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I Want Your Job: Kimberley Fernandez, Doula

A labour coach and educator talks about babies, births, and what it's like to support women for a living.

I Want Your Job finds Torontonians who make a living doing exactly what they love to do, in any field, and for any salary, and asks them how they did it.

Photo courtesy of Kimberley Fernandez

Kimberley Fernandez describes the process of delivering her third child as “an Abbott-and-Costello comedy of errors.” Discussing it, she laughs the way people tend to when recalling deep unpleasantness.

“I just thought, there had to be something different. And so I did a little bit of research and kind of accidentally fell across doula.”

Fernandez has spent the last seven years working as a doula—essentially, a labour and prenatal coach whose job is to provide physical and emotional support for expectant mothers. She also heads up a collective of Toronto-based birth and post-partum professionals across the GTA. She spoke to Torontoist about what it all entails.

Torontoist: What does a doula do, from day to day?

Kimberley Fernandez: There are a couple of different types of doulas. I’m primarily a birth doula. So, right now, for example, I have a client who’s overdue. About two weeks prior to her due date I go on call, and then am on call until her baby’s born. If she goes two weeks over, I’m still on call until she has her baby. So, for the past couple weeks, I’ve been staying close to home, not doing a whole lot of stuff, always being at the ready and waiting for the phone call. I spend the rest of my time going on interviews, reading, trying to stay on top of what’s going on in the birth world. Part of my job also involves education; I’m a doula trainer now, so I organize training across Ontario.

What’s the training process like?

The main bulk of it is a workshop done over a weekend or several weeks, and afterward you’re considered a doula-in-training going toward your certification. The certification process includes having births that you attend, evaluated by not only the parents and families that you support but also the nurses that are there, the doctors that are there, or the midwives that are there. There’s also a lot of reading to do. You have about two years until you complete your certification process.

It sounds like the education process is ongoing.

Yes. I really like the education part of it. Also educating parents and families, that they have choice and there are options out there. You don’t have to have that cookie-cutter birth that you saw in private practice; you can actually have something that’s beautiful and amazing, and this is how you can achieve it. It amazes people that [childbirth] doesn’t have to be this horrible, terrifying, nightmarish thing that they see on A Baby Story or Grey’s Anatomy, or some other media hype that you see.

Do you mostly work with midwives?

No, actually. Not all that much! There are doulas that work primarily with midwives, but I have a tendency to work more with clients who are going the hospital O.B. route. I also tend to work with clients who have an epidural on the table—that’s sort of what their plan involves. Doulas aren’t necessarily just there for natural birth, or unmedicated birth. And it is a huge misconception. We definitely are great for that, but there’s so much that we do, not just with helping with the discomfort of birth, but offering the emotional support. Because it can be kind of scary, giving birth. And we’ve seen so much, we can say to both mom and her partner, “It’s okay. This is normal. This is what you can expect to happen next. What decisions would you like to make? Here are your options.” And also making sure that they have all the information to make informed consent, to make the best decision possible.

So you guys are essentially advocates for a delivering mother?

Yeah. We don’t speak for them, but we help them find their voice.

What do you love about it?

When you see that first baby born, you’re hooked. There’s nothing more amazing than that, to see a woman bring forth life. It’s like, holy cow. It’s so incredible, to see the strength of women and what they’re capable of doing. It’s awesome.

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