#main #menu { position: absolute; right: 21px; }

Mom University: Virginia Collins, High-Risk Doula, Childbirth Educator, Bereavement Facilitator, Etc.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Mom University is back after a long hiatus with an interview with Virginia Collins. It's hard to capture everything Virginia Collins does in a single headline, so I'm going to allow her in reintroduce herself in a moment, but to most of us who know and love her, she's just "Virginia," that warm presence at doula and childbirth conferences who shows up out of nowhere, gives you a hug, and wows you with her enthusiasm and passion for all things pregnancy and mom-related.

Ann: Okay, Virginia, for those people who haven't had the pleasure of meeting you, please reintroduce yourself and give us all your "handles."

Virginia: I'm Virginia Collins. I'm Canada's first, certified, Antepartum Doula; the Director for the Antepartum Doula Programme for CAPPA Canada; a high-risk doula; a Childbirth Educator; a Bereavement Facilitator; the wife of Dave and the mother of Matt and Alex, my two, fine, mostly-grown sons. I am also the owner of The Childbirth Experience – providing support and service for caregivers and families involved in higher risk pregnancies, and I play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit.

Ann: What led you to leave your previous job to try something new?

Virginia: For 25 years, I've been a front line heath care worker, mostly as a medical assistant, the last ten of which were with Dr. Jon Barrett, a specialist in high-risk pregnancy at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. At my jobs, I've always found myself doing patient education and I've always been an eager student, picking up knowledge like a magpie collects shiny things. I also like to share it with anyone who wants to hear it. Over the years, I became recognized as a resource facilitator. Doctors and patients have sought me out: "Ask Virginia, she'll know".

But after attending my first delivery, I was hooked. I knew I had to find a way to make this my life's work. Childbirth Education provided a way to combine my love of learning and teaching with my love of pregnancy and the birthing experience.

Yet, I was only able to help the few women who would come through the doors of the office. When the opportunity came along for me to develop the Antepartum Doula Programme, I realized I could help women across Canada. I also realized I would have to devote myself to it full-time. While I loved my job and was sad to go, I knew this was something I had to do.

Ann: What sparked this passion in you?

Virginia: I remember in Grade 12, my human biology teacher talked to us about attending the birth of his child. At the time, it was unusual for men to do that and he was so excited to have been there. I remember thinking it would be so "cool" to see someone being born.

At the outset of my career, I worked for a marvelous Obstetrician, who was happy to teach me anything I wanted to learn. He was supportive and encouraged me to do more. He was the first of several doctors I was fortunate enough to work for who fostered my thirst for knowledge and my love of educating.

After taking childbirth education classes, and giving birth to my own children, I realized that, whatever else happened, I wanted to teach others about this wondrous and empowering experience. I have been working towards that goal ever since

Ann: What do you love most about your work?

Virginia: I think that what I love most about my work is when I am able to help people empower themselves and achieve their pregnancy and delivery goals. It gives me an incredible high.

Ann: You make such a difference in the lives of the families you touch. How would you describe your role?

Virginia: More than anything, I see myself as a facilitator, providing resources and education that help women and their families to create the best experience possible for themselves, regardless of their circumstances.

Ann: What are some of your happiest memories of times when you have been able to make a difference in the lives from the families you have worked with?

Virginia: I supported a couple in the delivery of a second child following the stillbirth of their first daughter. When their baby girl came out and made her first noise, there was such a huge wave of joy coming from everyone. Her parents told me that because they felt well supported and cared for it allowed them to be less anxious and feel happiness about being pregnant and celebrate the birth of this baby.

The first time I assisted a woman who was determined to have an unmedicated birth. She surprised herself with her own ability, and impressed the staff, many of whom had never witnessed an unmedicated birth. It was beautiful, and it was a wonderfully affirming experience for us all.

Ann: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Virginia: The fantasy of pregnancy -- the whole "What to Expect" -- culture has left higher-risk women behind. They are alienated from our baby world and aware of being frightening to the mainstream. During their pregnancy and labour, they are poked and prodded more than most, offered cold statistics and guarded answers to their questions. Often they can often be left with the feeling that they are merely a walking pathology. Additionally, there can be an increased expectation of failure, coming from themselves as well as their caregivers. I do not want this to continue. Somebody has to stand up and yell, and it looks like it is going to have to be me. So here I am.

Ann: Thank you, Virginia.

To find out more about Virginia Collins and her work with families, visit her at her website The Childbirth Experience. You can also catch up with Virginia at CanadianParents.com, where she co-monitors the childbirth experts board.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:44 PM