Tag Archives: Childbirth Collective

Gail Tully: The Birth of an Idea

by Gail Tully

Twenty years ago an idea was spoken and The Childbirth Collective was formed. Twenty years ago, our dynamic efforts were much the same as today. Beginning with mothers who attended other mother’s births, we invited in a variety of professionals who worked with pregnant and birthing women. Reflecting this inclusion, we chose the egalitarian identity as a collective.

Then The Childbirth Assistants Collective, now The Childbirth Collective, ever upheld the same, current goal of social support, information and continuous care during, and around, the time of childbirth. We also gathered for our own needs for confidential support and professional growth. Members asked for time to process births confidentially and to plan how to promote the role of continuous support from birthing women to nurses and doctors in the hospital. I remember the courage of the two women to first approach the physicians of St. Mary’s Hospital (Now Fairview University Medical Center).  At the same time, the spontaneous metamorphic emergence of the doula role spontaneously arose in Seattle and New Jersey with groups of women including birth leaders, Penny Simkin and Deborah Pascali-Bonaro. The need for peer support gave birth to the movement.

One evening, two nurse-midwives from Regions attended our meeting in the basement of Hamlin Midtown Library on Minnehaha Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They brought a copy of The Doula Book by Marshall and Phyllis Klaus and John Kennell. Our doula revolution was about to occur. In 1995, The Star and Tribune ran a huge spread on doula care, listing my phone number. One of the 200 phone calls was by Marla Lukes, a mother of six who came on the board and together we moved my monthly parent meeting to weekly Parent Topics. She welcomed every doula with the expectation they’d join and offer their talents. We began to grow.

By 1996, The Collective was invited to provide doula care and supervision for a small pilot project run by Dorothy Walden Woodworth, RNC, to reduce the cesarean rate. Our first meeting was held around my picnic table in the long grass. Many of the doulas that participated are still active birth workers today. The next year, we were approached for a solution for HCMC doula services after the lone doula serving that hospital retired. While I may have initially supervised these doula efforts, the body of Collective doulas gave the ideas and passion to bring about the 3.94% cesarean rate for Allina’s pilot project and supported HCMC lowering their already low rate. As The Collective grew, more and more exemplar women joined.

We attended one another’s births, miscarriages and midnight birth crises. We ate, laughed and cried together. We picnicked, partied, and hot tubbed together.  Through it all we held the hope of supportive, peer-based care for every pregnant woman who wanted it. After 2000, growth became exponential, including Emme Corbeil, Susan Lane, Marion Sealey-Kreisman and more. Its an honor to be recognized as a founder, the original visionary of the Childbirth Collective, yet, all the growth to third party reimbursement, pregnant women’s right to a doula, expanded parent topic nights, a documentary film, an internet social media website, and the list goes on, comes from the women of The Collective. So uniquely, Childbirth Collective members support one another without competition to best take the message forward.

The current Childbirth Collective maintains much the same goals, developing leadership skills among the doulas and carrying our message and our mentorship to expand doula services. One-on-one and as a group force, The Childbirth Collective is one of the most effective doula groups in the world.

Gail Tully is an internationally-known midwife and expert on optimal fetal positioning. Some of you may know her as “The Spinning Babies Lady”. Read more on Gail’s work here


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The Childbirth Collective by the Numbers

by Liz Hochman, CD(DONA), LCCE

The Childbirth Collective doulas attended over 700 births in the Twin Cities in 2012.  We took some time to compile some year-end stats, and came up with what we think are very interesting numbers that offer a snapshot into the Twin Cities birth community.  These statistics show the varied settings, providers, types of families, and types of births attended by Childbirth Collective doulas.

Two-thirds of the births Collective doulas attended were for first-time families and over 200 births were for mamas expecting their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 5th baby!  We believe there is a special role for everyone in the birth space as we don’t just support the mother but also the family as a whole. Nearly all (97%) of the births we attended last year included a partner in attendance and almost 20% included another family member as well.

Hospital births made up the majority of our births last year, with 90% taking place at Twin Cities hospitals.  We feel strongly that mamas need doulas in home birth (7%) and Out-Of-Hospital Birth Center (3%) settings as well.  Although we’ve had one of our doulas at every single hospital in the area for at least a handful of births, we spend the majority of our time at Abbott, St. Joe’s, Methodist, HCMC, Fairview Riverside, and Woodwinds (15%, 14%, 12%, 8%, 8%, 9%).

No matter what type of provider you are birthing with, chances are we’ve been there!  While 50% of our births took place with a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) in attendance, we attended births with OBs (37%), Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) (9%), and Family Practices Doctors (5%).

Whether you are seeking a natural birth or a birth with pharmacological pain management, a doula is valuable and can support you in ways that are unique to your needs.  Collective doulas report that 55% of their clients used no pain medication, 31% used an epidural for pain management, and 14% used other pharmacological methods.

Even if you are planning a cesarean or NOT planning one, but end up having an unexpected surgical birth – we are trained to change our support and comfort skills as your birth unfolds. Last year, families using a Collective doula had a 12% unplanned cesarean rate. Collective doulas also attended a handful of planned cesareans. When an unplanned cesarean birth was the ultimate outcome, our doulas were allowed into the operating room to perform continuous support for those families 67% of the time.

Liz Hochman is a birth doula and Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educator who teaches at Blooma in Minneapolis, MN. She is the mother of two adorable girls. Read more about Liz at minneapolisdoula.com

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