Caren At Work | A Photography Project Celebrating Bay Area Doulas


Doulas do immensely important work with soon-to-be parents, and I wanted to do a photography project to give insight into their industry. This is Caren – she is a doula supporting growing families in the South Bay Area.

A little background

I have been working as a birth doula for almost 3 years now. I was an Interior Designer before I became a doula. I discovered doula work only when I had gone for a prenatal massage during my first surrogacy journey in 2012. The massage therapist had explained that she also was a birth doula and sometimes it was hard to keep appointments due to joining a client in labor. I had never heard of the word “doula” before, so I asked what is it that she does as a doula. She explained to me the ups and downs of being a doula, supporting moms in labor and delivery, and even though she was quite honest in informing me of her missing birthdays, holidays, and having to cancel appointments last minute on occasion, it still intrigued me.

I have always been known to be the caregiver, even when I was little. The idea of becoming a doula took hold in my mind, body and spirit, and after I had the surrogacy baby, I decided to make a change in my life and train to become a doula! I work in the South Bay Area from about Palo Alto and Mountain View to Los Gatos, and everywhere in-between.

The favorite part about your job?

My favorite part of my job is to witness couples become more than just a couple. They become parents in front of my eyes. They work together to bring this life into the world, and when they see their baby and their baby meets them for the first time, well, there is nothing like it in the world. (Except surrogacy!)

The hardest parts of your job?

The hardest part of my job, I’d have to say is being on-call. Never knowing when the phone is going to ring, always being on alert and having my client in the back of my mind non-stop. The need for childcare within a couple hours of being called, to know that everything is taken care of at home so I can be with my clients 100% , not worrying about my family’s needs. But when they do call and things are happening, it is so rewarding to be able to be there for them to ask questions, to get some reassurance, and to help them navigate their way through early labor.

What are some of the core principles that help you in your work?

I’d have to say that a core principle in my work is that I support my clients’ birth wishes 100%. Whether they chose to labor and deliver completely natural, hoping for intervention free, or a mom who is under of her plan and goes into labor with an open mind and open to receiving different forms of help if she decided she needs it, and moms that know they want an epidural at some point in the labor. With any of these clients, there is a potential for the labor to go differently from what they expect, and I want to be there to support them no mater what they decide.  It is not my birth, it is their’s.

Is there a particular birth or family that has left an impression on you?
Many families and births have left an impression on me. I think I take something away from each and every one of them because they are all so different. I’d have to say that when the outcome has been much different than what the mom expected, I learn the most and it sticks with me clearly.

One client I remember vividly especially because I recently helped her with her second child [–] she was adamant about not having a epidural. I remember that after she had decided to get an epidural in labor, I felt like I had failed her somehow (this was quite early on in my doula work). During pushing, they decided they needed to assist the delivery with a vacuum. The doctor was excellent about explaining everything to her and making sure she really understood what was happening and the reasons for needing the vacuum assistance.

I was nervous about our postpartum visit, thinking she’d be unhappy that she ended up with an epidural. I asked her about this specifically. She explained, in my surprise, that she was so relieved and grateful to have had the epidural. Why? She felt that with the epidural, she was able to clearly understand what the doctor was explaining to her about the vacuum, why it was necessary, what was happening with the baby, and she could fully understand what was going to happen and how it was going to work. She explained to me that she felt as though she may not have been able to grasp what he was telling her if she did not have the epidural. I was thankful to know that even if a labor changes to become something that the client wasn’t wanting, that a good and positive outcome was possible.

Any thoughts, wisdoms or ideas for expecting parents?

I tell this to all of the expecting parents I interview with. Your pregnancy, labor and birth is like a fingerprint. No two are alike, so please listen to all the stories that are shared with you whether you want to hear them or not, with a grain of salt. Don’t let traumatic stories haunt you, and don’t let quick delivery stories get your hopes up for the same. In the end, your pregnancy, labor and birth are your story alone, not like anyone else’s. It is solely your’s and your baby’s.

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Documentary newborn and family photographer serving San francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and surrounding areas