Phone: (804) 385-2100
Birth Fee: $500 to $1150
Fee Details: Open Arms doulas believe that birth is a normal and natural but also sacred event. Our goal is to help you have the best birth experience you can have, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We believe that if you feel supported, confident, and loved, you are empowered to navigate the challenges and joy of labor and birth. At Open Arms our traditional birth support package is $800: please see our website for other birth options and prices. Contracted doula clients receive a 5% discount on Open Arms classes and services (including for example massage, photography and herbs). Please note that for cultural reasons, I do not work with families planning to circumcise their babies.
Birth Doula Experience: 5 years and 50 births attended
Clients per Month: 1 to 3Attends hospital births? All Hospitals
I volunteer with Urban Baby Beginnings, offering birth doula services and teaching classes to our families.
Languages spoken: English, some French
Service Area MapArea of practice: Richmond, VA
Melissa met with me before delivery to understand me and my goals. She took the time with me and my husband and we never felt rushed.
Melissa is talented at researching any questions and concerns I had and getting back to me with evidence based answers. She prepared me for what was coming and had me make conscious decisions about different procedures at the hospital like timing for induction, cutting the cord, vitamin k shots, erythromycin gel, etc. I particularly loved her note on how to prepare my daughter for her little brother. That note got me thinking about how important it was to make sure my daughter wasn't overshadowed by all the attention the baby would get.
During labor, she teamed up with my husband to support me - she eased the pain of my breaking lower back by applying pressure, kept my hydrated, suggested different positions and breathing techniques.
When the midwife had to step out to attend to another woman in labor, Melissa stepped up and coached me on how to push and when to push. That was exactly what I needed to hear and I believe that was the single most important thing that led me to an empowering birth.
Soon after delivery, when Melissa visited me during the post partum visit, I was in tears trying to explain my breastfeeding issues. She worked her magic and by the time she was about to leave, I was smiling with a plan of action. That sums it all up. I highly recommend Melissa!
When we got pregnant we knew wanted a doula but didn't know where to begin. We found Melissa through friends who had nothing but wonderful things to say and we can't help but wholeheartedly agree and sing her praises. Melissa was so wonderful throughout our pregnancy and delivery. Any question that I emailed was responded to quickly and so thoroughly with multiple evidence based articles supporting all viewpoints. We met with Melissa twice before delivery and her knowledge and questions were so eye opening. I had read all the typical books and thought I knew basically what to expect but boy was I wrong. Melissa helped us craft a birth plan, helped me realize that I may want to switch from my OBYN to a midwife for the type of birth I had been describing (and assured me it wouldn't hurt my OBGYN's feelings!) and when we realized the classes from the hospital didn't give us any tools to use during labor she recommended a real class with practical advice.
She was a wealth of information, a calming experienced voice we could look to for advice and is a wonderful person that truly loves what she does. My husband now tells people that "birth without a doula is like going to court without a lawyer, you could do it but you really shouldn't!" We're so thankful for Melissa and wouldn't think of doing this again without her.
During my pregnancy we found out that our baby would be born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Intent on having as natural of a birth as possible so long as baby was not in distress, and knowing we would be in need of emotional support, we set out on our doula search and found Melissa. She is non-judgmental, warm, and exudes joy in what she does. Melissa met us at our house for a pre-birth session where she gave us evidenced based info on levels of medical intervention, labor/pushing positions, and everything else we needed to know in order to create our birth plan. We learned more from her than we did our child birth preparation class! She took the time to research CDH which helped us discuss things like what would happen after birth. She also showed us some moves to do with a rebozo and lent us one for the duration of the rest of my pregnancy. When we met Melissa at labor and delivery, she was quick to jump into action, providing with me counterpressure as the waves of contractions came while I was checking in at the front desk, and helping me to focus on my breathing . Apart from emotionally and physically supporting me during labor, Melissa was the one person in the room who was truly there for me during that stressful and anxious time spent awaiting word from my husband as to how our son was doing. When I was moved to the recovery room. Melissa showed me how to pump and passed the time with us as we anxiously awaited a detailed update from the neonatologist. After she left, she kept in touch with us by text/phone and visited us in the NICU a few days later to meet our son and reflect with us on our birth experience. She also sent us amazing pictures she took of us during pushing an immediately after. I honestly never even noticed during labor/afterwards that she was even taking them-she’s that good! Melissa is a true professional whose emotional and physical support made getting through an extremely stressful birth possible and even joyful.
