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Meet Nina Stickney of Down to Earth Birth Services

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nina Stickney.

Nina, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I made the decision to become a birth doula in January of 2010. Prior to discovering the doula profession, even as a young person, I had cultivated a habit of “showing up” for other moms as an extra set of hands, a listener, an encourager, an advocate of women, and often a babysitter. I LOVE babies.

After experiencing the profound effect of having given birth myself, I was eager to stay in that space and learn how I could support pregnant mothers in a meaningful and honoring way. I had valued the support I received during my pregnancy and early parenting, and understood how imperative it is for a new mother to be celebrated, encouraged and connected.

Days after beginning my training with DONA (Doulas of North America), a close family member entered home hospice. For six months, I read about the start of life and supporting the whole family’s needs as they navigated this unpredictable event.

Meanwhile, in my personal life, I was spending significant time observing the sacred, and equally unpredictable event, of dying. I was struck by the parallels of these two milestones in life, and how both require a deep sensitivity and respect. Both events can be beautiful and even peaceful, and while they unfold, an unforgettable story is pieced together. I learned about the importance of agency, and how this capacity to make decisions, even small ones, for oneself can maintain dignity and give a sense of control and comfort. I learned how to be present when “fixing” isn’t an option, and how soothing words or a gentle touch can wrap around the soul. It was also at this time that I became very aware of God working out a plan for my life, and for the first time I began to see my future settle into focus. I was raised with the understanding that each person is uniquely designed for a purpose. I felt a calling to nurture and support others during one of life’s most precious, vulnerable times.

I founded my business, Down to Earth Birth Services, in 2012, as a means to refresh and modernize the tradition of women supporting women and their families as they bring a new child into their lives. To be completely transparent, I had not given much consideration to owning a business when I first became a doula. To use gardening as a comparison (because I love digging in the dirt too!), the process of growing my business was like starting seeds in the winter. Materially, I had little to start with, but my sights were set on the end product, which for me has always been the satisfaction of serving expectant families. Developing my brand, website etc was a grass roots, down to earth experience. I did it myself using what I had. Like minimalist gardening, I didn’t have the means to go out and purchase mature starter plants and plant them in fancy raised beds with an irrigation system! I had some seeds and soil and I just started there with small attainable goals and attention to detail. I started slowly and put my whole heart into learning how to read each families’ needs and wishes and how to support them best. I’ve pruned away the things that do not serve my overall goals. I’ve rolled with the seasons. Down to Earth Birth Services, reflects my vision to provide families with knowledgeable, practical, and loyal support at one of life’s most precious and memorable events.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Finding my car in the parking garage after a long birth. That happened… twice.

Adjusting to the on call lifestyle was huge. Doula work is not for those who love lots of structure and sleep. Thankfully, I am one of those who can drink coffee or nap at pretty much any time of day. Being on call 24/7 requires thoughtful plans and flexibility, and that can have an effect on family and friend relationships. “Sure, I’ll be there—if I’m not at a birth” is my line for everything. I have a contingency plan for each day, so that I am ready to drop what I’m doing and be by my client’s side when the time comes.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Down to Earth Birth Services – what should we know?
Down to Earth Birth Services is comprised of two main services at this time, birth and postpartum care.

As a professional birth doula, I support mothers and their partner in the childbearing year, through regular contact with the mother in the weeks before and after birth, and continuous, in person support during her labor and birth. During labor, some moms prefer an active, physical support role from their doula, while others prefer a quiet presence to witness, affirm and defer to if guidance is wanted. It is always about what she wants, and what helps her feel secure and sustained during her experience. There are many practical and effective means to care for a birthing mother, whether her plan is for a natural labor, medicated/epidural, or cesarean birth. I help the mother find what helps her to cope, and often her partner likes to have suggestions and feedback on how he can help her to. Engaging the partner and keeping him involved in the process is a priority to me. I’ve provided doula support at more than a dozen hospitals in the area, as well as in the client’s home for midwife attended home birth or for client’s wishing to labor at home before heading to the hospital.

As a postpartum doula, the focus is helping the family adjust to bringing the new baby home, by making sure their physical and emotional well-being is attended to. The newborn is in the “fourth trimester” and it is developmentally appropriate for his/her needs to be very demanding. It can be overwhelming for a mother to rest, recover and focus on getting to know her baby without extra hands to help. A family with a new baby needs nurturing and reassurance. I work with parents to help them build confidence in reading their baby’s cues and finding feeding and sleeping arrangements that reinforce their parenting goals. I also perform basic tasks like cooking nutritious meals (you can only order pizza so often), laundry and whatever else needs to be done to make the home feel like a cozy nest to settle in to.

Down to Earth Birth Services specializes in birth and postpartum care that is sensitive and respectful to each family. At this time, this is accomplished by serving a reasonable number of clients each month, and truly listening to each mother to find out what “a positive birth experience” looks like for her. My hope is for each mother to feel honored and understood as she reflects on her birth story and how she was cared for. As a business owner, I take great pride in serving many repeat clients, and friends and family referred by previous clients.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Certainly my husband and kids! They have had to be flexible and gracious with dealing with my Type A style planning for being on call, as well as my spontaneous absences when I leave for births.

My parents have been both inspiring and encouraging from the start. I grew up in the south suburbs and my parents supported our family with their own small businesses.

My dad has owned a construction business for over 30 years, and my mom had a beauty shop in our home. They both have emphasized that your reputation always goes before you, and to this day I consider those lessons in integrity to be more useful than any lesson in branding or marketing. Word of mouth advertising is the mainstay of small businesses.

My clients deserve a ton of credit for trusting me to be there during an intimate and life changing time in their family history. It is such a privilege to witness and support each birth.

And of course, I am thankful to God for enabling me to do this work. I feel so blessed to really love and feel a passion for serving birthing families.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jana Durant Photography
Bethany B Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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