Connecting families to resources: Q&A with Community Doula Collective Director Kellie Bailey

The Community Doula Collective is on a mission to create better maternity experiences in Northeast Indiana through resources, support and a higher standard for local doulas.

One way they carry out that mission is through community events, like the upcoming GROW Expo on May 6, where the public is invited to connect with and explore local resources such as medical providers, dentists, physical therapists, lactation consultants, and more.

A Community Doula Collective meeting.Director Kellie Bailey says the Collective was founded on a desire to better serve the growing families in Northeast Indiana. She’s been a doula for 11 years and owns her own business, Happy Day Doula.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Bailey to learn more about the Community Doula Collective and the GROW Expo.

IFW: What is the Community Doula Collective?
KB: Community Doula Collective formed as a nonprofit in 2020 and our mission is to improve maternity experiences and outcomes for the growing families of Northeast Indiana by connecting them to quality resources and support. 

We’re made up of 15 birth and postpartum professionals and we offer a variety of services, from prenatal nutrition counseling to car seat checks.

Outside of the resources that we provide, we want to know and connect families with other resources they might need, like care providers, birthing locations, chiropractors, or functional medicine providers. We want to make sure families' needs are met.

We are the only doula organization in Northern Indiana that requires our doulas to be educated, certified through a qualifying organization, actively pursue continued education, hold CPR certification, and take a course in workplace safety and infection control and prevention. 

Every doula in our organization has their own autonomous business, so they practice in their own unique way. When people reach out, we try to match them to the doula that will best fit their needs, but ultimately give families the choice of their preferred doula. 

A Community Doula Collective meeting.IFW: How was the Community Doula Collective formed?
KB: During the COVID-19 pandemic, all doulas were kicked out of the hospitals and that shined a light on our maternity system locally and nationally. Hospitals were determining who could and couldn’t be with a woman throughout their birthing process yet we already established a relationship with these clients, we had learned their preferences and values and learned what they wanted out of their experience, and we weren’t allowed support them in their chosen birth location. 

The maternity system was not trusting women to make decisions for themselves. 

The Indiana Hospital Association formed guidelines that Spring that said certified doulas were part of the care team. I realized at that time that not all doulas valued education through the certification process and I, alongside a few colleagues, wanted to set a higher standard for the doula profession in our community. 

Our organization was formed during the pandemic, which was hard for everyone, but there was some good to come from it. We were able to examine the systems that were already functioning poorly and strive for better. We can do better for the growing families in our community.

There are major gaps in local maternity care and we are working actively to develop programs that will help close those gaps in sustainable ways for everyone involved. 

We are currently partnering with The Little Timmy Project based in Indianapolis to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in the doula profession and create pathways for access to quality doula certification through their BIPOC Doula Scholarship.  

IFW: You mentioned the Collective requires its doulas to be certified and seek continued education. Why are those requirements important to your organization?
KB: There are no state or federal regulations over the doula profession, so technically anyone supporting women prenatally, through labor and birth, and postpartum can call themselves a doula. We recognize that having any support is valuable however, we want to make sure that the support we provide can actually influence birth experience and outcomes toward safety and satisfaction. That takes knowing the birthing process and knowing how to navigate the maternity system that these families are walking into. We want to make sure that families know what their options are, so they can make informed decisions along the way and that’s where our education comes into play. Knowing the process, knowing the options, and knowing how to navigate the maternity system are really important in terms of improving outcomes. 

Doula work does include emotional support and comfort but we ultimately want to make sure that women and their babies are not traumatized, and that they’re safe and satisfied with their experience.

IFW: How did you become a doula?
KB: I had my first daughter in my home state of California. It was such a good, positive experience.

I walked into motherhood super confident, I trusted myself, and my body, and I also trusted my baby. That wasn’t and isn't the common narrative surrounding birth. There’s a lot of fear. I felt so good that I wanted other women to feel that way walking into motherhood, whether it was the first time or the fifth time, regardless of where they were birthing or who they were birthing with. I want women to know that they can trust themselves, their bodies and their babies. 

I pursued doula certification and gained the bulk of my education through Childbirth Internationa.

It’s been just over 11 years of supporting families in all birthing locations- home, hospital, and birthing center.

IFW: Tell us about the GROW Expo.
KB: GROW Expo is a free wellness event hosted by our organization. It's a way that we help connect families to quality resources and support. This year we will be at Parkview Mirro Center, Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

At GROW Expo, families can meet all of our birth and postpartum professionals in one place at one time to see who might be a good fit for their unique experiences. Families also have the opportunity to chat with many local, relevant resources from chiropractors, massage therapists, doctors of physical therapy, board-certified lactation consultants and functional medicine providers, as well as shop local wellness pop-ups.

We’ll have giveaways, for example, the first 25 guests get free diapers, and there are other prizes families can enter to win.

This is our second official GROW Expo, but as an organization, we have hosted 14+ events for our community.

The GROW Expo in 2022.IFW: What kind of impact do you hope the GROW Expo will have?
KB: We hope families leave with more information than they came in with. We hope they make connections, with not only our organization but the resources that are available to them. We hope families find a service that they need, or that they connect with an individual that they might include as part of their own unique path into parenthood. We are striving to improve maternity experiences and outcomes and we believe that quality resources and support are a major part of that.

Learn more about GROW Expo here.
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Read more articles by Brittany Smith.

Brittany Smith is Input Fort Wayne's Managing Editor. Previously she served as Assistant Editor and participated in the College Input Program. She also volunteers for Northeast Indiana Public Radio.