Having Melissa by my side was like having a guardian angel. She was able to step in at the last minute and provide her services to make sure my birth went as close to plan as I could have wanted. She was very comforting right from the beginning and you can tell she truly loves and has a passion for what she does. I honestly don't think I could have done it without her, nor would I want to. I will definitely be contacting her in the future when I decide to have another little precious baby. She is amazing!!!
Melissa is such a warm and comforting person. I highly recommend her as a doula. I felt very comfortable with her from the beginning. She is incredibly knowledgable about the birth process and interventions and was always educating me about options, my rights and I had tons of questions about potential implications. She always answered every question with research-driven information, relevant articles and personal experiences. I felt very confident with her support during my entire pregnancy, which extended to the weeks after our baby arrived as well. Melissa kept me very informed throughout my labor process and was a great support once contractions reached a serious level. She rushed to the hospital immediately and was a constant positive throughout my long labor. As soon as she arrived, she managed to find a birthing ball and decorated our small birthing room with a string of lights and little battery operated tea light candles to create a serene environment. I felt in control during my entire labor and birth. Melissa helped me understand that I could delay some interventions and see where things went naturally before revisiting them. With Melissa's support and guidance, I was able to avoid a C-section and made choices during my labor that I was very confident in. I am positive that if we had not had Melissa our labor and birth would have turned out much differently and I would not have felt as present in the decision making process or made it through two days of natural labor. If you are looking for a doula who is nurturing, reassuring, friendly, intelligent, experienced and not judgmental you have found her in Melissa!
After having a successful doula-assissted low-intervention hospital birth with our first daughter five years ago, my husband and I knew we wanted to attempt a similar experience with our second daughter a couple of months ago. We found Melissa through doula match and were impressed by her credentials and testimonials. We were even more impressed when we met Melissa in-person for an interview. She came across as calm and self-assured, and her warmth and passion for her job was immediately evident. Melissa was an invaluable resource from the moment we hired her. She met with us twice before the delivery, once post-partum, and has been in touch several times through phone calls and text messages both before and after the birth of our daughter. She has always had a patient ear and a thoughtful response, and we have always appreciated her responsiveness to our needs. Her confidence and breadth of knowledge, as well as her devotion to evidenced-based practice is commendable. She always follows-up on a response to a question or query with supporting research, and is a strong advocate for families and mothers making fully informed choices before, during, and after birth. Melissa's presence during labor and delivery was invaluable. She was kind, calm and level-headed, a wonderful coach, and provided my husband and I just the kind and amount of support we needed to have the birthing experience we really wanted. She also communicated beautifully with the hospital staff, and they were as impressed with her professionalism, compassion, and knowledge as we were. We cannot recommend Melissa highly enough, and are very grateful to have had her be part of our team!
Melissa was recommended to me via two friends who had recently had their first babies. Having a baby is always an adventure for a first time mother but since I was far away from home and family (I moved to the USA in 2012), I was so pleased to have someone to help guide me through the medical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and the post partem period. Melissa provided wonderful support before the birth of my daughter and answered all my questions via either phone or email immediately. On the day of the birth, she was by our side in the hospital offering encouragement to me and support to my husband. Having her in the room meant that we both had someone to guide us through the amazing experience of childbirth and welcoming our daughter into the world. Post partem, Melissa continued to be a huge support and has provided me with practical advice, emotional support and the right information when I needed it. I would whole heartedly recommend Melissa as your doula!
