Giving birth can be a traumatic experience, especially for first-time Indigenous mothers. But a group of women in Brandon hope to ease that trauma and bring culture back into the experience.
About a dozen Indigenous doulas completed training in the Wheat City last month and are now assisting births across western Manitoba. Their main objective is to provide spiritual and cultural support and to be advocates for new and expecting mothers.
Danielle Carter, Deidre Gregory and Angela Griffith all completed their training in Brandon through the Manitoba Indigenous Doula Initiative and helped form the Brandon Indigenous Doulas group.
“There’s a huge lack of support,” said Griffith. “We are trying to decolonize birth and connect back to our ancestors and our teachings and to just support the women.”
Birth in Indigenous communities is traditionally viewed as a ceremony, which varies from community to community. There are different practices on caring for the woman’s placenta, teachings around breastfeeding and naming of the baby. Some traditions also call for the first words the baby hears to be in the community’s Indigenous language.
They are traditions that have been lost as births have moved from communities into urban hospitals, in some cases hundreds of kilometres away from the mother’s home.
“We see the lack of support that there is,” said Carter, who added that many young women feel some of their questions aren’t being answered by traditional medical teams and in turn, they aren’t fully sure what to expect.
“Having that support person in the room can make all the difference about how you feel, how you bond with your baby,” she said. Carter recently travelled from her home in Rivers, Man., to Dauphin to assist a birth.
While ceremonies such as smudging might not be allowed in a hospital, Gregory said they’ve found a way to work around that.
“We were given some cedar water,” she said. “Cedar is a medicine we use … it’s in a spray…