Recently a group of dedicated doulas gathered in sunny Florida for DONA International’s 1st Annual Trainer’s Retreat. One attendee, Rina Crane, AdvCD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, shares her experience at the retreat and some of her own story of meeting and working with one of her doula heroes, Penny Simkin. — Adrianne Gordon, CD(DONA), MBA, Blog Manager

When I attended my DONA International approved workshop to become a birth doula, I reacted giddily whenever the trainer relayed things that Penny Simkin had told her. Penny had personally spoken to her, and I’m pretty sure I spent the rest of the workshop trying to get as close to the trainer as possible so that I could be touched by her exhalations, which surely still contained some Penny molecules. Much has happened since then, and I have had the opportunity to not only meet Penny Simkin myself, but to speak to her, hug her, spend days with her and be trained as a DONA Approved Birth Doula Trainer by her.

She acts as if she’s a regular person. To so many of us she is not.

I spent the last weekend of January with Penny and two of her DONA International cofounders, Phyllis Klaus and Annie Kennedy. I had this privilege along with almost fifty other DONA International Approved Doula Trainers, several past Presidents and Board members among them. In my time with them, I got a chance to see and hear what distinguishes DONA International from other organizations, what makes it the premier doula organization. On the last day my fellow trainer and friend, Lorenza Holt, expressed what was in all of our hearts saying, “I would like to thank the three of you for getting it right from the very beginning.”

Everyone there had so much to offer, and I wondered if any of them would catch on
that perhaps I didn’t belong. How was it that I was allowed to be in this group of powerhouse women who are making such an impact in their local communities and the global birth scene? Here we were at the first Annual Trainers Retreat, and I had been included. It is true that I’ve been a DONA International Approved Birth Doula Trainer for four years, but being among so many people I admire was humbling.

Our hotel meeting room was transformed. The floral walls were covered with large note paper where we all had the opportunity to make contributions to various prompts. Colored markers were everywhere to be found, along with tulle, balloons and other secret trainer odds and ends. Rebozos were on the tables, and a basket of socks invited us to make ourselves comfortable. Of course, there were tissues too as the tears were flowing within minutes of starting the welcome session.

The retreat was unique in its desire to meet the needs of trainers as we focus on meeting those of our doulas and the families they serve. We made new friendships and solidified old ones as we enjoyed a fabulous program ranging from specific strategies to teach a particular topic to conversations about our evolution as leaders or hosts in communities small and large.

I am honored to be a member of DONA International right now, knowing that the Board of Directors and so many others are taking steps to bring the organization into the future and into the world. During the retreat, Penny proclaimed this year “The Year of the Doula.” Sharing this vision with dozens of trainers means that it will be a great year for a multitude, as doulas have the potential to affect so many lives.

I wish I could spend a year sitting in on all of my fellow trainers’ workshops. Each one of them has so much to share, and it was a gift to be among them. I try to include various continuing education opportunities in my schedule every year. I’d like to do everything, but I try to choose the ones that will be the most meaningful to me and impactful to my community. I’m happy that this event was billed as an annual trainers’ retreat. It’s one I hope never to miss.I can’t wait for next year!

Want to have your own inspiring learning experience with fellow doulas including DONA International co-founder Penny Simkin? Join us at the 22nd Annual Conference in Bellevue, WA July 28 -31!

About the Author:
Rina CraneRina Crane is truly passionate about labor and birth and is thrilled to share this passion along with her knowledge and experience. She strives to help families learn about birth and about their ability to advocate for themselves before, during and after labor. Rina is an advanced certified doula through DONA International, a DONA-Approved Birth Doula Trainer and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. She was inducted as a Fellow of the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators in 2015 and is a founding member and Director of the NYC Doula Collective and the founder and coordinator of several volunteer doula programs for underserved populations in New York City.