak assisted Haley as her community-based doula for both of her births.
When Haley first found out that she was pregnant with Hayden, she was attending Virginia College. She was unsure of the following steps and knew she needed support, so she reached out to her mentor at school, who referred her to BirthMatters’ community doula program.
Haley was hesitant about having a doula or involving anyone she had not met before in her pregnancy and birth experience. Haley says that Amber shared information about what having community-based doula support would look like and gave her the time and space she needed to process it. She decided to work with Amber, and their relationship blossomed from there.
â€œAmber was helpful with whatever I brought to her. She educated me and helped me through a lot of the adjusting to motherhood when the postpartum period was rough. She has supported me after my births, even changing a diaper or allowing me to take a shower. As a single mom, that was huge.â€
As for the birthing process, Haley remembers Amber and her best friend being the only calming presence in the room when Hayden was born and said that â€œAmber was able to make sure I had what I needed at all times.â€
When Harper was born, Haley remembers having a lot of back pain. Amber was right there with her to rub her back when she needed it and provide calming support for her during her contractions. Haley appreciated that Amber was able to show her different techniques and positions that comforted her during the labor, as well as coached her on breathing and relaxation.
Haley says that now that other friends are starting to have children, they come to her for support. Having a community-based doula has helped her feel empowered about childbirth, and she enjoys being able to be there for others. â€œI have already recommended three of my friends to the BirthMatters community doula program.â€
What Haley appreciates the most from her experience with a community-based doula has been the communication and validation that she received from the relationship she built with her doula. â€œTo me, community-based doulas are valuable because they are neutral and unbiased. My doula walked me through my birthing process, taking care of myself and my baby, and I never felt judged.â€