Certified Doula

Beyond the Bio: Meet Laura

Meet Laura - our newest doula! We first met Laura in August and we’ve been smitten ever since! You see, Laura is a type of grounding person you that puts you immediately at ease and you just know deep in your bones that whatever you tell her, she’ll never judge you and will find a way to support you, no matter what. Find out more about Laura below:

Toronto Doula

WHAT DREW YOU TO PERINATAL WORK?

For the past 12 years I was actually in the world of theatre. I was confident for my teenage years that I was only going to be an actor, and nothing else. Eventually, I found that acting was not very fulfilling. I constantly felt nervous about what my body looked like. There is a lot of body shaming, and a lot of sexism in the industry. I was tired of feeling both self centered, and self conscious all the time. I realized that I wanted to make an impact not by how I looked like, but what I did to help others in times of vulnerability and change. I was always someone that worked well in a crisis, and I have always found birth fascinating. The more I started researching the role of a doula, and the more I learned about artists who were also doulas, I was confident this was the right fit. The training with DONA International was incredible, and after the first birth I went to I knew it was where I belonged!

IF YOU WEREN'T A PERINATAL SUPPORT WORKER WHAT WOULD YOUR ALTERNATE JOB BE?

Great question. I still do love writing and creating pieces of art, but I also know down the line I would like to be a midwife. So possibly a midwife who also writes books, and creates performance art...? Let's say that!

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL?

Either a nurse or an actor. I'm not a nurse, but I think I got pretty close to my childhood goals!

IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TOMORROW WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

Every year I try to go camping in Wisconsin. It seems like I should be picking Paris, or somewhere in Africa, but honestly the forests and water there is absolutely breathtaking. I'm a big camper, and I would take a tent over a fancy hotel any day!


WHAT WOULD THE PERFECT OFF-CALL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

Oooo, this is a great question. First off I would get a ridiculous amount of sleep. I would wake up on a sunny afternoon, and meet some friends in a park to catch up, and rant about how great it is to be a doula. The night would be complete with my friends and I splitting a bottle of wine, and singing folk songs slightly off key.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE THING (OR TWO) THAT YOU HAVE NO GUILT ABOUT INDULGING IN?

Smartfood popcorn. It's bliss.

Name one thing...

…YOU LEARNED THE HARD WAY ABOUT BIRTH EARLY IN YOUR DOULA CAREER:

Ooo I learned that early labour can last days and days. One time I took the whole day off expecting to run to the hospital, but it was just me waiting around in my home for a full day before I was needed. Birth is just as unpredictable as everyone says!

... YOU LOOK BACK ON IN YOUR LIFE THAT MAKES YOU FEEL PROUD:

Honestly I would say switching careers to become a doula! It was scary, and it took a lot of thought, but I've never been happier.

... THAT USUALLY SURPRISES PEOPLE ABOUT YOU:

I ate my first orange 2 years ago. As a child they scared me. Not sure why. I love them by the way.

... THAT'S ALWAYS IN YOUR FRIDGE OR PANTRY:

Smartfood popcorn. Did I mention that it is bliss? It is.

What is your favourite...

COLOUR?

Green. Green. Green.

ANIMAL?

Bernese mountain dogs. Also turtles.

SEASON?

Summer. Can't stand winter.

TORONTO CAFE?

You can always find me at Voodoo Child by Kensington Market!

BIRTH/PERINATAL BOOK?

When Survivors Give Birth! It's a very heavy read but it opened my eyes to the importance of trauma informed care.

What should you ask during a doula interview?

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This is one of the most frequent questions we get asked during doula interviews. If you google it you'll find a lot of questions to ask your potential doula - sometimes too many. Getting information is important but we suggest that getting a feel for the person you're interviewing is also important. Someone may look fantastic on paper and be a nice person but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're the best fit for you. 

During your perinatal journey you have a limited choice (if any) of health care providers. Maybe you like them, maybe you don't. Maybe you chose them for their particular skill set or location. In choosing a doula you can go with your gut feeling. Here are our tips on what to ask and do during a doula interview:

1) Think about what's important to you before the interview or even before contacting a doula. 

