Volunteer Doula: Rose Marie Bertrand

By OBOS — April 17, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Amy Gilliland

Nominee: Rose Marie Bertrand, Volunteer Doula


As a society we place little value on caring for others, and render invisible those who are vulnerable and most needy of our attention. Rose Marie Bertrand has never said “no” to a woman who needed her services, even when it was in the middle of the night or in the middle of a family celebration.

For over ten years, Rose Marie has been a volunteer doula, staying with women continuously while they were in labor and several hours after they gave birth to their babies. She has attended the births of hundreds of women who could not afford her services, and has done so for free.

Rose Marie meets with women during their pregnancy, getting to know them, their complicated lives, and their dreams for their births.  “Doula-ing” a mother is about understanding that mother as an individual, and supporting her in the way she needs. Some mothers need a friend, some a sister, and some a mother. Offering labor support means being on call and available twenty four hours a day and seven days a week, for weeks on end.

Many of her mothers are teenage parents, poor, or in prison. But all have been grateful for her presence. Doula care is hard physical work! It means breathing with mothers, helping them into positions, and coaching them that they can do it. Often, giving birth is one of the most demanding experiences they have ever gone through. But Rose Marie is there with an open heart and hands to hold.

I’ve known Rose Marie for twenty years and admired her for almost as long. She’s served on boards of national birth organizations, and started a local chapter of the Cesarean Prevention Movement (now ICAN). It was active for many years and made a huge impact on women’s options, and birthing rooms were built at our local hospitals. They were part of the first wave in the nation to do so.

Rose Marie Bertrand did that. She championed women’s rights and prerogatives in labor in our area as a childbirth educator and consumer advocate. Finally, she founded Small Miracles Volunteer Doula Services about ten years ago. Now there are at least ten active doulas attending births for mothers who can’t afford to pay for their services.

But to me, Rose Marie is most deserving of this award because of her steadfast belief that no one should have to labor alone, with strangers coming in and out of the room. She quickly becomes a mother’s friend and serves her in the way that mom needs. Hundreds of mothers have had empowering birth experiences that would not have happened if she wasn’t there.

21 responses to “Volunteer Doula: Rose Marie Bertrand”

  1. Hear Hear!!! Thank you to Amy for nominating Rose Marie, and thank you soooo much to Rose Marie for being such an incredible asset to our community!

  2. Rose Marie has been my mentor & my friend. It has been an honor to work with her, learn from her & know her. Thanks for all that you do!



  3. I heartily second the nomination for Rose Marie Bertrand as OBOS Women’s Health Hero. Rose Marie is a veteran doula and woman’s advocate who has brought decades of compassion and empowerment to women navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of childbirth in America. She has been a mentor to many of us working to promote informed choice in women’s health care.

    Good luck, Rose Marie!

    Ingrid, CNM

  4. YES! Amy! Way to go. Rose Marie is a perfect nomination for this award. Thank you for doing this. Those of us who know Rose Marie, know her as a kind, loving and dedicated professional. Her opinion matters to so many of us and she has become our friend over the years. The women she works with benefit greatly from her experience and professionalism, not to mention her warm and kind manner.

  5. I am so proud to have someone from our community represented amongst all these amazing women and the incredible work that they do! Thank you Rose Marie! Keep up the good work of helping women and their babies…and educating the world about your work–its essential!

  6. Rose Marie is a woman of utmost integrity and dedication. She has mentored many new doulas who have benefitted from her knowledge and experience. She is always available with a cheerful smile and reassuring advice. She is so deserving of this recognition.

  7. Rose Marie has definitely inspired many. Mothers to be, Doulas and midwifes in our community have greatly benefited form Rose Marie’s wealth of knowledge, kind spirit and passion for promoting informed choice in women’s health care. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient for this award!

  8. Rose Marie absolutely deserves the acknowledgment of receiving the Women’s Health Hero title. I admire her years of dedication in serving populations of women that often fall between the cracks. She inspires many of us while also acting as a resource, friend, and mentor. So many women’s lives have been touched (and changed) through her work!


