While many New Yorkers were preparing for the latest snowstorm by hunting the last bunch of kale at the grocery store and making contingency plans for snow-day childcare, Queens mama Cara Pauls was packing a go-bag and strategizing how to get around snowbound city streets if she was called to duty for her job. No, she’s not a snowplow driver or police officer…Cara is a Labor Doula and when her clients call her into action for her marquee service, she has to GO, no matter what.
Pauls, 34, is a Jackson Heights-based doula, who started her own practice in late 2013. She didn’t set out in the beginning of her career to become a doula. She worked for years as an art director for a branding company, creating campaigns for companies on the Forbes 500 list, brands you would definitely know. However, after she and her husband welcomed their first child, she started to consider other options. Says Pauls, “I loved my company, but the work just wasn’t resonating for me as it had before.”
A turning point came with the birth of her second child. Pauls’ first child was delivered via cesarean section, and she wanted to try a VBAC (vaginal birth after ceasarian) for her second child’s delivery. She did extensive research, and learned that the success rate for VBACs increased substantially when a doula was engaged to assist with delivery. Pauls hired a doula to assist with the birth — “It (the experience) just blew me away. Now I think, ‘how does any woman do this alone?'” Pauls says that while partners of expectant mothers know and understand them better than anyone, it is difficult for partners to be objective and calm during birth, which can be a highly stressful and emotional time. She sees her role as a doula as being an objective support person, who can help facilitate communication with hospital staff and provide guidance and answers. As an experienced doula, she has a wider knowledge base of “what is normal” in the birth process and can easily answer questions during the delivery.
Pauls is continuing her training in birth support, and is considering transitioning to nursing or midwifery in the future. For now though, she is enjoying the breadth of experience and the unique viewpoint that her work provides. She says that the hardest part of the job is the unpredictable schedule and its impacts on her own children. Her son will occasionally want to hear about the babies that Pauls helps bring into the world, but her daughter is frustrated when she has to be away for multiple days at a time. Still, Pauls is passionate about her work and says that it still surprises her that births are “a miracle every single time”.
For those interested in finding a doula and learning more about what services these professionals provide, Pauls recommends first tapping into your own network of families for contacts. There are a few doula networks organized in the city, and they offer “Meet and Greet” events for expectant families to meet doulas who serve the areas where they live. Pauls is in contact with a number of doulas based in Queens, and she hopes that soon a network of Queens-based doulas will come into being.
For more on Cara Pauls, check out her website: www.carapauls.com.
Written by: Julie Nymann