A Labor of Love for Northern Star Doula
“The support that a doula provides isn’t just during labor and birth—it is emotional, logistical, practical.”
Passion and purpose can reveal themselves in unexpected ways. Sometimes our hardships are what make us who we are, and show who we were meant to be. For Nicole Sawyers Todd, adversity created something beautiful: Northern Star Doula.
A mother of three, Nicole had not always felt supported during her pregnancies. “The difference in the support I received with each of my births was very noticeable. It made a huge difference in my experience of birth and my birth memory,” she describes. When she learned what a doula was, she knew she had found her purpose in life. “I was thinking how much a doula would have changed my experience for the positive, and I wanted to be that for people.”
According to her friends, Nicole had always been a “walking birth encyclopedia,” constantly seeking out information and resources to support them both practically and emotionally. “Thinking back about the support I wish I would have had, put me in a position to help others,” she tells us. After more than a year of self-study, she completed a formal birth doula training program, as well as postpartum doula training. A self-described “birth nerd,” Nicole has continued her birth education and completed countless certifications. “I think people deserve a higher level of support than they even knew they could have,” she explains.
Photograph courtesy of Rachel Utain Evans Photography.
Through Northern Star Doula, Nicole serves as a birth doula and offers overnight postpartum and newborn care to new and expectant families. “The support that a doula provides isn’t just during labor and birth—it is emotional, logistical, practical,” she describes.
While her expertise and level of care have always been invaluable, the pandemic put an even stronger emphasis on the importance of the advocacy and support a doula can provide. “People were afraid, and questions weren’t really getting answered,” she recalls. Expecting families were concerned about everything from the amount of contact they risked by delivering in a hospital to the differences in care their babies would receive due to COVID-19.
“Emotionally supporting someone through pregnancy is already very sensitive, but the pandemic added onto that and made the need for emotional support greater—as well as logistical support.” For many expecting mothers, the pandemic added the additional wrinkle of no longer having their own parents as traditional support through the birth and newborn stages.
“It was really a lot of strategizing,” Nicole says. For some families, she recommended transferring to a more intimate setting such as The Birth Center at Lifecycle WomenCare, for others she recalls having to coach them through labor via Zoom while she sat in her car outside the hospital because the number of people allowed in the delivery room was limited.
Just as Nicole turned her personal difficulties into strength, these turbulent times have only served to fortify her resolve and draw on her abilities to help others. “Doulas are the kind of people that can switch and pivot, and deal with whatever comes their way as gracefully as possible. That’s really what we’re teaching our clients to do, too.”
Photographs by Rachel Utain-Evans. Northern Star Doula supports the Philly Family Community.