Imagine yourself as a mother-to-be, waiting 5 hours in an over-crowded clinic to seek medical advice that leaves you feeling like just another number in the system. …And now imagine being in your own space, speaking with a woman who has been with your through your pregnancy, who has not only gone through the same process, but is trained in the area of pregnancy care and support, offering guidance whilst taking your own personal wishes into consideration. These two experiences can lead to completely different outcomes when it comes to mother and baby bond, health and the entire pregnancy, birthing and postpartum experience.
The social impact of doula
Sadly, so many women are still stuck in a system that constricts their power and opportunity for a healthy and happy birth, largely due to income disadvantages. Often times mothers who do not have a large budget to tailor their medical care and choose their preferred midwife and birthing procedure in clinic or at home will choose a less personal and supportive, more medically dry option of standard care. This can lead to health complications in the mother, and even in the child, without close enough attention paid to the personal and unique requirements of these mothers in need. Allowing the space and opportunity for women to access the loving, personalized support that a doula can give is what has driven one powerful, inspiring women to her life’s work. As an activist, speaker, certified doula, lactation counselor, midwifery assistant and founder of ‘Ancient Doula Services’ Chanel Porchia-Albert is certainly a model for positive change in women’s health. Driven by her mission to provide low income families, particularly women of color quality doula services that would otherwise not be accessible to them, not only does she delve deeply into this work, she is also a vegan chef, holistic health counselor, and mother of 4! This is why we chose to highlight this inspiring woman for this BalancedBae Spotlight. Before her own pregnancy, Chanel attended a natural birth expo and met a midwife and doula of color. She got some information that sparked her curiosity and only years after during her own pregnancy in standard medical care was she reminded of the alternative. She wanted a personal approach, contacted this woman and had an amazing experience in her first birth. From working in corporate America, she knew she was at a higher advantage of having her insurance covering the costs of her own home birth, though also realised how many women out there wouldn’t have this option themselves. She learned of the clinics where women wait up to five hours (or longer) for 10-minute visit. Seeing women give up their own intuitive power as new mothers, who can only access minimal, impersonal care with their economic status, she felt compelled to do something to help. This led her to create a space where women can access the care they need to experience a safe, memorable and empowering birth.
The creation of ‘Ancient Song Doula Services’
“I believe every woman has a “Ancient Song” and I am here to assist her with the keys she needs to sing” – Chanel Porchia-Albert Doula work is amazing, and can also be extremely expensive. Chanel’s work aims to bridge the gap between those who access personal, quality care and those who are unable to afford this luxury. She drew from her skills from her corporate work to create and organize this foundation. She made calls to doula in the community who would offer their services and developed training programs that were affordable to women. She was inspired by the history of women of color, like herself, who had always took this role of offering support and care in pregnancy and were already ‘doulas’ without even realising. So, Ancient Song Doula Services was founded in 2008 with the mission to offer quality doula series to women of low-income families and women of color. This company has grown to offer trainings, workshops, midwifery care, wellness services and advocacy purely through the engagement of the community and campaigns to address the resource discrepancy in communities of color. Chanel focuses on women of color, though also supports low income families, undocumented women and those suffering domestic violence. She years to give a voice to those who are overlooked.
What exactly does a doula do?
A doula is a woman who is trained professionally in childbirth and postpartum care to offer physical, emotional and education support to mothers. As the relationship begins months before the due date, a doula develops a relationship with the mother, where the mother feels safe to ask questions, express concerns and work alongside a professional to create a personalize birthing plan and after birth care. Doulas are usually in constant close proximity to the mothers during delivery, assisting the process with pain relief and relaxation techniques of breathing, positioning the body and massaging. The encouragement of also having someone who has been there and has training in this area is one of the biggest benefits of the doula-mother relationship. Doulas continue their relationship after the birth to assist new mothers in the process of breastfeeding and in encouraging the bond between infant and mother. Doula and midwifery is becoming more popular as time progresses. This time honored tradition is a way for mothers (especially those birthing for the first time) to feel that they have personalized care and support throughout their pregnancy and birthing process.
Why there is such a need for doula services
Compared with European counties, US infant mortality rates are among the worst countries with these high mortality rates almost exclusively due to inequality in medical support offered to mothers who are considered low income or disadvantaged. Centers for disease control and prevention reports that women who receive no prenatal care and up to 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than women who receive support. There are also statistics to support the fact that racial discrepancies are a very real thing. During 2011-2013, the amount of deaths in live births in women of color were almost 3 times that of the deaths of Caucasian women. (43.5 deaths per 100,000 colored women, 12.7 for Caucasian).
“Regardless of race, class or socioeconomic status in life, we all deserve to have a human birth.’ – Chanel
Chanel’s mission is to lower infant mortality and material morbidity rate through this community work, through giving women the tools and knowledge to support themselves. She is all about empowerment, working in the past with women in domestic violence shelters, she understand that the process of birthing in itself can be a way to connect women back to their own inner strength to feel confident to create a safe and quality life on their own. She recognizes the need in these instances for a doula to offer support and encouragement through the process. In an interview with the blog ‘everymothercounts’, Chanel states, “the kind of support a doula can give can be monumental in helping a mother shift the way she thinks about herself and her ability to heal.” As a beacon for women in disadvantaged communities, her ability to recognize that there are women who need the support and care, and then act on this with passion is what makes her an inspiration. All of this, while balancing being a mother of 4! If you’d like to volunteer, donate, or support Ancient Song Doula Services, then go to: https://www.ancientsongdoulaservices.com/
Have you had your own experience of birthing with support of a doula? Let us know how it was in the comments below?
Also – if you know of another inspiring women in the world of wellness who could be featured on our BalancedBae Spotlight, tweet us!Article References: “Ancient Song Doula.” Ancientsongdoula. NativeSoul7, n.d. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://www.ancientsongdoulaservices.com/>. Chen, Alice, Emily Oster, and Heidi Williams. Why is Infant Mortality Higher in the US than in Europe?. No. w20525. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2014. “Q&A with Chanel Porchia-Albert – Founder of Ancient Song Doula Services.” Every Mother Counts. N.p., 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://blog.everymothercounts.org/q-a-with-chanel-porchia-albert-founder-of-ancient-song-doula-services-6e17611243b7>. “Reproductive Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 June 2017. Web. 22 July 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pmss.html>.