Are doulas really a trend? Doula-to-the-stars Domino Kirke on why more people are seeking support while giving birth

By Jen Kirsch

Domino Kirke, celebrity doula and the co-founder of Carriage House Birth, stopped by Toronto at the end of September for the launch of an exhibit titled The Life After Birth Project, designed to celebrate and showcase the postpartum experience.

The untouched/unedited exhibit featured submissions from more than 250 women, including some notable celebrities such as Amy Schumer (one of Domino’s many clients), Jillian Harris, Christy Turlington Burns and Domino’s younger sister, Jemima Kirke (of Girls fame). The gallery series was in partnership with women’s intimates brand Knix, which has a new postpartum line. It was set to travel to Vancouver next.

HELLO! Canada sat down with Domino, clad in a jean jacket over a boho-chic floral dress and open-toed heels, to talk all things doula over dinner at the exhibit. We had one big question for her: Why are doulas becoming such a thing right now when they’ve been around forever?

Domino with her son, Cassius, in one of the photos featured in the Life After Birth exhibition. Photo courtesy Knix Wear

Domino said it all comes down to social media and celebs speaking out more openly and authentically about their post-partum journey.

“I think people are being more vocal about their birth experiences as a whole and the word doula is being thrown around more,” she told HELLO! Canada .

“I don’t think people realize they need [birth support] until they have it, and then all of my clients come through word of mouth,” she continued. “I don’t get anything on Instagram, and yes, I have all these things attached to me from family members.”

Domino is the type of woman you can picture yourself doing thrice weekly yoga with and maybe heading to a full moon soundbath with once a month. She’s grounded, she’s mindful, she’s self-aware and she’s easy going. She communicates very well and is very passionate about what she does, which makes you convinced you not only need a doula but it has to be her (even if you’re single and aren’t even sure if you want kids in the first place!).

Domino co-founded Carriage House Birth 10 years ago after giving birth to her son Cassius. He will turn 11 this year, and she had him with musician Morgan O'Kane. She has been married to actor Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl fame since 2017.

Domino said she had a negative experience with the doula she had hired for the monumental moment her son came into the world. Domino said her doula had just attended a bad birth experience before rushing over to Domino’s tiny apartment to tend to her, so she wasn’t in a good head space or good shape to hold space for Domino.

Cassius Kirke, Penn Badgley and Domino Kirke at the US OPen earlier this year. Photo: © Gotham/GC Images

“It was so upsetting for me because people have such insanely loaded relationships with their mothers or they don’t have their mothers anymore and that role, the doula role, is so important, and when you step into that you have to realize what you’re doing,” she said.

“I needed her to be more grounded and be there for me and to go forehead-to-forehead with me. I remember feeling that lack when he was born. If I had had that I could’ve powered some moments that I just wasn’t able to.”

Domino told HELLO! Canada she makes sure she brings what she remembers she needed whenever she is doula at a birth. Her phone is always charged. She’s always on call, and she takes part in daily rituals (like running her head under water twice a day) to ensure she’s grounded and in a place to give her energy and love and undivided attention to another.

But being a doula it doesn’t come without its challenges. She said the biggest ones are the on-call lifestyle and inability to schedule her life when taking clients.

“The unpredictability of the job is definitely the most trying part for me and my family, absolutely,” Domino admitted.

Back in the day, being on call meant having a pager, but now, it’s not as easy, especially when everything you hear is about why you step away from your phone.

Domino’s sister Jemima has two children with ex-husband Michael Mosberg. Photo courtesy Knix Wear

“I’m endlessly trying to break up with my phone, but I have to have it charging in my bedroom, on my bedside table,” she told HELLO! Canada . “Because the thing is you get hired and they don’t all call you nine, 10 months later. Babies are born prematurely all the time and people miscarry. I’m on call all the time and it’s not just because I’m waiting for a 41 or 42 week pregnancy – I’m waiting for anything to happen. That’s the toughest part. I’m always on.”

Of course, self-care is a huge part of the job. Domino said she focuses ontaking care of herself, not attending a million births, sleeping well, and not really doing, what she refers to as, “the fun things.”

“I became a doula at 27 and so a lot of my friends were still doing 20 to mid-20 things,” she confessed. “So I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t go out.

Jillian Harris has two children with her partner Justin Pasutto. Photo courtesy Knix Wear

“I’m very disciplined when it comes to prepping for a birth. I go to bed early and do little things that that keep me solid, like prayers and meditations.”

For her, these are ways to sort of check in because she says when you’re holding that space for someone that’s going through so much upheaval emotionally, you need to be tethered to something.

“If not, you might as well not attend a birth,” she said in a very matter-of-fact way.

But Domino told us the rewarding nature of her job is where her passion lies.

“The joy is watching people become parents and being invited into such sacred space with people that are complete strangers, ultimately, and when the baby comes through, we pray the baby is in good health and it’s just this moment of insane gratitude for life. It just puts everything in perspective,” she told us.

“There’s this idea that doulas are “extra” support because you have got a great partner,” she continued. “Back in the day it was our grandmothers and these lay midwives and lay people who showed up for you but it was multiple people. One person can’t hold that down and if they can, it’s too much.”

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