For the Fall 2017 Maternal Support Practitioner Program at bebo mia inc we had a record number of scholarship applications submitted! Choosing our winners was incredibly difficult and in the end, we ended up selecting 6 winners. Two of the scholarships were sponsored by amazing female-owned businesses, Hip Mommies & SleepBelt. The other four were sponsored by us because we truly could not pick just one winner for the #bebobabes Bursary. We are so honoured and excited that we are able to provide scholarships to incredibly strong, motivated, kind and passionate women from all over the world who would otherwise not be able to afford a doula training program. When a scholarship recipient is chosen they must submit a blog entry introducing themselves and their “why”.
We are pleased to introduce you to our final Fall 2017 MSP #bebobabes Doula Scholarship Winner, Debra Guenther…
I am Debra from Tallahassee, FL. I am a single mom to my 3 year old son, Ozzy, and to a menagerie of senior animals (I have a soft spot for the oldies and am pretty much on-call at our local shelter). Our household pretty much runs on naptime and snacks.
I work as a program coordinator for an educational research institute and oversee their international projects. While my work is frustrating at times, I thrive on bureaucratic challenges, am awesome at multitasking, and am confident in my abilities to organize chaos and do damage control. It’s not what I imagined myself doing…but I’m grateful for my job because it has allowed me to support my son alone (I have sole custody).
My hobbies include weaving rugs on the floor loom which I built from scratch, working on home repair projects (we live in a fixer-upper that I’m making my own through blood, sweat, and a lot of swearing), perfecting the art of the playlist (I love music and people who introduce me to new music), and general adventuring with little dude.
Without being a Bebo Mia doula scholarship winner, I would be unable to participate in this program right now. My son and I live paycheck-to-paycheck and there is just no room for taking on anything new financially.
I was thrilled to be awarded the SleepBelt scholarship because I am a huge fan of baby-wearing. My toddler’s Tula still gets a lot of use when he’s not feeling well or his little legs get tired. Plus, over the years, a variety of other wraps have helped us to bond and to get things done while still having my hands free (which is invaluable as a single mom).
I’m going to back track a minute… you know, for context. While in my third trimester, my otherwise-healthy pregnancy took a turn for the worst when my son was stubbornly breach (even after two attempted inversions) and (very suddenly) growing off-the-charts. We did not have much support in town (having only recently moved there) and I often felt emotionally abandoned by husband as warnings of potential complications mounted with every OBGYN visit. Knowing the value of doulas (after having friends who work as doulas and having been present at several births with doulas assisting), I decided to seek out the services of one to support me through whatever may come.
Unfortunately, I learned quickly that in my city, doulas are seemingly only available for home births or work exclusively for the birthing cottage in town. For women who choose to deliver in a hospital or are relegated there by high-risk pregnancies or complications; there is little support. When I was delegated as a high-risk pregnancy, I was rejected by every doula I contacted because of the near-certainty that I would need to be monitored and labor at a hospital (at best) or have an emergency c-section (at worst). While they were very kind and apologetic; most seemed to feel that my situation was not a good match for their skillsets (and two even hinted that it would be “bad business” to assist me with a hospital birth because of their affiliations with the birthing cottage).
I also encountered some hostility from my OBGYN office and the hospital I ended up delivering at when simply mentioning that I was looking for a doula to support me.
This left me in a very difficult place because I knew that I wanted (and NEEDED) additional support to get through what could potentially be a traumatic labor but also felt that I was denied that due to the medical needs of my child and conditions under which he would enter this world (for his own safety and mine).
My labor was traumatic. And my postpartum period was difficult. I felt very alone, and very scared, and very resentful. And while it took me a while to push through my own issues and come out the other side; one of the realizations I had that helped was that THIS (becoming a doula) was something I wanted to do and actually felt like I NEEDED to do.
I want my doula business to help fill these gaps in services (offering maternal care and support in a clinical setting) and to begin to recitfy the bad blood that exists between medical and maternal care practitioners so that no other woman has to feel alone and go through what I did.
I want to assist with “village building” services to help women feel more prepared, to make it easier to seek out help, and to allow them to be more adaptable and confident in whatever gets thrown their way (while pregnant or in the postpartum period). Because a difficult labor can be only the beginning and it is often the weeks and months afterwards where women need consistent, trusted support the most.
Here are FIVE ways, as a doula scholarship winner, I intend to advocate for maternal care support through my business:
- I would eventually like to subcontract and create limited partnerships (official or unofficial) with existing OBGYN practices, hospitals, social workers, and therapists (physical and traditional) in my community (as well as expanding to train and hire other doulas). I really want to bridge the gap between expecting parents, doulas, and community support workers and create a comprehensive network of care (placing the doula at the center as a kind of maternal care coordinator).
- Help clients adapt and deal with medical needs.This may include helping them to acquire mobility aids, going over their options for alternative treatments to manage stress or pain, and helping them research and find specialists covered by their insurance.
- Help clients handle the “paperwork” required for preparing for a child (including Family Medical Leave paperwork, applications for supplemental nutrition programs like WIC, and medical directives), as well as preparing for home life for after the baby arrives; assisting with meal prep plans, helping make reservations for visiting family members and friends, acquiring postpartum supplies like wraps, carriers, protective sheets and undergarments, etc.
- I will offer extended breastfeeding and pumping help (since we know how much a woman’s supply can change due to different stressors, nutrition, medication, etc. once she settles in at home). As well as assisting parents to deal with issues like colic, reflux, and food sensitivities in their child that do not manifest usually until 3-4 weeks postpartum or later and offer guidance on modified or elimination diets (in cooperation with their doctor or a dietician), formula options, coping strategies, and positioning help to make feedings more successful and reduce infant distress.
- I will support mothers as they may seek out help for Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Helping them work with their families and find the right medical and community support team to thrive. Being a consistent and familiar source of comfort to help reduce the stigma of seeking help for these issues.
I’ve decided to share a collage that I made a while ago that pretty accurately demonstrates what my parenting journey has been like. I hope that you can see the vulnerability in the earliest pictures of my son and I, laugh at the shared frustration on our faces as he grew older, and enjoy the silly, smart, little dude that he has become (as I do). I am choosing to share this because THIS is what I want to help expectant parents to prepare for.
THIS roller coaster of emotions and challenges that you have to embrace, deal with, and move on. Because that is parenting. That is love. And I want to make sure that they know that from the very first moments; they are not alone.
Bebo Mia’s mission is to connect women* to their intrinsic value & power. One of the ways we aim to do this is by offering the most comprehensive combined fertility, birth & postpartum doula training! Our team of instructors are diverse, interesting, committed to social justice & super funny.
Collectively we are committed to changing the landscape of birth experiences across the globe.
Thinking about registering for class this September? Our EARLY BIRD rate is on now!
Are finances the only barrier to becoming a doula for you? Apply to our Scholarship for the Fall 2018 MSP Program!
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