Doulas on Bikes

For Vera Kevic, listening is a vital piece in how she practices as a doula.

Beginning with the prenatal visits where new and repeat parents share their hopes, plans, concerns and fears about how they want their birth to go. Then continuing in labor when Kevic tries to get a sense of the room by listening to the “spoken and unspoken” rhythms and sounds of the mother and persons all around.

She does this not just to be present and learn how to best support her client, but she pays attention to the details inside the birthing room in case the parents later ask her for clarity in retelling the events of their birth story. Capturing the details is a therapeutic way for the parents to process their experience in the days after their birth.

The 44-year-old mother of two, (a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy) lives in Toronto, Canada with her sister Mira, 36, who is also her business partner for Doulas on Bikes. The sisters have worked as Certified Labor Doulas and Certified Postpartum Doulas through the Childbirth And Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) for the past six years.

The duo train together and run their doula business by providing support to families while pregnant, during labor and in the immediate postpartum. They are also trained lactation educators (CAPPA) and childbirth educators and hold workshops on various birth and parenting related topics.

The sisters have their own clients but being trained in the same areas has allowed them the flexibility to split up prenatal visits and back each other up when needed. While some people may think that going into business with a family member is not a good idea, that’s not the case with these two. Kevic said she and her sister enjoy each other’s company and the business partnership they have formed together. They like to bounce ideas off each other, babysit each other’s kids if one of them is called to a birth or postpartum shift and support each other during the highs and lows of birth work.

  We’ve asked Kevic to share a little more about what CAPPA and birth work mean to her, what her journey has been like, what challenges she has overcome along the way and what inspires her to continue serving as a doula in 2021.

CAPPA: What were you doing before you became a CAPPA Certified Labor Doula?

VK: Before birth work, I was a Public Relations and Communications Officer for a multi-site non-profit health center. It was a busy job and I had been there a long time, having made my way up to that position. It was a real feel good job, but I was burning out.

Can you tell me about a pivotal moment in your life (before your training) that helped pave the way of your career path as a doula?

VK:  I happened to attend a friend’s birth, unplanned and last minute after she called me at work to tell me she was in labor. I was excited for her having this baby, so I jumped at the chance to sneak away from my office job to immediately go to her. I made a couple of stops on the way and showed up at her hospital room with Gatorade and snacks, and a take-out battered fish sandwich for her husband. When I got there, the room was in good spirits and Jen’s pain was being managed so she was comfortable. I visited for a while, heard about what had been going on until that point and how hard it had been to cope, I gave encouragement and promised to return in the evening after settling my own kids to bed.

The scene in the delivery room was a mix of excitement, confusion, fear and exhaustion all rolled into one, Kevic described when she returned to the hospital to witness her friend’s birth.

VK: It was oh so magical. I was high for days after that, I had no idea how euphoric the experience would be. I was proud of my participation and so honored to have been invited to be there, but the birth hadn’t yet caused me to change my career; that came only after I heard Jen retelling her birth story to someone. She talked about those few things I had done and what a difference it made for her birth. I heard her acknowledgement and the impact I had made on her and her family and I was blown away! Suddenly I was so grateful for having left my job early that day to be with her in the hospital, it felt so much more meaningful to me than the work I had been doing. I didn’t know that what I was doing was actually the work of a doula. I didn’t even know about doulas at the time, I was just being there for my friend.

What made you choose to certify with CAPPA?

VK: At the time, my sister Mira was looking into doing the midwifery program. Instead, we went the doula route together. We have done our training and certifications together which makes for great marketing, to have the same add-on skills such as lactation educators, hypno-birthing practitioners, CAPPA doulas, etc). I found CAPPA on an internet search and honestly, I didn’t do too deep of research – the training dates and location in-person fit well in our schedule so we went with it. And have had no regrets, it was a great start and we have so far once recertified.

How did you come up with your business name, Doulas on Bikes?

