Meet Taylor. A Doula Canada student and world traveller. She took a moment to answer some questions for us about her volunteer experience with St. Bryce Mission in Costa Rica.
What drove you to wanting to be a volunteer doula overseas?
I feel confident in my knowledge and ability to work as a doula for the common Canadian mother. But I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do more and be more. Working with this significantly marginalized, secluded, indigenous population of Costa Rica was attractive to me because the need for support was so high. I think I have grown in my skill set and my knowledge substantially!
Where did you go? What were your responsibilities?
I worked and lived at the Casa San Francisco located in the small town of Turrialba, Costa Rica. Casa San Francisco is a maternity Centre run by a missionary organizations called St Bryce. The centre works exclusively with the indigenous Cabecar women pre and post-natally. These native women live a very secluded lifestyle in the mountains and cloud forests. The hospital by law requires them to birth in a public hospital for their own safety. Before this centre existed when labour began the women would hike down the mountains for sometimes days to get to the hospitals. Many moms and babies wouldn't survive the harsh conditions if their travels. Other mothers would survive the trip to the hospital and would be sent away for not being dilated enough. Forcing them to wait on the streets until they could be accepted. This centre was built to give the moms a place to live at 8+ months and postpartum. They have reduced the mortality of the Indigenous babies by 40% in 5 short years.
My responsibilities included everything from cooking, cleaning, prenatal education, labour & birth Doula support, lactation education/support and any other gaps I could fill at the time. I took an extra initiative to help design and implement a laboring room out of a vacant space in the centre. Further, I developed better living conditions for volunteers and helped build an orientation package for doulas to come in the future. Therefore making their entrance to the centre more comfortable and smooth. I implemented positive activities for the mothers and younger children to participate in. Some of these included therapeutic art activities and self-care workshops. Because the centre had just opened and I was the first doula at the organization for a long period of time. My feedback and ideas were put into place with respect from others within the organization. I felt like I truly made a difference.
What did you find the most difficult?
Being completely immersed not only in Costa Rican culture, but a very secluded indigenous culture was hard to say in the least. The first week i felt complete culture shock. I'm a very high maintenance person, and I wanted to challenge myself....and i was. It was difficult to get used to the cold showers, simple food, traditions, values and most significantly, the languages. I found myself frustrated often at first with the language barrier. And even once I began to better understand and communicate with Spanish. The barrier with the Cabecar's was still immense. Their language is so unique. The woman in the Cabecar culture are soft spoken and of few words. But I persisted to support them and make myself comfortable. By the time I felt fully accepted and comfortable in the culture it was time to leave. I'll be back...but for longer than 3 weeks next time!
There’s a pandemic of shame happening in the Doula world right now and it’s time we cleared the air on the adult bullying and elitism currently running course.
The Doula profession has taken off in the past decade, with more people acknowledging the overall value in the attendance of a Doula through labour and into the postpartum period.
Big certification agencies are now competing with boutique certification agencies, all making claims that they are “premier,” “modern,” “professional,” and “comprehensive.” Each vy for the attention of potential students who are searching for the “right” certification agency for them. Their "Doula family," if you will.
Loyalty to a Doula organization, no different than loyalty to a family member, runs thick. Students and alumni square off to defend their own and herald the joys of their experiences. This is to be expected - after all they did choose them in the end!
Unfortunately as a result of this need to choose we have seen a number of our Doula sisters become subject to a stream of bullying that is uncalled for and completely unprofessional. The explicit questioning of ethnicity, language, and choice of certification agency by some of the “leaders” in certain organizations is, to be blunt, disgusting. These same people are teaching their students that it is important to book clients by being nurturing and professional, yet in the same breath demanding their audience “do what I say” or “hit the highway.”
Watching some of these conversations go down over social media is like watching the mean girls in fifth grade pass notes back in forth at the expense of their bullied victim. Like, super mature (insert eye roll).
Here’s the thing. The mean girl eventually just becomes known as a bully (I actually thought of another 5 letter ‘b’ word... but I’m playing nice today friends!). The bully's game becomes tiring and no one wants to play anymore. As Doulas become recognized by policy makers, and regulatory associations grow collaboration will prevail over competition. The mean girls may even find themselves on the outside looking in.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to Doula. There is YOUR way. Can certification organizations give you training and mentorship to move you toward success? We hope so!
However, what you do with the information you are given lies no where but with you. There is no magic bag of tricks to guarantee that you are going to be the most successful Doula in your community.
Do we want to mentor you to make it happen? Absolutely!
Can a certification agency guarantee it at the expense of others? No flipping way.
We applaud the growing body of certification options available to incoming Doulas. Personal choice and satisfaction is an important component to successfully fulfilling your Doula goals and living your passion each day. However, what we (insert I) do not condone is the tactics of bullying and elitism that some of these options are employing.
So, in stereotypical Canadian fashion. It’s time to play peacemaker. It’s time to play nice. No one likes to be bullied. It’s time for the Doula world to grow up and work collaboratively together. Are you ready to Doula Canada?
Here is a fantastic article by Amy Gilliland from "Doulaing the Doula" about things to consider when choosing a Doula Certification organization: Click Here.
When I became pregnant and started getting passionate about birth, I decided to have a chat with my Grandmother to learn more about her birthing experiences. One of the many things that stood out for me was that it was expected that she stay in the hospital for a minimum of three weeks. She told me that for the first week, she wasn't even allowed to get out of bed!
I remember at the time feeling so horrible about this (because I'm not a fan of hospitals!) on her behalf. I was SO glad that I wouldn't have that same experience.
Wait!! WHAT? Why in the world did I feel bad for her? Now that I've had a child I realize how AMAZING her experience was compared to mine. I was sent home after my 24 hours (gladly at the time of course) and basically patted on the back with a "have fun". Here I was with this tiny bundle, no knowledge of how to swaddle and already feeling like a crappy mother because of it, still not convinced I was breastfeeding properly or that he was getting what he needed from me, confused by why he cried and in a mild amount of discomfort. It was Christmas so when we got home there were obligations awaiting us, especially since I had the baby and everyone wanted to see him. As much as I loved all the attention, I was scared, overwhelmed and not quite sure if everything I was feeling was normal but didn't know how to ask anyone for help for fear they would think I was a bad mother already.
Today, when people ask me what I suggest to first time moms about their postpartum time, I tell them to have a baby-moon. I tell them to stay in their house for 2 - 3 weeks and tell the world to back off because they have a new family member to get to know. The best way to understand this new person is to be with it, providing it with your undivided attention. Tell the well intentioned people who want to "help" to drop off meals so that no one in the family has to get up to cook a meal. And then I tell them to hire a postpartum doula!! Because the new mom's of today's society deserve to be mothered just as much as our Grandmothers did so they can ease into parenthood empowered!
In order to hire a postpartum doula, there needs to be more postpartum doulas! If the desire to help new families transition into parenthood more positively appeals to you, join us for our next training workshop coming up on Saturday Feb 22nd and Sunday Feb 23rd at Go Green Baby in Kingston ON (next one is in the Fall in Cambridge ON). Together we can help transform families!
For more information or to register, please view our website: www.doulatraining.ca
Doula Training Canada Coordinator & owner of HALO – www.healingartslearning.org
Interested in sharing your thoughts on the Doula Canada page?