By your side: This doula is going virtual to support CLE moms-to-be during COVID-19

Giving birth during ordinary times can be a nerve-wracking experience. Giving birth during a global pandemic? Few words can describe, but it’s sure to disrupt even the most perfectly laid birth plans.


That's where Ashley Sova and CLEBaby come in. Though Sova has been providing doula services since first launching her business in February 2015, her work is more important than ever in light of Cleveland and Akron hospitals recently limiting the number of birth support persons to just one. “[A mom-to-be’s] partner can be there, but if they wanted a mom, sister, friend, or doula present, they are no longer allowed,” explains Sova.


Ashley SovaTo ensure continued support for her clients, Sova and her team of nine doulas are now offering virtual services for birthing moms and their partners—staying on call 24/7 to offer help via Facetime and Zoom with everything from breathing instruction to optimal labor positioning to breastfeeding.


“Knowing we would be locked out of hospitals indefinitely, we wanted to brainstorm the best way to help while still following policy,” says Sova, whose CLEBaby team has helped 10 virtual clients so far during the COVID-19 crisis. “We were skeptical at first that this would work, but we’re getting the hang of it and recognizing the best ways to do this. Our presence is meant to bring a sense of calm and confidence—as well as necessary information—and we’re still able to provide all of that virtually.”


CLEBaby is also stepping in to meet another need: group childbirth education. Since all classes have been cancelled in local hospitals, Sova is now offering her formerly in-home “Prepare to Rock” classes virtually, as well as both group and private hypnobirthing classes to address fear and anxiety for moms-to-be.

Sova is also working with a local sleep coach to convert those services to a virtual setting. “Our claim to fame for sleep training is that we’re in your home for 72 hours straight, and we have a 100% success rate to date,” says Sova. “Thinking of doing it virtually was a little bit crazy to us since we’re known for in-home sleep training, but we’re committed to making it work.”


The CLEBaby teamOf course, not all of CLEBaby’s services can make the pivot—such as post-partum support, which typically includes helping with laundry, meals, and other needs for exhausted new parents. But Sova says the unexpected curveball may also be opening up some new doors for her business, such as helping clients in any location (not just Northeast Ohio) or offering lower-priced virtual options in the future along with in-person services.


Most of all, Sova hopes CLEBaby can continue supporting local parents-to-be when they need it most.

“Pregnancy, birth, and post-partum is already a time when people feel anxious and stressed, so with a global pandemic on top of it, people are feeling extra powerless,” says Sova, who is donating 5% of proceeds from all virtual services to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. “Our goal is to bring a sense of calm and confidence, as that’s what anyone who is having a baby at such an uncertain time needs. We want to be there for them on one of the most important days of their life.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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