Spotlight on the Specialists: Susan Taggart, birth doula, childbirth educator and hypnobirthing specialist

Welcome to Spotlight on the Specialists, a series of profiles on some of our most intriguing hometown healthy leaders. In an effort to connect with the Rochester and Rochester Hills community on a new and healthful level, we have set out to find some of the best, the most unique or quirky and the more underreported medical professionals in the area.

Our hope is to uncover some helpful facts about our neighbors and inform you, our readers, of what a doula, a biostatistician or even a cytotechnologist (a disease detective—who knew?) does every day and what sort of role they have in our town; not to mention, what makes their job so great!

Harnessing the mind: Empowering women is key to being a successful doula

Spotlight on Susan Taggart, CHT, CHBCE, CLC, birth doula, childbirth educator and hypnobirthing specialist

By Jen Bucciarelli

With a calm demeanor that is every bit as welcoming as my own mother, Susan Taggart seems to put others at ease in any situation. That proves to be a handy characteristic as she is a trained and practicing birth doula, who prepares and coaches expecting mothers through labor and delivery.

‘Mothering the mother’

By definition, a doula acts as an educator and a mentor for a woman preparing for childbirth, someone who can offer guidance and comfort during delivery as well as post birth assistance. But Taggart defines her work much more simply as “mothering the mother.”

“I provide information for the mother about childbirth and what her body is going to be going through,” she said, “I also teach how to relax their mind and their body so that they’re not fighting against each other.”

Birth Doula Susan Taggart of Rochester says empowering women through an informed, guided and relaxed birthing experience is what drives her to teach more expecting mothers each year.

A doula is not to be confused with a midwife, she said, “We don’t do any medical testing; we’re there to educate, support and comfort.”

Taggart works with an average of 15 Southeastern Michigan expecting mothers each year through her Rochester-based business Sacred Whispers.

The best way to practice her craft is to conduct home visits where her clients are most relaxed, she said.

Taggart charges $600 for her doula package that includes two visits prior to childbirth, being present during labor as well as a follow up meeting once the family has returned home with their new son or daughter. (In the industry, a doula package plan can cost as much as $1,000, depending on the experience of the practitioner.)

Some topics covered in a visit might include the development of a birth plan, physiological overview of the female body, a breakdown of each phase of labor and what to expect as well as post birth breastfeeding and childcare education.

“What the mind can conceive, the body will perceive.”

There are several reasons why being a doula is enjoyable but empowering women consistently rises to the top of Taggart’s list.

Susan Taggart, a local doula and hypnobirthing specialist, is seen with a former client who has given birth at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester.

“(Childbirth) is the most empowering thing a woman can do in her life—She’s the only one that can do it,” she said, “Women get such strength from that, and I don’t think (they) get recognized enough for doing it.”

Taggart began her journey in 1997 after wishing she had worked with a doula when she was pregnant with her first son, Josh.

A mother of two boys, now adults with their own children, she knows that child labor is not easy.

But, this is where the mind and learning to harness its power will change the birthing experience in its entirety, she said.

Through vocabulary changes such as “surge” instead of “contraction,” Taggart uses hypnobirthing techniques as well as calming soundtracks, aromatherapy and low lighting (imitation candles if in a hospital) to keep expecting mothers relaxed.

“If I can have a child come into the world in a calm and quiet environment,” she said, “It just starts their world off better.”

Nurses also appreciate when a doula accompanies a laboring mother, Taggart said.

“For patients that want natural childbirth, it’s nice to have those extra sets of hands around,” Marty Schlecht, who is a Crittenton labor and delivery nurse, said. “(Doulas) also help to encourage proper breathing and further comforting measures during labor.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Hearing a simple phrase like “I couldn’t have done it without you” is one of the biggest rewards for doing what she does, especially when it comes from her two sons and their wives.

Taggart coached her oldest son, Josh and his wife Kristin for the birth of their daughter, Emma and son, Ethan.

“I brought both of my grandchildren into the world—It’s really exciting,” she said.

She will also be delivering her other son, Zack and his wife Sarah’s first child this November and she couldn’t be happier.

The only downfall of the profession that Taggart recognizes is the difficulty of being on-call near the due date of her expecting mothers, but networking with local doulas to have a backup plan helps.

Future endeavors

Plans to expand her business beyond Southeastern Michigan have Taggart’s sights on the cities of Lake Orion and Oxford in the future.

“I know they’re pregnant; so they’re out there,” Taggart joked.

Aside from hypnobirthing classes and practicing her craft as a doula, Taggart will continue to teach equine and canine massage workshops (yes, massage for horses and dogs—how cool!) at Irene’s Myomassology Institute in Southfield, as well as Reiki stress reduction Japanese healing.

When she’s not involved in any of the aforementioned activities, she also squeezes in time for a few recent hobbies like knitting, painting and pottery classes in town.

For more information about Susan Taggart or her work as a doula, please visit

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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