Local doula's labour of love

Published by Sun Media, winter 2012

Doula and self professed 'birth junkie', Lindsey Fournier thinks birth is awesome, and is helping other women around Bancroft connect with their bodies, their partners, and the experience of a lifetime. Although Fournier has been certified as a doula for two years already, her new website, www.bancroftandareadoulaservices.wordpress.com has suddenly put her business in the spotlight.

"I'm so fulfilled. It's not a job, it's not a career - it's my life," says Fournier, who at the young age of 24 has already attended more births than she can count, has counselled more than fifty local couples on everything from birth planning and education to lactation consultation, and has three beautiful children of her own.

After completing the academic and practicum portions of her doula certification through Childbirth International, one of the world's most highly recognized doula training organizations, Fournier went on to complete several programs through the World Health Organization and INFACT (Infant Feeding Action Coalition) Canada, including training in breastfeeding counselling and childbirth education. She has also gained hands on experience through working as a second birth attendant for Midwifery Services of Haliburton - Bancroft. Doulas are not regulated in Canada, so certification is not mandatory, however Fournier says she's glad she completed her extensive training because she learned so much, and that she continues to have a thirst for more knowledge.

"I know this is what I'm doing - that I'll be working with women forever," says Fournier, who plans on continuing her studies to become a midwife in the future. "There is no greater honour than being there at someone's entrance into the world, she adds." Midwife training is intense, however, and for now, while her children are young, Fournier is happy being a doula.

"She's an amazing woman for sure! She knows her stuff," says Melanie Porter, who used Fournier's doula services with her second child, and says she wouldn't go through another birth without a doula. "She is a wealth of information and makes herself completely available. Birth can be a challenging experience - it's good to have a rock."

Acceptance of doulas has increased in recent years. Many hospitals have changed their policies to allow three support people in the delivery room (rather than two), so in addition to the birthing woman's partner, and friend or mother, there's also room for a doula. Even with increased acceptance, however, Fournier says misconceptions abound.

"A lot of people don't know what a doula is. People think I'm a crazy hippy or that it's witch doctor stuff, like we light incense and coax the baby out," laughs Fournier.

In reality, Fournier offers services such as prenatal in-home visits, childbirth education classes, birth plan assistance, birth attendance, and post natal support. She offers around the clock on-call phone support to her clients and has even accompanied some to their ob-gyn appointments. Clients can choose just one or two services, or all of them in packages ranging in price from $25 to $500. While in most parts of Canada doula packages start around $1000, Fournier says she is intent on making sure her services are accessible. You might say it's a labour of love.

"Women are told from very young ages that childbirth is an experience to be feared. It doesn't have to be that way," Fournier says emphatically. "It can be wonderful. We're raised to fear this experience that can be embraced."

One of Fournier's biggest beliefs is in informed consent. Interventions, such as inductions, epidurals and cesarean sections have benefits as well as risks, and Fournier feels strongly that women need to know their options before they go into labour.

"It happens too often that people tell me their doctor said this needed to happen, so that's what happened, and then they found out later there were alternatives," says Fournier, adding that many women later carry long-term guilt about such situations because they regret not making better decisions. She speaks from experience. Complications arose during her second child's birth, which was induced - unnecessarily - Fournier believes.

She explains that by educating women about interventions and possible consequences ahead of time, they are able to make informed decisions when the time comes. This allows women to "take ownership" of the birthing experience, and avoid the dreaded "mommy-guilt."

"Otherwise our birthing experience is something that's done to us rather than something we've done. So often I hear people say 'the doctor that delivered our child' - no, you delivered your child."

Empowering women to take ownership of their birthing experiences and to feel good about them is something Fournier is dedicated to. She points out that birth is about so much more than just physically delivering a baby. Women carry their birthing experiences with them for the rest of their lives.

"If you go to the manor and ask the oldest woman there, she will remember everything about her birthing experiences," says Fournier, adding that guilt or regret associated with the birth can be carried for years or decades.

"I had a retched nurse," Fournier reveals, talking about her experience delivering her second child in a typical hospital setting. "I said to her, 'you're making memories with me right now."

Although Fournier personally had a negative experience delivering in a hospital, she says she enjoys attending hospital births just as much as home births, and that the experience can be very positive. The main difference, she says, is that there are so many more options in a hospital. A doula can be a great help in either setting.

While attending births, Fournier says she plays many roles including keeping the birthing mom calm, happy and comfortable, being a reassuring and knowledgeable presence, supporting the birthing mom's partner so they can better support the birthing mom, and by acting as an advocate for the birthing mom.

"If the mom is uncomfortable voicing concerns or requesting something, the doula can do it on her behalf," says Fournier. It is common for women to put the needs and feelings of others before their own, Fournier explains, adding, "If you want, I will be the one who didn't let your mom or aunt Velma into the room while you were pushing."

Fournier continues to be an advocate during the post partum period, too, by encouraging the new mom to take a nap rather than entertaining guests or doing laundry. She says many new moms will try to do too much, and benefit from someone 'giving them permission' to rest.

"Post partum help makes a great shower gift!" says Fournier who now offers gift certificates.

"A lot of women don't want to be a burden," explains Fournier, adding even when family members or friends offer to help out, many new mothers don't accept as much help as they should. "But they don't have to worry about my feelings - this is my job, they're not burdening me."

She points out that couples invest in nice safe cribs, car seats, strollers, and all sorts of thing to help keep the new baby safe and comfortable, but often overlook the new mom's needs.

"We owe it to ourselves to be prepared and to have someone there that can help guide us through the journey," she affirms.

Fournier says she will be adding resources and information to her new website and invites people to check it out. She is currently taking on new clients and can be reached by email at lindseyfournier@live.com or by phone at (613) 332-8024.