I walked into the Chestnut-Linden Street apartments unsure if I was in the right place. But when Norma Mason and DeLinda Horton of the West Oakland Health Council (WOHC) greeted me with their warm smiles, I knew I was in for a treat. This evening expecting mothers participated in “Ask the Doula”, a class hosted by Brighter Beginnings’ own Amy Blackshaw and Chandra Bailey. With over 25 participants, I’d say they had a full house. The moms in the West Oakland Food to Families Program (F2F) meet every two weeks for 10 sessions. Norma, DeLinda, Telia Jones (health educator), and Chef Leory Musgraves make sure these classes are not just filled with lectures but also with games, food demonstrations and fun!
Brighter Beginnings, a recipient of a Food to Families Mini-Grant, collaborated with WOHC and Mandela MarketPlace to provide two of the 10 class sessions to the West Oakland F2F cohort.The Mini-Grants are important—a little bit of funding can foster unique partnerships and innovation! After expecting mothers and their partners participated in a focus group, the F2F mini-grants and the lead F2F partners could figure out which topics the F2F women would find useful. The top contenders were parenting skills, childbirth, family relationships, physical activity, stress reduction, and food choices. Weaving together elements from a couple of the top contenders Brighter Beginnings developed two classes that offered mothers a deeper look into childbirth and financial literacy.
Amy tells me that recently Brighter Beginnings has become interested in how women can be supported during their labor—and this is where doulas come in. Doulas nurture and guide birthing women through their labor, offering informational, physical and emotional support. A doula nurtures and supports a woman before and during labor, and teaches her to nurture and support herself and her child.
During the session, the expecting and current moms settle in to their chairs while the Brighter Beginnings crew begin their introduction of the beloved doula. As the moms in the class begin to understand what a doula does, there are outbursts across the room: “I want a doula!” followed with,” I want a house keeper!” and laughter.
This cohort of moms is very knowledgeable. Amy and Chandra pose a question, “Has anyone ever been in labor or seen someone in labor?” Throughout the room, the women exchange smiles. Slowly, practically everyone raises their hand. We play a game of “Is Labor Starting?”. I chuckle, thinking to myself, “Who would have thought you could make a game out of labor?” Amy and Chandra hand us all note-cards with symptoms of labor. They ask us to place the symptom cards in one of three categories: 1) No, labor is not starting; 2) Maybe labor is starting; and 3) Yes, labor is starting. The symptoms ranged from “contractions you can’t talk through” to “cramps”, and from “flu like symptoms”, to “you want to scream and strangle everyone around you” (I added that last one in there). All of the moms put the cards in the correct category. I am embarrassed to admit I may have been the only one with a card out of place. These women know their bodies and are in tune with what they feel.
Reflecting the overall goal of this class, the presentation ended with this quote from Barbara Katz Rothman: “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers…Strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”
This reflects the overall goal and knowledge imparted onto these women by the class and their shared experiences.
By Deja Kono, a Food to Families (F2F) Intern
To find out more about what West Oakland Health Council is doing with the F2F Moms check out our previous blog:
For more information on Brighter Beginnings check out this link below: