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Natural beginnings

Ruth Moon
Preston UtleyMarcy Tracy holds newborn Wyatt Hooker after changing his diaper in Eagle-Vail. Tracy is a doula in the valley: Essentially a mom-for-hire for new mothers who need a babysitter, an errand-runner or a confidant.
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Petra Sambergerova likes her new job because it lets her get close to moms and babies.

And close she is: As a new doula ” a birthing partner who helps coach pregnant women through labor ” Sambergerova, who goes by the nickname “Shama,” is right in the middle of the action in the delivery room, coaching women through labor and delivery.

“If there is a C-section I am in scrubs already, so I just put a hat on and gloves and a mask and shoe covers and I go to the O.R. with mom and basically stay with her the whole time they are prepping her and be her support,” Sambergerova said.

Sambergerova, who is a unit coordinator at Vail Valley Medical Center, assisted with five births this year since getting her initial training last November. Two of those births were by Caesarean section and three were natural, traditional deliveries.

As a labor doula, Sambergerova gives non-medical support, like back massages and verbal encouragement, to women in labor. She hasn’t charged yet for a delivery but said the going rate is between $600 and $1,000 for a pre-labor meeting, help during labor and one visit after the delivery.

Jen Hooker, a first-time mom from Eagle-Vail, had Sambergerova assist at her delivery of 18-day-old Wyatt. Hooker’s mother, Marcy Tracy, is a postpartum doula in the valley and has been helping around the house since Hooker gave birth.

“The process, drugs or no drugs, is an intense process to go through in life,” said Hooker, who had a natural ” or drug-free ” labor and delivery. “I can’t believe this is what you have to go through to birth a child and that we have an overpopulation problem.”

Hooker is glad she had Sambergerova’s help with the delivery. Her husband appreciated the help as well, although he was skeptical at first.

“Stephen (Jen’s husband) initially thought his role was going to be replaced” by the doula, Hooker said. “But in hindsight he’s so grateful that we used Shama.”

Since Hooker gave birth, Tracy has been helping her with housework.

“With her here at the house, she’s unloading my dishwasher, she’s folding my laundry and she makes dinner for us,” Hooker said. “It’s just that extra set of hands to help get stuff done. It’s amazing how little you can get done.”

Nicola Farrer, who gave birth to her second child, Jasmine, earlier this summer, didn’t use a labor doula for either of her births but has been using Tracy’s help around the house.

“Knowing that Marcy’s trained professionally and has experience with infants, I just feel that Marcy pretty much replaced my mom, because my mom’s in England,” Farrer said. “I didn’t have that family support that you can just fly your mom in for a couple of days.”

Tracy charges $30 to $60 per hour for postpartum work. She can help run errands, cook light meals, watch newborns and entertain older children. (“Like a mom for hire,” she described it).

Kerrie Kuhl, a midwife in the Vail Valley, works with Shama to deliver babies. Moms usually come to a midwife or doula because they are interested in a natural delivery, Kuhl said, but she doesn’t force a mom to go through labor drug-free.

“We talk about it ahead of time. There’s usually a code word … and if they want an epidural they can have it,” she said.

For nearly every mom, though, Kuhl said there is a point at which they feel they can’t get through the delivery without an epidural, even if labor is going normally. When that happens she tries to coach the mom through without anesthesia.

Although Kuhl, Sambergerova and Tracy provide some more natural options for childbirth, women generally must give birth in hospitals in the valley. To keep her midwife license, Kuhl cannot perform any home deliveries.

Kuhl has been a midwife since 2002 and usually delivers 50 to 60 of the valley’s 700 births each year. She can only work with normal deliveries, and a doctor is always on hand in case labor gets complicated.

“If people end up with high blood pressure or an abnormal delivery course, that’s when OB doctors are there,” Kuhl said. “Everything has to follow the normal. If it’s off a little I can talk with the OB; if it’s off a lot then they’re there.”


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