A while back we wrote two blog posts about what to consider when thinking about hiring a doula.  Do you want a certified doula trained with a specific organisation for insurance purposes? If you answered yes to this question than this is something you can easily find out before meeting the person - saving yourself a whole lot of time and emotional and mental energy. 

While we are on the topic of saving time and energy we highly recommend figuring out the doula is available and around for your estimate due date (if you're hiring a birth doula) before meeting them. Why meet with someone who may be unavailable or potentially away?

2) Pick a place where you feel comfortable. 

We can't stress this enough - you should feel comfortable chatting about yourself and your perinatal journey. No super public noisy rushed cafes! 

3) Ask about relevant experience and perinatal philosophy. 

A new doula might be as good as an experienced doula - there is no way to really know unless you hire them. That doesn't mean you can't ask a doula about their experience and take them into consideration. Some great questions are:

  • How many births have you attended?
  • How long have you been a doula?
  • Have you worked at X hospital/birth centre?
  • Why and how did you become a doula?
  • How do you see your role in this experience? How would you describe your support? 
  • What is your birth philosophy? 
  • Do you have additional training?

4) Ask about logistics. 

  • How would you work with my partner(s)?
  • How many births do you take a month? 
  • Do you work with a back-up? Could I/we meet them?
  • What's covered in your pricing? Does your pricing change if you are at my labour for a prolonged period of time? 
  • When do I call you if I'm in labour? What if I just have a questions?
  • When do you join me in labour? How long do you stay postpartum? 

5) Get to know the person. 

We think finding a doula so much more than asking doula related questions. Make small talk! Get a feel for their personality! Notice if they're receptive to that - mindfully listening and asking engaging questions in return. Have a meaningful conversation - this person may part of an important time in your life. 

6) Check in with yourself. 

This is the most important piece. Did you feel comfortable with the doula? Did they seem interested in you and what you want beyond answering questions? Does it "feel right"?

We know "feel right" is a hard feeling to quantify, sometimes though some people just click. If it doesn't happen, that's OK. It may build over time. 

7) Don't interview too many or too few doulas. 

Take it one at a time and sit with it a little while - unless you really clicked or you really didn't. Some people find their doula after the first interview, some find them after 2-3. We wouldn't recommend interviewing more than though as people will blend into each other. We suggest figuring out what's important to you and filtering doulas before contacting them. 

These are all our tips! Hope they help!

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

 

Thinking about hiring a doula? Here are some things to know - part 1

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"Having a person who unconditionally nurtures you during a major life experience is a privilege too few enjoy. Doulas provide this exquisite nonjudgemental support to others - often strangers - and touch people's lives in profound ways."                                                                 - Loretta Ross, The Doulas Radical Care for Pregnant People

You may have heard the word doula before - perhaps in a pregnancy, birth, and postpartum context; perhaps in a reproductive justice context. Or maybe you've never heard it before. 

A doula is a person (often woman-identified, but not always) who helps people during their perinatal journey - most often during their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum (but, again, not always). Depending on where are you during your perinatal journey doulas are an investment - both financially and emotionally (your doula may be with you between 4 to 100+ hours, holding space for you, and guiding you through vulnerable and emotional times). Below we touch on some questing to consider before deciding on a doula. 

1) What do you want a doula for?

While most doulas attend only births and/or offer postpartum support, fulls spectrum doulas are slowly emerging. Perhaps full spectrum doulas have always existed, but doula work began moving past only birth/postpartum support more significantly in 2008 when the Doula Project in NYC began training volunteer abortion doulas. 

Today, full spectrum care encompasses even more - doulas offer fertility, miscarriage, abortion, birth, postpartum, adoption, and surrogacy support. You can absolutely get a doula for any or all of these life's events - if you'd like to learn more about it, drop us a line. All of us at Spectrum Doula Collective are full spectrum doulas. 

2) What's the difference between midwives and doulas?

We get asked this question a lot. A midwife is a healthcare practitioner who studied midwifery in a university and a clinical setting. In Ontario, midwives are regulated by the College of Midwives of Ontario (CMO) and they are paid for by government under the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, meaning that residents of Ontario not covered by OHIP can still receive midwifery care for free. 

