JTorstar News Service


Doula Tara Harkin, 37.


Tara Harkin always felt she was born to be a mother.

So it’s not surprising that, at 37, Harkin has found her calling in a job best described as “mothering the mothers.”

Harkin is a doula. Her business is providing support, nurturing, encouragement, massage, reassurance and comforting hugs to women going through the most intense experience of their lives – childbirth.

“I have been obsessed with babies and pregnancy and being a mother since I had my first baby doll,” says Harkin, who is just finishing a two-year doula certification program and has been involved in eight births – not including her own daughter’s two years ago.

“This is a labour of love. My goal is to make your experience a positive one.”

Doulas, who provide prenatal education and non-medical support through labour and delivery, and postpartum care, have been around since ancient times. (Doulos in Hebrew, and the Greek doulous, mean female servant).

But the profession has seen a huge resurgence in the past 15 years or so, says Julia MacNeil of Mississauga, a doula who has been involved in 50 births and is a board member of Doula C.A.R.E., a networking and referral service.

For Carmen Joseph of Mississauga, who had one daughter without a doula and hired Harkin for the birth of her second a year ago, the benefits were immeasurable.

“It was amazing,” says Joseph, 37. “The encouragement was so important. When you’re in the midst of it, you forget what to do and the adrenaline is pumping.”

Harkin massaged Joseph, relieved her back pain with counter-pressure, helped her with breathing techniques and provided gentle reassurance to both Joseph and husband Dave throughout.

While midwives, physicians and nurses are devoting their energies to the physical condition of mother and baby, monitoring blood pressure, heartbeats and dilation, doulas offer “belly button and up” support, says Harkin.