I recently had an essay published in the latest edition DONA International, a magazine produced by DONA, my certifying agency. The article is regarding the BirthWell Partners Doula Retreat I attended last Spring. I am thrilled DONA accepted the piece and look forward to submitting more articles in the future.
Here is a link to the PDF of the essay.
Following is the transcript:
Relax and Re-Charge: BirthWell Partners Second Annual Doula Retreat provides an opportunity for doulas to learn, grow and refocus
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual Doula Retreat hosted by BirthWell Partners at the Kanawahala Program Center in Chelsea, Alabama.
The purpose of the retreat was to provide an opportunity for doulas to relax, recharge and network with other doulas, as well as share stories and techniques with one another. Additionally, the retreat offered educational sessions to assist doulas with professional development and continuing education.
As a birth doula in a state with restrictive laws governing birth choices, I found the retreat rejuvenating and encouraging. The itinerary included many exciting and informative sessions, including two presentations by obstetricians in Alabama. The retreat was a safe place for doulas to share their victories, frustrations and love for birth work. The late nights were filled with laughter, crying and inspiring birth stories.
The retreat opened with a presentation by Dr. Joshua Johannson from Cheaha Women’s Health and Wellness in Anniston, Alabama. He presented on the impact of birth practices on breastfeeding. Dr. Johannson explained the sequential hormones released during birth and the immediate postpartum period. I learned if these hormones are interrupted or compromised it can negatively affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed. For example, if a retained placenta interferes with the normal decrease in the mother’s progesterone level after delivery, it can prevent other hormones from producing breast milk. Dr. Johannson believes immediate skin-to-skin contact for mother and baby is one of the most effective practices care providers can encourage for a positive breastfeeding experience.
Dr. Jesanna Cooper from Simon Williamson OBGYN Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, gave a personal and insightful presentation. Dr. Cooper spoke of her own journey as a mother and physician. She shared how her complicated breastfeeding relationship with her first child caused her to question common standards of obstetric care. She also fielded questions from doulas regarding birth plans and how doulas can better support mothers in the hospital setting.
I especially enjoyed learning from obstetricians who respect childbirth and value doulas. At the end of their presentations, both doctors held a question and answer session and made time afterwards to speak with several of the doulas. I was encouraged to interact with care providers in Alabama who support doulas and their positive impact on a mother’s birth experience.
Other sessions included presentations on encouraging mothers in the early postpartum period, doulas and social media, how to assist clients in finding evidence based care and properly responding to a mother’s emotional needs and anxieties.
On the last day of the retreat, we participated in a low-ropes course. The course afforded a unique opportunity to practice team-building and communication skills. I appreciated how each member of the team was necessary to solve the various challenges we were presented. I was reminded of the value of teamwork and how a caring companion can help you reach goals you thought were impossible.
BirthWell Partners plans to host another retreat in spring of 2016. Proceeds from the event support the Community Doula Project. For more information about BirthWell Partners, visit www.birthwellpartners.org.