Birthing Families Matter Society Values
Equitable Community Support
The Birthing Families Matter Society was founded to address the foundational inequities in our society and challenge the private doula support model that has been mostly benefiting wealthy white families. We revisit our values yearly at our Annual General Meeting and seasonally throughout the year. We have selected three words to encapsulate our values and will use these words to keep us rooted in our purpose. We have elaborated on the meaning of these values below as a transparent measure that invites our partners, community and ourselves to continually reflect on.
Community is an experience and a feeling, it is our relationships as well as a place. Within true iterations of community there is a web of support that creates a sense of interconnectedness and bolsters the folks who reside within. This is what we want the community and our relationships to feel like.
Place – we recognize the land as the holder and connector of community and as a part of our community. We acknowledge the land and waters and we acknowledge that all of this is unceded Indigenous territory. We do not bypass or erase the violence of colonization when we commune with the land; loving this land must include the truth of what Indigenous families have been and still are subjected to and supporting families now is an embodied act of reconciliation. We support land back initiatives and land protection movements led by Indigenous communities. There is no family, no support, no community without place.
Communication – we aim for clear and non violent communication that is accountable. We look for where hierarchy or centering of self is inhibiting deeper connection. We name the legacy of horizontal violence between women as an expression of patriarchy and we seek to untangle these inherited knots. Our words matter and we seek inclusive word containers that hold people in the way they wish to be held. We are also committed to being brave with our words as we reject the white silence that enables complicity. Listening is a central tenet of communication that is often forgotten or bypassed; we recognize listening as essential, we aim to practice and celebrate active listening as a continued practice of undoing supremacy.
Rings of Support – each family is at the center of their experience and we seek to provide appropriate rings of support within the community. We see community as interlocking and concentric circles creating a mosaic where all parts contribute to the whole. Each person, business, service, provider, place, group, and modality of health has a place in the community and we would like to encourage our neighbors to see themselves as a ring of support. We inquire “What would the experience of family building and raising be if all people and spaces centered around and valued the needs of infants and caregivers?” Our organization embodies rings of support by connecting doula support, counselling services, postpartum care and food delivery in acknowledgement that families can benefit from many kinds of formal and community rooted rings of support, in ongoing ways. Looking at community through the lens of rings of support, helps us to move away from top down care structures that enable and reinforce supremacy and move towards the cultivation of egalitarian relationships with the families that we serve.
Collaboration – we welcome suggestions and opportunities to vision and work with every pocket of our community. There is no irrelevant discipline or area of service to the work of Family Support. We recognize our place as connectors and facilitators rather than experts or leaders. In collaboration we listen and consider the needs and dreams of our community, and we trust people as the authority on their own experience in their own body.
Cultural Competency – we recognize that birth and parenting are cultural and spiritual rites of passage for many people. We seek to connect families with supports and services that feel appropriate and culturally competent to their traditions, beliefs and practices. We push back against cultural appropriation in birth work and name the harm caused by the colonization of sacred practices by white birthworkers.
Humility – while cultural competence, deep listening, collaboration, and the like, can be expressions of humility, we explicitly name humility as a community care action intentionally. Underlying all efforts must be humility. Humility facilitates a softening, a releasing of rightness, a willingness to change and to be changed. When we face a moment of contraction, (personally, relationally or systemically) we ask “If I call humility forward, what would that allow for here?”
Skill sharing – from medicine to education, skills and methods of care have been colonized, commodified and sold back to the community. We recognize that skill sharing, as an ongoing practice, outside of a capitalist model, was the root of community for all of our ancestors for most of time, and is essential as an aspect of a healthy community in a liberatory future. We regularly share skills and best practices as and when needed, in addition to formal trainings and financial exchanges that support our organization’s continued existence.
Continuity of care – Our models of support acknowledge that the first years of parenting bring many challenges for families and that trauma informed care must continue beyond the first few postpartum weeks. Our care models recognize that perinatal mood disorders can occur anytime in the first year of parenthood and that the perinatal mortality indexes include 365 days postpartum. We also recognize that the end of any pregnancy, whether it be a live full term birth, an early loss, or an abortion, will be followed by a postpartum period that deserves support. Support must also include resourcing people to thrive beyond early postpartum by setting up rings of support and encouraging folks to continue to model receiving support throughout their parenting journey.
Support is a fundamental human right. We are interdependent beings and our world is created and facilitated by the visible and invisible labor of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people who are chronically under supported and erased. Working in an equitable support model, requires looking at the individual needs of each person and family while also recognizing that the doulas we train to provide care must also be supported so that cycles of trauma and burn out do not perpetuate.
Individualized Care – the practice of integrating true support necessitates an agile approach that sees and hears each individual recipient of care and trusts them. It is essential that all employees, doulas, counsellors, educators that engage with families through BFMS understand the significance of and potential treatment of patients/families based on their intersections of identity. All folks engaged with BFMS are asked to be in dialogue and inquiry with themselves and colleagues around their own implicit biases. Recognizing that privilege facilitates blind spots and our blind spots (and unexcavated biases) are the places we are most likely to cause harm.
