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Meet Kelley Ellis

Doula Support - Houston Central Doulas

What services do you provide?

I am a birth doula, and I love my job.  No matter how you choose to have your baby, I care that you are supported, well informed, and empowered in your choices.

What certifications do you have?

I don’t (yet!) have certifications for doula work.  I’m currently completing the requirements to be CAPPA certified.

What additional trainings/skills/degrees/CEUs do you have?

I completed the in-person labor doula training with CAPPA, and I am currently finishing up the requirements for certification.  I also have a BS in Maritime Systems Engineering from Texas A&M at Galveston (Offshore Structural Engineering).    I have read too many books to even count about birth, and breastfed all 3 of my boys for 20+ months each.

What is your favorite part of being a doula with Houston Central Doulas?

For the first time in my life, I work with a group of women.  And while we may all be a little bit different from each other, we all share a love of birth, babies, and empowering parents.  I laugh so much with these women when we are together.  I love having a built-in network of women who automatically understand why I do what I do.

What is your favorite part of being a business owner?

I love making  my own schedule.  After 17 years in the corporate world, not having to actually GO to work every day is fantastic.  I’m free to do what I love to do, and I have time to do the things that need to be done for a family of 5.

The first things you do at a birth are:

I say hello to everyone in the room while I wash my hands, then assess the situation.  If everything is calm, I get out my birth tools.  I make small talk with the parents and anyone in the room I haven’t met yet.  If support is in immediate need, I get to work without any tools. I always introduce myself to the birth team I haven’t yet met – I want the nurses and midwife/doctor to know that I am the doula.  I am there to be part of the team, but the mother’s needs are always my first priority.

What is your favorite doula tool?

As far as tools go, since I’m a literal person, I love my rebozo.  I have small hands, so having something to relieve my hands and arms is great.  I do a lot of hip squeezes and physical comfort measures. The rebozo helps with my endurance.  There’s a reason so many country songs are about hands, though.  Hands by themselves provide so much comfort.

What do you think are the most beneficial things to say to a woman in labor?

“You’re doing such a good job!”

“You’re one step closer to meeting baby’s name/your baby!”

“Yes, you can do this!  You ARE doing this!”

“Open your hands.  Drop your shoulders.  Loosen your jaw.”

“You are SO strong!!!”

I never take offense to anything a client says or does to me when she’s laboring.  If she pushes my hands away when the same hand placement felt great the last contraction, then I know that I need to do something different.  No harm, no foul.

How do you ensure you also take care of the mother’s partner during labor?

I make sure to talk to him/her, to ask if s/he would like to step in and do what I’m doing.  Then I  show them how to do physical comfort measures.  I make sure s/he is taking breaks, eating, and drinking.  I want the other parent in the room to provide as much support as possible. This birth will be a lifelong memory for them, and I want to help support and facilitate the best memory possible. Sometimes that involves me  being as small a part as possible in that memory.   However, if the best way to take care of the partner is by doing all the work so s/he doesn’t pass out, then that’s what I do.

The first three things you’d do at a post-partum shift would be:

Wash my hands, call Moriah, call Alex.  Try to figure out why I was there.  WHERE ARE ALL THE OTHER DOULAS IF I’M THE ONE AT A POSTPARTUM SHIFT?!

If you were making a Netflix recommendation to a postpartum mother, what would you recommend?

I am among the small population kind of without Netflix. Only my kids watch it, although I did laugh with them through “The Office” all summer.  On Hulu, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is freaking hysterical.  If you have Amazon Prime, you HAVE to watch The Americans, but there’s nothing funny about it.

I’m really more of a reader than a TV watcher.  I love a good rom-com in book form, but I can’t stand the acting in Hallmark/Lifetime movies. (I realize this means I need to turn in my woman card.)

For books, the heavier on the “com” part the better.  Anything Penny Reid has ever written.  The Knitting in the City ladies are wonderful, as well as the Winston Brothers series.  R.S. Grey has written some hilarious books. Susannah Nix has a series about women with STEM careers, and she lives in Houston. The Miss Fortune books by Jana DeLeon have made me guffaw in a room by myself.

If historical fiction is more your speed, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon is also fantastic, and super long to keep you occupied for lots of time spent feeding a baby. Then, you can watch the series on Starz.  When I was younger, I was super into Dean Koontz.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

Fiji – in one of those huts over the water?  Fabulous.  Pack a suitcase full of reef-safe SPF 50 and let’s go!

How do you spend a day off?

With a family of 5, a day to do absolutely nothing is very rare. I get the boys off to school, eat breakfast, go to the Y for a warm-up workout, then go to jiu jitsu.  Come home, eat lunch, shower, and get started on dinner so I can get the boys wherever they need to be once they get home from school.  Weekends without sporting events, we try to hold down the couch as much as possible and watch HGTV or Naked and Afraid while the boys build new worlds with Legos upstairs.

What does self-care mean and look like for you?

Practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is my self-care.  Having your body folded like laundry while you’re wearing the clothes forces you to take care of yourself.  If I don’t stretch, I hurt.  My back gets all contorted, so I go to the chiropractor more.  I have to keep myself hydrated because rolling around the floor with other people while wearing a gi feels like working out while wrapped in a quilt, and you sweat a ton.  I feel worse on the mat if I’ve been eating terribly or if I had too many margaritas the night before.  And in my early 40’s too many margaritas means one margarita now.  Ha!

And while I’m on the mat, I can’t think of anything else but staying alive.  It’s a great way for me to clear my mind.  I am forced while I am there to think under literal pressure, which makes it easier to think when the pressure is metaphorical. If I have to take a few days off, I can feel my anxiety levels creeping up on me.  Jiu Jitsu is also a place where I am “Kelley.”  While the boys and my husband also all train, when I’m at my class, I’m not their mom. I’m myself on my own journey with my own goals, just trying to be better than I was the day before.

What are your favorite foods?

Mexican food, but I have a one-way relationship with dairy (I love it – it does not love me), so I can’t eat everything on the menu.  But I loooooooove me some chips and salsa, guacamole, fajitas, and a margarita.  I also love Mediterranean food, and I miss pizza every day of my life.

Tell Us A Little Bit More: 

I’m married to my high school Sunday school sweetheart.  This is our 25th year together, 19th married.  We have 3 boys, 2 dogs, and a cat and our house is every bit as crazy and loud as you probably assume it is with 3 boys.

The boys keep us  busy with school and sports – baseball, jiu jitsu, flag football, basketball, and the oldest is in choir at school.  Our evenings can get pretty hectic.

My husband was a firefighter for about 20 years, and now he’s an Assistant Chief. So he’s got a desk job; which means for the first time in our marriage he’s home every night.

We are active in our small church; he helps out with junior high and high school youth group because he also spent about 15 years as a youth pastor on his days off from the fire department. I teach Sunday school to the elementary kids once a month and help out with the worship band as a mediocre banjo player and vocalist.

Before starting my jiu jitsu journey about 2 years ago, I spent 4 years practicing Krav Maga.  I believe every woman should learn how to physically defend herself.  It is incredibly empowering to have the skills to get a man twice your size off of your body.

I spent 17 years in the offshore oil and gas industry as a structural engineer.

I helped to design giant floating offshore platforms, and I really enjoyed my work.  The work involved a fabulous group of people, titans and pioneers of the industry, had a great boss, but the downturn in the industry left me without a job.  When one door closes, another one opens, and now I’m able to do a job I LOVE, not just one that I like because I like my coworkers and have the capability.

I became a doula because I knew through personal experience that having the support of a doula can completely change the emotional outcome of a birth.

My first birth was a cesarean after a clueless me agreed to an induction for “dates”, then wound up in the OR because my doctor suggested it and I blindly trusted her. And figured having a c-section would be no big deal.  I was honestly blown away when I was sad after his birth – I hadn’t expected so many feelings.  Hospital policies were much different 12 years ago, and I didn’t see my perfectly healthy baby for 5 hours after he was born.

My second birth was a repeat cesarean after an attempt at a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) that was foiled by high blood pressure.  However, this time I had educated myself, hired a doula, and knew that this cesarean was the best choice for my circumstances at the time.  Having a doula to be my sounding board and to be with me in recovery while my husband was with our baby helped me immensely with my emotional healing.

My third birth was a successful VBA2C after an induction for high blood pressure.

Making my own choices and having the support of a doula with my second birth helped me feel so much better with all of the emotions surrounding his birth.

My doula with my third birth and choosing a more VBAC friendly environment to have the birth helped me to succeed in my victorious VBA2C.  Supporting women through a birth, being there when a couple becomes a family, a new human is born, parents are born, a little person just became an older sibling – it’s such a gift.  Whether I’m hugging her and keeping all of their stuff while they’re headed to the OR or holding a leg as she pushes out a baby – just being there is a gift.

The time I spent in corporate America, surrounded by men, most of whom did not grow up in America, taught me so much about the world that I would not have learned anywhere else, and I am grateful for the experience.

I understand the struggle of being a mom who works out of the home.

I know what it’s like for a baby to keep you up all night; then have to show up the next day and think and perform while worrying you’re going to leak through your shirt if you don’t get out of that meeting as soon as possible to go pump.  I know how sad it feels to leave your little baby at daycare. And then how guilty you feel when you don’t miss your toddler during the day because being at work means you get to go to the bathroom alone and talk with other adults about things that don’t involve a baby.  The struggle of how you’re going to meet the deadline, get the kids dinner, make it to practice on time, and did I wash that uniform last night???

And now that I’m home without a workplace to go to every day, I understand the isolation.  How sometimes leaving the house with the children just seems like more than you can possibly deal with that day; but you must leave because you’re out of milk.  How you’re just counting down the minutes until you’re not the only adult home with the children; so you can get a break.  The cliché is true – the days are long, but the years are short.  I truly am so thankful for my family.

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