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Hidden Gems: Meet Melanie Patrick of Emerald Doulas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Patrick.

Hi Melanie, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My doula story began in Westchester, NY 33 years ago when I supported my best friend during the birth of her second child. In the years following, various friends and sisters would ask me to support them in birth or during their postpartum time. In 2011 I was looking for a career change and my eldest sister, whom I supported during her first birth, said “You should be a doula!” I had never heard of the word, but after doing some research, I was all in!

I took a training and began working. In less than a year, I was certified and the only full-time doula I knew; able to support myself solely with my income from my birth and postpartum work. I had owned a small business, “Mellie’s Family Day Care” years before, so I was familiar with the ins and outs of marketing and bookkeeping. I felt extremely blessed that I had a steady stream of clients in quick time.

About two years later, I had what I can only refer to as a vision sent by God. I was called to build a business greater than what I was doing on my own. The images that flooded my mind included multiple doulas supporting families in community, encompassing childbirth and newborn education classes, support groups, breastfeeding support, yoga and other exercise classes, all in a free-standing building. I immediately called my youngest sister and told her about it. In this same phone conversation she shared that she and her family would be moving to North Carolina, and she invited me to move there too! I thought she was crazy, but long story short, I moved to the Triangle in 2014, about six months after she did!

In the time I was trying to decide if I would make this move, I joined a Facebook group for doulas in the Triangle area. When I asked if anyone would be willing to talk with me about the local birth community, a woman named Ashley Collins said she’d be happy to speak with me. I had no idea she would be my future business partner!

Ashley and I met up after I arrived in North Carolina. At first, we acted as backup for each other, not yet sharing with the other our secret plans. I had immediately started looking for commercial spaces after moving here while rebuilding my solo doula business. In my first year in North Carolina, I had as many birth clients as I did in my last year in New York! God has been so good to me!

About a year later, Ashley and I were having lunch, and she shared that she was thinking about opening a doula agency! I hadn’t thought of my dream as an agency as such, but as we talked it was clear that so many aspects of what we wanted to do were in alignment. So we began to plan. Over the next year, we chose a name, created a business plan, found an office space, invited doulas to join our team, and launched Emerald Doulas, LLC on January 1, 2016!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth road; we’ve had our struggles. At the same time, our work has always felt anointed, meaning most of the struggles have been of our own making.

Ashley and I are both strong-willed, and we both ran our own businesses prior to partnering. There were definitely some power struggles as we adjusted from solo work to collaboration and compromise! We got some great support from Coco Rosenblatt-Farrell as well as Emily Gelblum, both of whom helped us to stop focusing on our egos and fix our gaze on our shared vision and the love and respect we have for one another.

I fully believe that I am called to do this work in this way, and because of that the long hours and struggles have not been overwhelming. It’s been hard work, don’t get me wrong, but we haven’t had to push & fight & claw our way through; rather it has always felt like our path has opened up in front of us!

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Emerald Doulas was the first full-service doula agency in the North Carolina Triangle! The services we offer are birth, postpartum, and sibling doulas, childbirth and newborn care classes, placenta encapsulation, and support groups for pregnant people and new parents. We provide comprehensive, inclusive, and evidence-based support for women and other birthing people throughout pregnancy, during labor and birth, and in the first six months postpartum.

Our doulas partner with expectant families, helping them navigate both low risk and high risk pregnancy, understand their options and choose the best providers/birth locations for them, learn about the process of labor and birth, and prepare to care for a newborn. We also provide in person labor and birth support, helping the birthing person and their partner have as safe and as positive an experience as possible. We can then help them make the transition to caring for a newborn at home; establishing breast/chest-feeding, healthy sleep habits, nourishing meals and household help in the first days, weeks, and months with their baby.

In addition to exemplary care, we’re known for our diverse team of doulas and educators, for our classes and free support groups that are affirming of all families, and for ensuring that our doulas earn not just a living wage but a thriving wage for the incredible work they do!

One of the many things that set us apart from others is that we’re known among providers as doulas who work collaboratively with the hospital and birth center staff to help ensure a cohesive support team for our clients. Our families don’t have to worry that there will be conflict between their doctors and their doulas because we support in a way that is as non-confrontational as possible while still providing strong advocacy for our clients when they aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

I’m most proud of the doulas with whom I have the honor of working. We have an amazing team of birth and postpartum doulas and educators who are smart, hard-working, dedicated, & fierce! I know it’s cliché to say we’re a family, but there it is. We genuinely care for one another and support each other professionally and personally. I’ve never before worked with a group of people so passionate about caring for others or so determined to do a great job. They really push themselves & raise the bar for one another! I also love the diversity of our team; it’s not something typically seen in other doula agencies or collectives. We really reflect the local community!

What do I want the readers to know? It’s NEVER too early to hire Emerald Doulas! The earlier you reach out the more options you have and the more you get for your money! Also, doulas are not only for home births or unmedicated births. We support all births! If you want to birth without medication, that’s cool! If you want an epidural in the parking lot, as Ashley would say, that’s cool too! We can also provide valuable support during a c-section birth. Whether you’re exclusively breast/chest-feeding, pumping or formula feeding, this is your birth, your body, your baby, your decision; we’re here to help you along the way without an agenda of our own outside of evidence-based, respectful, parent-centered care. And we support the partner as well as the birthing person!

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
Back in the day, I was a carpenter with the Local 11 Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners in Westchester, NY.

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Image Credits

Heart in Hands Photography Raleigh Birth Photography

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