A doula is not a healthcare practitioner and as such does not do any clinical duties. A doula is trained by a doula organisation (although there are those who had been nurses or midwives and now solely practicing as doulas without specific training). Doulas not currently a regulated profession and are paid for out of pocket although some private insurances are starting to cover doula care (see below). 

While midwives are concerned with the health of you and the baby, doulas are concerned with your mental, physical, emotional, and sometimes spiritual well being. Doulas hold space for you and provide you with support, caring, and encouragement. 

3) What about certification?

Some doulas are certified, some doulas are not. There are many certifying organisations for doulas with different prerequisites. Most of them have a course section and a practical section. Some prospective doulas take only the course section and start practicing, some doulas do the practical as well but don't certify, some doulas do both and certify and some don't do either. 

There is no regulatory body for doulas. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if certification is important to you. 

4) Can your insurance cover it?

Sometimes. Some people can claim doula care under their health spending account with "flex dollars" built in; however, some insurance companies require that the doulas are certified through specific organisations (usually either DONA* or CAPPA). Some doulas are also RMTs or Naturopaths and may be covered through those designations (though this limits your choice of doula). 

*our doulas DONA-certified 

5) What about your partner(s)? (if applicable)

If you currently have a partner (or more) they (or you) may wonder if their role may change when hiring a doula. The short answer is yes. 

The longer answer answer is that your partner(s) role is amplified. Doulas provide partners with both the skills and confidence to support you. Doulas work with partners during all stages of your perinatal journey. 

 

We hope you found this useful - stay tuned for our part 2! If you have any questions, drop us a line

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

My Body That Could. . . and Did!

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My journey to motherhood began in 2002, the year my husband and I were married. Right after our wedding we stopped all prevention and started down a long and bumpy road. After six years of tracking cycles, taking temps, ultrasounds, meds, and intervention, we came to a cross roads. We thought long and hard about what our next move would be in the mission to become parents, and like a ton of bricks it hit me, I didn't need to be pregnant, but I did need to be a mother. This propelled us onto another path where we would become foster parents, and eventually welcome, our now oldest daughter into our home and hearts. We had done it! We were parents and we were a family.

Our conceiving a biological child became insignificant and we looked forward to giving our all to our darling daughter. Less than a year after our daughter came to us I discovered I was pregnant. Sadly nine weeks later that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was so sad, so mad and for a long time never thought I would forgive my body for such a cruel trick. Months past, five to be exact and I was pregnant again! I was in disbelief, but in an instant, I knew what my miscarriage was meant to teach me, it taught me to believe in my body, have faith that it could do, what for so many months and years I was angry for it not doing.

We welcomed our second daughter into the world in April 2009.  Seven years after we began our journey to parenthood, there we were the beaming parents of two beautiful girls. My journey to motherhood had been full of so many emotions, and in the end the biggest one was joy. I knew if my body would allow me, I had to give that joy to another woman who was unable to carry a baby herself.

I set out to help a couple find that same joy of adding a biological child to their family. After discovering Joanne, Robyn and the Canadian Surrogacy Options agency, we found an incredible couple. In 2012, another beautiful baby girl was brought into this world, with the help of my body. A few months after she was born, I felt compelled to be a surrogate again. As much as I wanted to help another couple who had a long and heart-breaking path to grow their family, I was asking of my body for another miracle to share. CSO helped connect me with another couple and professionals to ensure that what my body needed to do was done safely and healthy for everyone involved. It was an honour again to help a couple in need and in 2014 we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world…again my body did what I knew it could. I have been so blessed, so incredibly blessed to carry three children, one of them my own, and two whom I was able to give back to their mommies once they were ready for the world.

Becoming a parent wasn't easy; making my choice to become a surrogate was a simple choice and CSO added to that comfort, lending support every step of the way. Lending my body, opening my heart to a connection that no words can express has truly shaped my soul. Now, I am bigger part of the CSO family and have been given the opportunity to support other intended parents on their journey to making their dream of a family come true.

