Thursday, March 17, 2011

Doula Spotlight- Heather Hanning

       Tell a little about yourself outside of the doula/birth realm.
I have been married to my high school sweetheart for thirteen years. We have a beautiful 10 year old son together. When I’m not assisting on births I have my own practice as a massage therapist and have been doing so for 11 years now. I live a natural lifestyle and a advocate for holistic medicine. In my free time I’m a soccer mom and love spending time with my family and friends. In addition I love to unwind by spending time in nature; doing things like hiking, camping, taking my dog on walks and  just sitting under a tree. I also enjoy listening to music and dancing.
        How did you become interested in doula work?
With my son I had an unnecessary cesarean and was left feeling cheated that I didn’t get to experience childbirth the way I wanted. A year later while taking a pregnancy massage class my instructor mentioned something about doulas. I thought to myself Wow! What an awesome thing to do. Around the same time my close friend had just found out that she was pregnant and I massaged her throughout her pregnancy and ended up in the delivery room with her. As I massaged her and felt the way her body was responding to my touch; I realized that I wanted to be a doula. I also thought it would be a great way to make peace with my own birth experience by supporting women though natural childbirth and avoiding unnecessary cesareans. I wish I had a doula by my side.
      Can you tell a little bit about your training and experience?
I took my first doula training back in 2003 though ALICE which is now ToLabor. I loved it so much I decided to take the workshop again in 2004.In the 34 births I have assisted on I have experience with working with the hearing impaired VBAC and homebirth. I’ve been a licensed massage therapist for 11 years and have taught pregnancy and infant massage at a few local massage schools. I have the honor of speaking at different schools and events about being a doula and the benefits of pregnancy massage. Currently I’m getting my certification though DONA International. Furthermore, I am an aspiring Midwife and am finishing up my pre-requirements to register in a licensed midwifery program by next year. I am ready to take my passion to the next level.

4.       How do you view your role as a member of a family's birth team? 
      Do you have any specific strengths/skills?
My role as a doula changes depending on the needs of the expecting couple. However, for the most part I’m a positive guiding light that creates a protective bubble around them grading them from unwanted negativity. From my first visit on, I am there to listen to their fears and concerns being both objective and compassionate. I am the voice of wisdom and makes sure that the couple is well informed. When labor starts we are a team that is ready for anything and when necessary are able to make educated dictions. Birth is an intimate experience so I strive to be present but invisible at the same time by giving the couple their space and privet time with each other.
As for my strengths and skills, I love to to give my mama massages a few times leading up to labor so I can get to know her body and she can become comfortable with me and familiar with my touch. My super powers are acupressure, energy work and aromatherapy. More so, I use visualization, inspirational mantras and chanting. Of course I incorporate all these things during labor as well. I’m versatile with an open mind and go with the flow. Being asked to assist on a birth is a great privilege and I honor that with all my heart.

5.       Do you have an interesting story to share?
I will never forget the day of Logan’s run. That Day started off with an early phone call from my sister telling me that her water had broken and she would like me to come to her assistance. Although the midwife told her to go back to bed; my sister and I knew that there was a possibility that she was going to go fast. This was going to be her forth baby and she had a history of fairly quick labors. When I arrived at my sister’s house I knew by her moans and the way she was moving that we didn’t have much time to get her to the birthing center. As I was helping her out into the drive way my sister stops cold in her tracks, leans on her knees and tells me that the baby was coming. I take a breath as I look under her gown and there he was coming right at me. I calmly told her that I was ready to catch the baby. I can still remember how easy his little warm body slid right out into my hands. I quickly passed him to the front of my sister so she can see that he was alright. While we waited for the midwife and the paramedics; we had my sister resting covertly on the back lawn as she contently breastfeed her new baby boy Logan. Furthermore Logan is now 5 years old and lives up to the way he came into this world. Last but not least even though I had never deliver a baby before I went with my instinct and I discovered that I am distend to be a midwife someday. It was an amazing experience.

6.       What advice would you give to expecting couples?
The most important advice I have to give is to take a childbirth education class such as Bradley or Birthing Within.. Become your own advocate. Though my experience, being educated about childbirth and your options makes a big difference. In addition childbirth is unpredictable, have a flexible birth plan and be prepared for anything. Talk about your fears to some one that is supportive and try not to feed into all the horrid birth stories that people share with you. Have faith in yourself and trust your body and of course hire a doula.
       How can families contact you? 
Families can contact me by calling me at (909)838-3840 or e-mail me at
I would like to add that I believe that every expecting couple deserves to have a doula by their side no matter what their financial situation is. I offer affordable flexible rates and discounts to Bradley and Birthing Within students.