Fanshawe drop-in Doula sessions: A hand to hold during all stages of pregnancy and birth

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The Doula sessions provide a service that program coordinator, Christal Malone feels is entirely missing in the pregnancy and postpartum world.

Students in Fanshawe’s Doula studies program will be hosting a series of free, virtual community drop-in sessions that assist new, expecting parents and anyone dealing with loss around this area. The sessions enable individuals in need to build social connections, seek support and otherwise navigate an entire spectrum of situations that revolve around childbirth, postpartum, breastfeeding and even child loss. The weekly sessions, delivered under the guidance of faculty member Christal Malone, will provide a friendly and supportive space for all family dynamics, including LGBTQ2S+, to explore questions about childbirth, feeding, infant care and more.

Sessions will take place every Friday at 4 p.m. via Zoom beginning Oct. 29 until Dec. 17. Sessions usually last one hour.

Last year, like all things, the drop-in sessions moved online. Instead of losing the personal touch of conducting the sessions face-to-face, the online program flourished. This new virtual system had the opposite effect than expected and illuminated barriers adding an unexpected extra layer of privacy and confidentiality. The students, who pride themselves on creating a nurturing and safe space for their valued clients, were able to provide an even more intimate atmosphere for the attendees. What students also noticed was they were able to provide this enormously beneficial care to a wider audience and connect more throughout the entire province and Canada. In the end, the virtual drop-in sessions enhanced the student client relationship. Both parties will walk away with more skills, more tools, more confidence and most importantly, more connection.

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Who benefits from attending Doula sessions?

A Doula is a non-medical person trained to give emotional and physical support for people going through childbirth, parenthood and sometimes even child loss. During the drop-in sessions, the Doula students will be offering physical and emotional support revolving around the stages of pregnancy, the stages of labour, types of comfort measures and anything around chest feeding. It’s open to anyone that is experiencing some form of parent transition, whether that is pregnancy, fresh postpartum and beyond.

The highly trained Doulas also support with more delicate and highly sensitive aspects of pregnancy like termination or any form of loss. One in four women experience some form of loss during pregnancy and one of the things students in the program are taught is that there is always the potential for them to interact with someone who is experiencing some form of loss and this includes termination.

Loss also includes situations where a mother may experience trouble with breastfeeding and have to turn to bottle feeding. According to Malone, there is a lot of guilt associated with things like that and the students help unpack the mother's feelings around this. In more delicate situations, the sessions will be utilizing breakout rooms so attendees can share experiences and personal information in a more private way.

Malone has run over 100 drop-in sessions and said these hands-on sessions provide the students with the ability to realize the importance of peer-to-peer support, and the rallying around each other that can take place in these spaces.

“For example, when you have a really tired parent that is struggling with their chest feeding, or when you have a very experienced parent meeting a first-time parent,” she said. “It is beautiful to see the connection that we all have, that missing piece of having a village around you, and the wisdom and the sage kind of relationships that conform.”

For Malone, the Doula sessions provide a service that she believes is entirely missing in the pregnancy and postpartum world.

Reproductive freedom

Reproductive justice is the right to have children, the right to not have children and the right to parent with dignity. During the drop-in sessions, the Doulas uphold all three of these tenants. They are trained to understand why it is vital to not assign a specific feeling to a situation like a termination, being taught that abortion for someone can be a sense of loss or it can be a sense of release or relief. This is why the importance of the safe space the drop-in sessions provide is emphasized.