I contacted Melissa when I was 37.5 weeks pregnant. She called me within an hour. We fit in my 2 prenatal meetings in my 39th week. Melissa gave me a lot of information and helped me realize that I could say “no” to the doctors in order to receive the care I wanted. Melissa asked the right questions to understand the birth that I wanted. When I went into labor, she stayed in touch to check on my progress and I let her know when I was ready for her help. I got to the hospital at 9cm, and Melissa set up my candles and made sure I had calming lavender scent nearby and stayed hydrated. The hydration part was extremely helpful because my mouth kept getting so dry from breathing through contractions. Melissa also applied counter pressure to my back when my husband wasn't available. The praise, guidance, and support that Melissa provided to both my husband and myself was invaluable. The most important thing was remembering when I was pushing what Melissa had said about waiting to push until my body was ready, which was difficult because my husband, family, nurses, and doctors were constantly yelling “Push!!” After my beautiful baby was delivered, I was shivering and freezing cold. Melissa got me extra blankets to warm me up so I could keep my baby warm. I can't imagine having gone through labor and delivery without Melissa’s help! Even afterwards, Melissa checked in with me to see how things were going and was available to answer questions regarding our newborn.
Melissa was our doula for our first birth in 2012 and when we found out we were pregnant again, we knew we wanted to hire her again! Throughout my pregnancy, she provided expertise about baby's position, how to protect my pelvic floor and suggested ways to ease the pain of pulling my oblique muscle at 38 weeks. Though I trained as a doula since my last pregnancy, I relied on her expertise to guide me through this new pregnancy. She attended my mother's blessing and was supportive in every way, including advice about how to transition as a mother from one to two kids. As my due date drew near, her own baby unfortunately got sick, so she coordinated a backup doula. When I was in labor, I called her and she mobilized her backup system. She sounded truly regretful that she would not be the person to attend our birth, but I knew that she was taking care of our doula needs despite being unable to be there physically. She communicated with the backup doula our desires and our personal history with our first birth, so the backup doula was able to be there for us in a personalized way. After the birth, Melissa was actively involved in my postpartum period, calling to check in on us, visiting us postpartum to discuss my birth story, giving breastfeeding advice over the phone, and organizing a meal train for us. Though she was unable to attend our actual birth, I knew she was there in spirit, and I truly felt supported prenatally and postpartum by her.
Melissa kept saying that I was amazing during my pregnancy and delivery. But that is not true: Melissa is the one who is amazing. We are so happy to have had her at our side during the whole process. Melissa has a wonderful, calming, peaceful presence and every time we talked with her before the birth, we felt in such good hands and we knew that we will be alright. She is very supportive and replied to each of my emails (and there have been many). There was no question I could not ask her or no question she did not answer!
Melissa goes above and beyond with her moms. When my labor started and I called Melissa to keep her updated, she told me that she was on her way to the hospital with her other mom. This meant that our back-up doula was now in charge. However, once we reached the point to contact the backup doula and ask her to come over (6 hours later), Melissa called me and said she was on her way to us (the other delivery was fast). So, Melissa came to our house right after a delivery to support us (and she was pregnant herself at that time). If there is someone who is truly amazing, then it is Melissa! You are in amazing hands with Melissa!
As a soon-to-be first time parents, Melissa put my husband's and my mind at ease from our first meeting. Her calm and soothing demeanor was exactly what I needed to balance my anxieties and anticipation. Not only did she provide us with the articles, information, and the benefit of her expertise to help answer all of our questions, it was clear that she wanted to support exactly what we wanted for the birth of our baby. She was available at any time by phone, and when I began to worry about pressure to induce from my ob, Melissa helped me find the words to self-advocate. Without pressure, she pointed me to additional resources to make me comfortable in the final weeks of pregnancy such as chiropractic and acupunture services. Melissa's presence in the delivery room was so comforting, and she was the perfect liason between my husband and I and our anxious families in the waiting room. During every moment of labor, Melissa was a advocate for me and my baby and helped me to be as comfortable in mind, body, and spirit as possible. When the delivery ended up not going as we had originally hoped, Melissa supported our decision making by helping us think through options. Once home from the hospital with our perfect little boy, Melissa checked in with us to see if there was any further support she could provide. I would recommend Melissa as a doula to anyone. She was an amazing support and exactly what I hoped for and needed during my pregancy and the birth of my baby.
