Belly bumps & babes: what is a doula? By Kathleen Borrelli/Record Staff February 20, 2020

You were inside meThis spring, the Greene County Library has been offering a series for new or expectant parents of doula-led discussions centering on late pregnancy, birth and postpartum expectations. Led by Cynthia Fargo of Honeybee Doula Services LLC (based in Ruckersville), the remaining sessions will be held on March 7 and April 4 at the library in Stanardsville.
What exactly is a doula? A doula is someone who usually doesn’t have training as an obstetric doctor but does having training to offer guidance and support to pregnant women during labor.
Throughout history, women typically gave birth in familiar surroundings amid family members, friends or a midwife when possible.
“For the last few decades in the United States, it has become customary for women to give birth in hospitals, cared for by strangers,” Fargo notes on her site. “Since modern obstetrical care relies heavily on technology, and can be complex and confusing, parents are once again turning for help to kindly women with experience in helping women give birth.”
When Fargo had her own daughters, she found herself surrounded by women who helped her through the experience.
“I had people around, they could be coming around the house and we’d be talking, I’d be throwing a load of laundry on the table and everybody would just fold,” she said. She said she worries that many families today don’t share that same level of support.
That’s where Honeybee Doula Services comes in.
“There’s been a lot of work done with the elderly and people with dementia and Alzheimer’s especially, because they may not remember the man who’s standing here beside them, but they remember giving birth to their son, and they can tell you that story,” Fargo said. “So, if something particularly beautiful or particularly traumatic happened during a birth, you’re going to remember that until you’re old. You take it with you; it’s yours; you take it with you either way. Why not change that and make it a good story?”
Recent studies have shown that doulas decrease the overall cesarean rate by 28%, the length of labor by 25%, the request for pain medication by 9%, the need for forceps by 40%, and overall negative childbirth experiences by 34%, in addition to helping fathers participate with confidence, increasing success in breast-feeding and providing greater maternal satisfaction. More information on these studies is available at
Fargo believes that sometimes all a woman needs is to know that what she’s going through is normal and that she’s not alone. Doulas offer a wide range of services, from birth doula services to antepartum or postpartum services, childbirth education and sibling support.
As a birth doula, Fargo meets with moms and partners several times leading up to the anticipated delivery date to build a connection and rapport with her clients. They practice comfort techniques and open conversations about expectations and fears to help build self-confidence. She is then “on call” for two weeks before and two weeks after the estimated due date and can be called or texted at any time during that period. When labor starts, she typically comes to the home to help with the move to the hospital and stays with the couple to provide support until they have given birth.
When asked how she got into this line of work, Fargo cites her own experiences as a mom and grandma.
“The mystery and the beauty in nature and our spirits are never closer than it is in birth,” she said. “It all comes together—the emotion, the spirit, new life, that first breath; I’ve got goosebumps all over me. It all comes together right there, and that should be honored and beautiful and it’s the mom’s. When a doctor comes in and says ‘I delivered that baby,’ it really ticks me off, because I saw the momma pushing. She worked for it and she should get the credit. Maybe that’s just me.”
After being blown away by the process during her first daughter’s birth, Fargo went back to her own childbirth teacher in Boston, a registered nurse and certified Lamaze instructor with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). Fargo began assisting in classes and reading everything she could on the subject and was soon serving on the board of directors for the Boston Association for Childbirth Education (
When she moved to Charlottesville in 2010, her new home was right across the street from the Pregnancy Center, and Fargo found herself taking counselor training classes and launching the center’s first-ever childbirth education classes in 2017. It was there that she realized that being a doula could become a career.
“Being a doula was a thing; an occupation,” she said. “They called it by a name and they pay you for it. It was a very different model than I had come along with … I have three daughters; I am a woman … look at the world. Women need this. We need to hold each other up.”
In addition to her International Birth Doula training with DONA (Doulas of North America), Fargo currently serves with the Thomas Jefferson Area Board of Health on its Improving Pregnancy Outcomes (IPO) work group.
“I think a lot of the things that influence us, the media mostly and the medical world, [show us] that we’re incapable,” she said. “Being capable in birth helps people to know that they’re capable as parents. When you know you’re capable as a mom; if you’re smart enough and powerful enough to push a baby out and catch it and put it up on your chest and breast-feed it, well you know what? You can figure out Johnny’s sneeze. It just gives you an empowerment that I think is supposed to be there. There’s a confidence born of it, to see that the systems work.”
Fargo has a wealth of stories, from the dad who fainted at the birth of his first child and had to be laid out on a couch to the dad who thought he wanted nothing to do with the birth and would be in the other room working during the labor, but then had to take over once mom needed surgery immediately following delivery.
“I watched that man go from ‘I don’t want to see down that end’ to becoming a dad,” Fargo said. “He was beautiful. He took that little baby girl and he held her and after a while he said, ‘I want to move now how do I do that?’ And I helped him and I showed him. The nurse and I were there with him and it was a little bit dark and she opened her eyes and she looked at him and he talked to her and she stopped fussing and she locked onto him. She already knew him; she knew his voice.
“It was beautiful; I got to see that. Why do I do this? There it is. I see parents born I don’t just see babies born,” she added.
The March 7 session at the library will focus on setting goals and making them a reality, talking about the cascade of interventions and how to work towards a safe, healthy, satisfying, empowering birth, and making sure your team is all on the same page. On April 4, Fargo will discuss planning for postpartum, taking stock of resources before you need them, setting up your team and who will you back you up so you can be ‘down’. Each session covers specific topics from 9:30-10:30 a.m. with open discussion for the attending parents from 10:30-11:30 a.m. To learn more, visit or
The library is at 222 Main St. in Stanardsville.

To see original article run in the Greene County Record/Daily Progress-use the following link:


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