Let’s get to know each other…
Hey, I’m Jessica. I love birth, I adore supporting families, and I can’t get enough of training up new doulas and childbirth educators. I get to follow my passions every day, which feels pretty incredible.
I got interested in birth as a student at Kalamazoo College, and my senior capstone project was a journalism series on midwives. I set that interest aside after college and I went on to work for about a decade in marketing, public relations and journalism. After I had a great birth with my first baby, my own doula, Kerry, challenged me to build on my experience to help other families have great births too.
I shook my fist about that one for awhile (come on, I had a great career already), but now here I am — all birth and babies, all the time.
Here I am teaching my childbirth class. My student just gave birth in an upright position and now she’s enjoying skin to skin afterward. (It must be a long cord!)
Business is in my blood. I grew up in rural Northern Michigan, where the grocery store my parents owned was attached to our house. I got to see them running their business every day, and I learned a lot about customer service, marketing, boundaries, opportunity and challenge. In my marketing career after college, I promoted everything from architecture to business experts and massage services.
Today, I’m the owner of Heart Soul Birth Pros, and I also own Birth Kalamazoo, which is Michigan’s first and longest-running doula agency.
My local team of contractors includes birth doulas, postpartum doulas and a lactation educator. I was getting so many requests from people who want to start their own agencies, I starting a coaching program just for new agency owners to help them think through their options and get organized with their launch and growth plans.
When I first got involved in the birth world, I saw that a lot of birth workers didn’t have the same business skills that I’d developed in my earlier career. So from the beginning of my time as a birth professional, I’ve been teaching, writing and speaking at conferences to help people integrate their hearts with sustainable (and ethical) business skills.
My day-to-day life
I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with my husband and our two boys, Aidan and Quinn. Outside of my professional life, I’ve been a hockey mom, baseball mom, soccer mom, and band mom. And I’m also just a mom, trying to raise two kind and awesome human beings who will do good in the world. Now that my boys are young men, I'm enjoying the transition to becoming an "adulting consultant." I love my book club, volunteering, and being out on the lake — any lake — as much as possible (my dad was a charter boat captain, I think it's in my blood).
Pretty much every Tuesday night, you’ll find me teaching my childbirth class (established in 2005, and going strong with sold-out classes year round). That connection with pregnant families keeps me really grounded in the heart of why I love this work so much. It’s incredible to see them grow and change over our weeks together as they learn and prepare to meet their babies.
I also teach doula trainings and Lamaze childbirth educator trainings around the country. It was a surprise to me way back when that I’d love teaching adults so much, but it’s become a huge source of joy. It’s amazing to teach people how to be great doulas and childbirth educators, and then support them as they go out in the world and make a difference for families. Talk about rewarding! My goal is to teach one training a month, but sometimes a busy month has me teaching two or three long weekend workshops. A great massage is definitely on the docket after those intense stretches!
I still get to support families as a birth doula and nurture them after their little ones arrive as a postpartum doula. My training schedule keeps me from taking as many clients as I used to, but it's really important to me that I’m still out there hands-on with families. It’s the heart of what I love about this work and it makes me a stronger, more relevant trainer.
My client’s husband emailed me this photo after their birth, with the subject line: “This is how your clients see you.” It really captures the joy I feel in this work.
AdvCD/PCD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE
If you’re interested in the alphabet soup that I put after my name, here’s the breakdown:
• AdvCD(DONA): DONA certified advanced birth doula (there are fewer than 60 of us around the world)
• PCD(DONA): DONA certified postpartum doula
• BDT(DONA): DONA approved birth doula trainer
• LCCE: Lamaze certified childbirth educator
• Lamaze accredited program director and trainer (no letters for that one)
• FACCE, fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators (advanced honor from Lamaze International)
I’m also co-author of a research study, “Home Birth After Hospital Birth: Women’s Choices and Reflections,” published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. I’ve been invited to speak at a variety of events, including:
• DONA International Conference (keynote speaker in 2016, many times for breakout sessions)
• DONA International Trainers Retreat (twice)
• Lamaze International Conference
• Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital, Annual Obstetrical Conference
• University of Michigan Health System Nurse-Midwifery Service, Terri L. Murtland, MSN, CNM Lectureship and Education Series
I’m the former editor of DONA International’s International Doula magazine, and my writing has been published in dozens of magazines, newspapers and blogs.
That’s me in a nutshell.
What else could there possibly be to tell you? Let's see, I love dark chocolate, sci-fi and fishing. And if we spend some time together, you might notice that I almost never wear shoes when I’m teaching, because it keeps me grounded.