Trauma Informed Care – we reognize that many people are survivors of sexual violence and/or trauma and that normalized perinatal care models are traumatizing or re-traumatizing for many people. Support must be trauma informed and we also recognize that doulas and caregivers must have tools, resources and places to recover from and/or integrate trauma or secondary trauma that may occur in and around birthing spaces.
Anti racism – the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology was founded on the erasure of traditional birth attendants, Black Granny Midwives and the abuse of Black enslaved people. There are present day inequities from perinatal morbidity, to infant death, to perinatal mood disorders that carry on this racist legacy. Anyone working near or with pregnant or birthing bodies must reckon with these facts. Family separation, eugenics and the sterilization of Indigenous people have been Canadian tactics of white supremacy that continue to this day. Support within family care must be anti racist to be any kind of support at all and we commit to supporting families in this way
Ancestral Trauma – we must acknowledge ancestral trauma as a relevant barrier to support and valid reason that some folks mistrust or fear various systems in our society that are regularly engaged with while birthing and parenting. We acknowledge Indigenous pain within education, stemming from the legacy of residential schools. We acknowledge that patterns of addiction or abuse can and do perpetuate within lineages of all people. In supporting families we acknowledge that many people did not grow up in safe feeling homes with present caregivers and that parenting itself may feel traumatic to some. We trust people to care for their children, we know that parents love their children and reframe any implications of neglect or abuse as gaps of support caused by the violent legacies of misogyny and racism.
Systems Changes – doula care can not upend hospital practices or the educational model by which Obstetricians are trained. We understand that to truly support families we must also confront these systems by reflecting back best practices and normalized practices and gaps in practices that cause harm. We look for opportunities to support movements and be in conversation with VIHA, our local hospitals and with care providers who are interested in releasing old paradigms and building new and better ways that feel supportive to everyone. We also recognize that hospital staff and other support roles in our society are operating within a system that almost guarantees burnout and when we imagine changes in these systems we also envision their health and liberation. We believe that education and medicine are linked and that how we teach people to care for people matters.
Centering Parents – we see support as many hands holding a family where needed, when needed, as needed. Parents and children are the center of their own experience, experts on their own experience and our care models seek to hold them up as such. It is our intentionto approach birthing people as their own way finders and meet them where they are, without agenda or attachment to the delivery of care.
Physiologic Birth and Breastfeeding Support – while we recognize every person’s right to choose the birth and feeding plan that feels right to them, we root our practices in an understanding of what physiologic birth is and needs in order to occur as a natural rhythm rather than medical emergency. Our work is rooted in the innate wisdom of the body and a view that care and intervention models would do well to remember the power of bodies. Our support models remember and reflect that oxytocin is required for both physiologic birth and the human milk ejection reflex, a biochemical reminder that pregnancy, birth and parenting should foundationally center around connection, joy, love and safety.
Not all people need or want the same thing. Our organization upholds equitable practices and recognizes that all people see and receive support and care differently depending on who they are and how they are situated in society. Fairness is not sameness and we do not seek to be color blind or treat everyone the same.
Equity can only be expressed in practice, and as our organization develops we will aim to share specific practices rooted in equity so that this often overused and under practiced word can be made visible to our community. Below are commitments to confront the invisible structures and the ways they are experienced as oppressive by birthing people and people in care work.
These are the ways in which we will address equity:
- Bias, racism, ableism, heteronormativity, Canada’s history of colonial violence and present supremacy structures are named explicitly in all our learning spaces and considered in the creation of care models, resource documents and provider referrals.
- We recognize that care work is traditionally undervalued and we wish to transform this by addressing pay gaps and compensating doulas and associated individuals for their labor.
- Equity must include trans people, non binary families, intersex people and children, as well as all kinds of family building. We aim to hold a container that can explore both gender equity AND trans and non binary inclusion.
- We are aware that at-risk and marginalized birthing people and parents are often subjected to reactive, coercive, or punitive medical ‘care’ and we seek to name this directly. Birthing families and parents are educated on informed consent practices, and informed refusal. All support people working with BFMS must understand why equity and advocacy are linked.
- Our organization considers and centers the needs of the most marginalized folks in our community when making decisions.
- Our organization is living the inquiry of what can be accomplished towards collective liberation within the non profit industrial complex.
- Our organization recognizes that charities are an expression of saviorism and that we must continue to evaluate how and why we are in operation and who is being served.
- Our organization is founded on and continually supported by white privilege, we recognize patterns and expressions of whiteness can and will persist and we are committed to recognizing and rooting out the moments and places this shows up.
- Our organization is committed to doing the labor of challenging white supremacist structures while operating within them.