Finding your tribe
It feels like coming home to my doula tribe as I am reconnecting with many of the founders of DONA International, Penny Simkin, Phyllis Klaus, Marshall Klaus, Annie Kennedy as well as past presidents, doula trainers and many of the people who are my mentors, guiding me in my path. It is also equally as exciting to share in Nicole Heidbreder, DONA’s International Chairpersons vision and meet the International Doula Fellows who have traveled here to become DONA doula Trainers and return home to spread the doula spirit in their countries. In addition, DONA’s Multi-cultural Chair Michelle-Nicholle Calareso began a doula of color fellowship and has welcomed some amazing women from across North America to help fulfill DONA’s mission and vision of a doula for every woman who wants one and for all women to become doulas who want to.
Yesterday I shared how I met Jane Arnold, CNM Being here today seeing the cultural diversity represented reminds me of how Jane’s story continued as well. Jane went on to complete a BS in nursing, to work at North Central Bronx an inner city NY hospital. She completed her midwifery degree and began working at the Morris Heights Birth Center in the South Bronx, NY in a multicultural, underserved community. Her journey to become a midwife and bring midwives and doulas together, as well as being a wonderful mother to her 4 children, showed me that we can follow our dreams and vision and in fact we must!
When Jane began her job at Morris Heights she called me and said: Give me 6 months to become settled here and then I would like to start a community doula program.” Six months later with a grant to pay the doulas, I was invited to help her train community women to serve their own community and offer support during labor, birth and postpartum. This was in 1993; the very first multicultural and first community doula program in the world was launched. As I look at the audience as I write, 17 years later, Jane’s vision and DONA’s vision are continuing to grow. The seeds that have been planted are spreading around the world.
Community doula programs are dear to my heart. In 1995, I was Director of the Neighborhood Doula Project in Paterson, NJ. This was a collaborative project with the Northern NJ Maternal/Child Health Consortium, several community agencies, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and the Center For Perinatal Research and Family Support. This was the first doula program to serve women in treatment from substance abuse. Jane came and helped in our training. As I often have done, I entered a new world, a new community and felt that I jumped off a cliff. I have learned to trust there will be safe ground to stand on or I will grow wings whenever I take a leap of faith. I don’t have to know all the answers, only to put together a team so that each person’s expertise can be shared, valued and together we can listen to the women, our intuition and collective wisdom and the answer and way will appear. These years were some of the richest and most challenging doula program I have ever supported. My passion to see doulas available to all women, in all setting and life situations was firmly planted. Not only did the women we serve benefit, but all of us grew and challenged ourselves to reach new heights.
Recently, I shared a doula workshop with a new grant funded doula program in NJ with the Hudson Perinatal Consortium in New Jersey. Jill Wodnick an amazing doula herself is coordinator of this community doula program in Jersey City, NJ. I am overjoyed that my state is once again seeing the value of community doulas.
I feel so blessed to be presenting doula workshops around the world. I shared recently in my blog about new legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives the MOMS bill. When this evidence based approach to maternity care is implemented, doulas have the ability to become part of our evolving health care system, the research is too strong to ignore. As DONA International founder Dr. John Kennell has said, “ if a doula were a drug, it would be unethical to with hold it.”
So it seems it’s time to spread the doula drug. The doulas here, will be taking doulas to communities around the world.
Do you have a doula program in your region? If so, please tell us about it. If not, I hope you will look into starting one as the benefits touch all who are a part of returning caring and nurturing to our communities, women and families at this very special time.