Service Area Spotlight: Mayo Clinic Volunteer Doula Program

Mar 24, 2022 | Sarah Palmer | @sarahpalmer

In the summer of 2021, Mayo Clinic Volunteer Programs, in partnership with the Family Birth Center, debuted a new and unique volunteer service: the Volunteer Doula Program. A doula is a trained companion who provides emotional and physical support to a pregnant woman during labor. While many expectant mothers hire private doulas to support them during their pregnancies and through the births of their babies, the goal for Mayo Clinic Volunteer Programs and the Family Birth Center is to create equity by offering volunteer doula support to any interested Family Birth Center patient during their labor and delivery.

Christina Kambaki is one patient who has appreciated the support of a Mayo Clinic volunteer doula. In the fall of 2021, Christina, already the mother of a young son, was anxiously awaiting the arrival of her second. Early on a November morning, Christina began to experience contractions. Christina and her husband checked in at Mayo Clinic Hospital – Methodist Campus later that morning. When offered volunteer doula support, Christina requested a doula, and volunteer Jane Cerhan arrived at the Family Birth Center shortly after to support Christina and her husband while Christina labored to bring their baby boy into the world.

As a volunteer doula, Jane was able to provide individualized support to Christina, focusing solely on her and her husband’s needs and empowering Christina to communicate with her care team. Christina was determined to have her second natural birth and appreciated Jane’s support with pain management and breathing exercises throughout the labor process. Given the current hospital visitor restrictions, Christina was also grateful to have an additional support person in the room to coach her through her labor and delivery. Jane was able to provide support to Christina’s husband, as well, providing with him ideas on how he could comfort his laboring wife. Throughout the birth, Jane snapped photos of Christina, her husband, and the new baby using their cell phones, photos they would not have been able to take themselves and now treasure as a reminder of the special day. At 12:38PM, baby Nehemiah entered the world, and Christina’s family became a family of four.

Three months later, Christina and Jane reconnected for a visit at Mayo Clinic, and Jane was able to see the beautiful baby boy whose birth she feels privileged to have been a part of. Jane admires the strength Christina showed throughout her labor and delivery, a strength that led even her care team to underestimate how quickly little Nehemiah was coming. “The strength came from within Christina,” Jane says. “It was just an honor to be there to support her.” Christina appreciates Jane’s support and recommends volunteer doula service to other mothers-to-be. “The Volunteer Doula Program is a great program for any woman in labor and can help you through the most amazing journey in life,” she says. “We can create life, so it’s just amazing.”

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