Our admin team is on winter break from December 23, 2021 through January 3, 2022. We are available for current clients, but non-urgent matters and service inquiries will have a delayed response time. If you'd like to inquire about classes, labor support, or postpartum support, please fill out our contact form and Cait or Shawna will be in touch the first week of January. Take good care and we'll see you in the new year!

Who We Are

The last thing you need when you’re in labor is added worry about your care team. What if your doula is sick or out of town? What if she’s just finishing up another birth and hasn’t slept in days? What if two of her clients are in labor at exactly the same time?

 

At Third Coast Birth + Baby, we’ve put those fears to rest—for good. Instead of pairing parents with individual doulas (and assigning “back-ups” that they might never meet in person), we’ve created a unique team model. You’ll be paired with a trio of doulas, who are comfortable and experienced working together, who are well-versed in sharing information and brainstorming solutions, and who can step in seamlessly whatever time of day or night you need support.

Photo by Luis Cruz Photography

Margarita Valbuena

Co-founder, Director of Operations

Margarita (she/her) brings to Third Coast Birth & Baby her extensive book smarts about childhood development, attachment and rearing—as well as the hands-on, hard-won insights that come from mothering two kids of her own and working as a child development specialist for over 16 years. She loves bringing parents together, answering their questions and—most of all—helping them to trust their own parenting instincts. Behind the scenes, Margarita manages all the systems and paperwork that help our studio run so seamlessly and give our parents such peace of mind that the details are dealt with.

Margarita, her two revolutionary kids, plus her two Catcade cats are enjoying their new life near her family in Michigan after 16 years in Chicago.

Cait Sobotka

Co-founder, Director of Postpartum Programs

Cait Sobotka (she/her) has supported hundreds of families through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period since she began working as a doula in 2013. As proactive as she is easy-going, Cait is a master of anticipating the needs of expectant and new moms

As a mother of three and former nanny, Cait understands the needs of new parents and strives to make the transition to parenthood smooth and positive experience for you. Equally motivated as she is easy going, Cait is highly attuned to your family’s needs and can help you make a solid plan for your postpartum time. Cait manages our postpartum support and placenta encapsulation services. 

Shawna Mertens

Co-founder, Director of Prenatal Programs

Shawna (she/her) has been supporting families in the transition into parenthood since 2014. She works directly with families and providers to further our mission. She manages our prenatal programs, teaches group and private childbirth education classes and provides exceptional, compassionate labor support to our clients as a birth doula. 

Shawna’s emphasis on education and physiology empowers clients to feel confident and calm. Clients often describe Shawna’s presence as soothing, reassuring, and peaceful.

Outside of birth work Shawna enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her family.

Chicagoland doulas

Pippin Mueller

Pippin Mueller

Birth Doula

Pippin (she/they) is a childbirth educator, birth and postpartum doula, and student midwife who has worked with expectant folks for close to a decade. Pippin is a lifelong Chicagoan, the eldest of eight children, and was privileged to grow up listening to stories of their mother’s different birth stories. This led her into birthwork and has been the passion that’s fueled their desire to provide affirming, trauma-informed care as a both a doula, and soon as a midwife.
Pippin is equally passionate about reproductive justice, which for them includes advocating for families in a way that allows folks to make the best choices for their unique circumstances. Pippin brings a calm, grounded energy to births and aims above all to hold space in a nurturing way. Additionally, as queer, single parent, they recognize that families come in a variety of forms, each beautiful and worthy of celebration and support.
 
Pippin lives with her daughter and their two orange cats in Rogers Park. When not occupied with birth, you can find them gardening, fermenting, sea glass searching at the beach, knitting, and hauling her kiddo around on their cargo bike.
Sydney Rosenfeld

Sydney Rosenfeld

Birth Doula

Sydney is a birth and postpartum doula. Ultimately, the company of a few wonderful doulas during her own birth propelled her into working in the birth world. Her experience as a doula has led her to supporting a variety of both couples and individual birthing people. Her birth doula support typically includes exploring options from pregnancy through the immediate postpartum period, guiding by encouraging birthing people and couples to find their voice as parents, and honoring the human and awe inspiring experience of giving birth. Her work with each new birthing person is geared towards helping them to explore without judement any options they are interested in and a hands on, physical support during labor, while holding the intention to empower and uplift partners. Sydney also applies her knowledge of community stewardship, belief in accessible care for all, and information sharing with each family she has worked with. Sydney Is on a team with Pippin.

