Virtual Birth Doula - tracy hartley

tracy hartley

Becoming a Doula

I started my doula career in 1996 after seeing a brief segment on The Today Show about doulas while I was getting ready for work and waiting for the traffic report. All day at work I kept thinking about doulas and, when I got home, I searched the Internet for doula training and signed up that night for training. I had never heard the word doula before that but, within 24 hours, I was ready to become one.

When I finished my doula training, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to attend my first birth. A few minutes after I got home the training, my daughter called me to tell me that she was pregnant! My first grandchild was to be my first doula birth! I attended one birth as a shadow doula before being my daughter’s doula, which gave me some much needed confidence and my daughter was able to have an unmedicated birth.

My Work Life Before Becoming a Doula

Before becoming a doula, I ran a word processing department for 6 years, I trained dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness for 18 years, I was a bookkeeper, a peer counselor for Vietnam Veterans, an Air Traffic Controller in the Navy, a house painter, a calligrapher, a server, a housecleaner, and too many other jobs to remember!

My Childhood

My childhood was a mixed bag. I was adopted when I was 10 days old. My adopted father was not a good person and my wonderful mother left him when I was 2 and we moved to New York City and lived with my grandfather. Just before my 6th birthday, my mother died and I was taken in by her brother and his wife, who lived in the country and had 3 kids and seemed like a perfect family for me. Unfortunately, the new mother didn’t want another child but felt obligated to the family to take me in. It was not a good situation for anyone. I ran away for the first time at the age of seven and continued to run away until they kicked me out when I was 15, which was the best thing that could have happened to me. Another aunt and uncle took me in and let me stay with them until I graduated from High School. A week after graduation, I was in Navy bootcamp and then off to Air Traffic Control School.

When I was 36, I found my birth mother and, a year later, found my biological father who had never known that he had gotten my mother pregnant. My birth mother had four other children and my bio-dad had three, which added seven siblings to the three I had grown up with. At different times in my life, I was an only child, the youngest of four and the oldest of 11.

My Life Today

I have two wonderful adult children. My son, Derek, has an award winning podcast Derek and Romaine 2.0 that started out on Sirius/XM in April 2003. The listeners of his show have become a family, not just to me but for each other. We take cruises together because Derek is also a cruise director and we meet up for lunches, dinners and parties. The show is wonderful, but it’s definitely NOT for everyone 🙂 Derek also wrote a movie, Hurricane Bianca: From Russia with Hate, and two books, Colonnade: A Life in Columns and When Nightlife Falls.

My daughter, Tiffany, and her three mostly grown children all live with me. I love living with my family. We all get along well and are happy together. I can’t imagine my life without them. Tiffany is a high end Administrative Assistant and is attending college. Her magic power includes solving all computer related problems, often by walking into the room or entering a Zoom call at work.

I also have a 13 year old Mastador (lab/mastiff) named Trip. We rescued him 11 years ago and, within a few months of rescuing him, discovered that he has severe arthritis and hip dysplasia. The Vet told me then that I’d be lucky if he made it to 10 years old and yet, he’s still going strong.

Being a Doula in 2020 – 2023

After 27 years, I still love being a doula! My only regret is that I didn’t learn about doula work until I was almost 50! During the Pandemic, something awful happened… I got old! I’m still extremely healthy, but after almost two years of very limited activity, long births take their toll on me! I used to joke that every 24+ hour birth I attended probably took a week off of the end of my life. Now I think it’s probably more like a month or more.

So, what’s a doula to do? My solution? About 10 years ago, I started bringing a new doula with me to shadow me at births. That turned out to be a wonderful solution for everyone involved. The new doula got the opportunity to attend a birth with an experienced doula as a ‘safety net’ who was available to answer any questions that came up. The new doula was able to gain first hand experience at a birth with very little stress or fear. The clients loved it because there was always a doula in the room with them and they also had access to my decades of experience along with all of the energy and enthusiasm of a new doula with her training still fresh in her mind. And for me, I was able to take a break when needed, knowing that my clients was being taken care of and I was always only a phone call away.

Once quarantine started, hospitals weren’t allowing two doulas and some hospitals weren’t allowing doulas at all! Luckily, I already had experience providing labor support by phone or Zoom, so I began to offer virtual labor support. The clients I supported this way have been very happy with my services because they understood that this was the only type of support I was able to provide with the hospitals limitations in place. Hospitals are starting to allow doulas again, but only one doula at a time. Once again, I’ve had to pivot my services. I still work with newer doulas but now they are with the client in person and I am able to be there by phone, Skype, Zoom or whatever works for my client. I am available to answer questions, make suggestions, and help with decision making. My comprehensive childbirth classes empower my clients to feel more in control during labor and birth and the newer doulas are allowed to attend the classes and get to know the clients ahead of time and also to participate in the classes so everyone is on the same page when it comes to the clients’ wishes.

My Passion - NOW

I love teaching expectant parents how to have a great birth in a hospital setting. Homebirths are truly beautiful and safe, but not available to everyone. Hospital births can be very frightening. The mysterious hospital policies and protocols, the changing nurses’ shifts, the sounds of medical equipment and alarms, the doctor not actually being there until the baby is ready to be born… it can all make labor last even longer.

But the worst part is feeling so alone! A nurse will be with you for approximately a third of the time that you’re in the labor room, and the doctor will probably not be there much longer than an hour or two. That can leave many, many hours in which it’s just you and your partner, who is just as worried, lost and confused as you are – if not more! If your mother or sister or friend is there to help, they may only have their own experience to go by, and won’t be of as much help as you need.

I’ve attended almost 700 births in person, plus several virtually, and I’ve never seen two births that went exactly the same way! You need someone with the experience to know what’s necessary and what isn’t – what you have to do and what you can decline. You also need to know how to get what you want without making an enemy of the nurses or doctors, because doing that will just make your experience worse!

Looking for support as your due date approaches?

I’d love to be your virtual doula!

If you’re interested in virtual childbirth preparation classes, or virtual support throughout labor, schedule a free virtual interview on my calendar and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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