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Doula Kathy Tellstrom helped Keira Heimbecker-Moss' parents get ready for her arrival. In the background are Mike Moss and Cassie Heimbecker. Advocate Photo by Christine Nesheim

Doula Coaches New Moms

Tellstrom helps teen parents through their pregnancies

By Donna Marie Pocius
Advocate correspondent

When Cassie Heimbecher, 20, learned she was having a baby, she had mixed feelings. She was elated, of course. But she also felt nervous and uncertain about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

She found comfort in the services of Kathy Tellstrom, a doula and owner of Door County Doula, Sturgeon Bay.

“I was excited about having the baby, but I was scared, too. I didn’t know what I was getting into, and Kathy made it more comfortable,” said Heimbecher, who is from Kewaunee.

“I felt better with Kathy there (during childbirth). She knew what she was doing.”

Tellstrom was there, along with Heimbecher’s partner, Mike Moss, to welcome Keira Heimbecher-Moss to the world in November.

Tellstrom also companioned the couple during childbirth classes and invited them to attend parent support group meetings.

A birth doula is trained and experienced in childbirth and provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth, according to Doulas of North America (DONA), a doula association based in Jasper, Ind.

Tellstrom is a certified doula who holds additional credentials as a labor and postpartum doula and certified childbirth educator. She provides childbirth education, birth support and postpartum assistance to adults, as well as teens.

She volunteers doula services, along with her partner, Amy Jahnke, also a certified doula, as part of the Hand in Hand Teenage Pregnancy Support of Door County program. People served range in age from 13 to 23 years old.

“I see a huge benefit for teens. I have watched their worlds expand,” Tellstrom said of the program, adding that she hopes to obtain a community agency’s financial support of her volunteerism.

“It is amazing to watch from the beginning – when they are afraid of their pregnancy and how they are going to be parents – to see them develop to mothers and fathers. That is so important to me.”

A beginning step for most expectant parents is a childbirth education class. The classes, offered by Tellstrom at Hope Church, Sturgeon Bay, appeal to teens who may feel uncomfortable going to hospital-based sessions attended by older married couples.

Tellstrom also accompanies couples who choose to register for childbirth classes at Door County Memorial Hospital/Ministry Health Care. The young adults get an opportunity to tour the hospital’s Birthing Center and meet nurses in advance of their hospital stay.

“It is important for the young mothers to get acquainted with the nursing staff, and the staff has been very open to us coming up,” Tellstrom said.

Tellstrom encourages couples to prepare what she calls “intentions plans,” which outline their desires for the childbirth experience. When the time comes, the doula’s role is to comfort the mom during labor and calm family members, as well.

“I try to bring them into a peaceful setting,” Tellstrom said.

Heimbecher recalled being comforted by Tellstrom’s massage and her tips on breathing during labor.

“She went with me to the hospital and was there for the whole experience,” Heimbecher said. “She helped me a lot when I was giving birth.”

Studies have shown that a doula’s presence “tends to shorten labor with fewer complications, reduce negative feelings about childbirth experience and reduce need for pain medications,” according to DONA.

The new parents often turn to Hands Reaching Out, a teen parent support group operated by Tellstrom at Hope Church in partnership with Family Centers of Door County.

“We are attempting to get teens motivated to be parents in the community and to have a better tomorrow for them,” Tellstrom said. “It’s baby steps at first – we take it one step at a time.”

Tellstrom is quick to recognize individuals, churches and businesses, including Wal-Mart, for donations of gifts, as well as infant clothing and supplies.

People interested in donating books about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are asked to call Tellstrom, 920-743-6955.

Tellstrom is a parent of six children ranging in age from 2 to 21. She lives in Sturgeon Bay with her husband, Jim Tellstrom, a fourth-grade teacher in the Sturgeon Bay School District.

The idea for the business (more information is online at came to Tellstrom in 2001 after she experienced a miscarriage and began counseling other parents, who suffered losses.

“So my loss opened a doorway,” she said. ”I believe that we have to celebrate life every day – the good, the bad and the ugly.”


