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Region's only doula agency opens to support prenatal, postpartum moms, families

Posted May 8
Updated May 9

Three Triangle doulas have joined forces to open Emerald Doulas, the region's only doula agency, serving new and expecting families.

Ashley Collins of Little Bee Birth Partner, Melanie Patrick of Melanie Patrick Doula and Suzanne Lee of Eno River Postpartum Doula opened the Durham-based agency in January. Emerald Doulas offers both prenatal and postpartum doula services, along with sibling doulas, placental services, lactation support, classes, support groups and yoga.

The three tell me the cozy office near The Streets at Southpoint in Durham already has become a place where growing families can find services, support and sympathetic ears - from breastfeeding help with a lactation consultant to hugs from other bleary eyed moms and dads, who also just spent a sleepness night with a crying newborn. They call it an "intentional community of support."

"If something goes wrong or parenthood feels overwhelming, they can come back to a space that feels comfortable," Collins said.

All three doulas are moms. Lee has a three-year-old. Collins has a six-year-old. Patrick's son is 31. They had collaborated before as part of the Bull City Doula Collective, holding meet-ups for couples seeking a doula and other events. After some hard work and nine months of careful planning, they decided to go into business together.

The demand for doulas has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. According to DONA International, the leading association for doulas, its membership has boomed from 750 in 1994 to more than 6,000 in 2012.

Doulas can support women and families before, during and after a birth. They come in during labor and delivery, helping mom and dad through the various stages. After delivery, they can visit with the new family to help with everything from feedings and sleep tips to light housekeeping and errands.

The need for this kind of support, the three tell me, is in demand in the Triangle, a place ripe with newcomers who have no extended family or network of friends in the region. On a recent weekday morning during a new parent support group, four moms held or nursed their tiny babies, sharing, laughing and offering tips and comfort.

"It's growing more than we ever imagined it would," Collins said.

As trained doulas and moms, Collins, Lee and Patrick. understand the stress expecting and new parents are going through - from what baby equipment they really need to the warning signs of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.

Each family who signs up for doula services gets a team of two doulas to support them as needed. During a long labor and delivery, for instance, they can relieve each other. And, parents don't have to worry that their doula can't show up when labor comes because of sickness or an emergency - there's always another doula to support them.

Emerald Doula has 16 doulas, childbirth educators and others signed on with the agency. And, while they support new families, they also support each other.

"This is a family that provides mentorship," said Victoria Facelli, an International Board Certified Lactation Consult and doula with Emerald Doulas. "It's a continually feedback loop."

Lee, Collins and Patrick hope Emerald Doula becomes a one-stop shop for families seeking support and services. Instead of searching online and places multiple calls for help, they can make just one call to get the services they need, the three tell me.

Classes, including childbirth education, sibling education and breastfeeding classes, and support groups, including those for moms, dads, and LGBTQ parents, are offered regularly and are open to all - not just families that have signed on for doula services.

"Our goal is to simplify the lives of new families by providing all of their support needs with just one phone call," Lee tells me.

Emerald Doulas is based at 5315 Highgate Dr., Durham. The agency's website has more information about the class and support group schedule and the other services that are offered.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.

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