Phyllis McGuire: On the meaning of the word 'doula'

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WILLIAMSTOWN — I never had a reason to consult a dictionary for the meaning of doula: I did not know the word existed. Then I met Jenna Turek through a mutual friend.

When Turek mentioned that she is a birth doula, I could not contain my curiosity. In answer to my questions, Jenna described her role as providing care that is nonmedical; is holistic, pertaining to physical, emotional, spiritual and social realms.

"I empower the woman to have a choice on how to bring her baby into the world," she said. "I have the knowledge to explain what her options are."

Born and raised in Ohio, Turek said she "wanted to see new places, experience new people, new environments, new cultures."

Leaving home to attend Boston University, she earned a degree in cultural anthropology. "As part of the coursework, I sailed around the world visiting 10 different ports on the Semester at Sea program. I also studied in Niger, West Africa for five months."

After graduating, Turek taught English in Osaka, Japan for a year. Then she moved to California and taught science in private schools until the economic crises influenced her decision to go to graduate school.

She enrolled in the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand for her master's degree in zoology.

"At the same time I found an opportunity to enroll in the Lotus College of Natural Therapies (in Dunedin) for a credential in massage and bodywork," Turek said. "I started my wellness business, Koru Therapies, there."

In 2013, Turek and her husband, Daniel, moved to California where their daughter Lily was born.

"I had a doula, my husband and a very close friend at our daughter's birth," Jenna said."They made me feel confident in the birthing process and provided me with the best possible care. "

My experience of giving birth was different from Turek's.

My husband, Bill, drove me to the hospital when I felt contractions and stayed with me while I registered. After that I did not see Bill or anyone I knew personally until Bill visited me in the recovery room.

When Turek and I were together in Williamstown, she told of how she went from using a doula to serving as a doula.

"In California, a fantastic friend from Japan, who was living nearby with his wife, wanted me to help birthing their first baby. I said 'yes' and began coursework on how to be a birth doula to better help them with their labor and birth experience."

Turek gives her clients continuous labor support.

"I tell them to call me when they want me," said Turek, who relocated to Williamstown with her husband and their two preschoolers when he accepted a position at Williams College two years ago.

I well remember that my obstetrician fell short of what I had hoped for when I called a few hours before my first child was born. "I think I'm having contractions," I said.

"What do you mean, 'You think?' " he snapped. "Don't you know?"

That only made me more nervous.

Some of Turek's clients have been fearful of the birthing process.

"We talk about what makes them fearful and what I can do to make them comfortable. And we have a conversation about who they want with them when they are in labor."

Turek has re-established her business Koru Therapies in Williamstown, working out of a clinic in town and also serving mobile clients. In addition, she offers workshops with the purpose of bringing people together to learn something new and also encourage wellness in their lives.

"Doula service is a component of Koru Therapies," she said. "I am always honored to be invited to be part of that amazing experience."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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