In August 2012, an opportunity arose for me to provide a hands-on-doula training workshop for those who were already training (or considering training) with an online doula training program. The students felt they were lacking the hands on experience they needed to be truly ready to serve clients. The experience was nothing short of exhilarating! Not even two years later, I was called back for another training, and some of the students who attended the first time loved it so much they came back a second time!
I continued to market my doula training as a supplement to those who were already certifying (or certified) through another organization because I didn’t feel qualified to do that myself. Email after email students would ask if I would certify them and I turned them all down. There was too much involved in running a doula training organization and who was I to say I had the knowledge and business sense to handle that? Self doubt clearly had the upper hand. My plan was to find an organization that I could align myself with completely and work myself into a trainer position. My own business was a full time job and before I could blink each week turned into another year.
Fast forward to early March, 2017, I spoke with business analyst Brandon Safford who is the owner of Small Business Analytics of Texas. He had reached out through Facebook for some volunteers for a little project. Knowing Brandon (a past client of my own), I volunteered an hour of my time which ended up benefiting me more than him. Brandon and his wife have provided me with many doula and childbirth class student referrals. I guess you could say, they are a fan of my business.
Brandon started giving me tips on how to help my doula business grow, and one of the ideas he had was for me to put my childbirth classes online. I had questions, reservations, and more questions, and Brandon answered all of them. Brandon provided solutions to a variety of my business roadblocks, and none of them included cloning myself (which for me seemed like the only way to increase my income without working twice as hard). A few days later I found myself employing his services ‘for a little while longer’. Brandon was so confident in me and my business he was willing to invest in my future. I literally had nothing to lose!
Within 2 weeks, I knew Brandon was legit. As we nailed down some ideas, Brandon would send over a storyboard – a plan of action for Serenity Birth Services that included both short and long term goals. Although Brandon and I had not discussed it, he put on the final page “Doula University” doula certification training's. Mic drop. I emailed him and told him that I had always dreamed of being a doula trainer and had done a couple of training's in the past – and even had a manual I had written five years prior sitting in my closet. His comment was basically “so what’s stopping you”? Gulp.
Brandon saw huge potential in me and for my business. I was scared to believe him. I was worried about “what people would think”. More than anything I was thinking to myself “you have to BE somebody to do this kind of stuff” – and worse yet, as I dug deeper within myself, I realized that I had some serious self image issues. It’s one thing to teach classes or even train other doulas when I don’t have to look into a mirror, but knowing that I would have to be out there more in the form of videos, recordings and even a get a simple head shot was too much to consider. For someone who has always felt like beauty was on the inside, I certainly didn’t feel like that applied to myself.
Though I do struggle with my self image, I do give myself credit in one major aspect. I have never felt inept in my knowledge and my ability to mentor others. It started when I became a CNA at the age of 18. I was the sole caretaker at a retirement home for 8 residents every day from 2-10pm. My boss had the confidence in me to know I was fully capable of recognizing signs of low blood sugars, strokes, or when to do a Heimlich maneuver. I was too young and sassy to be afraid of that responsibility. In 1994, I went to further my nursing education and was top of my class in nursing school. Though I wasn’t able to finish my degree due to preterm labor setting in just a few months before my graduation, the knowledge I gained has always been with me. My work as a doula, childbirth educator and a birth assistant have been a constant source of grounding and confidence in my abilities to educate and empower not only families, but others in the birth arena as well. I’ve had mentored many doulas through the years, and cherished every moment. I found a passion for using TENS in labor and became a trainer for birth professionals in November of 2013. Doing these trainings has only solidified my passion on wanting to do more.
My family support has always been my strength, and I relied heavily on the support of my husband, parents, sisters, and nieces on this huge endeavor. My family believed in me, Brandon and his family believed in me, and now I had to test the waters with one of my friends (my dear backup doula Christy Carlson). True to her form, Christy “doula’d” me over the phone and an hour later, I was asking her if she would like to help me with a few projects. Christy is a thinker, and she never jumps at anything, but that day March 27, 2017, she didn’t blink an eye when she said she wanted in with as much as I’d include her. From that day forward I had someone on my side to help make decisions, edit content, and provide daily encouragement. I am now proud to say that Christy is a partner and co-founder of DoulaVersity. These past three months have been a whirlwind. We have had to learn all the technical, legal and business stuff that comes with building an international online doula training program. I have been scrambling to re-write and re-check all the evidence on the doula manual I wrote almost exactly five years ago.
My first doula workshop was August 3rd, 4th and 5th of 2012. Ironically, Christy and I decided to do our first doula training workshop the first weekend of August. The dates: The 4th, 5th and 6th. I think it’s perfectly fitting as I come full circle almost to the very date five years later. I can now say, I am ready to take on the DoulaVerse. We aren’t stopping at doula certifications, we have more plans in the works! I am ready to help doulas make a world of difference. Let’s doula this!
Acknowledgements - I would like to personally thank a few people by name:
To my husband Ron Blizzard, thank you for your support emotionally and technically. Your mad Linux skills and past jobs as a computer technician have come in handy. Thank you for believing in me and driving me forward. Thank you for standing beside me in marriage this past 25 years.
To my sister Lori Gipson, thank you your unwavering support and countless phone calls - you have been my ‘constant’ through everything. You are my sounding board, my mentor, and the person who makes me look at everything from every possible angle. There are no words to convey my gratitude.
To my other sister, Cherline McMullen; Though you have been battling your fight with cancer these last few months, you still call and ask *me* how I’m doing. You have given me so much inspiration in countless ways, but most of all in my ‘self image’ department as well as lending your creative writing and journaling ideas.
To my brother, Steve McMullen a true ‘jack of all trades’, thank you for your business guidance. From tax questions to partnership info, you’ve always been there to help me figure it all out.
To Christy Carlson, thank you for standing by my side and working so hard to help me get this up and running. I wouldn’t have been able to launch this so soon without your help! You have truly shared my vision, and read my mind on more than one occasion. I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish together! To your husband Jerry, THANK YOU for sharing your wife, I know I have kept her very busy! I also want to thank you for your input and ideas - and the occasional laugh too :-)
To Brandon Safford and his wife Aimee: This dream would never have been a reality without your help. Thank you Brandon for seeing the big picture (and sometimes even the bigger picture) that I would not allow myself to previously view. Obviously your business and technical skills have been invaluable. To your wife Aimee, I know your husband has spent many hours working behind the scenes to get this up and running. Thank you for putting up with it all!
To my children: You have been the most patient and supportive kids on this planet. I know this past few months you’ve seen me work from sun up to sundown. Not once have *any* of you complained that mom has been too busy. Each one of you has encouraged me in your own way. Your childlike faith sees the ‘big picture’ and you have confidence that somehow I can make a difference in the world.
Last but certainly not least to my parents, Robert and Lois McMullen who have cheered me from afar. Every time you say you are proud of me, it gives me strength to get through another day - and you’ve said it enough to get me through a lifetime.
Thank you everyone!