New mom Cassie Heimbecker says she felt better with doula Kathy Tellstrom's help before, during and after giving birth to her daughter, Keira. Advocate Photo by Christine Nesheim

Article as it appeared in the Door County Advocate ~ April 11, 2007 

Teen parent program seeks new home

Kathy Tellstrom's Hands Reaching Out teen parent support program is looking for a new home.

Funding cuts at the Door County Family Center has left Tellstrom and more than 74 families searching for an agency to take the program in under new wings.

"We are going to deal with this together as a team," said Tellstrom, as she plans on how to move forward with the group of young mothers she has been assisting.

"If we can't find financial backing, we have to make priorities to make it successful and to meet the level of what they need."

Tellstrom began offering support to teens as a doula, providing birth support and education.

Three years ago, she expanded her scope to include other areas of education and support that the young parents needed, ultimately assisting teen parents from pregnancy through parenting with the creation of Hands Reaching Out.

The Family Centers of Door County offered to provide support to the teen parent program in 2007.

Since that partnership, the program grew from serving 40 teenage mothers in 2007 to the more than 74 family units this year, including 13 parents between the ages of 14 and 17 and 82 children, of which 25 are newborns.

Tellstrom describes many of the program's participants as lonely young women who were feeling isolated.

After connecting with Hands Reaching Out and other program participants, Tellstrom sees them emerge with more confidence to try new things and to be a part of the community

In an effort to maximize resources, the Family Centers will continue to provide parent education to teens in a format that encompasses all ages of parents, including two STAR (Striving Toward Awesome Relationships) Parenting Programs.

That leaves Hands Reaching Out searching for a new home.

In the meantime, several organizations have stepped forward to help bandage the program together until a more permanent solution is created.

The UW-Extension nutrition specialist is assisting with monthly cooking and educational sessions with the teens.

The Christ Child Society will provide childcare during the monthly meetings. And, the county's Birth to Three program will continue sponsoring weekly playgroups that provide social interaction for parents and children.

While Tellstrom is busy trying to piece together services to the program's participants, she is also in the midst of organizing the adoption of 112 children's Christmas wish lists. Twenty children are still not covered.

If you want to help, contact Tellstrom at (920) 743-6955.

Article as it appeared in the Door County Advocate ~ by Pamela Parks Oct. 2008.

United Way donations matter in so many ways

United Way donations matter in so many ways

As 2007 is coming to a close, I want to tell your readers why it’s important to give to the United Way 2008 campaign.

This past year, The Family Centers of Door County, a funded partner, was able to finance and manage over 225 events and activities offered throughout the county through programs offered for people of all ages.

One such program is the “Hands Reaching Out” Teen Parent Program. We currently have 45 families enrolled in the program. Many of these young parents age 13-23 have no support system to help them navigate the waters of parenthood.

We offer pregnancy and birth information, a monthly support and parent education group, weekly parent and child playgroups, and a monthly moms night out.

If you are a parent, think back to your days with a new infant in the house and you will be reminded that the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is very true.

Your contribution allows these families to look forward to 2008 with hope and gratitude.

Had it not been for an infant CPR/First Aid class made possible with United Way funding, two young families might have had to look to the future without their babies.

Shortly after the class, a frantic 19-year-old mom who participated in the class called Kathy Tellstrom, our program coordinator, crying because her baby was in her words, “not right.”

911 was called and it was determined that the infant was suffering from dehydration due to the extreme heat that week. The baby was treated and is strong and healthy today.

Another instance that happened this year was when one of the moms found her toddler blue and not breathing, choking on a piece of food. She remembered the maneuver she learned in the first aid class, used it and saved her child from tragedy.

Your contribution helped avert two possible infant fatalities. Scared and alone, many of these moms and dads need a program like this. They’ve chosen life for their babies and as a community we need to ensure that we help them continue that life.

Without funding from the United Way and others it would not be possible.

Why give to the 2008 campaign? I can think of no better way. Our agency is only one of many that is impacted by United Way.

As the campaign is drawing to a close, I urge you to examine your hearts and make a contribution. No donation is too small.

A huge thanks to Amy Kohnle, Mike and Tanya Felhofer and their donors for enabling us to make a huge difference to our families.

Gina Wautier
Executive Director
Family Centers of Door County  as it appeared in the Door County Advocate January 5, 2008


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