Our Team – Chicago

Caroline Taromino

Doula / Prenatal Yoga Instructor / Chicago Office Coordinator

Caroline’s passion for working with pregnant women stems from her background in clinical psychology, where she researched the transformational process of pregnancy and motherhood. Caroline worked with pregnant women in New York City’s Bronx neighborhood and was inspired to train to become a doula with DONA in 2012. Caroline strives to empower every woman before, during, and after the birth process, and believes in the transcendent power that every woman can achieve with a supportive birth experience.

Caroline is a registered yoga teacher with a specialty in prenatal yoga. She trained with the Amala School of Prenatal Yoga for certification in this area. Caroline holds a BA in psychology from the University of Chicago, and an MA in clinical psychology from Columbia University. Caroline lives in Hyde Park, and loves practicing yoga, cooking and spending time with her two cats.

Languages spoken: English, Spanish


Amber Kozawick

Outreach & Marketing Coordinator

Amber brings a background in customer service, client retention, and social media management to her role as Ohana’s Outreach & Marketing Coordinator. She has several years of experience as a national Customer Experience Director in the hospitality industry, which created a foundation for her work at Ohana. Amber is a firm believer that every parent has to decide for themselves what is “right” for their child based on the needs of their family, and personally strives be a part of a much needed cultural shift to bring greater support to new parents.

Amber lives in Skokie with her partner, Mike, and their toddler Michael. Their family is rounded out by two incredible confidants — their dogs Sasha and Shamus. Amber is also a motherhood lifestyle blogger, and her musings can be found at www.milkdrunkenlove.com.


Grace Lombardo

Doula / Childbirth Educator

Grace’s passion for doula work runs in her family; her mother has been a practicing birth doula for over 15 years. Grace’s doula journey began after the birth of her first son, Luca, in 2008. Within the following two years, Grace became a certified birth doula with DONA International and welcomed her second child, Cecilia. In 2011, Grace started her own doula practice and became known as the Diamond Doula as she had previously spent more than a decade in management for Tiffany & Co. and Harry Winston.

Grace’s doula philosophy is one of empowerment, advocacy and compassion. She believes that every woman deserves the birth she desires and is humbled to join families on this journey. It is an honor each and every time she is invited to a baby’s very first ‘birth’day party.

Grace and her husband Joe live in Northbrook and recently welcomed their third child, Enzo, in late 2013. Watch for Grace cruising around the North Shore in her ‘Doula-Mobile’, with license plate DOULA II.

Languages Spoken: English, Italian


Joanne Fortuna

Doula / Childbirth Educator

Joanne is a Doula, Childbirth Educator and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. She is also the mother of two creative girls, ages 10 and 5. It is through her own birth experiences that she learned how important it is to have the right support people while birthing. She believes that every person deserves evidence-based care and is committed to helping families gather all information necessary to make informed decisions, and feel supported and empowered throughout the process. When she is not attending births or teaching classes, she enjoys spending time with family, homeschooling her daughters, and expanding her birth knowledge through classes and trainings.


Nicole Cison


Nicole has been working with families in the Chicago area as a birth and postpartum doula for 14 years. She was trained by Doulas of North America and MaternityWise. Nicole became a doula after the experience of having a doula for the long, 48 hour unmedicated labor of her oldest child. It was challenging, but nearly impossible without the constant support of her doula and her husband. She then had the pleasure of a 4 hour water birth with her second child at home with a midwife. Nicole’s maternity care and labors were vastly different, but gave her the advantage of learning much about the very different experiences mothers can have with every birth. Nicole’s style has been described by her clients as patient, calm, accepting, lighthearted and informative. In addition to doula work, Nicole’s other interests include photography, running, painting, reading and gardening.


Shawna Mertens

Doula / Childbirth Educator / Mom & Baby Group Leader

Shawna completed her birth doula training with The Organization of Labor Assistants for Birth Options and Resources. Her passion for working with new parents and families comes from a strong belief that being surrounded by a community of support can make this huge transition a much more joyful and smooth one. She has experienced the importance of community in her life after the births of her children, and as she continues to raise them alongside friends and family. Her goal as a doula is to support the laboring mom or couple in whatever way they need, whether that be by providing informational, emotional, or physical support, or all three. The birth of your baby is an event that you will remember for the rest of your life and Shawna is honored when she gets to walk alongside families through this transformative time.