When Sydney is not at a birth, she is likely farming or gardening, studying for nursing grad school, or being silly with her son.

Renee Levine

Renee Levine

Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Certified Yoga Instructor

Renee (she/her) is an experienced, nurturing yoga instructor and birth doula. She understands the uniqueness of this special, challenging time of transition and is honored to be part of your support team. Additionally, Renee uniquely incorporates her knowledge and experience as a yoga instructor into her work as a doula. She became a doula herself due to having strong, confident and knowledgeable doulas during the births of her own 2 children. 

Annie Walljasper

Annie Walljasper

Birth Doula

Annie feels fortunate to have had her own supportive birth experiences, working with wonderful doulas, which has led her to becoming a doula herself. She finds such privilege in being able to serve other families welcoming new babies. Annie is a board certified music therapist, which she feels has also led her to doula work, giving her unique experiences to support expectant parents with music therapy assisted child birth. Annie enjoys the uniqueness of each birth she attends and is honored to share this intimate moment with parents, always providing the utmost respect and compassionate care no matter what their birth journey looks like. 

Stacey Hoekwater

Stacey Hoekwater

Childbirth Educator

Stacey (she/her) is a childbirth educator, birth doula, and yoga instructor. She has enjoyed supporting individuals and families through their prenatal, birth, and postpartum journeys by offering evidence-based resources, hands-on support, and deep respect for personal birth choices. Stacey enjoys traveling, biking, and making art with reckless abandon. She lives with her husband and two kids in the city of Chicago. 

Lauren Franzen

Lauren Franzen

Postpartum Doula & IBCLC

Lauren (she/her) found a way to merge her education in social work and her love for birth work. After being inspired by Ina May Gaskin, and with the encouragement of a student midwife friend, she began her certification process. Lauren has worked as a doula & social worker for teen moms, as a volunteer doula, and also as a private, independent doula. She feels honored to be able to witness the immense uniqueness of each mama’s journey to meeting her baby. Lauren also provides in-home, individualized lactation guidance and support.

Kara Alexander

Kara Alexander

Postpartum Doula

Kara is a Newborn Care Specialist, CAPPA trained postpartum doula and lactation educator, certificated childbirth educator and baby wearing educator. She has twenty years of experience caring for children. She has worked in a daycare and twelve years as a nanny mainly working with infants and toddlers. Throughout her career she has focused on supporting families in the first year of life. She enjoys creating a loving environment, giving non-judgmental support, guidance, and leaving families feeling confident on their journey through parenthood. Kara is dedicated to meeting the needs of each unique family and each baby.

Tara Keller

Tara Keller

Postpartum Doula

Tara grew up as the middle child in a large family and remembers her own twin brothers being born. Taking care of babies and their families has always been a natural fit for her and her passion for working with new families was ignited after becoming a mother herself. Tara brings a sense of calm to the uncertainties of life with a new baby. She lives the western suburbs and enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters.

Becca Hammond

Becca Hammond

Postpartum Doula

Becca (she/her) is fortunate to have come from a large family and growing up she always found herself eager to take on the care of her many young family members. As a new, young mother she quickly found that there was a lack of guidance, support and accurate information for new parents during this profound life transition. Many years later, a dear friend told her about the role of a postpartum doula and she knew this role was a perfect fit. Becca’s decade of experience as a beloved nanny gives her an understanding of the unique needs of every individual family she serves. She hopes to add more to her list of skills and expertise in time. Becca is LGBTQ+ affirming and passionate about reproductive and birth justice. She resides in Northwest Chicago with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, Becca enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends and practicing many different forms of self-care.

