When Allie Sakowicz was in preschool, her favorite accessories were a toy stethoscope and "Dr. Allie" badge. Now 17, she's rarely without her special silver necklace: It's adorned with ten stones (six blue, four pink), one for each of the babies she's watched come into the world.

The Park Ridge, Illinois, honors student is spending her second summer as a birth doula—one of the youngest ever working toward certification by DONA International, says a spokeswoman for the 7,000-member doula association. Sakowicz's clients are her peers: She provides services primarily to Chicago-area teen moms, free of charge. "Some of them might not otherwise have anyone by their side during pregnancy and labor," she says.

Take, for example, the young woman whose boyfriend dropped her at the hospital's front doors and drove away on the July evening she was to be induced. Sakowicz spent 40 hours straight with the frightened mom-to-be—massaging her lower back through contractions, keeping a bleary-eyed vigil over monitors, and consoling her through the worst labor pains until a healthy girl emerged. "When the baby comes," Sakowicz says, "there's no place else I'd rather be."

Next, she plans to study to become a childbirth educator; her long-term goal is to learn Spanish and work as an ob-gyn and run a free clinic in the Southwest. "Even though I'm still a teenager, I'm accomplishing all my dreams," she says. The proof hangs around her neck.

Keeping Mothers-to-Be Healthy


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