With his big, muscular hands, dreadlocks and large physique, Kelly Carrington is not surprised he doesn't fit the mould of what people expect a doula to look like.
"I don't know what a doula looks like, but I'm sure that when people in their mind think of a birth doula, this is not what they see," he said.
A birth doula provides support to mothers during the birth process, be it physical, emotional or informational, says the website of DONA International, a doula association which bills itself as the largest and oldest of its kind in the world.
Canada's first male doula
It took two and a half years for Carrington to get trained and certified to become a birth doula. He says the school he received his certification from told him he is Canada's first male doula.
Carrington is also a registered massage therapist. He became a doula because it was a natural progression for him to continue working with his pregnant clients.
Carla Arnoldin recently gave birth to a child and Carrington acted as the doula. From the moment she met him, she felt she was in good hands.
"You get such a warm fuzzy feeling… You just know you're in good hands," said Arnoldin.
In early meetings with Carrington, the idea of breastfeeding support came up. At the time, Arnoldin wasn't interested. However, when she was four days postpartum, she was desperate for help and a phone call was made to Carrington at 7 a.m. He came over right away.
"Once it's all said and done, you want what's best for your baby and man, woman, it doesn't matter," she said.
Chris Nichols says Carrington acted as a support mechanism for both he and Arnoldin.
"Kelly helping me allowed me to help her more," he said.
Carrington hopes that more men follow in his footsteps and become doulas.