With the closure of our schools in March due to COVID-19, so much has changed about the way we conduct learning in our pre-school, elementary, and middle school classrooms. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to our scholars and families. In this series, we’ll highlight our teachers and staff and the ways they’ve adapted to continue educating and supporting scholars and parents through COVID-19.
How long have you been with Christopher House?
I started as an intern in October 2018, and I transitioned to doula in February 2019.
Can you explain your role? What are your main responsibilities?
A doula is a trained person who helps women prepare for labor. At Christopher House, we serve pregnant teens, anyone who is 21 or younger and a first-time mom. Many of the girls we serve are around 18-21, but we do have some younger girls, between 13 and 18.
During the prenatal visits, we empower young mothers to learn as much as possible about their rights and all the different components of their birth. We develop their birth wish and outline their preferences during labor, discuss breastfeeding, breathing techniques, and medical interventions. I attend their labor and support them through their labor as well as help their laboring partner. I also help with breastfeeding once the baby arrives, as they’re adapting during that big transition from being pregnant to having the baby.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
Right now, we’re doing virtual doula visits. I have 12 people in my caseload, and we’ll schedule a time each week to call or do Zoom video conference. We’re still sharing information and discussing the same topics we would in person. It is tough because usually, I’ll use breast or pelvic models, and with us not being able to go into their homes, we’ve been relying on verbal communication. But I’ve been sending handouts and screen-sharing, as well as sharing YouTube videos.
Because of COVID-19, there is only one laboring support person allowed in the birth room. One of the moms in my caseload had a birth in April, and I was only able to virtually support her. I was texting her and offered to do a Facetime or a phone call with her or her laboring partner. We were communicating through text during her birth, and I would send images of things she could try to work through the contractions. I would give suggestions like, “You can ask for a hot pack, maybe that could help.” Just texting her and showing that I cared about her well–being and the baby, even though I wasn’t present, had an impact. I remember she was bummed that I wasn’t able to go—she even asked if I could be in the waiting room.
I have talked to the rest of the girls about the possibility of me not being able to attend the birth. In the meantime, we’re still talking through different topics related to their birth and all their options. I want them to know it’s important for them to advocate for themselves and for their babies, and I’ll still be available via text, Facetime, or phone.
How are you continuing to connect with students and families?
Constant communication and checking in with them. At least twice a week, I send a quick text saying that I hope everything is ok, especially for those moms who are getting closer to their birth date. When everything was newer with COVID, it was very nerve-wracking for these moms, having their first baby and not having things go according to plan. I want to show them that we care for their well-being, and if they need anything, they can always reach out.
To better serve these moms, I’ve also been doing doula webinars with the Ounce of Prevention every two weeks. They’re doula-only webinars where everyone shares their current experience and new ideas we can incorporate into our calls and new resources.
What are you most looking forward to after quarantine?
I’m looking most forward to actually going to births. It’s something very special to witness, another life being born. There’s a lot of satisfaction at the end, after all the hours during the labor, when the baby is out and mom is so happy. That’s one of the things I miss the most.
What advice do you give students/families for coping with COVID-19?
Our moms are concerned right now because they really want that support from additional family members and their doula or parent educator. They want that physical presence from others. They’re scared that they won’t be able to get the things they need for the baby or that they may run out of wipes or diapers. They’re low-income and they fear bringing a baby into the world and not being able to support them.
But most of them are doing pretty well. We talk a lot about self-care and how they’re doing emotionally and physically. I remind them to stay home, stay healthy, not only for them but for their child. If you’re okay, your baby is going to be okay also.