Thursday, December 15, 2011

Montreal Doula Trainings

MBC volunteer doulas had a potluck meeting the other night, and the subject of doula training came up, as it always does when you get a few doulas together.

Here in Montreal, we have a good selection of opportunities for would-be doulas - but more about that in a minute. First, the whole question of training. We do not need to be trained, any more than doulas are "coaches". One reason why we have to keep using terms that we perhaps don't agree completely with is the grip the internet and its rules has over our choices. "Training" is a keyword that many people will use. Many doula "trainers" will agree with me, this is not an exact description of what we do, but for now, that's the word we agree to use.
Suggestions? Doula guidance? Flaky. Doula program? Could work. Doula course? Too limited.

A good doula training will include teaching, guiding, role-play, hands on experience, and, exceptionally, teaching by example. Usually, the course will have some kind of text, or at least some handouts, to follow; some physical demonstrations; and a role-playing segment where the students can get a sense of what it is really like to assist a birthing woman.

Montreal doula trainings come in two flavors: French, and English. The English programs seem to be few and far between, but most of the would-be doulas here usually find their fit. DONA, the international doula organization, does doula trainings very rarely here, but I have met a few women who have travelled to Ottawa to do their trainings. They cost around $400 for a weekend, and do not include shadowing or mentorship, but do give a good basic foundation. Alternative Naissance also does trainings in English twice a year.

The most well known, and the most comprehensive training in Montreal is the one run by Motherwit. Most of the English speaking doulas in town have graduated, or in the process of working on, this training. It gives the student an excellent preparation for working within the Montreal health care system - which is no easy task! These classes are run two or three times a year, and fill up fast. Mentorship and shadowing is also possible within the program. This is a great course run by a wonderful woman.

I also take on apprentices and run quirky doula courses. I am organizing one in Barbados for the third week of February, in conjunction with the Birth House in Bridgetown.  This summer, in July, I will be teaming up with Lewis Mehl-Madrona to lead a retreat in a fantastic spot in Italy, Casa della Pace. This will be a retreat opportunity for birth workers, writers, and any one interested in healing through story.
I am often approached by would-be doulas for shadowing and apprenticeship possibilities, and I am very open to those. I have four apprentices working with me now, and one in particular is doing a self-directed program using my book as a foundation, in preparation for midwifery training.

If you are interested in any of these possibilities, please email me for further information.

One question the women had the other night was "What if I do the training - and none of them are free! - and then I find out I don't want to be a doula after all"?
My answer is this: "Learn and keep on learning." You will not waste the money and effort doing a good doula program. So much of it prepares you for life, not just for working as a doula. I have learned so much over the years working as a doula that I hope to apply to how I live. Of course, it is important to find the right teacher, and you will know that right away. The choice should be made that way, however, not by price, effort, or convenience. Find a mentor, learn from her. Talk to other doulas. Volunteer. Keep an open mind and an open heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Never Give Up





Never give up

no matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country is spent
developing the mind
instead of the heart
Develop the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
but to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
in your heart and in the world
Work for peace
and I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Never Give Up





Never give up

no matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country is spent
developing the mind
instead of the heart
Develop the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
but to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
in your heart and in the world
Work for peace
and I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bridges

Even if you're a doula, stuff happens unexpectedly and you cannot be available for your clients. When my father went into hospital six weeks ago I had to leave town to go and see him and help my mother. One of my clients gave birth while I was away, and of course she was well taken care of by my backup, but I was sorry I missed her birth.

Then last week I had to go again. I was definitely worried because I have three ladies due in the next couple of weeks. But luckily the babies were kind and no one missed my attendance at their birth. I did miss meeting up with a lady who is looking for a doula, but she found someone else and I know she will be in good hands.

When I went to visit my father a month ago, as soon as I walked into the hospital I felt like I was slipping on a comfy old sweater. I knew what to do. I helped my father with the little things, like rinsing out his mouth, putting an extra pillow under his head, making sure he could reach his iPod. I spoke with the medical staff about his care and helped translate some of the information for my mother so she wouldn't feel so frightened and anxious.

There was a lady in his ward who was having hallucinations because of a bad reaction to one of her medications. I spoke with her about the bug she saw in my father's ear, and the mice that were climbing up the wheelchair. I made everyone laugh when I threw one of my father's special drinks in the garbage can. He wasn't allowed liquids so he had been given a bright red "solid water", which I thought was like Jello. It wasn't. As it hit the bottom of the garbage can, it splashed up all over everything. That took everyone's mind off their pain, for a little while.

Another gentleman was having trouble getting his slipper back on. I went over and asked him if he wanted a hand. Only after I explained that I am often seen putting people's socks on, being thrown up on, and generally helping out, was he happy for me to lift his foot and put it into his slipper. He asked me if the women ever got mad when they were giving birth. I had noticed that he had been pretty frustrated with himself, his immobility and in turn with the nurses. I told him that I had seen several women get angry during labor, and often just breathing it out could help.

During the next few weeks, after I came back home, I found I was often back at the ward with my father. I spoke to his nurses and doctor on the phone, and I found myself getting frustrated. I knew that my frustration was because life is so unpredictable, but I felt myself being upset with the vagueness of their answers. I realized that I sounded like the first time mother when she is thinking that she will be pregnant forever.

My father was very sick during that time. The doctor told me later that she was surprised that he made it through. Finally last week they said he would be going home, so I went back out to help get everything ready. gain, when I went into the hospital I put my doula cap on. Of course, I was more emotionally connected than a regular doula would be, but I found myself tidying up around his bed, organizing the things on his table, making sure what he wanted was in reach, covering him with the fleecy from home.

My questions to the doctor were also familiar to the doula: what is going to happen? Will he survive? Can he stay home? What if...? What if...?
These are the questions a doula deals with all the time, not only from her clients, but from partners, and their mothers and fathers. We feel so vulnerable in the face of life's events. Each chapter comes as such a surprise. I didn't think I would live past 31 (when John Keats died). How could I now be taking care of my aging parents? How could my father have gotten sold so suddenly?
New parents feel the same way: "I can't believe I'm actually going to have a baby! How can I take the responsibility for someone else's life? Will everything be okay? Will I survive?"

The doula is there to answer questions, and to let the woman (or her partner) know that some questions are unanswerable, and that that's okay too. She may just be there to provide a shoulder and a box of Kleenex. She is the companion that we take with us when we have to cross a bridge, whether its a bridge into life or away from it. She accompanies those who are here, waiting for someone to come in or someone to leave. She is probably the most important person on the care-giving team. She accepts and assists, and she knows that some questions cannot be answered.