Monica Miller is the owner of Mindful Maternity Support Services, LLC, which specializes in mindfulness and holistic pain management, medical pain counseling, and limited post-partum services in the Chicagoland area.
Since 2020, Miller has supported over 20 births. Her mission is to help mothers with compassion to have the pregnancy and birth experience that they deserve. There are several ways to bring a baby into the world, and Miller’s goal is to help mothers on that journey.
Chicago Defender: What inspired you to become a doula?
Monica Miller: It was based on my own experience. I have two children, and both of my births were entirely different. My first birth was a medical birth which is nothing wrong with that if that is what a mother chooses. I left with a lot of questions. As I started doing more research, I wanted to look for holistic ways of birthing. I decided to do a hospital birth, but I did it with a midwife. On my second birth, I decided to have a doula. After having that experience myself, I felt it was something that every mother deserves. That’s when I decided I wanted to become a doula.
Chicago Defender: What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
Monica Miller: A midwife is a medical partner. That is the person that is doing the delivery. A doula provides emotional and physical support for the mother and her entire support team. The doula is there for the mother, partner, and children to provide information, emotional and physical support to get through the labor.
Chicago Defender: In 2020, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.9 times the rate for White women. Can you speak on the importance of hiring a doula?
Monica Miller: When you look at the black mortality rate statistics, yes, the number is high. The black mortality rate has significantly dropped when you have a doula present during labor. With a doula, the mother is equipped with more information to make a more informed decision.
Chicago Defender: How do you prepare women before and after giving birth?
Monica Miller: I do several prenatal visits with the expectant mother. I talk to her about where she is mentally, emotionally, and physically. Some of my sessions are full-blown childbirth classes. I go over everything that may happen as much as I can. I’m there to answer all the questions the mother has. I communicate with the mothers either by phone or text messages if they feel they have additional questions after meeting with their provider after their visit. As a doula, I’m there to help the mothers from the first day of hire.
Chicago Defender: Mothers that experience post-partum depression, what signs do you look for, and how do you help them?
Monica Miller: I always do post-partum visits with the mothers. I don’t do post-partum support as much. If I see a mother who is showing signs of post-partum depression, we talk about the feelings the mother is having. I ask the mother if she feels she is not connecting with her child, if she feels she wants to harm herself or her baby, if having a child was a mistake or if it was a wrong choice. I help her understand the signs of post-partum depression and have her reach out to her provider to solicit other help. The mothers can always call me where I can connect them with a post-partum doula. My relationship with the mother is not severed after she gives birth. I don’t provide active support, but I am available for mothers that need to communicate with me.
Chicago Defender: With the baby formula shortage, are there other options for concerned mothers?
Monica Miller: Yes, there are breast milk banks. Some mothers store their breast milk and even give it away for free. We make those connections for mothers that need breast milk, especially during the baby formula shortage. I am part of a collective where I still keep in contact with mothers, and if there is an issue, we band together to make sure to help a mother in need.
Chicago Defender: What have been your challenges and triumphs as a doula?
Monica Miller: My challenge is I can’t help everybody. I’m still a mother, wife, and I have a full-time job. I only take one client/one delivery per month. Sometimes I want to work with a client so bad because I like her, but I would be doing herself and myself a disservice by taking her as a client and I don’t have the time. For me, being a doula is a heartfelt job. You want to help every mother. I’ve had to tell mothers that I am not available, but I will connect them with another doula.
My triumphs are every birth I attended as a doula was successful. When a mother and baby are safe, that is a successful birth. To be part of one of the most intimate and beautiful experiences in a woman’s life, bringing another life into the world, is an amazing experience for me to witness and the support the mother needs.
Chicago Defender: What advice would you give to women who want to become a doula?
Monica Miller: There are several training programs for women who want to be a doula. Doing research and having a desire to support and guide women in their birth journey is very important.
For more information about Mindful Maternity Support Services, LLC, go to http://mindfulmaternityss.com.
Tammy Gibson is an author, re-enactor, and black history traveler. Find her on social media @sankofatravelher.