Healthy Women Healthy Futures: Postpartum Doula Workshop at the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership in Harlem, NYC April 21 – 24, 2015.
Creating a village of support for MotherBaby and families in New York City.
Last month was an especially special month for me. I have had a dream, that began almost 30 years ago when I first became a doula, that every MotherBaby, father, partner and family would be able to have a nurturing, unconditionally supportive doula with them during childbirth and postpartum. A doula provides access to information and comfort, and helps parents navigate the many choices and options they have in pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding and the postpartum period with love and respect so they can make informed collaborative decisions and create lasting positive birth memories.
This seemed like a big dream given that in the U.S few women truly know all their options in childbirth. In the U.S., medicalized birth is like an industrialized conveyor belt to the point that women often do not receive personalized, continuous, compassionate care. The overuse of technology has left many women feeling more like an object than a sacred being at the time they are bringing new life into the world. Combine our birth practices with the fact that the U.S has the shortest maternity stays of the Western world, no postpartum home care or follow-up, and provides new mothers with less information and support than if you began a job at a fast food chain. I have never understood why a country that prides ourselves on motherhood and families, offers the least options of all other western countries and lacks services that care for and prepare our Mothers and families for healthy beginnings.
I have worked for 30 years to support the growth of doulas and community doula programs; community women who are trained to support women and their partners and families through the childbearing continuum. Doulas nurture, educate, enhance communication, provide comfort, refer and offer their one-to-one support and care that we know is essential for mothers to have gentler, easier birth with lower rates of interventions including reduced risk of cesarean birth, increased success and duration of breastfeeding, lower rates of depression, less isolation so that both MotherBaby survive and thrive!
As the years have gone on and doulas have grown informally and formally all around the world, I have been blessed to share doula workshops in 28 countries, in each region of the world. I have held strong to my vision of doulas becoming integrated into our health care system and recognized by government and policy makers. Yet, I wondered why — with all the compelling research and NO side effects — our system was resistant to the role that human companionship could play in improving medical outcomes. As the late Dr. Kennell who researched the many benefits of doula care said: “if a doula were are drug it would be unethical to withhold her!” Why Why are there still so many barriers to implementing doula care [or programs], despite evidence demonstrating so many benefits?
Can you hear me yelling out the widows of NYC? Yes, the NY City Council has seen the value of doulas and funded a pilot project Healthy Women Healthy Futures showing NY’s commitment to our mothers in the sensitive, vulnerable time of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The program was developed by small group of caring individuals once again showing the power of a small group to create awareness and change- Ekua Ansah-Samuels, Fajah Ferrer, Elan McCallister, Nan Strauss, Arielle Cheifetz, Mary Powell and other amazing women who all came together as one dynamo force. A diverse coalition of birth workers and dedicated supporters have joined together to make this vision into a reality. They include – Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, the Department of Health, Choices in Childbirth.
“Our hope is that Healthy Women, Healthy Futures will serve as a model for community-based doula programs throughout the country. Community-based organizations, doulas, educators, and health care policy-makers and advocates have joined together in this effort to put women’s needs front and center.” Read more
Healthy Women Healthy Futures is an investment in our families, our communities, society and our next generation. Thank you NY City Council for your dedication and vision for MotherBabies of NY.
Last month, I had the honor of facilitating a DONA International Postpartum Doula workshop for this collaborative program. Pinch Me! Yes, My dream is coming true. My heart is overflowing as I welcomed 21 doulas who will go back to provide support through the following collaborative agencies:
Brooklyn: Ancient Song Doula Services, Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Inc.
Bronx: The Bronx Health Link
Manhattan: Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership
Queens: Queens Comprehensive Perinatal Council. Inc.
Staten Island: Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Inc.
Community Health Center of Richmond
Our workshop of 21 new doulas brought together and honored our diversity in every way, speaking many languages including Polish, Chinese, Spanish, and English, and hailing from many different cultural, religious, community and traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. We wove together a rich tapestry of wisdom that they are ready to birth forward to women in their communities.
Doula workshops are filled with emotions, as we create a sisterhood, filled with special moments of sharing our stories, experience, challenges and joys. One moment that was extra special to me was a morning circle where we shared our nurturing touch with each other, gentle strokes on our shoulders, necks, and head ending as we told each other an empowering statement. A beautiful deep connection was felt by all and the lack of this type of nurturing between women in our own communities was sadly discussed. Doulas are truly reconnecting an essential circle of women to support and care for each other. It does take a village! Healthy Women Healthy Futures is creating a village of support for women, for doulas, for every pregnant women to have access to information, respect, nurturing, care, comfort and the guidance she needs and deserves so she can care for and nurture her baby in the ways she dreams of. Doulas mother the mother so that she gains confidence and will then mother her baby.
Join my dream.
This Mother’s Day add your support by contributing to improve care for all MotherBabies around the world starting with Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership. The Community doulas of NYC are in need of books, and doula supplies. If you have any doula tips, tricks, books or supplies, please send them to The Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership C/O Fajah Ferrer, 127 West 127th Street, Third Floor New York, New York 10027. Thank you!
Qef Johnson, Doula says
This was truly an amazing experience. I’m so humbled to have been apart of your dream and I’m so blessed that you have helped me continue and see my dreams more clearly. Thank you!