Shawna is also a professional photographer, and has a degree in professional photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Tim, and their two children, Levi and Adeline. Shawna loves anything food-related, especially great coffee!


Cristina Berchez


Cristina received her doula training from Doulas of North America (DONA). She loves supporting women and their partners in the birth path they view as ideal for them, including natural birth, medicated birth, C-section or VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Cristina is the mother of two boys and carries on the passion for the cherished time of her own childbirth in her doula work. Originally from Romania, Cristina holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania. A teacher of yoga/meditation for over 20 years, Cristina knows the value of inner balance and brings it into the birth support practice. Cristina is also a placenta encapsulation specialist, trained through Tranquil Transitions.

Cristina currently resides in Des Plaines, IL with her husband Eugene and her two sons, Victor and Alex. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking with fresh produce from farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture, gardening on her balcony, and making jewelry.

Languages Spoken: English, Romanian, French, Italian


Tara Van Dyke


Tara witnessed birth for the first time on her 13th birthday while watching her dad do medical work in Kenya, East Africa. This forever shaped her view of birth as a normal and beautiful life event. She went on to earn her BA at Wheaton College in Communications and work as an editor, but after the births of her own 4 children, she developed a strong desire to assist other new and expecting families in their transition to parenthood.

Tara became certified as a doula through ICEA in 2008 and completed childbirth educator training as well. Tara considers it a joy and an honor every time she gets to walk with a family through the transformational experience of birth, and she seeks to strengthen all family relationships through the process. She lives west of Chicago with her husband and teenagers, where you are likely to find her on the sidelines of multiple high school sporting events, leading book club meetings, and occasionally skydiving.


Margarita Valbuena

Doula / Mom & Baby Group Leader

Margarita completed her birth doula training with The Organization of Labor Assistants for Birth Options and Resources. She has worked with pregnant women and families of young children in several different countries for nearly 12 years, as a child development and early childhood education professional. She decided to become a doula after the birth of her second child, when she saw first-hand the benefits of having doula support and realized that she could translate much of her professional values and beliefs into birth work. She believes that every parent and child deserves a supportive community within which they can develop, learn, and love. She is honored to walk with and support families through the challenging, magnificent journey that is childbirth and parenthood.

Margarita holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan and a MS in Child Development from Erikson Institute. She lives with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, Victoria and Benjamín, in Hyde Park after residing in Rogers Park for nearly a decade. Margarita enjoys suspenseful mystery novels and loves food from all over the world.

Languages spoken: English and Spanish


Shizue Taerbaum


Shizue’s path to becoming a doula began in nursing school, where her experience in labor and delivery cultivated a passion and interest in supporting expectant mothers. In addition to her education in maternity and women’s healthcare through University of Illinois’ College of Nursing, Shizue trained as a doula with Doulas of North America.

Shizue views birth as not just a medical event, but as an intimate and sacred experience, where every woman’s birth wishes should be fostered and respected. Shizue believes that families deserve to be nurtured, listened to, informed, guided, and reassured throughout the transformative time of pregnancy and childbirth. Shizue views it as a privilege to utilize her respect for the physiological aspect of birth (as a nurse) to provide women with the educational, physical, and emotional support they deserve in order to tap into their inner strength as they bring a child into this world.

Shizue also has specialized experience attending to the cultural sensitivities of Jewish women during the childbirth process.


Sang Yup Lee

Dad & Baby Group Leader

Sang is an attorney and the father of a son born in 2012. He and his wife share the dream of being good parents and spouses and both pursuing their careers. As much joy as his son brought to his life, Sang wished that he had a peer support group of fellow dads during the first year of his son’s life, but there was nothing like Ohana available in his community. In 2014, he joined Ohana in appreciation of the vision of this group and his sense of empathy and camaraderie for the dads whom the Dad & Baby Groups serve.

Sang received a BA in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a JD from the University of Notre Dame School of Law. He has worked for several legal services agencies and interned for the Honorable Judge Mary Yu with the Superior Court of Washington state. Besides working as a Dad & Baby Group Facilitator, he currently works as Of Counsel for Progressive Law Group LLC on class action consumer and employment law cases, and as an Affiliated Attorney with The Law Office of Kelli Dudley on fair housing cases. When he is not working or spending time with his son, you may see him out blues dancing or swing dancing with his wife.