Melissa is fantastic! I don’t think the birth of my son would have gone as smoothly without her. I went past my due date and needed to navigate everything the doctors were saying about induction. I made it all the way to 41 wks and 6 days (I was 5cm, and partially effaced). She was always there with an encouraging word when I was so stressed/upset about not going into labor yet. The day before I was to be induced we figured out that the baby’s hand was sitting on top of its head. Melissa gave me yoga poses to do to help the baby move its hand. Overnight I noticed I was have increased contractions from the braxon hicks I had been having. The next morning at the hospital we found out the baby’s hand had moved the head was much more engaged and I was 6.5cm dilated. So the doc broke my water just to get things moving, and boy did that work! Melissa was at the hospital with us and was fantastic. I never would have been able to labor all the way through with no medication if she had not been there. She seemed to know exactly what would help make the contractions more bearable so that I could get to the prize at the end. With my first child I had wanted to go natural but I did not have a doula and, I did wind up getting an epidural. So with my second child I wanted to try and deliver him naturally w/o medication. I knew my husband would need more help and that we also wanted to have an advocate with us that could help give us more information if anything were to go off course. Melissa was a perfect choice. She was wonderful at helping us navigate the various possibilities with induction. She was such a support though my entire labor giving me an encouraging word right when I needed it most! Delivering my son on my own without any medication was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am positive if we decide to have a third child that I will defiantly be hiring Melissa again!!
It was very important to me to have a natural, low-intervention birth. My husband and I knew we would need to set ourselves up for success, and having the support of a doula seemed essential the more we thought and read about it.
When we first met with Melissa, we were hoping to find someone who could guide us and encourage us towards this goal, while also preparing my husband to support me through labor. Melissa responded promptly to countless nervous emails, met with us twice, and provided us with accurate, researched information we could trust.
When labor arrived, we kept in touch via text until we got to the point where we wanted her to come to the house. She helped me labor at home as long as possible, and then she knew the right time to head to the hospital. I was 7 centimeters dilated when admitted and was lucky enough to deliver within the hour. While at the hospital Melissa continued to provide much needed encouragement as well as aromatherapy and massage. She knew how to talk to me even when I entered "labor land." After the birth, Melissa stayed until we seemed "settled" and then left to allow us family bonding time. She visited us postpartum, as well.
My fears about my husband feeling unsure of how to help me were unfounded; everyone worked seamlessly as a team. I never felt scared or alone, and I realized later that it never occurred to me to request pain medication. I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing and was surrounded by the love and protection of my birth team.
Our favorite things about working with Melissa were her gentle, reassuring nature, the way she considered our questions, that she offered perspectives and suggestions without pushing or "taking over," her approach to birth as a natural process and really her obvious love of helping families through pregnancy, labor and beyond.
We loved working with Melissa as our doula. She is calm, knowledgeable, helpful, flexible, and open minded. When our baby arrived 2.5 weeks early, she was there for us on short notice even though her family was about to go on vacation. She provided us with the perfect level of support during the birth experience also, especially for my husband - encouraging and supporting him as well as me, but never usurping his main role in the experience. Since our son's birth she has gone above and beyond to offer support to our family and encouragement to me as a new mom. I will always be grateful to Melissa for her presence on our son's birthday and beyond! If you choose to work with Melissa, you will be in great hands. If I have another baby, I will absolutely try to work with Melissa again!
Melissa was extremely informative and helpful in helping us determine the appropriate birth plan. After serious complications from my first delivery, I had added anxiety about the outcome of the second, how best to deliver and how to make it a good experience this time. It wasn't long before Melissa made me feel confident, assured and excited to not only deliver vaginally over an encouraged c-section but also that my son was born without pain medication. In addition to the extensive prep work and research she did for my specific experiences, she also threw me a blessingway party complete with my closest friends, affirmations and a henna belly tattoo! Overall, she made the pregnancy, anticipation of birth and labor and delivery experience an absolute 180 from my first experience and I would use her expertise and emotional support again and again and gladly refer her services as well!
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