The women of the Indigenous Birth Support Worker program are about to do a water ceremony by the South Saskatchewan River.
The first 9 graduates, and one of their instructors, of the Indigenous Birth Support Worker program.
“For us, water is sacred,” explains Dorene Day, Anishinabe midwife, Knowledge Keeper and one of the instructors for the program. “Water is where our unborn child resides and grows within our body for nine months. We have a great history with this water. The grandmothers who taught me said, ‘Pray for the water every day because this is our responsibility as Indigenous women’.”
It makes sense that these women, who for the last few weeks have been learning and immersing themselves in traditional First Nations and Métis birthing practices, will be providing comfort and doula support to women and families at Jim Pattison Children's Hospital, which overlooks the South Saskatchewan river as it flows through the city.
Each woman in the program was drawn to it for her own reasons; some were looking for a career change, others were interested in the program based on their own birth experiences and some were looking for more opportunities to work with babies, children and families. But what they have found is so much more.
“We became a safe place for each other and in that, we hope to go forward and become a safe place for these moms and families that are coming in,” explains Jennifer Gardiner, one of the doulas in training. “We learned how trauma affects labour and delivery, so if we can help these women and families work through that to avoid having extra trauma added on through labour then I think we’re doing the right thing.”
For Dalanie Wahobin, becoming part of a good support system for these mothers is a way to help heal intergenerational trauma.
“We never had a First Nations or Métis doula by our side before and I really think that’s wonderful. It’s breaking barriers,” she said. “It truly is Truth and Reconciliation on behalf of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. I’m really excited for this journey and I’m really excited to continue what I’m doing.”
The Indigenous Birth Support Worker program is a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Dumont Technical Institute and the Saskatoon Tribal Council. The creation of this program also honours the SHA’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation and fulfills eight of the 10 Calls to Action from the Tubal Ligation External Review Committee.