Giov Penze

Giov Penze

Postpartum Doula

Giov (she/her) is a postpartum doula who believes that one of the most important things you can do for a family is offer support and a listening ear. Bringing home a newborn is a transformative experience and Giov wants to empower families to make informed decisions that fit their family dynamic.
Families describe Giov as empathetic, thoughtful, organized, calm, and patient. She loves to cook and bake, especially meals that give energy to the family in a time of so many changes. She goes above and beyond to assist her families, and is proactive with their needs. She consistently cultivates a peaceful environment for the family, and assists them wherever they need.
When she’s not working Giov is chasing around her son, enjoying workouts at Feast Fitness, and long walks around Andersonville with her husband and son.
Heather Bethune

Heather Bethune

Postpartum Doula

Heather has always loved caring for infants and babies, growing up the oldest of nine children, and being continually fascinated by the intelligence of little humans. She brings a lot of intuitive wisdom and calm confidence into every home she has been privileged to be a caregiver in. 
Her own experience as a mother solidified and broadened her passion for reproductive justice in recent years, bringing her into doula work as an expression of her vision for a world where mothers and babies are always thriving. 
She lives with her partner and children in Wicker Park and enjoys long walks, riding her bike everywhere, and time at the city parks with her family and friends.

Ruth Hoekwater

Ruth Hoekwater

Postpartum Doula

Ruth is a mother of 3 and grandmother to 4 and has been married to my husband John for over 40 years. In that time she has lived abroad and built homes for Habitat for Humanity, fostered children who traveled internationally for life-saving surgeries and opened and managed a community coffee shop that was first of its kind in her neighborhood for almost 13 years. She is a nurturer and nannied 2 of her grandchildren from birth to school age. 

A natural people-person, Ruth loves meeting new clients and learning their stories in order to support them as best as she can. In her spare time she is avid reader and loves spending time out in nature as much as possible, especially with her grandchildren.

Metro Detroit doulas

Brianna Simpson

Brianna Simpson

Childbirth Educator and Birth Doula

Brianna takes pride in providing emotional, spiritual, physical, and informational support to expectant mothers and their families. As your doula, she can demonstrate comfort measures, newborn care, offer breastfeeding support, and be available to fill in the gaps as necessary. When she is not doula-ing, she enjoys reading, crocheting, cooking, gardening, and spending time with her loved ones. Brianna offers virtual doula support and virtual childbirth education classes!

Community Partners

Abby Waychoff

Occupational Therapist

Abby is an occupational therapist and yoga instructor who is passionate about educating and helping women through their transition into motherhood. After her own experience with a difficult labor and delivery and challenging postpartum period she discovered a passion for helping and supporting other women. Abby has additional training in pelvic floor/core function and perinatal mood disorders. She currently offers one-on-one consultation focused on physical birth prep and recovery, logistical and lifestyle preparation and adjustment, and mental and emotional wellness. She also offers private and group pre and postnatal yoga. She is additionally available for small group or workshop format educational presentations.

Abby is the group moderator for Mom to Mom: Creating Our Own Village on Facebook where you can parent in community with moms from all over the Midwest and beyond. Mom to Mom began as a collaboration between MotherLover and Third Coast as way of bringing our beloved playgroups in Logan Square to the masses in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bābē Maven

Elite Sitter Service and Summer Camp

Bābē Maven is an Elite Sitter Service based in Chicago, Illinois. We provide our network of Client-Families with direct access to our elite Sitter-Mavens who are CPR and first-aid certified. Every Sitter-Maven undergoes an extensive background check and are required to provide reputable childcare references. Our Sitter-Mavens genuinely connect with the children they care for — offering our families the very best personal childcare in your city.

Brittany Gaddy is founding CEO of Bābē Maven with over 15 years of experience in the childcare industry. Through her extensive work with families all over the Chicagoland area the importance of quality childcare became the mission along with the impact it carries in offering the best childcare. It is through the years of experience and networking with other child care professionals that has built this solid network of sitters who we call Sitter-Mavens.
Unfortunately, Brittany could not duplicate herself but believes that every family should have access to excellent childcare. And so we have Sitter-Mavens who are an extension of those elite quality standards and play an intricate part within our elite sitter service in providing the very best childcare for every Client-Family.