Sara Sullivan
Place of Birth: Vincent Pallotti Hospital
Birth Date: October 30, 2014

Sara Sullivan

Sara Sullivan at home with her two babies, big sister Lila and Denton.

I interviewed several doula candidates over Skype before I selected Charlene. Even speaking with her onscreen made me feel calmer and more peaceful about my birth that was coming up. I had experienced a very traumatic first birth with my daughter three years earlier that landed her in the NICU and me in the Neurology ward without the ability to speak after I had a seizure during labor. As a result I was very anxious about going through labor again, but I was determined to give myself and my baby the best chance at a safe, peaceful, and natural birth.

I can honestly say that Charlene was the single most important factor in making that possible. From the beginning I felt comfortable and secure with her as a birth partner: not just her knowledge of all things related to the process of birth, but her deep understanding of the psychology of labor, her familiarity with the hypnobirthing techniques, and her sensitivity and ability to hone in exactly on what I needed to do and hear to prepare. Her extremely competent and reassuring presence was also great for my husband as well; he knew we could count on her during birth and it made us both feel better.

We had one-on-one hypnobirthing classes with Charlene that were extremely valuable. She was able to tailor the content expertly to skip quickly through information we already knew so we could concentrate on more needed areas. I found the breathing and visualization exercises, as well as the affirmations, very helpful. Charlene was even able to bring in some useful affirmations from another programme as well when I expressed an interest in that system, even though none of those particular classes are available in South Africa. We only had one month before my due date to prepare since I was coming in from out of town, but it turned out to be plenty of time to get ready because Charlene is such a pro. We worked hard together on the anxieties and fears I had built up from my first birth experience, delving deep to come to terms with the earlier birth and prepare for the next one.

During labor itself, Charlene stood beside me like a rock of confidence and encouragement, radiating optimism and saying just what I needed to hear to make it through the most intense moments. I was discouraged at one point because the midwife suggested that I was still far from the pushing stage and the process could take awhile. I leaned heavily on Charlene during that time for strength as we listened to the affirmations together and worked through each surge. As a result, I was able to refocus and allow my body to do exactly what it needed to: my labor from start to finish ended up only being three hours. My beautiful, healthy baby boy was born without any drugs or interventions, and I was able to hold him in my arms immediately. My recovery was quick, and we were all headed out of the hospital less than 24 hours after I had checked in. It was exactly the birth I had wanted.

Postnatal appointments with Charlene were also so valuable. I scheduled a couple of massage sessions with her for after the birth that were healing and restorative, and left me feeling like I had enjoyed a full eight hours of restful sleep. We had done massage in some of the prenatal sessions as well, which was wonderful at cementing the effectiveness of the hypnobirthing affirmations and alleviating my many late-stage pregnancy aches and pains.

I am an American living in Botswana for my job, and I came to Cape Town for just two months to have our baby. My family and I were in effect alone in town without the resources of extended family or friends, and the situation could have been very lonely and intimidating, especially given our fears about the possibility of another difficult birth. Charlene was a major factor in making us feel at home even when we were far away from home: she has a confident, loving calm about her that immediately puts you at ease and helps you realize you can handle labor and birth naturally. Instead of an experience to dread, the labor of my son became a moving, empowering experience of joy and satisfaction. It will always remain a defining moment, one of the high points of my life, and I believe I have Charlene to thank for that.

Sara Sullivan, Vincent Pallotti Hospital