Special to Neighborhood Post
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
When Ruth Kraft’s phone rings in the middle of the night, she knows it’s good news.
The phone calls at all hours are usually to let her know that it’s time to head out the door to help bring another life into the world.
Cydney Scott/The Post
Ruth Kraft of Palm Beach Gardens folds clothes while watching Alexander Wills, 2, at the boy’s home in West Palm Beach. Kraft was there for the delivery of Alexander and his 4-month-old brother, Brendan. ‘We’re a mother’s helper, not housekeepers,’ Kraft said of being a doula.
Kraft is a doula, a little-known profession of women who work with pregnant women to help ensure a good childbirth experience. Strictly translated, the word is Greek for slave or servant.
Kraft puts it a little more eloquently.
“We offer physical and emotional support and information,” said the Palm Beach Gardens resident who works with moms who deliver their babies at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Jupiter Medical Center.
“We are there for the birth and do postpartum, check for postpartum depression, work with breast-feeding. We just try to make sure everything is going well.”
Kraft is certified through Doulas of North America and through Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. She completed her training in 2003, and was inspired partly by the less-than-perfect experiences she had giving birth to her own two children, Emma, 6, and Jacob, 5.
“My doctor told me I had the birth experience from hell,” said Kraft, whose daughter was born with cerebral palsy. “So I started researching how to help people avoid that.”
When someone suggested that she be a doula, she researched and felt she had found the perfect occupation. Having a doula can enhance the birth experience for parents and baby.
It also can result in fewer complications during birth, mainly because having the support of a doula means the mom is relaxed and in tune with what is happening, Kraft said.
Some women hire a doula as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Others wait until closer to the due date. Doulas are not midwives, who have medical training.
Kraft charges $850 for her services, whether she’s involved for 40 weeks or four days. The fee includes two pregnancy visits, attending the birth and one postpartum visit.
“That’s what most people need, but if someone needs an extra visit or two, I don’t mind doing it,” said Kraft.
When she does home visits, she answers questions about everything from hormonal balance to breast-feeding techniques. She also does light housekeeping, such as folding a few loads of laundry.
“We’re a mother’s helper, not housekeepers. We are there for reassurance and to teach the mother to have confidence in herself,” she said.
The goal is for the doula to help the mom care for her baby herself. Kraft says she often sees parents who hire a nurse to help with their newborn, but once the nurse leaves, the parents have no idea what to do with the baby.
Kraft also teaches childbirth education classes at Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies in Lake Worth and at the Peaceful Place in North Palm Beach. She also is certified in hypnobirthing, a method of birth that uses hypnosis and breathing techniques.
Kraft has also found a way to incorporate her favorite hobby, photography, into her work. Some families want to have the entire pregnancy photographed, others call her when they’re ready for a family picture.
She approaches the photo sessions much as a journalist would, spending time in the home watching and waiting for the right moment.
“I don’t do a lot of posing and no forced smiles,” she said.
Since becoming a doula, Kraft has helped with 52 births. She says she is now entering the sibling phase, where moms she helped a few years ago are having their second child.
Kraft says one of the most rewarding parts of her work is getting to observe the infants in the early days of life.
“I have always been fascinated with newborns and the abilities they have which we don’t give them credit for.