By Kierra Stuvland
The birth of a child is amazing. I should know. I have witnessed 11 babies come into the world as a doula.
Doulas are not midwives. We don’t do anything medical. The word doula comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth.
Doulas also know that proper nutrition is vital to a woman’s health – before conception and throughout her pregnancy. During pregnancy, women are encouraged to eat a diet of whole grains and nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.
Without proper nutrition, diet-related pregnancy complications can occur, such as gestational diabetes, obesity, and pre-term births.
My doula work is a hobby I fell into. But it’s also something that I earnestly feel called to do and realize I have a gift for. In fact, what drew me to the work of Bread for the World was the organization’s unwavering commitment to advocacy around care for women and children – specifically the emphasis on maternal and child nutrition.
Working as a doula is a privilege. I am invited into a very intimate and powerfully charged series of hours in a family’s life.
We journey through active labor together – using rituals like counting or deep-belly breathing to cope and “ride the waves” of each contraction. I assure the mother that she is doing a great job, that many women have come before her and are cheering her on now, and that she is one step closer to her baby with every passing moment.
At one of my births, a woman lost her way and began to panic. “This is so hard. I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t push. I’m too tired …” she said. “You can do it,” I replied. I grabbed her hand and asked her to look into my eyes. “You can do this. You are doing this. What’s your baby’s name?” She spoke his name aloud. Her bravery returned. Minutes later her son was in her arms.
At Bread, we want every mother and child around the world to have a bright future. Just like I’m there for mothers in labor, we are advocating that mothers everywhere receive the assistance they need to become strong and healthy.
We want mothers to be strong, and we advocate for assistance to be there to help them be strong in the same way that I’m there for mothers in labor. That’s why we are asking Congress to increase funding for nutrition in global health programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to at least $230 million in fiscal year 2017.
Join me on Lobby Day June 7 to deliver our message directly Capitol Hill. Your members of Congress need to hear from you – and visiting them in person will have the greatest effect.
Kierra Stuvland is a major gifts coordinator/development officer at Bread for the World.