It’s a quiet summer evening outside the Xenia home of Michael and Lisa Anderson. But inside, it’s a world of women and small children. This is Lisa Anderson’s world. As a certified doula for the last two years, she provides support services for women and their newborns at home or in the hospital delivery room.
On the carpeted floor in the Andersons' living room, three infants play with brightly colored toys. Their tiny hands and fingers push and slap at the noise-making buttons, dials and knobs. Perhaps the quietest member of the group is Buffy, the Anderson’s Cairn terrier.
Putting their explorations on hold, the children cast an inquisitive look my way. Cheerful Eden is 10 months old. She flashes me a wide, semi-toothless grin and then crawls a short distance to sit at my feet and say hello.
Eden and eight month-old Kyson are here with their moms, women Lisa has worked with in the last year. She typically works with five to six clients a year.
Her business card, which we spotted at the Beans-n-Cream coffee shop in Cedarville, Ohio, advertises her business, Never Alone Doula Services.
Lisa says the name of her business stems from her concern over women who may be going through their deliveries alone, such as women whose husbands are deployed overseas, single mothers or women in prison.
“I really feel like I was created to be a support to women,” she says.
With her seven-and-a-half-month-old grandson Josiah perched on one knee, Lisa tells me more about her work as a doula.
“My goal is to help my clients have the birth they want. And I work with all women, whether they want to go completely natural or have an epidural. You can even hold someone’s hand during a C-section,” she says.
Doulas are different than midwives in that the support they provide during childbirth is physical and emotional, rather than medical.
Lisa says research shows doulas have a positive impact on birth outcomes for mothers and babies.
But doula services are often not covered by insurance. Lisa is part of a organization pushing for more health plans to cover certified doula services.
“Studies have shown that doulas reduce the likelihood of C-section by 50 percent.”
Lisa started working as a doula after a friend asked her to be there for her baby's birth.
“That was my first exposure with being a doula, and so I ended up being with her for all five of her eventual children, and then four of my own," she says, "so, yeah, I was really growing passionate about childbirth and making a positive, supportive environment for moms.”
First-time mom Jenny Holmstrom of Xenia is one of Lisa’s clients. She says having a doula by her side during pregnancy really helped, especially when her hopes for a natural childbirth didn’t go as planned.
“My plan was to deliver in the water and have, you know this beautiful birth,” Holmstrom says.
“And because I risked out due to such a late-term birth, we had to go to the hospital, and I got hooked up to an IV, a heart-rate monitor, a contraction monitor, a blood-pressure monitor, and it was just awful and I was angry and upset.”
Jenny was induced on a Thursday afternoon but didn’t deliver her son Kyson until a day and a half later.
“So, my situation was so far from what I wanted,” she says. “But Lisa helped reassure us through the process and helped us navigate things.”
Centerville resident Katie Matthews only met Lisa a month before her daughter Eden’s birth, but says having Lisa in the delivery room was the right decision.
She says Lisa advocated for her needs.
“It was a blessing for her to be in the room just because of the energy that she brought into the room for me and my family,” Matthews says. “I feel like she took the stress away from my husband and my mom so they could just be there for me instead of feeling like they had to know what was going on, or be able to fix what was going on. Lisa was there to be able to communicate with doctors and communicate that back to us and so that was amazing.”
Inside the Anderson home, Lisa, Jenny and Katie fall into a spirited conversation about their birthing experiences.
Lisa says it’s gratifying to help women during such a meaningful moment in their lives.
“It’s a total privilege to be a part of this, every time is a miracle. So I feel really honored when people invite me to be a part of it,” she says.
And after raising and homeschooling her own kids, Lisa says she loves helping other women welcome new babies into the world.
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