The DC Doula
A Philadelphia native, Muhammad is a birth and postpartum doula and a social worker, who came to birth work long before she had children of her own. She was trained in 2008 and describes birth work as a calling. First introduced to birth work after learning about the Philadelphia Alliance for Labor Support (PALS), she began her doula career by volunteering as the training and dispatch coordinator for PALS, in addition to attending births around the city. Muhammad moved to the D.C. metro area in 2011 and has been working with families here ever since.
Her training in social work has taught her to meet people wherever they are starting and notes that there are generally three different types of births to which she attends.
Some women need a lot of physical support during labor. She helps to ease their discomfort and remind them that their bodies are capable of doing the work required in labor. Some of the “tricks” in her bag include offer comforting touch, counter pressure, acupressure, Reiki, work with the rebozo (a traditional birthing tool), hot and cold packs, yoga and body positioning advice.
Some women need a witness—a quiet presence to stand alongside the birthing mother for when assistance is needed. They need someone who can support them (or their partners) as they move through labor without being intrusive or overbearing. Muhammad notes, “Sometimes people just want someone who has already been on the journey as reassurance that they can make the journey as well.”
Lastly, there are women who need someone that can shoulder the burden of labor with them. Muhammad suggests that these tend to be the most difficult births. “I help women to carry their emotional strain in addition to their physical strain. Many people don’t realize that birth has just as much to do with your mind as it does with your body.”
The motivating factor for Muhammad in her work is the opportunity is to help women protect the memory of their birth experience. “A woman can tell you the minute-by-minute events of her labor, no matter how old she is or what her mental state may be. Birth is an event that imprints on women in a way that is so impactful. It breaks my heart when women have difficult or traumatic experiences that could have been avoided with information and support.”
Muhammad believes that women can have whatever birth experience they want, despite whether they choose to birth in hospitals, birth centers or in their own homes. She most recently began the next leg of her journey as a women’s health practitioner. Since March, she has engaged in study to become a community-centered herbalist and will soon be offering an additional layer of support to the families she serves.
Malika Hook Muhammad is owner of The DC Doula and serves Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. If you are interested in learning more about doulas or are interested in contacting her, visit her website: TheDCDoula.com.