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What Is a Doula and Do You Need One?

What if childbirth was a sacred and joyous event, rather than an experience to be feared?

What if pregnancy wasn’t treated as an illness, but seen for what it truly is? A completely natural and normal miracle that typically requires little intervention.

What if the medical team respected each mother’s uniqueness and did their best to honor her birthing plan?

What if a community of wise and nurturing women cared for new mothers as they cared for their newborn babies?

What if your journey into motherhood was magical?

What if?

These are the questions that motivate Ashley Walburn, a labor doula with over 17 years of experience, to celebrate each of her clients remarkable stories and individual wishes.

“I'm like your best friend who knows a lot of stuff,” Ashley said in an interview with Bonsie.

Ashley Walburn, doula, yoga instructor, therapist, and founder and owner of hOMe holistic.
Ashley Walburn, doula, yoga instructor, therapist, and founder and owner of hOMe holistic.

A doula is a trained professional who provides expert guidance to mothers during their pregnancy, childbirth, and/or postpartum period. They help moms prepare their body and mind for childbirth through movement, meditation, and holistic wellness approaches.

Ashley is a doula, yoga instructor, therapist, and the founder and owner of hOMe holistic. hOMe holistic is a wellness center for women where Ashley and other instructors teach prenatal yoga, newborn care classes, infant massage, and other courses to enrich the lives of mothers.

Ashley believes that every mother deserves to have a doula to educate, nurture, and advocate for them. She spends meaningful time getting to know her clients, roughly 50-60 hours prior to delivery, and is very invested in their pregnancy, birthing plan, and making each childbirth feel safe and sacred.

“One of my moms might not be sleeping well, another might have a husband who travels a lot, another might be a single mom. I know each of my moms well, and every time I see them at yoga I get little chunks of information; I see how their body is growing and’s really exciting when I get the call that it’s TIME because by then we’ve become friends.”

Ashley supports a new mom during labor.
Ashley supports a new mom during labor.

When Ashley became pregnant with her first child she remembers feeling curious about other pregnant women and a yearning to connect with them. I wonder what her pregnancy is like? I wonder what guides her to a hospital birth or to a home birth? What makes her feel scared? What makes her feel brave? Ashley wondered.

Ashley’s business was inspired by that curiosity and yearning, and the gap in community she experienced first hand as a new mom.

When Ashley had two young children and another on the way, she did not have the support or tools she needed to thrive.

“I remember locking myself in my room, crying, and calling my mom to ask for help. I felt so overwhelmed and isolated.”

Ashley’s mother couldn’t come to help, and Ashley didn’t know who else to call.

“Yoga saved my life. A friend came and picked me up and took me to a hot yoga class. I actually hated it at first, but then I started to feel more like myself again. Every few days when I became overwhelmed, I did yoga and it brought me back into my own skin.”

It was this experience that inspired Ashley to become a prenatal yoga instructor and open up hOMe holistic. At the time, there were no other prenatal yoga studios in the area and Ashley knew she could encourage other moms through this healing practice.

Ashley helps a mom and dad prepare for childbirth.
Ashley helps a mom and dad prepare for childbirth.

Business doubled in the first year, and before Ashley was even a certified doula, moms wanted to hire her to support them throughout their pregnancies and deliveries. When Ashely officially began doula work, she was so busy that she often missed her own children’s birthdays and holidays with her family. After attending three (long!) childbirths in two days and tearing her rotator cuff in the process, Ashley knew she needed to grow her business and hire more doulas.

Now, the hOMe holistic doula collective includes Ashley Walburn, Nadah Cartmill, Kelsey Zydel and Leah Osborne.

“The average career span of a doula is three years. With a team it’s sustainable because we support each other. I want to work until I’m 80.”

Ashley’s primary focus is backing up the other three doulas so they can put their energy towards supporting moms. For example, if one doula was up all night at a birth, Ashley will fill in for her so she can rest. As a team they attend about 100 child births a year.

“We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s what sets us apart from other companies. There is so much uncertainty in a new moms life, so I want to be the one constant thing my clients can depend on.”

Every mom wants to be respected and heard, specifically during pregnancy and childbirth, and Ashley and her team ensures just that. They help to create an environment of peace, a space where the mom is in charge and her partner is engaged.

Ashley and the support team after delivery.
Ashley and the support team after delivery.

“You don’t get a do-over in childbirth. I can’t promise you that you’re going to have the labor and delivery of your dreams, but I can promise you that you’re going to understand everything that is happening and that you’ll be advocated for.”

Ashley has attended over 1000 births during her solo practice, and her team has attended well over 3000 births, both at homes and in hospitals. She’s seen it all, the good and the bad.

“It’s hard to witness when providers don’t follow our clients' wishes…moms can get overwhelmed and triggered, and instead of feeling honored and safe, things just keep happening to them. A sacred moment can become a traumatic moment. I’m grateful for c-sections and I thank God for hospitals, but we all have to remember that this is a sacred moment for moms.”

When she witnesses the bad, such as partners being pushed to the corners or mothers yelled at while in labor, she does her best to inspire positive change in the way both mothers and their partners are treated.

Ashley cares for a mom during labor.
Ashley cares for a mom during labor.

She shared one recent scenario of a very long labor, about 24 hours, and Ashley was involved in every step by reminding the mom of her childbirth goals, encouraging various positions, breathing techniques, and comfort measures.

“After the baby was born, the OBGYN told me that today she remembered why she became a doctor. My hope is that we inspire nurses and doctors to remember why we got into this role. We are here to honor the mother and this process.”

Ashley suggested that expecting moms ask their providers this question: Will you honor my birth plan? And if your doctor isn’t available to deliver your baby, who will be? And will they also honor your plan?

Another important part of Ashely’s job is involving the partner during the pregnancy and childbirth. She guides partners through education and advice on different strategies they can use to support mom. This, in turn, benefits their relationship, the postpartum experience, and makes the process more positive for everyone. When Ashley is around, partners never feel at a loss of what to do, where to stand, or how to help; they feel knowledgeable and prepared. Dad wins because he’s saying the right things to mom, massaging her back, and understands what’s happening. Mom wins because she feels loved during the most special time in her life by the most important person in her life. Baby wins because she’s brought into the world solidifying the bond between her parents.

Ashley teaches a husband new strategies to support his wife.
Ashley teaches a husband new strategies to support his wife.

“Moms hire me for the first pregnancy; their partners hire me for the rest,” Ashley said.

Every mother deserves to have a doula if they want one, but what if you can’t afford one?

To hire Ashley or one of her team members it costs between $1600-$2100, which includes 24/7 support, prenatal yoga classes, and several meetings. Prices for doulas vary by state and company, but there are many ways to afford doula care.

Little Honey Money, for example, or other monetary baby shower registries, give friends and family an easy way to make donations towards doula support. There are also doula services who offer scholarships, fundraisers, and reduced rates.

If it’s important to you, ASK! Family and friends want to help support your childbirth goals and so do doulas like Ashley and her team at hOMe holistic.

We asked Ashley what topics she covers in her meetings with her clients, and the importance of skin-to-skin contact is always explained.

“Every mom wants to do skin-to-skin, but not every mom knows why it’s so important. Your baby knows it’s you and your baby wants to be in your arms, bonding with you. Whenever you don’t know what to do, ask yourself, what does my baby want? Your baby wants skin-to-skin.”

Learn more about Ashley and hOMe holistic on her instagram page and website.

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