  9. Rose Marie is a rock in the local birthing community, affecting hundreds of women in her long years of service starting with ICAN and moving into active doula work. She is generous, warm, non-judgmental, funny, dynamic and stubborn in the best possible way. This award couldn’t go to a more deserving woman. Rose Marie Bertrand is a strong woman advocating for women in tough situations. In doing so, she makes everyone she reaches strong too.

  10. Rose Marie Bertrand has been a steadfast advocate for women and families in our community. Her compassion and expertise have had ripple effects on so many. I second the nomination of Rose Marie Bertrand as Our Bodies, Ourselves Women’s Health Hero.

  11. When first pursuing Doula work, Rose Marie Bertrand took the time out of her very busy day to chat with me and continued to keep in touch with me. She let me know when the next doula meeting was or anything else going on in the birth community. She did this from her heart and I can’t say enough regarding this amazing, caring, strong woman. I can’t imagine anyone more deserving.

  12. I too second the nomination for Rose Marie Bertrand. She is truly passionate about caring for women; race, creed, economic status does not affect the depth of her concern. She gives tirelessly of herself. I have seen this in her work as a doula and coordinating Small Miracles, a volunteer doula service. In this she especially reaches out to those women who otherwise may not be able to afford the support and care they are recieving. Rose Marie cares for more than just the physical person of each woman; she is concerned about the well being of each person as a whole. Thank you Rose Marie for the beautiful example you are to all of us.

  13. If anyone deserves this award it is Rose Marie! She has kept the Small Miracles doula program running for all these years by providing an inspirational model of caring, energy and unflagging constancy.

    Thank you Rose Marie for all you do for women in labor and for the doulas that you mentor.

  14. Rose Marie has tirelessly mentored, promoted and supported people in the birthing community in our area for over 25 years. She’s helped launch many a career in the birth world, including childbirth educators, doulas and midwives.

    There has been a remarkable growth in the resources available to women in our area. Our strong doula community intertwines many of these places & practices. Rose Marie’s activism helped plant the seeds for the sweet birth community we have today. She deserves this recognition!

  15. Rose Marie is a gem. She has a kind heart and follows through with kind actions. She has been active in many aspects of birth since I met her 22 years ago. The ripples of good she has done go very far. The world is a better place with her in it.

  16. All my best to Rose Marie! Determination and love she gives freely to those in need – I admire her giving!

  17. In the very little time I have known Rose Marie, I have learned volumes about her through the women and families whose lives she has impacted in a positive and profound way. The Madison Birth community would not be what it is today without her tireless effort.

    Rose Marie deserves this award for her activism, her support (of mothers and other doulas), her devotion, and her generosity.

  18. Rose Marie was a classmate form college. I was so impressed with the work she has done with new mothers and their babies. She had my vote!

  19. Rosemarie Bertrand has been a pioneer for pregnant women and the natural birth process for over twenty-eight years. She has helped countless women and their children experience the joys of safe and caring childbirth. Nobody is more deserving of this honor.

  20. Rose Marie is an amazing woman, a mentor and a gift to the women she serves and the women who have learned from her. Her support and strength have brought comfort to so many women who might otherwise have had to labor alone, without a hand to hold or a soothing word to ease the pain. She is an advocate, a pioneer and deserves this honor for giving so much of herself to so many women in our community.

  21. Nak, so sorry about random typing (actually he’s sleeping in the sling, not nursing any more, is there an acronym for that? BWAK? 😉

    Absolutely wonderful to see! I have only known Rose Marie since I applied for the small miracles doula program myself when I found myself single and unexpectedly pregnant with my first child, and she was going to be my volunteer doula until health constraints intervened. she was professional about making sure i had the support i need, and although there was some chaos in between, she never wavered in her support of and respect for me and my unique situation.

    Since attending my first birth at the age of maybe 16(?) as a support person, and through birthing my own son naturally with the support of a wonderful volunteer doula, a midwife, and a supportive nurse, i have always had a passion for natural birth and look forward to working with rose marie from the “other side” of the table soon as a small miracles volunteer doula myself once i complete my workshop this month.

    Rose Marie, you have been such an inspiration to me, and thank you so much for all you do for women and the birth community. i have a lot of respect for you in our interactions and in all you have done for so many women and families. i wholeheartedly stand behind this nomination/award. take care and i will talk to you soon!

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