Muneera Fontaine


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Muneera generously offered to write a guest blog about her experiences with the ICTC Full Circle Doula® Training.

About Muneera: Muneera Fontaine is a wife, busy mother of two, doctoral student at ICDL Grad School, Infant Special Educator, and Full Circle Provisional Doula. She should be writing a research paper instead of this blog post but saving our babies can’t wait…and the research can. When not juggling all the different hats she wears, she can be found at Doulas of Color or curled up with a good book and some herbal tea!

I offered to do a guest blog for Radical Doula on my doula training with the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC). For the record I do not work for ICTC and I have no personal gain by writing this blog. I just felt compelled to let others know about this amazing training that I was able to take that really changed my life. I am going to try and keep it short and simple because I could go on and on about most any topic related to birth.

I initially wanted to become a doula because of my own personal experience with having my first son by Un-necesearian ( a whole other blog post!) and then my daughter eight years later by a midwife in a birthing center. The difference in support and control that I felt were unmeasurable. It was then that I realized that I wanted every woman to be able to claim that as their own. I felt that every woman deserved to feel the empowerment of visualizing and achieving the birth where she was an active participant. In particular as women of color, I felt that we are already so dis-empowered on a regular basis that we come to expect it. My personal observation was that we are less informed because we are often not given the same amount of information as others. You cannot have power without choice and you cannot have choice without information. And ICTC definitely sends you home with lots and lots of information!

There are five main topics that I think are distinct to the ICTC doula philosophy which was developed from a traditional midwifery model of care. That means they strive to be community based, and work to “empower families to improve birth outcomes, breastfeeding rates, and reduce premature birth” (Shafia Monroe, African American Infant Mortality), especially in communities of African-American women and other women of color. We have the worst infant mortality statistics here in the United States and the goal is to change that from within our own communities.

Read the rest after the jump!

First of all, we consider ourselves a “Full Circle Doula”. That means that we are there for the mother during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and during that all important post-partum period. ICTC does not distinguish between a birth doula and a post-partum doula. It is about honoring the mother and doing all you can to support her and her family during her pregnancy, labor and delivery, and beyond.  Most doula programs concentrate on an average of two prenatal meetings, ICTC asks that you do at least five. They really focus on building relationships with the mothers that you service beyond the birth.

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Second, they give the History of midwifery and natural childbirth in the African-American community. The lives of countless granny midwives who helped birth babies, especially in the south, regardless of color has gone too long unknown by many.  We had a strong tradition of midwifery and breastfeeding in the African-American community and ICTC helps to remind us to reclaim that. As a fellow doula, Kimberley Traylor likes to say,” We helped birth and breast-feed presidents!”  We learned how this community based midwifery care was historically administered particularly in the southern communities where African-Americans were denied access to medical care. It connects us to our past so we can honor it now, as well as carry it into the future.

Third is Community Outreach, Community Outreach, Community Outreach! ICTC really focuses on building relationships with the community, they have a strong background in grassroots community outreach that I just don’t see in other doula certifying organizations. In fact, part of our actual training was walking out in the community and asking people did they know what a doula was and then giving them the information. ICTC takes on the stance that you have to go to the people wherever they are and support them through whatever means you have. This is a cornerstone to ICTC’s philosophy. You have to be active in your community, you have to be accessible. Robbie Davis-Floyd in her recent book, Birth Models That Work found that being community based was a key factor when looking at birth models that work worldwide. Additionally, they have a locally based Sistah Care program for teenage girls aged 13-17 who are interested in going into the child or maternal health care professions. They take on the concept of full circle quite literally in the organization!

Fourth, was the large focus on Cultural Sensitivity. I was very impressed that a large portion of our training was in learning about birth traditions all over the world so that they could be honored. We discussed different birth rituals by culture, ethnicity, and religion. A special portion was dedicated to working with lesbian couples. This was a topic that I had never seen touched at any of the more “traditional” trainings that I have been too. We talked about other cultures that are prevalent here in the US, but often not mentioned in trainings such as, the Asian cultures. Shafia talked quite a bit about how it is our job to support and not judge. She then asked us to share some of our birth traditions from our religious, cultural, or familial backgrounds to see how much they varied even within our small group.

Lastly, the Follow Up has been amazing! They sponsor conference calls bi-weekly with information on how to build your doula business. They introduce and link you up with other more established members of the birth community in your area. They also incorporate local members of the birth community into the training. It is all about building a strong community to be the foundation and support for our families. I felt that they are personally vested in helping see everyone though certification who chooses to go that route. It training is reasonably priced and certification is only $40. They offer scholarships and will work with people who have having financial difficulties.

In closing, I don’t want people to feel that they have to be a person of color to take this training. If you have clients who are women of color or just want to expand your horizons with a dynamic, self-affirming, empowering doula training that is not more of the same-old same-old, then this is the training for you!