Class of 2024

Jen Walts

Owner, Wind & Water Doula Care: Age 35

For a decade, Jen Walts was a high-school teacher. And she’s still an educator today — in a much different way.

“I experienced an empowering birth and realized one of the main reasons why that experience was so positive for me was that I was well-educated and had a support team that I could turn to for more wisdom and resources,” she recalled.

It was so empowering, in fact, that Walts decided she wanted to bring that experience to other women — and Wind & Water Doula Care was born.

“I knew I wanted to shift into the world of birthing, but with education at its core, empowering families to soak in as much knowledge as they can in such a transformative time.”

Offering holistic prenatal support to support families through labor, birth, and early postpartum, Walts believes in bodily autonomy and informed consent through the birth process, empowering families to identify core values that shape their birth preferences, including, in some cases, the affirming, relaxation-inducing method of breathing techniques known as hypnobirthing.

“It’s an intense understanding of the physiology of labor and birth, so they feel less anxious about the process,” she explained. “It’s not happening to them; instead, they can move through it with some valuable coping tools. I call it preparing your mind to trust your body.”

Walts has attended or supported more than 75 births and taught childbirth education to more than 100 families.

“Jen is an active listener to parents, and she offered us generous and detailed strategies from pain management to postpartum planning,” one client testified. Added another, “she exudes a reassuring and calm presence that felt so helpful throughout the shifting dynamics of birth.”

Walts said too many families fall victim to “information overload” from social media. “That can be helpful to some extent, but it can also be overwhelming and can really disconnect you from your intuition and what you want for your family. I’m working on the outside of any medical system; I want to get into what values they have, what values they want to show up in their birthing.”

Walts was recently appointed program co-coordinator for a grant-funded program that will increase access to doula care for families birthing at Seven Sisters Midwifery and Community Birth Center in Northampton, which could help fill a persistent need for doulas locally.

A big question for women, she said, is “how do I advocate for myself in a system that’s built for efficiency? We’re taking back autonomy and voice in the healthcare system.”

—Joseph Bednar