Some people play sports or music, while others paint or write. But some become doulas. Katie Merritt, a freshman, found a passion in helping mothers during childbirth.
Merritt has a wide range of interests including reading, the outdoors, animals, and hunting. She has worked both at a dog grooming shop and a horse barn. But one area that has captured her heart is children. Majoring in education, Merritt desires to become a teacher.
“I didn’t decide I wanted to be a teacher until 2 weeks before school started. And then all of a sudden it just hit me that it was just something God wanted me to do,” Merritt said. “I was having a hard time figuring out what I was supposed to do in life. I love kids and I’ve always worked with them in church and different things, so then it just hit me I would love to be a teacher.”
Merritt’s interest in becoming a doula started when she was able to see a birth for the first time.
Being the youngest of five siblings, Merritt’s oldest sister was 16 when she was born. Her sister allowed her to be in the room while she gave birth to Merritt’s most recent nephew. This experience allowed Merritt to realize her passion for childbirth.
“I loved being there with her and being able to help her,” Merritt said.
From that point on, she began researching how she might be able to become involved with the process.
“I thought about becoming a midwife at that point just because I loved the whole process and loved working with the nurse, staff and that whole atmosphere,” Merritt said. “I started researching it online and I found what’s called a doula, which is like a birthing coach.”
There is a difference between a midwife and a doula. A midwife does the medical part of the delivery process, while a doula helps “informationally, physically, and with emotional support,” Merritt said. The part that connects her the most with being a doula, is how it allows her to help others.
“I love comforting people and helping people through hard things and so it seemed like the perfect thing. And, I love babies,” Merritt said.
Not everything is easy and exciting about being a doula, however. Some of the difficult parts of being a doula, Merritt says, is not being able to fix and help every situation. “Sometimes in birth it just doesn’t go the way you want it to. I can bring whatever knowledge I have, but in the end I just have to be there to support them,” Merritt said. “It’s difficult because you just want to take the pain away.”
Another hardship she has had to overcome is confidence. Being a doula has taught her to rely on God in a new way. “In the last year, God has really shown me a different confidence, not so much in myself, but in what I can use because of what he’s taught me,” Merritt said. “I’m learning it’s not my strength, but I’m bringing the peace, comfort and joy of God into a time that can be painful and that can be sorrowful.”
She feels that God has called her to use this passion as a ministry. There are many ideas she has about where being a doula could lead her including, helping teen moms and working in other countries. Both ministries are near to her heart.
“My goal and prayer is that… I can use it as a way to share my faith through something that’s so special and kind of an intimate time for people,” Merritt said.
Her heart for other countries comes from the missions trips she has been on. Merritt has been to Mexico twice and Africa once, she even considered moving to Africa because of the deep love she has for it.
Her love for children extends into her ultimate dreams. She wants to teach and have a family. The skills she has acquired through being a doula and majoring in education, will allow her to continue her ministry within her own family.
“Ultimately my dream would be to be able to teach, but also I want to have a family eventually. That’s part of the reason why I love being a doula because if I do have a family eventually, I can use my teaching skills for my own kids and other people in the church, but I can also use the doula as a ministry opportunity,” Merritt said.
Merritt has been a part of four births and already has been impacted by these experiences.
One story Merritt was impacted by involved a man, whom Merritt described as a “super tough manly man,” who witnessed the birth of his first child.
“The first second he got to hold him, when he was put on her chest, her husband started crying. It broke my heart it was so sweet. [I saw] how a life can impact someone so much, because I wouldn’t have expected him to react that way but just that miracle and that intense moment was really cool to see,” Merritt said.