Alaska Birth Doula • Shanna Switzer || Moss + Myrrh's Favorites | Anchorage Birth Photographer
Moss + Myrrh's Favorites
I am SO excited to finally get to share this program with you guys. Awhile back I asked for recommendations of providers that YOU absolutely loved working with. Birth centers, midwives, chiropractors, yoga studios, doulas, baby stores, any business that was mama related. I think it's really important for businesses to team up with other like minded businesses to benefit our mutual client base. So, over the next few months I'm going to be teaming up with the local mama friendly businesses that YOU love and featuring them on the blog. The most exciting part of all this? They'll have access to a $100 discount that YOU can use towards your birth story with me. Yes, $100 off your birth. Yay! How can you use the discount? All providers will be given vouchers that they can give to their clients. Easy peasy. ;)
Alaska Birth Doula | Shanna Switzer
February's featured provider is Alaska Birth Doula owner, Shanna Switzer! Shanna was hands down THE most recommended provider of all and I quickly figured out why. She's one of those people you just *click* with. She's warm, welcoming, and possibly one of the sweetest people I've met. I can only imagine how that transfers when needing her through your pregnancy/labor. ♥︎
Check out her Q + A below discussing herself, her business, and what being a Doula is all about for her!
Q. Tell me about yourself, your family, your business. What brought you down the path of becoming a Doula?
I'm Shanna. (Rhymes with Hannah.) Nate and I have been married for almost 15 years, and we're both lifelong Alaskans. Our four kids range from almost 14 down to almost 3. I attended my first birth as a shadowing doula in May of 2009, where I watched and assisted a doula friend in supporting her client through a hospital birth. It was the most beautiful, wonderful experience, and as we all cried happy tears when her daughter was born, I knew instantly that I was meant to do birth work. But my family was still really young and the on-call lifestyle of doula work was too much for us at that time. So I took on limited births of family members and friends over the years, and enjoyed raising my own growing family.
I finally completed my training and launched into my career as a professional doula in early 2016. I love every little thing about being a doula, from the relationships I get to build with sweet clients and their families, helping them find answers and make the decisions they find best for their pregnancies, preparing for their births, and sharing the joys and challenges of postpartum and becoming new parents. There is something so connective about having a baby, and it's such a tender, emotional, special time. I treasure every step of the journey with each of my clients.
Q. Can you explain what a doula is?
A doula is a person who supports a woman and her family through pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. My role is to support in three main ways - emotionally, physically, and with clarifying information. A doula is kind of like a sister, friend, mother, mentor, confidant, and cheerleader. I'm every client's biggest fan, and I want what's best for each of my clients, whatever they decide that to be. I always say "you don't have the power to disappoint me." And it's true -- there is absolutely no judgment here.
Q. What certifications/training are required?
There are many training organizations for doulas, and while the basic role of a doula is the same, organizational philosophies, codes of conduct, and standards of practice vary. I chose to do my training and become certified through DONA (Doulas of North America) which is the longest running and most well-established doula training organization, with a stringent certification program, strict code of ethics, and excellent reputation. It was hard work getting all of the requirements accomplished to become a certified DONA doula, and I wear the title CD(DONA) proudly.
Q. Why do you think it's important for a doula to be present for a mother throughout her pregnancy?
I strongly believe that there are many ways to have an empowered and positive birth experience. One of the most important aspects of a woman's birth is how supported and informed she felt, and whether she felt like she had a sense of control over her experience. Doulas work to help pregnant and laboring women become their own best advocate, asking the questions they might forget, reminding them of their voice, and being an ever-present source of encouragement. Studies show that the presence of a support person such as a doula increased the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth, had no harm, and women were more satisfied. (Cochrane report, 2013)
Q. Can you go through the process of working with you? How many times do you meet your client on average? Will mothers see you after birth as well?
I offer free initial consultations, in my home, potential client's home, or a coffee shop. These visits are a good opportunity to get to know each other and for clients to decide if my personality and style is right for them.
Once I contract with a client, I am on call for them at any time, for anything they might need. My phone is always on and at my side. I don't go farther than an hour's drive from their birthing location, and I don't drink alcohol to excess or do anything else that might make it difficult for me to be available for them and their birth. I offer several doula packages, ranging from simply supporting their birth (available for 2nd/3rd/4th time mamas), to up to three or more prenatal visits and 4+ postpartum hours. With most clients, we'll meet at least a couple of times in their home before the birth to discuss their birth preferences, talk about the process of and comfort measures for labor, practice positions, discuss postpartum plans, and chat about anything else they might want to discuss or clarify. These visits help us to become really comfortable and familiar with each other before their baby's birthday, and help us to establish trust and the intimacy that birth demands. When a client goes into labor, I can join her and her partner at home for the early stage, and then follow them to their birthing location, or join them at their birth center, hospital or homebirth. I attend births at all hospitals, birth centers, and homes in Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla and everywhere inbetween. I stay throughout the birth, and for up to three hours immediately postpartum to assist with bonding and breastfeeding, take pictures, and help the family get comfortable and situated immediately following the birth.
I visit every client at least once after their baby's birth to check in on how postpartum is going, talk about and assist with breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, babywearing, and troubleshoot any challenges. Some clients desire additional postpartum time and I am happy to oblige with postpartum doula care, which can include everything from baby care, pet care, dishes and light housekeeping, grocery shopping; whatever a new mama and her family might need during their transition with their new family member.
In additional to birth and postpartum doula work, I am also a certified Childbirth Instructor and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist.
• Do you have an epic birth story you can share?
I have so many epic birth stories! Every baby's birth is special and unique, and I remember little details of every client and their baby/babies. But some of my most memorable births have definitely been the speediest -- like the client's husband who called me at 1:36am saying contractions had started strong and steady, and were now two minutes apart. Overhearing my client working hard in the background, I raced to their home just a couple miles from mine in Eagle River, and when I arrived just after 2, mama was laboring hard leaning over her truck in their driveway, snow softly falling, saying, "I need to push..." Thinking to myself "first time mama... we've got time to get to Providence..." I helped her get into the back of the truck saying, "no pushing! Pant and blow!" and we raced to the hospital. Her husband dropped us off at the ER and I raced through the halls with mama in a wheelchair. She joyfully delivered her baby girl standing in the bathroom less than a half hour later.
I've had a couple of clients who didn't even appear to be in active labor until they were 9 or more centimeters dilated, and then shocked everyone in the room with a short burst of contractions before quickly delivering their babies...
And VBACs are always super special to me. There's nothing like the elation of a client who desires and is able to birth vaginally after having one or more cesarean births. I've supported several exuberant VBACs and they are a thrill, every time.
Some day I hope to compile a book full of birth stories and my adventures as an Alaskan doula!
Q. How can potential clients reach you?
My website: www.alaskabirthdoula.com
You can read client testimonials at
If you've worked with Shanna in the past, leave her some love in the comments! I love reading about those positive experiences. ♥︎
Have a provider you absolutely LOVED working with? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm loving reading your experiences with our amazing birth community up here in Alaska. ♥︎