Doulas in Adoption – Wanting to be helpful

By Randie Bencanann, LCSW, Adoption Connection Co-director

Last Wednesday, I participated in a wonderful evening sponsored by the Bay Area Doula Project. It was a panel discussion organized to bring adoption information to the doula community and local reproductive rights organizers and supporters. (Yes, it was game one of the World Series— but we were frequently updated on the score during the presentation.)

So what is a doula? Traditionally, a doula has been a birthing coach and a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, or after her birthing process, as well as continuous care and support to her partner and/or family.

The Bay Area Doula Project also offers “full spectrum” doula training in order to support women through all of their reproductive experiences, whether they be abortion, adoption, or parenting.

Local doulas discuss open adoption
Local doulas discuss open adoption

This was a group of 35 well-trained, incredibly empathic, and very interested health professionals. And it was great to see one of Adoption Connection’s clients in the audience accompanying a friend who is a doula.

The most moving part of the evening was when two birthmothers spoke about their adoption experiences placing babies with adoptive families.

Birthmothers Tell Their Stories

The first speaker had placed her child 25 years ago, in 1986— coincidentally the year that I started at Adoption Connection. For that time, she worked out a very open adoption—with  a meeting, pictures and letters, and yearly visits–until she moved away five years into the adoption. Although she still has regular contact with the adoptive parents, she is now sensitively working toward re-opening the relationship with her 25-year-old birth son.

The second speaker placed her daughter 14 years ago. The adoption has remained open, and the contact has been very rewarding for all. And this adoption included the help of a doula. She describes the role of her doula in her adoption process as “life-saving.” Her doula provided invaluable help in preparing her for the birth, and she was by her side (someone “just for her” at the actual delivery). After her birth, her doula visited her at home and even helped with household chores. The doulas in the room were very moved by this and approached me after the discussion to see what they could do in offering their services to help pregnant women who have chosen open adoption for their babies.

More and more, we have recommended doulas to our clients, and the birthmothers and adoptive parents have always found the extra support very helpful. The hospital experience in particular is so filled with different and conflicting emotions for all–and there is, of course, the actual birth of a baby , a wonderful but emotionally and physically challenging experience.

I was so impressed with the group of professionals because of their passion in making sure every woman has the information and support needed to make reproductive choices. And I just wanted to put it out there that doulas exist and their supportive role might be something to consider in an adoption plan.

Doulas are not only helpful for birthparents, but can also come and help newly adopting parents with new parenting skills and guidance. Adoption Connection has a regular Newborn Care and Hospital Planning workshops for adoptive parents–always full–taught by a terrific staff. Find upcoming events on our online calendar.

We would love to hear from anyone in the adoption world who has had the good fortune to work with a doula!

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