We thought it would be fun to get to know some of the people who are on the Gift MDI website. And one of them is Nina Emlen of Emlen Family Doula.

Nicole: So thanks for being our first victim, contestant, interviewee.  Whatever we’re calling it.

Nina: Thank you for inviting me in. It’s lovely to be here.

Nicole: So, I think a lot of people – and I thought you’d be a good first person too because I think a lot of people don’t know much about, unless they’ve given birth and had a doula, how that whole process works. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you work with people.

Nina: Well, I work as both a birth doula and a postpartum doula. And as a birth doula, I meet with families while they’re pregnant and we discuss their goals for birth. And my big goal is to just make sure that people have really satisfying and empowering birth experiences. And that can look really different for every family. I meet people where they are and just try to get to know them really well and help the partner be part of the birth experience.

As a postpartum doula, I provide the kind of support that historically maybe mothers, aunts, sisters, neighbors would have provided, such as cooking, cleaning, teaching about breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and how to just generally take care of a baby, help care for the mother if she’s recovering from a difficult birth or a cesarean.

I spend time with the new family and just try to kind of normalize the experience and create comfort and peace.

And I think that if people have a good first few weeks and months after the baby’s born, it can really kind of color the entire parenting experience. So I try to create community and create a sense of ease in the home after the baby’s born.

Nicole: Now, OK, total newbie question. If I was giving birth, my goal would be to get the baby out of my body and have that go well. What are some other birthing goals that I might have?

Nina: (laughs) Yeah. I mean, some people just say, “I just wanna have a healthy baby and feel good about my birth experience.” And that’s a really great goal to have.

Other people may be really set on wanting to have a natural birth, so, have birth without using any kind of pain relief or any other interventions that a hospital might offer.

Other people want pain relief as soon as they can possibly get it and feel like a doula might help them arrange that and make that a reality for them in the hospital.

Some birthing people go into their labor alone and might want companionship from someone that they know in a different way from the hospital staff.

So there really are, some people have planned C-Sections for various reasons and a doula can help with those experiences as well.

There are a lot of different ways that people, part of the equation, I’m just an unbiased presence that will hopefully aid in a satisfying experience for the whole family.

Nicole: If you’re giving birth, or it’s a pretty stressful process and it must be nice to have someone like you, who, ya know, you know what I want. You know what I need. And, you could be advocating for me while I’m, ya know, giving birth. And doing what I need to do. So that’s pretty cool.

Nina: It is, it’s very cool. I had a doula at both of my births and she was amazing. For my second baby, she, her presence allowed my husband to take a nap during my labor, which I wanted him to do because I wanted him to be as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as possible after the baby was born. And he could leave the room to eat and to use the restroom and all of the important human functions that need to happen during a 12 hour period, or however long.

Nicole: Oh my god, 12 hours?

Nina: Well, that was my short labor, so. Anyway, we won’t get into that here. (laughing)

Nicole: Babies are fun.

Nina: Yeah, it’s awesome, don’t worry.

So, ya know, having her there was just really comforting and peaceful and I also should say that the two most local hospitals here in MDI and in Ellsworth are both really amazing hospitals with incredibly supportive nursing staff and midwives and OBGYNs and I just want, doulas play a different role in the birth experience, but I do want to point out that where we live we are really lucky to have access to such amazing staff and hospitals.

And also an incredible variety of home birth midwives who do amazing work as well.

Nicole: Nice. So now if someone’s on the Gift MDI website or they’re like out in the world and they’re trying to think, do I need a doula or maybe does my loved one or my friend need a doula? What are some questions either they can ask their friend or ask themselves, ya know, and if it’s a friend if they’re not overly personal, that will help them assess like if they need a doula and kind of what kind of questions they should ask when they meet you?

Nina: Yeah, I think that, so I think some people, some people don’t generally need a doula. People want a doula.

Nicole: Got it.

Nina: And I’m just saying that because there are,  professional organizations out there that really, they care about that language a lot.

Nicole: That’s totally, I get it.