VK: On the last day of the CAPPA doula training there was a focused discussion about building your doula business and that’s where we began brainstorming and mapping out the name and concept. At the time, Call the Midwife, (a BBC period drama series about a group of midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and 1960s) came out so we had a similar idea in our head about midwives/birth workers on bikes. And we really do ride our bikes! We’re both lifetime cyclists who ride our bikes to and from births. My doula kit fits in the back in my basket. 

Do you have a birth philosophy?

VK: Our role as doulas is to have people become the kind of parents they want to be, quicker. It is not my job to decide for them and the more experience I get, the more I (realize) whatever they choose really is fine.I would rather have a parent feel good about their birth choices, so they don’t have to spend weeks processing what happened and realize ‘Oh yeah I have this baby I need to bond with.’ I feel like that is what we are here to change. The experience of their birth so that they feel great and they can move onto the next thing.

I support my clients like a stage prop, providing a sturdy foundation (often in the background), allowing them to advocate for themselves and make choices they will. I’ve been told I have a very calming presence, so I book a lot of birth-anxious people. I’ve had experiences in uncommon settings too, home births in Mexico with traditional midwives for example, so I bring a range of tools to a birth. I’m a fan of the language of hypno-birthing and I tend to incorporate some of that to every birth. I live in a big city, we have 5 hospitals with L&D wards in the downtown core, so I do get to hospital births, inductions quite a bit too. We also have a birth center in Toronto I wish I could attend all the time as it is peaceful and lovely.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business or the way you approach birth and postpartum work?

VK: This pandemic has changed my mindset and the way I practice. One thing that I know I’ll never go back to doing is that first interview with a client in-person, just to see if we’re a good fit. That can easily be done on a video call from now on. I (also) don’t have to be there for their birth because I am finding that it is completely partner supported. I’ve supported a few clients virtually (in 2020) and that’s gone pretty well. We have done some messaging and video but it’s the partner who is there doing the work […] It’s a testament to how adaptable we are in birth. This baby is going to come out, it’s just a question of how you are going to experience it.

Kevic has labored with women who have had to wear a mask the entire time of their labor and has texted, called and video chatted with dads who gave her the play by play of what was happening in the delivery room while she fed suggestions to keep their partners calm and confident. While Kevic understands restrictions such as the use of personal protection equipment to be used as an effective way of stopping the spread of Covid-19, she admits she does miss the intimacy and connection with some of her youngest clients.

VK: It hurts me that babies don’t look into my eyes anymore because they’re distracted by my mask. Before they used to deep stare into my eyes like they’re giving me all their birth wisdom.

Do you have any birth rituals that you do before you join a birth or while on-call to a client?

VK: Before a birth, my bag is packed but I will double check it when it’s go-time. I have my clothes for the birth ready too and when on call, I go to bed early so that I’m fresh even if the call comes at 2am. I pack food for myself and call for a car to pick me up while I take some deep breaths and review the client chart. I can’t say I have something ritualistic that I do before every birth but my preparation is done very mindfully and I try always to be with uplifting thoughts as I pack and prep.

Do you have a go-to favorite food you like to eat after a birth?

VK: Sad to say but if I know I don’t have food waiting at home, my belly wants an egg muffin sandwich type thing from some fast-food chain. Greasy and filling, like I would want for any hangover.

What do you do after you come home from a birth?

VK: After a birth I need to sleep! Though to be honest I also try and cancel nothing in my day if I can help it so sometimes the sleep is not right after a birth. I get home, and shower immediately and change into home comfy clothes. In the shower, I may cry or laugh or recap the birth I just attended and mindfully wash away anything that is not mine to keep. Kind of like washing away the energies I absorbed in the event. And then I need to eat something hearty and warm. I’m too wired to sleep right away so I might do a few things to catch up on home life depending on the time of day and then I sleep for a solid 13-16 hours. The next day, I’ll go through my kit and wash everything that was utilized to repack for the next birth.

Do you and your sister ever attend births together?

VK: We have never attended birth clients together, although I’ve attended both of her babies being born so I was her doula. Sometimes we split up our prenatal visits with a client if something comes up for us and one of us can’t be there.

In your opinion, what’s one thing that all new parents should have?

