Kelly Carrington first caught our attention last year when he was featured in the CBC as he made headlines becoming the first Canadian male doula. Naturally we reached out to congratulate him on his accomplishment and have been looking forward to learning more about his experience from a male perspective on birth. Kelly graduated in 2001 with a diploma in massage therapy. Upon his graduation, he became a registered massage therapist with the Massage Therapy Association of Nova Scotia (MTANS) and he continues to be an active member with this professional association. For six years, Kelly practiced massage therapy in a busy wellness clinic in downtown Halifax during which he earned a solid reputation with a steady following of loyal clients. However, his goals changed as his family grew and he sensed it was time to evolve as a massage therapist by venturing out on his own as an entrepreneur. In 2007, he proudly started Evolution Massage Therapy, a mobile massage therapy business. Today his expertise of massage therapist is benefiting women in a time when healing hands provide comfort and extends to supporting a family in a life transitioning moment.
What would you say is your speciality to the conventional definition of a doula?
Well, I am a man for one. Currently I am the only Certified Birth Doula through DONA international in Canada. I am also a father of three and have been a registered massage therapist for almost 14 years now, which does come in handy during labour and birth.
What was your interest in birth?
Birth is something that has always interested me. It is fascinating and because I have seen a lot of pregnant clients over the years, I felt that I could offer more continuity of care for my clients by have the skills to follow them further into the process instead of solely being of assistance during the massage sessions.
Are there any challenges you have experienced with being a doula?
No real challenges with being a doula, but juggling some of the logistics of being a doula can be a challenging at times. I run a very busy mobile massage business that is always booked up for 3-4 weeks ahead of time and during the day I am a stay at home dad for my kids, so there is some planning that is necessary if I am going to potentially be out of the house for up to 24 hours to attend a birth.
Are male doula’s common in other cultures?
To be honest, I have no idea. Men have been involved in the care of families for birth in all aspects, but in the realm of male doulas, I know that there are currently very few practicing.
If you are a pioneer, what do you find are advantages/ disadvantages?
I don’t know if I would say that I am a “pioneer”, but I am currently the first male to be certified through DONA in Canada. I find that some of the advantages are that I am able to bring a different perspective to the birth situation and just as a female doula would bring her perspective to a birth, I bring my own, just different. I think that the roll of a doula should not be determined by their sex, but by the intention of their work.
On the disadvantage side, I would say that the only issue might be is that although the public’s view on using doula services is definitely on the rise, I think that most of the people looking for a doula are not thinking of a dreadlocked, bearded, 215 lbs. brown skinned man. So there would only be the disadvantage of the fact that some people would be comfortable with a doula but perhaps not a male one. Although I have no problem finding families to work with, I have a feeling that people’s minds may change over time.
Congratulations on your new business. Please tell us more about what you offer and the journey to get there.
Birth Happens is a collaboration between myself and another doula, Venessa Downing. We had sort of known each other through the birth community and through some family connections. I had been told that she was interested in opening up a birth business with me so I called her up and she came for coffee and that was the start. We would hold meetings over at my place or hers, with kids all over the place, and we hashed out what we really wanted in a birth business and then Birth Happens was born. We use researched based, no bull information to help families get the information that they want and need. We offer 8 hours of in class birth education that things like the role of hormones during labour and birth, comfort measures, how a partner can help and placenta encapsulation just to name a few. We have two class structures. Our Full Meal Deal is four- 2 hour classes during the week or the Crash Course that is 2 days of 4 hours each on a weekend. All of the information is the same for both classes we just wanted to be able to accommodate all different types of family schedules. We also provide Placenta encapsulation services in the Halifax area.
What is it like emotionally to participate in someone’s birth story?
I feel a great privilege to be chosen to be part of a family for such an important time in their life. I am invested in the families that I work with and with that there is the associated joy, happiness, and some times anxiety because all I wish for is that the families that I work with get the birth outcome that we planned for. There is no feeling like seeing a family grow in their love when they welcome a new member and those moments make me really enjoy my job.
What would you like partners and fathers to know about doula’s?
I think that partners should know, first and foremost, that a doula is not a substitute for them. In both my private practice as a doula and in the context of our Birth Happens classes, there is an emphasis on partner involvement in order to get the birth outcome that is best for everyone. A doula is an adjunct to the birth team, not a substitute for one of the prospective parents. As a doula, we are there to provide unbiased support, no matter what, and that should always be in the benefit of both the woman having the baby and their partner. Period.
Any advice for parents entering the fourth trimester?
The biggest thing is to breathe, take life moment by moment and to have lots of rock solid supports in place. Birth should be at a walking pace so why do we feel like trying to sprint after the baby arrives? I know that the fourth trimester can be overwhelming and no wonder. There are no qualifications to make a baby or to become a parent and we spend the rest of our lives as parents trying to get the knowledge for a diploma that doesn’t exist. Trust in your ability as new parents. Find the levity in the fourth trimester and know for certain that the love, caring and a ton of patience that you are putting in comes back to you ten fold.
In 2012, Kelly started his journey to become a certified birth doula through Doulas of North America (DONA) and in May 2014, became the first male to be certified through DONA International in Canada. Kelly loves working with families and always looks forward to helping families make the transition to parenthood through no-nonsense education and fun. The process of birth is not meant to be stressful and should be talked about and that is why in 2014 he partnered with fellow doula Venessa Downing to start Birth Happens. Aside from his professional life, Kelly is passionate about his partner and their three sons and he enjoys spending time with his family, friends, and generally being a professional smartass. When he is not chasing three manimals, providing massage therapy or attending a birthday, you can find him canoeing, gardening, camping, snowboarding, reading, and enjoying all that life has to offer.
All details on us, what we do and how we roll can be found:
A special thank you to Kelly Carrington for permission to use the photos found in this article.