I had the pleasure of photographing this wonderful, joyous family in the Fall. Marlita, the matriarch, was our steadfast Doula and I simply adore her sweet family. I shared my personal birth stories and experience with Marlita via Facebook once before. Her role is so special and vital, I find it important to share here too.
"Doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained experienced professional who provides support to the mother (and others) before, during and just after birth.
Meet Marlita, the incredible Doula whose title could not be more fitting. She has attended 173 births (and counting) offering her support to mamas, families and loved ones. Marlita also serves on staff for Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (a volunteer, unpaid position), offers free monthly classes, participates in rallies for improved birth and that's not half of it. She's also a wonderful mother to Evi, Sebastian and little miss Carlie, whom she and husband, Juan, adopted.
She is a 'glass half full' kind of person, one who is happy about a call in the middle of the night asking her to aide in labor. She's the kind of person who overhears someone in need of something and offers her own. At today's rate, her heart would fetch a pretty penny, as it's surely made of pure gold.
Our family has been one of those who has had the blessing of Marlita serving as our Doula. She supported my husband and I through two pregnancies and both completely natural childbirths. In-person with baby #1 and in-spirit with baby #2. (Our second came into the world a few weeks early, while Marlita was out of the country for holiday, otherwise she would've physically been right by our side.)
She not only prepared us for what to expect during labor and delivery, but she provided reassurance to my concerned husband who researched and watched every birth related documentary in existence. (Research from which we determined we needed to hire a knowledgeable Doula in the first place.)
From the very moment the beginning stages of our labor with Gunner began, she remained in constant contact. After spending countless (okay, we counted, it was almost six) hours with us in labor at our home, she led the way to the hospital and was literally the shoulder I leaned on as I made way to the delivery room. During the active stages, she was an immeasurable support. She didn't leave my side, kept the nurses informed and made suggestions that ultimately (in our opinion) prevented c-section and complications. Not until after we were settled in with our new baby (another ten hours later) did she finally go home to her family. She visited within days of us returning home, bearing gifts and a beautifully written (by hand, might I add) birth story for our baby's memory book. She even helped us celebrate the anniversary of such a big event by attending our son's first birthday.
Fast-forward to our second pregnancy with Boss. Marlita was among the very first to learn we were expecting again. We then enlisted a new doctor who was more in-line with our opinions and one whom Marlita highly recommended. We couldn't have been happier with our experience. As the due date approached we knew there was a possibility that Marlita could miss the delivery due to traveling for the Christmas holiday. Sure enough, baby decided to make an early appearance. Labor progressed so quickly that we didn't even have time to contact the back-up Doula Marlita referred. We had a few short hours of intense labor at home, only tolerable thanks to everything she taught us the first go-around. Then, we drove the two miles to the hospital (an exciting journey on icy roads grid-locked with holiday traffic). By the time we rushed into the delivery room I was begging for an epidural. The only moment I clearly remember from then until it was over was my husband taking me by the shoulders and calmly asserting, "What would Marlita say? You're so close. You can do this." That totally snapped me out of it and 45 minutes later our second bundle of joy entered the world.
Hiring her was, without question, the best investment we've ever made and I have strong doubts anything will ever top it.
I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for Marlita. Neither of my children's birthdays will ever come and go without her crossing my mind. She is a woman of great character; strong, encouraging and compassionate. She's the kind of person you want in your corner. She is a woman who serves.
Dear Camachos: The sacrifices you all make, so that Marlita may spend time bettering others' lives and welcoming new ones into this world, do not go unnoticed. Your positive energy and happy, joyous spirits are compelling. From our family to yours, we're forever grateful.