My last post shared all about the many things stillbirthday offers to bereaved parents and to professional caregivers who serve them. In this post, I’d like to talk about my personal history with stillbirthday and why I believe it’s so special.
I was asked to join stillbirthday in August of 2011- right as the site was launched by Heidi Faith. As I was listed as a loss doula at The Amethyst Network (another excellent perinatal bereavement organization), Heidi invited me to list on her website as a loss doula as well. Two listings would be better than one to help parents find me, I decided, so I listed.
As I started exploring the website, I was impressed. Not only did stillbirthday offer informational support for parents, I was struck by the unique tone a doula brought to that information- not just medical explanations, but birth plans for loss in any trimester or location, ideas for memorial events/items, a place to share stories- stillbirthday was, from its inception, concerned with both the physical and emotional well-being of the families who visited. Heidi developed a mentoring program that would match parents who wished it, with parents who had been through a loss themselves. Together, this mentor/mentee pair would go through a 12 week guided program focused on helping the ‘mentee’ identify various supports for personal healing- this was also healing for the mentor as they found a way to put their horrible experiences to good use by serving and loving another bereaved parent. Stillbirthday’s dual aspect of emotional and physical support offered in a holistic way moved me as did the respect for a woman’s birth place and personal decisions regarding her care before, during and after her loss. Stillbirthday was (and still is, to my knowledge) the only bereavement site that acknowledges a first-trimester loss as a homebirth- stillbirthday *also* supports families who, having full information about their medical situation, wish to have a home-stillbirth of a full-term baby.
I was invited to join a stillbirthday-hosted loss doula group on Facebook and became very impressed with the variety of women who were choosing to serve as doulas through a loss- some of these woman were crunchy ‘trust birthers’, others would never *consider* serving outside the supervision of medical support; some were pro-life, others were pro-choice; some advocated for intensive NICU intervention for fragile neonates, others were concerned with being as gentle as possible with a baby who would inevitably die. Even within our diversity, we shared our hearts and our experiences, lifted one another up and saw the work we were doing as bigger than our personal philosophies. As time went on, several of the doulas from the page were identified by Heidi as having leadership qualities and she asked that we become board admins to help the doulas navigate the sometimes difficult conversations that came to the board. Conversations about abortion, homebirth safety, ways to serve clients with particular needs, etc occasionally arose, as they will on *any* birth-centered board and we participated in these conversations and they were generally diffused, most parties having felt heard and affirmed. And always was the support.
At about this time, I started to feel that stillbirthday really was unique and special within the bereavement community. A doula-driven, web-based organization that was offering free support to literally *thousands* of women via the website and the free loss doula listings, stillbirthday had (and still does have) a unique view of bereavement. I realized I was identifying myself inwardly as a ‘Stillbirthday Loss Doula’, feeling very personally invested in the mission and work of stillbirthday. I found myself totally aligned with the purpose and activities of the organization- *they* had become *we*. And so, one frosty morning in February of 2012, I suggested to Heidi that she consider creating a certification program for doulas that would allow them to show professionally that they support the bereavement philosophy and practice of stillbirthday. I was also concerned that no doula certification program I’ve ever heard of contains any bereavement support training at all. We chatted, brainstormed, outlined and then asked the other doulas on the Facebook loss doula group to assist with the creation of the program.
The formation of the Birth & Bereavement Training went forward. About a half-dozen doulas helped contribute content to the training, but Heidi, far and away, did a majority of the work. That summer was spent in writing and editing the material. August 2012 found us offering the first ever stillbirthday Birth & Bereavement Training. Those who complete the training (consisting of the over 400 page book Heidi wrote, a doula’s reflection guide I wrote as a companion to one of our required readings, a community resource survey, quizzes and required participation in weekly private forum discussions- and with optional webinar instruction) are now able to earn CE credits through the Missouri Nursing Association/American Nursing Credentialing Center and may use the designation Stillbirthday Bereavement Doula (SBD) if they wish. Stillbirthday Bereavement Doulas offer their services free of charge directly to families in their local areas and trainees who serve their communities in other capacities bring their knowledge into their professional work. We’ve had over 60 people take the training so far including midwives, doulas, hospital board members, nurses, bereavement organization founders and public health officials.
We are really proud of the Birth and Bereavement Training and because we want as many perinatal professionals as possible trained to serve families compassionately and comprehensively through a perinatal loss, we’ve priced the training *far* lower than the going rate of typical doula and/or bereavement training programs. We also offer the training 100% online so everyone- even those unable to travel because of finances or professional/personal responsibilities- can have access to this important resource.
One of the things I am most proud of stillbirthday for is the spirit of collaboration we espouse. Stillbirthday supports and celebrates all bereavement care providers. We provide free ‘resource listings’ on our website and have even offered free advertising to any company that serves bereaved families. We’ve nominated the heads of other bereavement doula training programs for major awards, and have been proud to point our friends to other bereavement organizations on our Facebook page. We genuinely and enthusiastically support any group that loves and serves bereaved families- and that tells me that stillbirthday is an organization of integrity. We do not seek to be exclusive or to ‘corner a market’ on bereavement care. We are all in this work together and grieving families need all of us as they heal.
And stillbirthday continues to expand. We are constantly responding to the needs of the families who visit our site and the professionals who serve them. We are still a relatively new organization, only 20 months old, yet we’ve been serving with all our hearts since that time, creating programs for parents and professionals alike, connecting bereaved families to those who can meet their needs as they grieve. I am SO proud to do this work, but it isn’t always easy. We work in a field inhabited by passionate, intelligent professionals and mothers who have differing views, interests and needs. It’s possible we sometimes make mistakes or miscalculate how we can best be of assistance, but I really believe that most of the time, we’re doing good in the world. And that’s a legacy *I* am proud of…
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