Languages Spoken: English, Korean


Andy Ross, LPC

Dad & Baby Group Leader

Andy is a husband and father who loves parenting and considers it the most challenging yet rewarding adventure he has undertaken. Andy is also a Licensed Professional Counselor and holds a Masters of Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University. Andy grew up in the bush of Kenya among the Maasai people, which shaped his views on the importance of family bonds, intergenerational community, including children in our natural rhythms, and the wonder of nature. Andy loves to learn and teach practical insights from psychology, brain research, and traditional wisdom that can help us create more joyful homes. For example, he has come to believe that one of our most fundamental needs as children (and adults) is for people to express that they are “glad to be with us.” When he is not working or washing dishes, Andy loves to wrestle with his toddler, do handyman things, try to play the guitar, play soccer, and get into the outdoors.


Peggy Healy, LCSW, IBCLC

Mom & Baby Group Leader

Peggy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).  Peggy began working with moms and babies as a postpartum doula over a decade ago. She continues to pursue this passion in her work as a perinatal social worker at Evanston Hospital where she works with high-risk obstetric patients and their families, and facilitates the teen prenatal education group. In her role as a lactation consultant, Peggy has worked for the past few years with Cyndi Guzman and The Art of Breastfeeding, visiting women and their babies in their homes to provide breastfeeding support. In addition, Peggy has a private therapy practice, specializing in supporting women with perinatal mood issues.  Peggy is the proud mother of five teen and adult children and the grandmother of one.

Brenda Shover

Sleep & Parenting Coach / Mom & Baby Group Leader

Brenda has over 20 years of experience working with infants, young children and their families. She holds an Illinois State Board of Education certification in Early Childhood Education (birth – age 8) and an endorsement in Special Education from National Louis University. For 12 years, she was the director of a preschool. She then decided to focus more on individual support and received her certification as a life coach through Life Purpose Institute of San Diego, CA, specializing in work with parents of young children. She is an expert in infant sleep and toddler sleep, and provides sleep coaching through Ohana.

Brenda’s passion is to partner with parents and empower them in all aspects of raising their families, encompassing the whole person and respecting the individuality of all. She is the mother of four adult children, two daughters and two stepsons, and is a proud grandma of four: three boys and a princess. Brenda lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her loving husband and elderly, but still spunky English Springer Spaniel, Maddie.


Gowri Vishwanath

Digital Communications Coordinator

Gowri brings in her experience in marketing, communications, and data analysis to Ohana as Digital Communications Coordinator. She has prior experience working in these functions for a global Fortune 500 company and non-profit healthcare systems in India and the USA. Gowri is passionate about any causes related to women and children and enjoys putting her skills to work to help others.

Gowri holds a B.S in marketing from Drexel University, Philadelphia and a Higher National Diploma in software engineering awarded by Edexcel, UK. She lives in Evanston, IL with her husband Guru and her very energetic daughter Gargi. She enjoys cooking and running.



Julie Harrison

Certified Nurse Midwife

Julie is a Certified Nurse Midwife with 35 years of experience providing health care to women. She was the Director of Midwife Service at Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center for 12 years. Julie retired from midwifery in 2012, and now continues to be involved in the field through her role on the Ohana Advisory Group and other activities. Julie is the mother of two grown children.

Paul Leamon


Paul is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for shaping innovative ideas into successful, high growth enterprises through his company Venturenetix. His most recent success, Wellfount, is a venture capital backed, healthcare services company that has grown from seed concept in 2006 to employing over 100 staff across 9 states of operation today. His previous experience also includes almost 10 years of work in healthcare/business services consulting and investment banking with Booz Allen Hamilton and Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo Securities). He holds a BS in Public Affairs from Indiana University and an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Anita Verna Crofts

Public Health and Communications Professional

Anita is on faculty at the Department of Global Health and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, where she serves as the Associate Director of Academic Affairs for the Communications Leadership graduate program. Her courses include: story creation and social engagement, leadership and organizational design in the digital age, and the interplay of culture, identity, and communication. Anita collaborates with partner institutions in the health care space worldwide to develop capacities in leadership, management, and policy development.