Tunnel of Love: The Doula and The Banjo Player 

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In recent years, O'Kane and a rotating cast of like-minded musicians have taken the act above ground. "Morgan used to be a wild man," spoon player Liam Crill told me after a well-attended Monday night performance at Pete's Candy Store in late January. "It's great to see him doing so well now."

It is without question that Domino has played an instrumental part in Morgan's success and well-being. Her preternatural gift for ushering in new life has kept her remarkably busy with doula work, despite being a relative newcomer to the field. Domino has four births scheduled for February and several more coming in the spring. Most clients have come to her through referrals, although she cold-approached one expectant mother on the subway ("where I seem to meet everyone," she said).

Domino trained under London King of PushLove and is certified through DONA (Doulas of North America). She is in the process of launching a business collective with two other labor supporters, which she plans to call Carriage House. Although Domino insists that "births don't collide," most doulas work in small groups to back each other up in the event of a scheduling conflict.

Carriage House will offer a menu of services that includes two prenatal visits, uninterrupted support during labor and delivery, and two postnatal visits. During pregnancy, email and phone support is guaranteed 24/7: Domino programs all of her mothers' phone numbers into her Blackberry with a distinct, high-volume, urgent-sounding ring tone.

A collective agenda among doulas is to reduce the number of Cesarean births performed in hospitals. Gynecological obstetricians often prefer to deliver via C-section: They can be scheduled in advance, carry a high price tag, and minimize some of the risks (and liabilities) associated with vaginal births. One way to combat what Kirke describes as "defensive medicine" is to avoid hospitals altogether.

But she knows all too well that this is not always possible. Domino herself attempted a home birth with Cassius, but after three days in labor she suffered a uterine infection, which manifested as a dangerously high fever. Understanding that continuing labor at home would pose too serious a risk to both mother and child, Domino transferred to a hospital where Cassius was delivered via Cesarean.

"The tone of your motherhood after a Cesarean can be different," she explained. "There is this no-man's land between having a baby and bonding with the baby." Although Domino enjoys an untroubled bond with her son today (she continues to breast feed him whenever and wherever the need arises), she suffered crippling postpartum depression for the first year of his life. "I decided to start redeeming all of that by attending births," she said. "I will do anything to stop a woman from going through what I went through."

Domino's doula fee ranges from $1,000-1,500 dollars, which she admits is on the higher end of the typical range. It allows her to offer a sliding scale option for unsupported mothers with limited resources. In May, she will attend the hospital birth of a single mother who is addicted to methadone and can't afford to pay. And during the blizzard this past December, she attended the birth of another single mother whose Brooklyn apartment was too small to safely accommodate the delivery. At the height of the storm, Domino and the midwife relocated her on foot—while she was in active labor—to a friend's apartment, where she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Both mother and son are now staying in Domino's Williamsburg loft until they find a permanent living situation.

"When you are working with someone without a partner, you want to embrace her more. You get more emotionally attached," Domino said. "I will never turn a woman down."

Photography by Sandy Kim

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Tunnel of Love

By Sandy Kim

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