BirthFocus, LLC was founded in 2001, by Ilana Stein, in partnership with Beth Israel Parent Education, in an effort to establish a hospital based doula program, allowing women to have more access to doulas and to meet them collectively in a supported and professional environment. Ilana was a pioneer of the birthing community and had been offering doula services and childbirth education courses, as a Bradley instructor, for many, many years even before the word “doula” was coined. In July, 2004 Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach, the current BirthFocus Director/Owner, had the privilege of training with Ilana Stein in one of her summer DONA Int’l labor support doula trainings. Just before this training, Ilana was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Ilana was a mentor to so many and as she was deeper into her battle to fight the cancer, she took Elizabeth under her wing to guide her in running the doula practice. In August 2008, Ilana passed away and with Ilana’s blessing Elizabeth continued to carry on the BirthFocus mission of ensuring that “every woman who wants a doula deserves one”. Back in 2006 Ilana played matchmaker and introduced her cousin, Jason Sarach, to Elizabeth and in 2010 Elizabeth and Jason married. In this way, BirthFocus continues to be a family practice!
Since our creation in 2001, BirthFocus has grown tremendously and, in addition to labor support services, we now also offer post-partum doula services, childbirth preparation courses, placenta encapsulation services and many other services related to the journey of becoming a new parent for women and families in NYC and Austin, TX.
Our partnerships have expanded to many new OB/GYN and Midwifery practices as well as other birth related communities in NYC. We continue to offer weekly “Eat, Drink, DOULA” events at various locations throughout NYC and Austin, in addition to our original meeting at Beth Israel, where women and their partners can meet doulas in an intimate setting.
We firmly believe “every woman who wants a doula deserves one”.
Our Founder – Ilana Stein (1951-2008)
A pioneer in the birthing community since 1983, Ilana Stein, mother of three, was also a labor support doula, childbirth educator, co-founder of the Metropolitan Doula Group (an educational support group for doulas), Certified Hypnobirthing Instructor, DONA Approved Doula Trainer, Director, BirthFocus, LLC, and recipient of the 2007 Penny Simkin Award for Doula Spirit and Mentoring (DONA International). Ilana firmly believed in BirthFocus’ philosophy that “every woman who wants a doula deserves one”.
She answered the “Ask a Doula” questions on the Childbirth.org website and was a La Leche League leader. She traveled across the country teaching workshops to women who came into her classes wide-eyed and curious and who left grounded, empowered and ready to support birth. She wrote articles, was a guest speaker at New York University and was interviewed on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show. By forming the Metropolitan Doula Group, Ilana created a support system where new doulas, experienced doulas and anyone interested in birth sat in a circle, shared stories, accomplishments, disappointments, fears and successes. She facilitated the meetings with grace, power, spirit and professionalism. The group grew; the impact was enormous to the birthing community. Doula started to become a household word.
Her mission and goal was to educate everyone about doulas and that birth is something to be honored and treated with respect and integrity. Ilana’s energy for birth seemed endless. Ilana’s next mission was to become a registered nurse. She felt that by teaching nurses women–whether they knew to ask for it or not–would have the emotional and spiritual support they so critically need during labor and is so lost in the current medical model.
In the midst of her studies, Ilana was stricken with ovarian cancer. She passed away this last year after a 4-year battle. During her illness, she continued to teach about the power of support as she accepted the support she now needed and faced her disease with courage and strength. She continually shared her very personal journey with us, showing us that community can empower us in all facets of life and death and can be extraordinarily powerful.
(**some of these words are an excerpt from a letter by Meg Darnell, LMT, Co-Founder of the Metropolitan Doula Group and Dean of Alumni and Student Services Swedish Institute)