Sunshine was ten years old when her younger brother was born. Once or twice, she hinted that she’d like to be present at his birth, but I said no. I know that in the pain of childbirth, I go into a particular headspace where I don’t want many people around me. However, when Julia told me about her teen doula explore course, I immediately thought of the possibilities. What if Sunshine could have taken a such a course to understand what the entire birthing process was like and then be able to help me in little ways and be present for her brother’s birth?
Julia Larsen was happy to chat with me about this course, which is just getting started online this year. For teen girls who are interested in pursuing careers in nursing, medicine, or midwifery, this course offers an amazing opportunity to begin learning and gaining experience now. For a teen whose mom or other close relative / friend is having a baby, this could be a beautiful opportunity for the teen to support that mom.
TKM: What inspired you to create a doula course for teens?
Julia: I have actually had teen doulas take our fuller birth doula course in the past. The class I am teaching this semester is a “Teen Doula Explore” course, so less work and they are not getting certified. The Catholic Doula Program is hoping to offer this teen doula explore program again next winter/spring for a session then.
TKM: Why do you think teen girls should learn about childbirth?
Julia: I am sure many teen girls are curious about babies and birth, so why not introduce them to the world of birthing in a class? This class is respectful and we don’t really get into sex education—so that’s still up to the parents. The teen should understand menses cycles, but we do not get into the birds and bees.
TKM: What does a doula class look like for a teen?
Julia: We are currently using Google classroom for the login—students will need a Gmail or yahoo account.
We also have weekly meetings via zoom. We set a time/day of the week that works for most of the students. If someone cannot come at that time, we send recordings to the student. The meetings are set for 7 times to meet up over a semester—sometimes we skip a week—but that’s about the consistency. It is a lot like a Homeschool Connections class if anyone is familiar with that.
Our current format for the workbook is a Word-document-like-booklet over 190 pages long—so yes extensive information is given. We also have a couple of PDF files we have sent the students. One is a how-to-do things with a baby (like change a diaper, etc.). The other PDF is an assignment handout. Most of the assignments are in that minus our quizzes which are in the main booklet. Also, we include discussion questions in the main booklet—but we do some of those discussions via the live zoom times.
TKM: Do you teach about birth only or do you include postpartum?
Julia: We are teaching both. I am basically covering the first four modules of birth and postpartum in a shortened version for the teen doula class. They do not have to read any extra books unless they are considering the fuller doula course. If they want to do so, we recommend some books for book review.
The birth section covers up to stages of labor and informed consent and birth plans. The postpartum section covers some of our modules that form the SMART Mother Model—they learn about sleep, support systems for mother after birth, mothering the mother, and activities with baby—so basic baby care.
TKM: What is your favorite part about teaching doula classes?
Julia: I think I enjoy meeting up with them via zoom and answering any questions in the classroom.
Mentorship is included in the live/zoom class version of our teen doula explore class. The teens can meet up around 3 times with the instructor (me) during the semester they are in for the class—so this way they get support even after our live times are up.
TKM: Why is the role of a doula important for an expectant mother?
Julia: The role of a doula is important because there are studies that show if a mother receives support she will have less need for C-sections, epidurals, pain medication, etc. However, doulas also need to not push their agenda and make sure they are listening to the mother’s needs. You can find quotes for evidence for doulas at www.evidencebasedbirth.com or www.dona.org.
TKM: Will teens be able to certify if they want to do so after taking the teen doula explore class?
Julia: Yes, they can pay for a certification add-on and join one of our regular courses in order to be certified as a doula.
TKM: Will there be any self-pace version of this teen doula explore? Or possibly just a recorded version?
Julia: Yes, we are making available now a self-pace version that costs less. Mentoring can be added on if so desired. The recording/mentoring self-paced combo is close to the same price as the live version. However, if they want just recordings and not added on mentoring, I can consider a lower price for that.
If anyone is interested in starting a self-pace teen doula explore right now, the student/parent can go to http://www.catholicdoula.com/teen-explore-doula.html to get more information and register or use the contact page to email us.
Also, save that link for around December we will probably be announcing dates for the winter/spring session and most likely start in February as I know what the holiday season is like. We also can also do payment plans and/or early payments just in case someone wants to hold their spot. We like small groups—so no more than 6 students at a time for the live class version!
We also plan to offer a teen doula summer program as well. The summer one we may have an opt-in for full certification, and we will decide in spring which one to offer – most likely birth doula; however if we have enough teens interested in postpartum, we may do that.
Photo credit: Depsitphotos.