Nina: But I think it’s a hard question to answer generally but I think that for people who have, for whom their birth experience feels very important to them.

I think it’s a great choice to have a doula. Some people see the birth as just something they’re gonna do and they’re gonna have a baby and it doesn’t really matter how it happens and that’s it.

Nicole: Those aren’t necessarily your people.

Nina: Yeah, I mean, but that’s great. And I kinda wish I could have been more like that, but anyway. (laughs)

So, but I think that if a lot of people choose to hire me because they don’t know what to expect from labor, or feel like their partner might benefit from having somebody else in the room with them.

Or, they’re just anxious and don’t really know why and don’t really know what to expect and I think that if people are interested in gifting doula services, I think postpartum doula services are probably a pretty safe bet.

I think it’s a really personal choice to hire a birth doula, but I think almost everyone can benefit from a postpartum doula. Especially from family members who aren’t able to be around after the baby’s born.

Nicole: Oh nice.

Nina: And, you know, I have a range of package sizes so people, even if they just wanted to hire me, come in for four, eight hours, that’s a possibility. And so, I think that would be a good way to use Gift MDI.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s great. You know, I didn’t even know postpartum doula was really a thing. That’s cool.

So, how do people, I guess if they’re, if they’re trying to pick a doula, there’s different options out there, how do, ya know, what kind of people either do you like to work with or what kind of people do you find that things tend to go well, or.

Nina: I like to work with everybody. (laughs)

Nicole:  No, but is there a like a service range, or something. Like, do not go further than X, or like, do you specialize in people who are new. And by new mothers, I mean this is the first time you’ve given birth. Or something like that.

Nina: Yeah, I do have a geographical range. Right now, I travel up to two hours from MDI, so that’s about Camden area to about Machias and then north up to, ya know, wherever, but around, Orono. Or Machias.

I don’t have a specialization right now in terms of kind of people I support. I have had a really wide variety of clients so far and have absolutely loved working with all of them.

And I think people who do birth work will tell you that every birth is unique. So whether you’ve attended three births or 300, you really can’t, ya know, still can’t predict what’s going to happen.

And so, I just love meeting new people and really love supporting families because it’s pretty much what I care about more than anything else. And that’s why I’m doing this. ‘Cause it’s hard, but I love it.

Nicole: Yeah, so now what’s one thing if someone’s watching this video and they don’t know. What’s maybe one misconception or something that you can kinda lay to rest? If somebody’s gonna watch this video and this is maybe all they’re ever gonna know about doula services.

Nina: Yeah, well two things just popped into my head. One is that, I’m not a midwife. And I’m not a doctor and I don’t deliver babies. I’m not a nurse. I have no clinical training, no medical training and I won’t perform any clinical services whatsoever.

A lot of people hear doula and they think home birth, midwife and those are two very, very different things.

Nicole: Ah, OK.

Nina: I am purely an emotional and physical support person. I know a lot of stuff and I can direct you toward information, but I won’t be providing any sort of clinical tasks for you.

And the other thing that I thought of was that, ya know, I think people tend to think that doulas are really far out or big hippies or something. (laughs) And I do have my, ya know,

Nicole: Hippy moments.

Nina: For sure. But I think you’ll find that a lot of modern doulas are kind of professional people and, ya know, they’re there for a certain reason, but it’s not always because they want a woman to have a natural birth or start breastfeeding.

Nicole: You’re not going to start like clanging crystals on people or anything like that.

Nina:  No, I mean I’d love to learn about if that does something, I would, but. (laughs)

Nicole: Great, so now what’s a good way for people to get a hold of you if they wanna either talk to you or learn more.

Nina: Yeah, well my Facebook page, I’m really active on my business Facebook page. I also have a website, EmlenFamilyDoula.com and from my website, you can find my email address and my phone number and there’s also a form there you can fill out. So there’s lots of different ways to reach me.

Nicole: Awesome. Well thanks so much for letting everybody in the MDI community and myself learn a little bit more
about your services.

Nina: Thank you for having me. This was really fun.


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