VK: I’m not a big fan of baby registries. I would much rather prefer people to be real in your life. You know how people have a bridesmaid (or maid of honor) when they get married? I think everyone needs a bestie when you’ve had a baby. That’s what I like to ask clients. Who in your life can you ask that can do all these things? Maybe it’s your sister or a dozen of your friends who make a schedule for a meal train.

I had one client who did this and made it like a party invitation. They sent out the invites to friends and family asking if they were interested in contributing to their postpartum healing time. They shared a list of local places they liked to order from, what time they eat dinner, the kind of diet restrictions they had, if it was your day to come by they asked people to knock and if no one came to the door they politely asked guests to respect that they don’t want any visitors, but they really love the food. People appreciated that because they didn’t have to do all the guesswork. I think it actually brings calm to the people in your life. I can’t be there in person but I’m going to order this food and that will help out.

What are some techniques you use as a doula to get parents to be more comfortable with you?

VK: I take notes and then I ask them to say even more until they are empty of words. When people feel as though their birth wishes, plans and desires have been heard, they have more peace.  Side note: Stop telling scaring birth stories to pregnant people, you aren’t helping them when you feed their fears.

What has been the most challenging birth you have attended and how did you get through it?

VK: It was actually not one of my own clients but Mira’s. I was on call for her birth and the client hadn’t called because of the complication. They dealt with the loss on their own and when my sister went to see her clients at the hospital in the morning, we both attended to provide moral support. Mira was there to speak with the grandparents who arrived also. I was just in the background to support my sister but I never met her clients. There’s stuff they don’t train you for, you just do what makes sense in the moment.

Do you have any advice for newer doulas or someone who is thinking of getting their labor or postpartum doula certification through CAPPA?

VK: I think for the newer doulas coming in it’s a different landscape now than it was when I started. I know there have been doulas before me but in six years I’ve seen a lot of division in the doula world when I hear terms like ‘Hobby Doula’ get thrown around.

(The term has been used to describe a birth worker with a passion for birth and enjoys helping others for fun in their spare time and not as a profession).

With all the activism going in 2020, I learned a lot about people’s stories. I see that there is still room for all of us and there are plenty of people who can take a doula of all caliber […] I don’t think you need to choose a way to be. I think you should just go out and do your work and figure out what makes sense for you. If someone wants to do one birth a month it doesn’t make them less professional and it doesn’t mean that the person you’re serving gets anything less.

What do you love most about what you do as a CLD, CPD and trained Lactation Educator?

VK: I like transitioning people into parenting to help build confidence in them so they can figure things out own their own. […] I support my clients like a stage prop, providing a sturdy foundation (often in the background), allowing them to advocate for themselves and make choices they will.

Leaving people satisfied at being heard and acknowledged, empowered in their birth, confident to be parents – this makes me feel great. The love they feed me back in return, acknowledging me for being the big pebble I am in the water, causing infinite ripples is food for the soul. A mother recently thanked me for the gift I gave her of assisting her in getting her baby to nurse. The gift is returned to me daily, I will never get tired of this life.

About the Author

Jennifer Letzer

I’m a Certified CAPPA Labor Doula, trained CAPPA Postpartum Doula and a trained CAPPA Lactation Educator. I am a stay at home mother of three (9,7,4) who recently moved from our home in Santa Clarita, California to Atlanta, Ga.

Birth work wasn’t always my calling. In fact, growing up I was quite terrified of birth because my mother had a traumatic birth experience and I thought that I was going to have the same experience. (I did not) But I did earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from California State University, Northridge and spent several years working as a journalist and breaking news reporter writing for several publications in California and Boston, MA. I love the excitement of chasing a down a good news story, learning new things everyday and speaking to people in the community.

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2 thoughts on “Doulas on Bikes”

  1. What a ĺovely doula story.
    I believe I did my labour doula training with these sisters. Congratulations on your business success and your growth as beautiful women.
    Blessings, Sheila McMorrow

  2. Faith Miltenberger

    Thank you for sharing your confidence in helping new birthing families to also be confident in their new role as a family/parent.
    I love how you work together as sisters.

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