Introducing Hayley: Geneabirth’s Student Midwife

hayley duke geneabirth apprentice

We first met Hayley when she pregnant and chose us as her midwives. We enjoyed getting to know her and her lovely family. Hayley shared with us her midwifery aspirations very early in our relationship. We were impressed with her initiative and felt that she shared a similar philosophy towards birth, breastfeeding and family life.  We invited Hayley to attend prenatals with us during her pregnancy.  

After the birth of her second baby, she took some time off but has returned to her midwifery apprenticeship and went to her first births with us in January.  We think she’s a wonderful addition to our birth team.  She is caring, sincere, down to earth, intelligent and hard working.  Hayley will be involved in the prenatal and postpartum care and births of some of our geneabirth mamas.  Sarah and I both trained in this community through the traditional apprenticeship model and we find it so satisfying to share the practice of midwifery in this way.  Families who work with Hayley are participating in this unbroken chain of the passage of midwifery skills from woman to woman.  

I asked Hayley if she would answer some questions about herself as a way to introduce her to our community.We hope you enjoy getting to know Hayley as much a we have!


hayley duke geneabirth apprentice


What draws you to homebirth midwifery?

There are so many things: I have always been interested in neonatal and maternal health, reproduction, feminism, babies and shock value. Homebirth midwifery offers me a chance to enjoy all of that.

Share a little bit about your own births.

Atom was born at home, in Florida at the end of February 2014. We had great support during a long labor that included two doulas. Atom was born in the posterior position (the back of his skull rested on my back) with a nuchal hand (his hand was born at the same time as his head.) I remember being very tired the entire time. I even fell asleep in between contractions and during pushing. I didn’t want to move,eat, or drink. At this point in my life, I wasn’t educated on comfort measures and birth physics, and I definitely wasn’t expecting that kind of intensity. After a relatively short pushing phase, he was born and it was the first most beautiful, magical and transforming experience of my life. He had a very short cord, so he rested on my stomach while our minds traveled back to earth. I wasn’t able to see his face, but I knew he was perfect. I delivered him on our bed, and his father’s hands were the first to greet him. Atom’s birth wasn’t only special for us, his parents, it was also special for my Great Granny too. At 83, his was the first birth she ever witnessed, and she still talks about it often.

Kelvin’s birth was very different from Atom’s. I woke up at 7 am having very strong contractions that were 10 minutes apart. I called Erin, my doula Emily, and my birth photographer to let them know labor was starting. Little did I know just how short it would be. It started out with two contractions 10 minutes apart, then I had two contractions 8 minutes apart, and then two contractions 6 minutes apart. I woke up Granny who was staying with us at the time, and was extra quiet, so I didn’t wake up Atom. While I was pregnant, I did a lot of reading on how to get a posterior baby to turn before in labor. I knew if I kept walking through the house everything would be easier than last time, so that’s what I did. Atom eventually woke up and was a little frightened by the noises I was making, so I started smiling to let him know I was ok. I was standing up in our hallway when Kelvin was born, smiling and roaring my birthsong into my doula’s ear. Granny was holding Atom while my husband caught our second baby boy.


Tell us about your birth related work and training so far.

My first introduction to birth work was a 6 week doula training course that taught me how to give give educational, emotional and physical support to women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. This was a fantastic experience that really focused on the spirituality of birth. I learned so much from that class, and I am so happy to have taken it. However, I knew going into doula work that I eventually wanted to become a midwife. After I completed my doula training, I decided to become a certified placenta specialist. From the time I found out what a placenta was, I have found them very beautiful and fascinating. I enjoy being able to offer placenta encapsulation and other placenta services to the families I work with. In addition to my doula and placenta specialist training, I took a really fun neonatal resuscitation class taught by Karen Strange in 2015.

What are your favorite resources for birthing families?

I think Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth, or any other book by Ina May Gaskin is a great place to start. She also has a website with great articles her favorite resources: Another great website is Sarah Buckley is a family physician who studied obstetrics and family planning. Her blog consists of evidence based posts about these topics often. Penny Simkin’s video Comfort Measures During Labor is a nice, slow paced video for couples to watch together. She is a physical therapist that has been specializing in childbirth education and supporting women in labor since the 1960s. In this video, she reviews many comfort measures that are known to be helpful in labor. The video Birth As We Know It is another resource I find myself recommending often. You can find this on the internet or on the bookshelf at Geneabirth.

What is your philosophy of birth?

“Birth is designed to work in case no one but the mother is there.” I remember Karen Strange saying this several times throughout her class last year. My philosophy of birth is that the mother should be able to labor with as little medical intervention as possible. I believe that every family and labor will be different and should not be treated the same. I believe through education, understanding and support mothers will be able to, without shame, use their primal instincts to birth their babies. I believe that families are capable of making decisions for themselves and their babies, and families should be encouraged to be active participants during and after birth.

What parenting issues are you most passionate about?

Evidenced based education. I think it is so important to be educated and prepared. It is so easy to forget that things can be done differently than the way we’ve been taught. Breastfeeding, nutrition, routine infant circumcision, home birth, vaccines, doulas, cry it out, car seat safety, epidurals, surgical birth, placenta encapsulation, ultrasounds, rice cereal, belly binding, hormonal birth control, chiropractic care…I think it is important to educate parents on these topics and when they are educated, they will make the decisions that are right for their families.

If you could give a little bit of advice to all women before giving birth what would it be?

Oh man, the first bit of advice I would give is to take more time for yourself. The moment your baby arrives, your entire life will change. Finish your sewing project now, watch the new Star Wars, take a weekend getaway. It is very easy to forget about making time for yourself when you are so wrapped up caring for the most perfect baby in the world. The next bit of advice is spend more time researching about real, raw birth. The media has done a great job making birth out to be a horrible, painful, traumatizing event. Take the time to detox yourself and your partner from these beliefs. Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth is a collection of real birth stories. It is a fun, short read that will boost your confidence and educate you at the same time. Finally,  labor will progress faster if you stand up or walk around (yay gravity!), and smile.

hayley baby feet

Hayley offers placenta encapsulation services.  This is a great resource for our families.  She is available to answer your questions about placenta encapsulation, different methods, benefits, placenta tinctures or smoothies.  If you are looking to hire a placenta specialist to encapsulate or prepare your placenta, consider Hayley.

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