I am so pleased to have been invited to teach the MotherWit Birth Doula Training Intensive in downtown Toronto!

It has been a passion of mine to bring my training to different cities in intensive format. I believe it is extremely difficult to learn the basics of how to be a doula in a weekend workshop. Ideally, a training of a couple of years would be more ideal. However, this is often not a format that works for busy mothers of younger children. Mothers and babies need to be together as much as possible, so I believe that it makes sense to be in a room full of women and babies as we learn how to tend to women and babies. So we do this more grassroots and oldschool…we sit around in the beautiful chaos of nurslings for six days and three evenings (meaning 3 eight hour and 3 twelve hour days), burning the midnight oil so to speak, as women do, as we learn the ins and outs of the role of the doula as being not just the lady who rubs a woman’s back and spritzes her with lavender thoughout labour, but how to be an agent of real change when it comes to healing what is clearly a very challenged birth culture. We learn how to navigate a challenging, regulated, protocol/policy based hospital system to help a woman have the best chance of achieving her goal of having a natural birth (if this is indeed her goal). We learn about what healing means for each individual woman, how a great birth experience is not one which reflects a perfection of extremes, but one which makes the mother herself feel amazing and powerful on her terms.

Our goal? Happy mummies and daddies. Why? Because they tend to have happier children. And happier children tend to grow into adulthood more smoothly. When parents are left aching and depressed over an unsatisfying or even traumatic pregnancy, birth process or postpartpartum period, this has an impact upon the family structure. A doula’s presence is known to create birth environments which parents find more satisfying. That satisfying experience is how we hope our humble role creates that ripple effect into the child’s adulthood, perhaps even creating new legacies of happy births for generations to come. A good clinical outcome is obviously paramount, but the experience of birth for parents is incredibly important as they transition into being a family. Our work is about protecting and nurturing this experience, about working with the family to discover what they need for the best experience possible. And when things don’t go as planned or hoped for, a doula is there for them to lean on to help process the experience and draw upon the parent’s strengths and triumphs for speedier healing. Our kind, conscious, loving attention can buffer a lot of the pain involved in challenging birth experiences, again creating a better chance of parents and babies beginning their lives together from a place the feels whole to them.

Doulas are essential to helping not only healthy families have normal births, but to be an anchor of emotional support and comfort to women who come from very challenging places, having suffered abuse, violence, and abandonment, and/or experience very high risk pregnancies. We are steadfast in creating a space of emotional safety within which a woman can birth on her own terms according to her own needs. We can buffer fear, generate love, nourish health, and provide comfort to women who are suffering. We do this without judgement, honouring each woman’s unique path.

Doulas, despite popular views, don’t eschew modern medicine and technology when it comes to birth. Most of us have been there ourselves. Yes, we do believe the vast majority of time birth goes normally and needs little to no intervention, and we respect what is important for our clients to feel safe and supported. Most of our clients prefer to give birth within the hospital system with quick access to technology “just in case”, so in support of them, we ensure they have knowledge of the procedures and protocols ahead of time, we encourage them to research benefits and risks of each procedure, let them know what is realistic to hope for, and encourage them, with the help of their caregivers, to research their options. This gives them the best chance of giving their informed consent or refusal, and increases their sense of empowerment. We never tell our clients what to do. And we don’t fill them with fear of the hospital system either, as creating fear for the environment within which a client will birth is not condusive to that wonderful oxytocin flow they need for their labour to go as smoothly as possible. We outline the reality of the system, and this may sometimes seem scary to some, but we help clients to rally their resources to work through their fear, suggest ways to make them as comfortable as possible, and clarify their desires with their caregivers. We do this instead of adding fuel to the fire by suggesting hospital routines are a “bad” for those wanting a natural birth. I have seen many exquisitely beautiful, triumphant, amazing natural births in hospitals, so I know good support can transcend some of the challenge these routines create. I have also seen sacred Cesareans and epidurals being nothing less than a blessing, either by advance choice or surprise. The doula’s support of a woman’s sense of emotional safety is essential for her birth to be perceived as a good one for her.

A sense of community is extremely important for a doula to thrive and grow given the intense nature of this work. As we spend six days together, a sense of community and sisterhood grows, ensuring students have other new doulas to conect with after the training so they don’t feel alone. My mentorship extends to after the training as well. Clearly I cannot take on apprentices when I train outside of Montreal, but I can still play a role in being a support person for new doulas, and encourage them to find experienced doulas whom they can shadow for a few births to learn the ropes. Mentorship and support are at the heart of the MotherWit Doula Training, as being a doula from a place of isolation is extremely difficult, and not condusive to growing into the practice as happily.

We also have a LOT of fun at our trainings, which are full of laughter, herbal infusion tasting, massage oil making, essential oil sniffing, massage giving, and most importantly, story telling. Women are story tellers. We learn and grow through a tradition of narrating our lives, our triumphs and woes. As doulas witness the birth of families, we become story keepers, which is a role I take on with great honour. At the end of my days as a doula, my greatest accomplishment is being rich with story. I wish this for you, that you are rich to bursting with stories of triumph and healing through birth that will be passed to the next generations.

If you are interested in becoming a doula, come check us out in Toronto from January 3rd to January 8th, 2012. Specifics about our training can be found at this link

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!