Global Midwifery

Making History

This morning we opened the first ever DONA doula training on the African continent. I must admit, I hadn’t considered the historical significance of that before our host announced it. Actually, I hadn’t realized it. While Tammy has been a DONA trainer for five years, I let my doula certification lapse last year because it was impossible for me to attend births while in school. I can honestly say, I would not have expected to be a part of such an event. But Tammy and I work well together as we investigate the challenges facing women around the world.

And as if the universe understood the significance of today, we were greeted this morning by a stork.

Delivering doulas to the African continent

The women seemed very engaged in learning the role of the doula. Many of our participants are currently, or have been midwives in Nairobi. We were not sure how difficult the transition from midwife to doula would be for them. They shared their concerns, especially focusing on the lack of health care personnel for laboring women. Wouldn’t it be smart of them to help a mother deliver while they are acting as doulas? It helps the mother they are commissioned to serve. Our answer was a stern “No.” To begin the work of doulas in Nairobi with an ambiguous role that allows the hospital to use you as free labor rather than correcting their problems does not help the women of Kenya. The doulas agreed, and now seem ready to advocate not only for the role of the doula, but also for the rights of laboring women to have real access to care.

The biggest surprise for Tammy and I came as we discussed the challenges of being on call. In the USA, many women are hindered from performing the role of the doula because they have young children to care for at home. As we listened to the women listing the challenges they would face, not a single woman named issues with childcare. So Tammy asked, is anyone going to face challenges providing care for their children while at a birth? The women looked confused, then one brave young mother explained that Kenyan mothers have day nannies. If they are called to a birth they simply negotiate for the nanny to stay longer. Instead, their strongest concern was for their personal safety. How would they ensure a safe trip from their home to the hospital after dark. Just another reminder that we live in totally different worlds.

Tomorrow our class will be observed by a writer from a parenting magazine published by Johnson & Johnson. During this visit, the writer will interview Tammy to complete the story. What a wonderful start to the marketing of doulas for Nairobi.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)