Does Birth Take A Wealthy Village?

Photo by Jackie Dives

I had a response to my recent blog post, Bringing Midwives, Doulas and Birth Conversation to the Mainstream from a friend:

“…the problem I foresee in todays society, is that until you wrest control from the ‘establishment’, your services will be enjoyed only by those who can afford to do so. So more to the point, it seems to me that it is is more ‘Birth takes a wealthy village'”.

Is this true? Is labour support only for affluent women and  couples who are lucky enough to be able to pay for it?

I certainly hope not. In fact, one of the primary goals of Birth Takes a Village is, and always has been, to recreate  community-based knowledge and support that does not always require women to look solely to professionals for support and information around birth.

From the, ahem, birth, of Birth Takes a Village, I started organizing free community-building discussion groups about birth. These discussion groups focus on creating an environment for women (and men) to share experiences, knowledge, fears and successes in regards to childbirth on a peer-to-peer level. I facilitate these discussion groups, free of charge, and am there to answer questions if the members want input based on my experience and education. But mostly, I am there to encourage people to open up and talk about birth, recreating the community-based wisdom that used to exist around childbirth.

Doula support has an incredible impact on helping women cope with the intensity of  labour.  The services we provide women and their partners during birth are more than a worthy exchange for the finances which allow us to continue our work. There is plenty of research to back up the huge impact doulas can have on birth outcomes and experiences, including reduced rates of instrument and cesarean births.

At the same time, I absolutely value the importance of making supported childbirth available to anyone who seeks it, not just the wealthy.

Birth should absolutely NOT take a wealthy village. We could talk about further accreditation and fighting for doula services and prenatal classes to be covered by the government. But, to be honest, “wresting control from the establishment” is not the mission I am about to embark on. Birth does not need to be “controlled” by doctors, government, or doulas.

Creating more regulation and policies for getting people access to support and resources is the opposite of the shift in birth culture I would like to create.

My goal is to create a culture that allows all women access to information and support throughout their pregnancies, birth and postpartum.  If it is possible for a shift to a more community-focused culture to occur, it will take time. In the meantime, I will do my best to assist anyone who asks for support or resources. And I ask you, what is a supported, positive childbirth experience worth to you? What is decreased pain perception, lower rates of instrumental births, lower risk of cesarean section and increased breastfeeding success worth to you? What is a positive memory of the birth of your baby worth?

I will spend my time focusing on educating women, encouraging them to talk about birth, learn about birth and share positive birth stories with each other to undo our cultural training that birth is scary, dangerous and in need of medical intervention. I personally will not be spending it asking the government to pay for professional doula services and regulate birth further.

I’ll finish with a quote from my website, the real goal of Birth Takes a Village:

“Doula work is my symbol of what I dream for the world: A strong sense of community, support, and respect that allows us all to learn and grow from each other in every step of our journeys. Traditionally, women had a community of other mothers and women surrounding and supporting them during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Our culture has largely taken that support system away, and I want to be a part of recreating it; symbolic of how, ultimately, I wish for a strong sense of community and support everywhere, for everyone.”

For information on doula fees in Vancouver or to arrange an affordable doula for your upcoming birth, please click here.

Flexible payment plans available.

Jessica Austin, Vancouver Birth Doula – Home Births and Hospital Births in Vancouver, BC.

Call 604-700-4115 to arrange a FREE inital interview for doula services.

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  2 comments for “Does Birth Take A Wealthy Village?

  1. Divesin
    December 8, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Something else that I feel is important to add to this is that doulas being paid for their services by people who can afford to have them, allows doulas to volunteer their time to people who cannot afford to have them. For example, I’m a doula who is at a point where I charge for my services as a doula. Being paid by clients who can afford my services allows me to spend my time volunteering with pregnant youth, and to continue to be on the volunteer list for the DSA which provides doulas to women who cannot afford them.

    • December 8, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Good point. That is so true. Thanks for adding that comment! 

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