The work of a doula is to be brought into an unknown—sometimes chaotic—situation and think, “How can we work with this? How can we provide the best support regardless of circumstances?”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began and the world suddenly slammed on the brakes, Open Arms doulas were no longer able to have in-person visits with families. It was a necessary change to protect the health and safety of doulas and clients, but it also brought up a lot of questions: would the doula-client relationship reach the same level of intimacy without being in-person? Would this alter the way doulas show up for our clients, and therefore influence what kind of care clients may receive, or what kind of births they might have? How would this impact clients for whom English is not their first language, and for those with accessibility concerns around digital communication?
The art of fostering intimacy over virtual platforms is not something I learned overnight. It became a practice for me to create a space within each meeting to help my clients feel comfort, ease, and intentionality, and I often start meetings with a meditation to help clients get into their bodies and feel grounded. Sometimes we watch videos on parenting techniques together, and sometimes we laugh when an older child comes up and wants to chat with us about the baby, or we are both nursing our babies at the same time during a postpartum meeting. Sometimes the digital communication creates a basis for even more understanding, bringing things back down to earth.
As babies continue to come, and we continue to learn new strategies of staying connected to our community during this time, I am grateful to be a member of the Open Arms Birth Doula Services team. Although so much has changed in the past year, the core foundation of what it means to be an Open Arms doula is the same: to create an empowering space for families to find their strengths, to create connections, to provide access to the best care, and to hold the most tender moments for pregnant and new parents, even if they happen over a screen.
~Jasmine Stuverud, Birth Doula