Fanshawe Doula students offer free virtual sessions

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: HANNAH THEODORE
Doula students and instructors chat over Zoom about their free virtual drop-in sessions.

Students of Fanshawe’s Doula Studies program are reaching out to the community to offer free online sessions for parents and parents-to-be.

The sessions will be offered every Tuesday at 2 p.m. until April 9. They are available on a drop-in basis for anyone seeking guidance or assistance with parenthood. While the sessions are targeted to parents and parents-to-be, organizers said anyone is welcome.

Program instructor and full spectrum doula, Christal Malone said that in pre-COVID times, drop-in doula sessions offered space for connection and collaboration.

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“That was sort of a way to bring together new parents or existing parents to foster peer to peer education and community and just sort of like, a connection,” said Malone. “And we always found like, there was a lot of supportive things that came from the drop-in. Lots of conversations around like how to take care of a newborn and how to test feed. And so a lot of connections were established and made.”

Another instructor in the program, Jennifer Surerus agreed that the dropins are an important place for families to connect.

“People make really, really close friendships at that time in their lives,” said Surerus. “And so people not having those opportunities is a really... it’s a missed time in their lives.”

Malone and Surerus hope the virtual sessions will give parents a way to connect with one another through isolating times.

“Parenthood is such an isolating practice already in North America,” said Malone. “And we really benefit from that connection from being able to share our insights and share our insecurities together and be real humans in the same spot. So I think that when you come to the drop-in, that’s what you’re going to get.”

Instructors Malone and Surerus are also looking forward to giving their students the chance to step into the teaching position. Students like Niamh Wilcox will be running the sessions, applying the skills they’ve learned at Fanshawe in a practical setting.

“We kind of had this idea that maybe we were losing out on the opportunity to have those practicum hours,” said Wilcox. “But now we’ve realized that we can reach so many more people this way.”

Wilcox added that as a mature student, she had some difficulty adjusting to the virtual format.

“It’s definitely been a big learning opportunity for me, but our teachers have been amazing, they’ve been very available,” she said.

The students have held two sessions so far, and are hoping even more families will attend the future sessions. Malone said the sessions have a lasting impact on parents and their communities. She hopes expecting and existing parents will consider dropping in to share in the experience.

“I still have lasting friendships from the people I met at drop-in,” she said. “And I still have a circle of clients that I support, that all met through the drop-in that are having subsequent pregnancies afterwards. And so there’s really no way to organic the community’s built and how we really need this village more than ever.”