The following letters were shared by former clients of Keith Roberts, a retired massage therapist and doula who supported more than 900 couples through pregnancy and over 200 in labor and delivery. He was the first man to join Doulas of North America. Keith is now enjoying his retirement.
Overcoming Fear Tiffany Bates Zelenbaba of Colorado Springs "My husband scheduled my first massage with Keith as a Valentine's Day present when I was in my seventh month. The massage was so nice that I continued to get massages every few weeks through the remainder of my pregnancy. It was not just the massages that I enjoyed, but also my conversations with Keith. This was my first child, and when I first came to him I was fairly frightened about labor and delivery. Keith was very knowledgeable and through our conversations, and the books and CD that he loaned me, I became more knowledgeable myself. . . We called Keith on our way to the hospital and he was there within a half hour. He was a pillar of strength and support through the entire 18 hours. Although the delivery was long and difficult, I achieved my goal of delivering my daughter without the epidural. I could not have done this without Keith. He used counter-pressure and suggested various positions to help ease the pain of the contractions, he helped me breathe and used massage and heated towels to help me relax in between the contractions and he enabled my husband to be up by my face to talk with me and encourage me and hold my hands. I cannot say that my daughter's birth was pain-free; I can, however, say that it was a wonderful experience."
Changing Plans Christina Smith of Colorado Springs "My husband and I are both classic Type A personalities. I was approaching the pain of childbirth as something I would control and overcome. I realized soon after meeting you that this approach would have brought me more pain and stress than anything else. And let's be honest . . . it wasn't like I could rely totally on my husband. I could just visualize the two of us in the delivery room. I'm in pain and pushing and he is telling me how great I'm doing. I turn to him and bark out, "Like you have any point of reference." That's when it dawned on me that the thing I was most nervous about was the unknown. The unknown quantity of pain, the unknown of knowing if the delivery is going all right and the unknown of knowing if the baby was ok. It was very reassuring to know that you would be there and we would not be making this trip for the first time over prepared and under knowledged . . . For me, I still can't believe that I delivered my daughter without any drugs. I have become an advocate for a doula such as you being present at every birth. I tell everyone I know how great you were. I also tell all my friends who are due that they should let go of any prejudices and check into having a doula for their birth."
The Power of Trust Melody Roberts of Chicago "Keith Roberts was not only my doula, he's my father. As everyone I know points out, I'm very lucky. And so were my children, who couldn't have had better experiences coming into the world. They were both born naturally, with the help of my father, the loving support of my husband, and the professional skill of the midwives at St. Luke's Roosevelt Birthing Center in New York City. At even its best, giving birth is an intensely physical experience. But I have the luxury of saying I twice entered the birthing center without a shred of fear. I was low risk and didn't expect complications. But most of all, I knew my midwife would be with me the entire time, my husband would hold my hand, and my father would provide expert pain relief. I can't honestly imagine how I would have handled the pain without Dad. My husband would have been a basket case if he had needed to coach me. Instead Dad did that with the talent and skill only experience provides. I would also add that even at the birth of his own grandchildren, Dad was exceptionally professional and respectful of all involved.
Better the Second Time Jesse Worley of Colorado Springs "Keith Roberts was actively involved with my wife Karen's second pregnancy from day one through the delivery. She saw him in his capacity as masseur from the moment she found out she was pregnant. He helped to alleviate many of the aches and pains that accompanied her first pregnancy, and, more importantly, also reduced much, if not all, of the swelling and bloating. It was his presence as a doula, however, that was most beneficial to me. My wife and I survived our first child's delivery, but that's about the best that could be said for it. With this delivery, we both felt that we were more in control throughout the process, and Keith was a big reason for that. During the final stages of labor, I really felt like there were three of us involved in the process. Keith and I were both actively involved in helping Karen, but his presence enabled me, and the nurses as well, to focus on Karen more . . . He was a definite calming presence and voice of reason during a time that can be anything but calm and reasonable. If or when we have our third, he'll be there."
The Emotional Payoff "Dear Keith, I've thought long and hard these last few days of how to thank you; there just aren't words adequate to express what Tom and I feel. As time separates us from the birth experience, I'm more and more grateful for your assistance in having the birth I wanted. You truly have a gift for what you do, and remarkable insight into what the laboring mother needs . . . I know that I gave my daughter the best possible start in life and we had a most remarkable first day together. I was tired yet invigorated and Grace was awake and alert for much of the day. The three of us had an unforgettable day of strengthening the bond we'd been building the last nine months. With our deepest gratitude, Nancy, Tom and Grace"
Helping Families "Dear Keith, . . . The experience of naturally giving birth to Gabe was the most powerful and emotional event of my life. Seeing your expression afterwards, as you looked at Gabriel, made me more aware of why you are a doula. You recognize birth as a miracle. I can't say it enough--thank you, thank you, thank you! If you ever need a reference for someone considering you as their doula, don't hesitate to have them call me. You have my highest endorsement and deepest thanks. Michelle K. Idle"
"Keith, I enthusiastically agree with everything Michelle said above, and I'm truly grateful for the support you gave Michelle and me throughout her labor. Your being there relieved my concerns and a lot of my stress. As she mentions, having you help her labor at home was vital. Your recommendation to return to the hospital well before they'd advised was exactly what Michelle needed. If we had not returned when we did, things might not have gone so well. But with you there, we did the right thing. I'm grateful for your tireless support and encouragement. Thank you so much for everything--you're the best! Winthrop C. Idle Lieutenant Colonel, USAF"