becoming a doula

Thanks to a powerful recent blog by a doula in England about her experience in a Birthing from Within workshop, I have found myself reflecting on my own path as a doula and childbirth educator.  Over the years I’ve done ICEA training, DONA Birth Doula Certification, and Birthing from Within Mentor Certification, along with apprenticing as a midwife and a Masters of Science in Parent-Child Nursing - more than my fair share of learning.  Through the past twenty + years of practice I can identify the 7 core experiences that have shaped who I am as a birth professional.

#1 The first birth I ever attended - my first experience of conservative obstetric culture and violation of informed consent.  My eyes were opened and my heart was broken.  I was 22 years old, and they were just 19.

#2 Volunteering at the Washington Free Clinic in D.C. in the early 90s.  I was blessed to work with immigrant women from very traditional birth cultures in a powerful collaboration of midwifery and obstetric care.  This experience gave me a taste of what is possible when we lay aside the birth politics and learn from one another as practitioners.

#3 Training as a midwife at Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, TX.  Six months of hands-on learning in a birth center on the US - Mexico border replaced the romance of midwifery with the reality of what it means to be the care provider for mothers and babies - both the depth of responsibility and the heart of giving to families in this way.  I also had a Lot of fun 🙂

#4 My first Birthing from Within training in 2001 with Pam England, author of Birthing from Within. I didn't know it when I walked in the door, but that weekend workshop would lead me to leave behind my career in Nursing, release my dream of becoming a midwife, and lead me full circle back to the heart of why I first began this work.

#5 Meeting the wise and wonderful Lanell Coultas, Birth Doula and Birthing from Within mentor, in Austin, Texas.   Although at that time (2003) I had been supporting birthing families for over ten years, she was the very first full-time professional doula I ever met.  She inspired me to step into my new role as a birth business owner and develop the skills that have led me to now supporting all of you as the The Website Doula.

#6 Loss.  The heartbreaking year when five families in my care had stillborn babies, and we lost our 3rd child at 18 weeks.  It was hard to not feel as though I was in some kind of vortex of loss.  Their stories, and my own loss, transformed my understanding of what it means to Fully step into and embrace the unknown of birth, and strengthened my trust in myself, in birth & the families I serve.

#7 The women of Dancing Star Birth. In 2004 I founded Dancing Star Birth in my new hometown of Vancouver, BC, providing Birthing from Within prenatal classes and doula care.   This past spring of 2013 I sold the business to two of the women who worked with me - the fabulous Judy McLaren & Arwen Brenneman.  Over the years I had the privilege of working alongside some incredibly gifted women - Jennifer-Lee, Monique, Patricia, Jocelyn, Erin, Jenny, Robin, Lucy, Arwen, Judy, & Marta.  Along with deepening my skills and compassion in birth work, they have shown me the beauty of how this work shapes our lives, helping me to birth myself into new ways of being with my family, in my work, and myself as a woman.


This is by no means a comprehensive map of my path as a doula and childbirth educator, but they are certainly some of the key moments that stand out in my two decades + of birth work.   Now I have the honor of supporting all of you in growing your birth practices with The Website Doula, and in doing so hearing about each of your paths into this blessed work.

May we all keep growing...

About Sarah Juliusson

Hi there, I’m Sarah Juliusson, The Website Doula. I support your practice growth with creative website design, seasoned business guidance, and plenty of great resources to help you find your way. With 20+ years as a doula and childbirth educator, I believe in the value of your work as much as you do. >> learn more about my work as the website doula


  1. Kathie Neff on July 16, 2013 at 5:03 am

    Sarah, you are an inspiration. I hope many take your lead and share 7 core experiences that have formed them as birth workers. Here are mine.

    1) The opportunity, in 1978, to experience the gift of sharing within a “safe space” and the gift of non-judgmental listening. This became Step One on a journey of many years called “growth”.

    2) Attending my first birth in 1995 (realizing in a tangible way that I could make a difference for a woman in labor) taught me the value of having women helping women during birth.

    3) Experiencing my first formal doula training and being confronted with vast differences in birth philosophies in our birth culture. Feeling lost in the depth & breath of opinions was necessary in order for me to find my deepest values surrounding birth.

    4) Meeting my first personal experience of birth trauma while assisting at a birth. I left the birth saying, “I don’t think I can do this work” and pretty much made up my mind that I would not continue. In my efforts to find healing, I randomly met a midwife online who diagnosed my symptoms saying, “You need to go to Birthing From Within.”

    5) Attending the Birthing From Within Introductory Workshop in Boulder, Colorado on my birthday weekend (only three months after my first doula training!) Experiencing a strong feeling of “being home”, which led to taking the first step of a journey of 1000 miles in the single most formative program for me as a birth worker (and as a person). Most exciting journey of personal growth and professional training ever – Birthing From Within.

    6) Discovering “Dancing Star Birth” online. . . witnessing the exciting possibilities of a “doula group” and thinking, “I want to do that.” Later meeting and working with Sarah Juliusson through Birth Your Business was the best thing I could have done for my business and, after taking her course (more than once) I slowly gained the courage to act on this dream. One.Tiny.Step.At.A.Time.

    7) Learning from the wonderful women who joined my crazy dream of Seasons Within Doula Group & Birth Services in January of this year. They teach me to be impeccable with my word, not to take things personally, and not to make assumptions. They challenge me by their innate goodness to always do my best. They each have their own brilliance and we learn from each other as we strive to give the highest level of care to each and every client.

    Yes. May we all keep growing . . .

    • Sarah Juliusson on July 16, 2013 at 5:10 am

      Wow Kathie! You have come so far since our first conversations a few years ago. I am deeply impressed by all that you have accomplished & the long path that has led you here. Thank You.

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