Labour Day is always a time of reflection for me, having had my first baby on that auspicious birthing day. This year, however, I have also been thinking of that thing we did, once upon a time.
Let's look at the background first and then I will tell you the story of a dynamic group of humans who did something remarkable.
In 2006, the administration of Stevenson Memorial Hospital, backed by the Board made the decision to close the birthing unit. Interestingly, this same unit had been an integral part of the study on Integrated Maternal Care in Rural and Remote Communities in order to create sustainable models of care for these unique regions. With an enthusiastic team of obstetricians, midwives, nurses and doulas on board, the study group presented its findings to the hospital and the Provincial government in an effort to promote maternal and foetal welfare, continuity of care and sustainability of services in under serviced communities. The hospital, citing funding issues and a lack of doctors, closed the unit with no community notice.
The closure of the unit presented many challenges for birthing families who would have to travel more than an hour from home to have their babies. Weather, traffic, birthing outside of the health unit's catchment region, longer stays further from home, childcare for other kids and precipitous births were just a few of the issues. A grassroots community group (movers and shakers) was formed which lead to a group of concerned citizens (financial backers) to band together and all joined with the local Mayor and MPP to reimagine what birthing services could look like. There were protests, endless meetings, Board delegations, hiring committees, tv and radio promos, print media stories and public awareness campaigns mounted. The Doula Group was involved in all of it.
THE COOL THING
One of the many things we did was the play Birth On Labour Day by Karen Brody. It really was The Cool Thing. A dynamic group of community members and doulas came together to raise funds and awareness for the reopening of the unit. The show was sold out within the first few days of tickets going on sale. The storyline was filled with joy and sorrow, anger and hope. The actors were doulas and related community members, the producer was a doula (well.. me) and the director with the incredible vision and staging ability was the awesome Lorne Derraugh. People laughed and cried. One person left - angry - because of the raw truths of what birthing can mean to people in both the short and long term. It was a very meaninful production in so many ways.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE - Or a Small Town
The Actors: Debra Bowser, Dawn Calvinisiti, Annette Derraugh,
Krissy Foley, Randi Foley, Lesley Harris, Joy Murray, Melissa Nowell
Director: Lorne Derraugh
Producer: Mélissa Cowl
Sound and Lighting: Jeremy Cowl
Rehearsal Location Manager: Janice Preiss
Stage Hands: Patricia Giles, Wendy Topping
Photographer: Andrea Powell, Videographer: Sean Derraugh
THE COOLER THING
Oh yeah. And the birth unit? It reopened early in 2008. And now, fifteen years later, it is a thriving, wonderful place to have a baby with a cohesive team of some of the best primary careproviders that our team has worked with. The Doula Group has had doulas working at Stevenson since 1995 and has been fortunate to be part of the history of this wonderful community hospital.