DONA International was founded by doulas and throughout its 24 year history has continued to be lead by doulas. In recent years, a professional management team was brought on to better meet the needs of nearly 6,000 members in 54 countries. As a non-profit organization, DONA International is lead by its Board of Directors with HeatherGail Lovejoy PCD(DONA), PDT(DONA) as the current President of the Board. We talked with HeatherGail recently to learn more about her and what she is excited about for DONA International in 2016.

In reflecting on her own doula journey, HeatherGail said

“Like so many others, my own doula path began with support and mentoring from other doulas. This is the heart of what DONA International is all about – doulas connecting and supporting one another as we improve the lives of families in our communities.”

HeatherGail’s doula journey began in 2004 with an ad in her local newspaper from a postpartum doula promoting her services. The idea of providing postpartum support was not new to HeatherGail, though she first learned about postpartum caregivers, as they were called then, 12 years earlier before DONA International was even founded. The ad reaffirmed her own thoughts on the need for support during this critical time to help establish the connection between parents and baby, and inspired her to take action. HeatherGail contacted the doula who was kind enough to give great advice and direct HeatherGail to a postpartum doula trainer, then DONA International President Ann Grauer.

It wasn’t long before HeatherGail was giving back to the doula community herself. She became certified as a postpartum doula in 2005 where she learned that she was the first PCD(DONA) in Northern California! A year later became the area’s SPAR (State/Province/Area Representative). In 2008, she became the Western Pacific US Regional Director and in 2014, a DONA International Approved Postpartum Doula Trainer.

Ann encouraged HeatherGail to become involved in DONA International. The postpartum doula field was new and the organization needed input from those dedicated to the fourth trimester to ensure it served all of its members well. For HeatherGail, it was an opportunity to be on the forefront of this “new” field, a voice for postpartum support and be part of an organization she very much believed in.

“Growing up, being involved in the community was very important. I was taught that if you believed in something and want to see change you have to step up or rather step IN to support it. I felt I was so inspired to support the work of postpartum doulas and felt I could have a bigger impact working within an established international organization.” she said.

HeatherGail’s journey with DONA International came full circle this year when she stepped into the role of President of the Board of Directors. The organization is building on groundwork laid in recent years and is off to a strong start in 2016 under the leadership of a recently restructured Board comprising a mix of those who bring important organizational knowledge and history with new members bringing new ideas and perspectives. Past leadership is available for advice as needed to provide continuity and context where needed. The DONA International family stays connected to each other and our roots as an organization created for doulas and led by doulas.

When asked for a theme for 2016 for DONA International, HeatherGail shared:

“At the Trainer’s Retreat Penny Simkin declared 2016 the “Year of the Doula.” She said that now is the time for doulas and talked about the immense shift happening around the recognition of our role, demand for services and desire for doula training. It must be so incredible for her and the other Founders to see how far we have come as a profession.”

As for what’s ahead for the organization,

“We are looking ahead to the future of DONA International and continue to be very excited about where we are headed as an organization so we can continuously improve and promote our members. This year we are both moving in new directions and staying true to who we are an organization with the 1st Annual Trainer’s Retreat, expanding our communications team and our 2016 conference where we will return to our Seattle area roots.”

The 1st Annual Trainer’s Retreat gathered over 50 DONA International approved doula trainers together to expand skills, get new ideas and connect. Founders Phyllis Klaus, Penny Simkin and Annie Kennedy provided inspiration to these dedicated educators who are often the very first connection new doulas have to the field and the organization. To grow the organization’s online connection to the doula community, a social media manager has been hired, and DONA International’s presence has expanded to Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest in addition to Member only Facebook group. A new website is in development with this process being led by a committee from DONA International. The 2016 annual conference will be the first in-person, DONA International focused conference in four years following two virtual conferences and an amazing joint Confluence with Lamaze International. About this year’s conference HeatherGail said,

“Our conference theme, Engage, aligns perfectly with the idea of 2016 being the “Year of Doula.” This is our time as a profession and an organization. As an organization we are actively creating new opportunities to engage with our members and the larger birth community. When DONA International doulas engage with their clients, their communities and their organization, anything is possible!”

Hear from from HeatherGail in the March edition of the International Doula magazine and save the date for the Annual Conference July 28 – 31 in Bellevue, WA.

— Adrianne Gordon, CD(DONA), MBA, Blog Manager