So many BADP volunteers are or have been volunteers in SFGH’s Volunteer Doula Program that news of RN and Program founder, Monnie Reba Efross’s departure is pertinent to us all. Last week’s SFGH Volunteer Doula Meeting was Monnie’s last, and absolutely one of the most beautiful meetings of any kind I’ve ever attended. It was held in the SFGH Wellness Center and had the usual potluck fixings and the chairs arranged in a circle, but what was shared at this meeting left me feeling that doula work is the most important work in the world; that it is the space-holder of emotion, psychology, and spirit in the birth room.
Due to Monnie’s vision, sensitivity and hard work, women who birth at SFGH–notably, they are generally poor, and thus without access to doula care–have had the option of doula support since about 1993. This is huge, historical.
The meeting consisted of each doula sharing some basic information about her involvement in the Program, then telling a birth story, and dropping a handful of black-eyed peas into a jar to symbolize the births the doula supported. The birth stories were breathtaking. Unsurprisingly, each was utterly unique. Each expressed the values Monnie reinforced and reinvigorated in each of us, each was proof that these values are living parts of our practice. The emotion, the mind, the spirit was so alive at this meeting, I couldn’t stop myself from birthing platitudes the rest of the night. “Birth is about poetry as much as it’s about science,” I kept saying (to myself).
Speaking of poetry, I will never forget the poem Monnie read at an Induction Termination training. The poem was about a stillbirth; naturally, it was really sad, but the emotions it manifested in the attending doulas that night added such weight and honesty to that meeting. It showed me that the meeting was a safe space to have these emotions–that meetings were spaces to cry in if that’s what’s happening. As a member of our new Induction Termination Doula Group, I often think of how Monnie supported me in this work, how her words and aura about the experience felt so there. At this meeting, she repeated, “I’ve never been afraid to sit with paradox.”
Monnie plans to continue teaching Authentic Movement classes and is involved in creating a volunteer doula program at Highland Hospital, among many other things. We wish her a wonderful next stage.
Monnie, you have been such an important influence in birth care. You will be so missed.
For more information on SFGH Volunteer Doula Program, click here.