RALEIGH — Daphne Flowers briefcase is more like an overflowing overnight bag.
Its contents include a change of clothes, sustenance to keep her energy up during the hourslong process of giving birth and tools to comfort, cheer and guide soon-to-be mothers of newborn babies.
Flowers is the owner and sole employee of Daphne Flowers Birth Education & Doula Services, and those are just some of the tools she needs to help clients through the birthing process.
I provide emotional and physical support, said Flowers, 35, of Raleigh, Basically trying to make her feel like she is a rock star.
Flowers was a test coordinator and high school English teacher in Pitt and then Wake County public schools for nine years, and decided not to reapply when her part-time contract wasnt renewed in 2010.
At the time, Flowers was pregnant with her second child, Elaine, now 3, and still figuring out therapies for her son, Andrew, now 7, who has autism.
Flowers and her husband, Creighton, band director at Sanderson High in Raleigh, decided it was a good time to focus on their family, she said.
Before Andrews birth in 2007, Flowers started attending meetings organized through the La Leche League, an international nonprofit breastfeeding support group that connects new mothers and talks through breastfeeding challenges.
Flowers became a La Leche League leader in 2011, about six months after Elaine was born.
In February 2013, Flowers spent a weekend training with DONA International, a nonprofit organization that trains, certifies and provides continuing education to doulas.
Doula comes from the ancient Greek meaning a woman who serves, but is used now to refer to a trained professional who provides continuous support before, during and after birth, according to DONAs website.
In August 2013, Flowers earned her certification in lactation counseling. That fall, a friend volunteered to help Flowers with a logo and she set up a website. Her first client was a friend, but four more followed in the first year through word-of-mouth referrals and an online matchmaking service for doulas and pregnant women. Since February, shes picked up five more clients.
In February, Flowers, Evelyn Bussell and Heather Clements formed the Carolina Birth Collective, as a way to combine marketing efforts and provide each other support and backup during long births. The collective has since added three more doulas.
Each month, the collective hosts an event that offers a guest speaker on topics that range from pregnancy to postpartum care.
Expectant mothers who hire Flowers pay $600, which covers a consultation, two prenatal visits, 24-7 access from 38 weeks to birth and in-person encouragement and care during labor. The fee also covers a visit after the birth.
Flowers client process starts with an initial interview to discuss birth philosophies and goals.
Most mothers want her to guide and support them down the path to vaginal birth, others just want to be cared for and respected, and to help them distinguish between progress pain or a concerning one.
Flowers, who will help with hospital or home births, also does whatever she can to comfort her clients. Thats when she turns to her briefcase. Theres a tiny fan to cool the air and a microwavable heating pad to slip behind the back of a woman in labor. Theres also a rebozo, a woven scarf that can be tied around a clients belly and back for support or around her neck for a stretch.
About a week after the birth, Flowers meets with her clients for a debriefing, to answer questions, talk about concerns and odd moments.
I consider myself successful if the client feels empowered and in control, Flowers said. And positive about her decisions in birth.
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