BREMERTON — Ellen Yates Barnard is reaching out to the community. She wants to start a conversation.
Barnard is a doula, both for before and during the labor, as well as a postpartum doula, and she’s making herself available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays at Hot Java Cafe, 409 Pacific Ave., Bremerton.
“I am passionate about women’s health and my work as a doula/childbirth educator,” Barnard wrote on her Facebook event posting. “I wanted to open my time to meet new people and give the opportunity to anyone who might want to talk about women’s health, doula-related questions, nutrition or whatever else.”
Friday, Feb. 17, will be her first “Conversations with a Doula” event, but she plans to be there basically every Friday.
“I am a firm believer that we need to just reach out,” Barnard said. “A lot of people don’t know what doulas are. Really, I opened that (gathering) up just to get the conversation going. Women who maybe are pregnant have thought about, heard about what it is, can come and just ask questions. I’m not charging, it’s just to open up the dialogue.”
She said women have gone to her for advice about weaning off of birth control or asking about fertility and nutrition — any and all questions are welcome.
“I think it’s just important to share resources,” Barnard said. “I’m not giving medical advice, obviously, but sharing resources so women know there are options out there.
“It’s just me trying to step out and hope that people are interested, hope they want to have a conversation,” she said. “If there’s more interest, if Friday doesn’t work for everybody, if there was interest in different times or days, I’d be open to that, too.”
Certified through DONA International, Barnard got her start as a doula in Hawaii after listening to women tell stories of giving birth as a hairdresser.
“I became a doula because I only heard … it was all fear,” she said. “Just look at our media: Your water breaks. You run to the hospital. You’re screaming the whole time.
“There’s a stigma behind birth, and there’s a lot of fear,” Barnard said. “Women hire me because they’re scared. They want some reassurance, they want a woman to talk things through with.”
Though hiring doulas has become more popular in recent years, Barnard said there are still a large number of people who don’t know what, exactly, a doula does.
“For birth, we meet twice, usually, prenatally to discuss your birth plan,” Barnard said, “and your comfort measures in labor. I meet with your partner or whoever will be with you at birth. We discuss your birth plan, what you want your birth to look like, your preferences, comfort techniques.
“I’m there for the birth. Women will call me when they’re in active labor, and I meet up with them at home, hospitals, birth centers,” she added. “I help them through their labor with comfort techniques, helping them get in position, help them move the baby if the labor stalls … (Doulas work) with the women and the babies and their bodies to get them comfortable and in the best position to give birth.”
She said that throughout labor, doulas are there to provide emotional support help advocate for the woman to ensure her birth fits within her plan.
“We help. We don’t speak for the women, that’s not our job,” Barnard said. “But we know their birth plan, so we help advocate for them.”
Doulas, Barnard said, stay until after the baby’s birth “to help facilitate any needs there might be with the family with breastfeeding, things like that.”
Barnard is also a postpartum doula, which she said is even less well-known than birth doula services.
She said she is there for the mom and baby from getting home from the hospital until usually about three months later, helping with home care.
“I facilitate the health of the woman and the health of the baby,” Barnard said. “I make sure mom’s doing well breastfeeding, questions about the baby’s first bath or if she needs someone to cook meals or watch the baby while she takes a nap … it can be a full range of things.”
She said that contrary to popular belief, doula’s aren’t only hired for totally natural births; indeed, women getting cesarean sections hire doulas, too.
“Women want to feel supported, women want to have a community behind them,” Barnard said. “You want that community, you want that energy of another woman to comfort you. Obviously, a man can’t relate in a lot of that, so I think it’s just having someone that can relate to you, someone who knows how to handle what you’re going through. Someone who can provide that kind of comfort and support.”
Barnard said there’s a large community of birth doulas in Kitsap County and an “amazing birth community out here.” She said if other doulas wanted to join in on her “Conversations with a Doula,” that would be good, too.
“We get into this because we’re passionate about women’s health,” she said. “Don’t be shy, ask whatever question. We really love helping. I would love if any other doulas want to join. Obviously, the more the better.”
To learn more about Ellen Yates Barnard and her doula services, visit www.gypsyinspirations.com. To find a birth or postpartum doula, check out doulamatch.net. The “Conversations with a Doula” event page is available at goo.gl/WgLHzt.