ABOUT JULIA HOWELL

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Julia began as a Surrogate with Canadian Surrogacy Option and has now joined the CSO team helping to support surrogates and intended parents through each of their respective journeys.  Julia is a mother of two, a surrogate of two and currently carrying her third gift of life for an excited couple from Newfoundland. She currently lives in Trenton with her family.

If you are interested in becoming a surrogate or in search of one, you can contact Julia and Canadian Surrogacy Options directly through any of their networks. Their egg-donation division, Little Miracles, is also available for anyone seeking services. And you can follow Canadian Surrogacy Options through Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond the Bio: Meet Megan . . .

When Megan started work as a doula, she felt that there was a gap in the Toronto birth community. And so Spectrum Doula Collective was born. Megan hopes that no matter how or when you choose to grow your family that Spectrum Doula Collective can be a safe space to find support. Pretty cool, hey? We think Megan is pretty cool too . . .

What drew you to doula work?

After a career break and travelling for a couple of years I came back to Toronto with a new perspective and was keen to work in an inclusive, and progressive environment where I would feel like I'm making a positive impact. When I returned from my travels my very pregnant friend was telling me about her doula, and with my previous work in maternal and LGBTQ health, a light bulb went off. A week later I signed up for the Birthing From Within Doula and Mentor Training, and the rest is history.

If you weren't a doula what would your alternate dream job be?

If I weren't in birth work, I would love to be working with penguins (I'm being very serious! I went to the Antarctic a couple years back and was in awe), OR I've often day dreamed about owning a Bed & Breakfast on Vancouver Island while bee keeping and making honey (pipe dreams?).

What did you want to be when you were in elementary school?

There were so many things I wanted to be, but it ranged between being an artist, a doctor, a firefighter, to an architect. I had no idea what any of the above entailed but they all sounded good at the time.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

This is such a hard question for me, I've been to so many countries that I would love to go back to (Norway, Mongolia and Nepal to name a few) and many more I would like to visit! I have never been to New Zealand though and it's top on my list!

What would the perfect off-call day look like for you?

Because off-call days are so rare, I usually like to spend them doing something away from my phone. I imagine paddle boarding on Toronto island with a good friend or two followed by a picnic in the summer would be lovely, or brunch followed by Body Blitz with some friends in the winter would be perfection!

Favourite vice (or two) that you have no guilt about?

Please don't judge me. I am a sucker for Survivor and the Bachelor/Bachelorette (I promise I won't bring either up unless you ask me first). I love playing bad pop music while I'm driving. And I love chocolate, and cake, and cookies, and sour cream glazed timbits. . . and well anything sweet.

 

Name One Thing . . .

. . . you learned the hard way about birth early in your career:

My first client hired me late in her third trimester and the day she confirmed, she found out she was 4 cm dilated and 60% effaced. I thought she was going to go in to labour that night. After a week of anticipation, and not much sleep she finally called with contractions. I had no idea that someone could be 4 cm dilated walking around the city like nothing is happening for a whole week!

. . . you look back on in your life that makes you feel proud:

I cycled across Canada the summer of 2014. When I started in Vancouver, my cousin asked 'what the heck are you doing??' I said, "I don't know, but I'm here and have to make my way back home". I had told myself that at anytime, I can hop on a bus or a plane if I don't want to finish. But I biked every inch, solo, and self supported from Vancouver to Halifax. Whenever I'm struggling or think something isn't possible I say to myself "Megan! You biked across Canada, you can surely do this".

. . . that usually surprises people about you:

That I use to play Rugby. I actually started the girls rugby team at my high school eons ago, and played Varsity at the University of Waterloo. Even when I was playing rugby people were surprised to find out. It's like they imagined me in the 'end' zone picking daisies or something? (To be fair there were some days where I would have preferred picking daisies).

. . . that's always in your fridge or pantry:

Almond milk, cheese, and hummus.

 

What's your favourite . . .

Colour

Green

Animal

Elephant

Season

Spring

Toronto Cafe

Boxcar Social Riverdale

Birth Book

Labyrinth of Birth by Pam England