About Joanne Dahill
I began my journey as a doula with a willingness to serve and a sense of astonishment that, as a teenager, I had been invited to such a sacred event as the birth of a child. With neither official title nor designated duties, I did simple things for my friend as she labored. I placed a cool compress on her forehead. I brought the straw to her mouth for sips of water. I squeezed her hand and rubbed her back. Simple things, and my presence made a difference. That is how it is when a woman tends to a birthing woman with an open heart and willing hands.
The initial skills of intuition and commonsense support that I discovered at the first births I attended still provide the backbone of my work. These skills have deepened through years of practice. Each and every one of the more than 500 women whom I have had the privilege to accompany on their journey of motherhood has been a teacher to me. And, since that first day, I have grown tremendously through my own life journey, gathering the skills and perspective that only life can teach. In addition to my “on the job” lessons, I continue to develop adjunct skills that broaden my ability to be of service to women and their families in the birthing year.
The first births I attended were all unmedicated home births. The women who invited me to share this most intimate experience taught me much about strength, perseverance and patience, about believing in oneself, about expressing need, surrendering to sensations more powerful than ever felt before and opening to their greatest joy. They certainly helped me prepare for my own journey of motherhood. However, as might be expected, I learned much more from giving birth to my two daughters than from attending births! Amanda was born in Miami, FL in 1988; I planned to have her at home, but the long hours of labor had us move to the hospital. Through this birth, I learned the lesson of “surrendering dearly held plans.” Mariah was born in a log cabin in Chapel Hill, NC in 1994, the midwife barely arriving in time. To be clear…the midwife came as soon as we called, but I was unintentionally holding to past ideas of how birth unfolds. I learned the lesson that “each birth is unique.”
In 1999, when my youngest daughter was 5, I began having dreams about birth. This was a call of my heart, not for another child of my own, but to return to the work I had begun long before. I completed the basic DONA training and once again began to attend births. I was one of the first volunteer doulas with the UNC BirthPartner Doula program. I now maintain a private practice, attending births throughout the Triangle, at local hospitals, the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center, Baby + Co and in private homes.
Learning to plan and let go… birth is an intense, powerful experience… the simplest of words or gestures offers much strength… time has no meaning in the middle of labor… the world disappears in the process of birthing…