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The Job of a Doula

Sep, 2023 | Doula Program, Prison Ministry, Re-Entry

In 2021, Colorado passed laws that allowed pregnant woman have doulas present at their births. Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF) reached out to New Horizons to see if NHM could fulfill that need. Dorcas Swartzentruber and Louise Bontrager became NHM’s doulas. There are typically six to nine pregnant women in DWCF and now everyone as had the chance to sit with the doulas or a social worker from NHM.  

NHM doulas sit with pregnant offenders who arrive at DWCF. They tell her that she has options for her unborn baby, rather than…. Doulas have classes with expectant mothers to help them gain an understanding of the birth process. Moms are often awed at how God has built their bodies to birth in such a miraculous process. Through education and the relationships with the doulas, the mom starts to see pregnancy and birth as an experience she is proud of and that she cherishes rather than a situation she is trapped in. 
NHM doulas offer pregnant prisoners Bible study material along with beautiful scripture wall art to help them deal with the anxiety and pressures of being pregnant in prison. Pregnant moms learn to bond with their unborn baby through singing, reading books and Scripture, or just patting their baby. They learn bonding with their baby is worth it even though there will be certain pain when mom and baby will need to be separated after the birth.  

The group of pregnant women the doulas meet with have formed a community. The women go to the clinic every week to support and care for each other. They share their stories, cry with each other, notice when one is sad or malnourished, and form bonds of support that would never happen in their disconnected units.

Another big responsibility of doula work is advocating for the pregnant woman. Once there was a situation where a high-risk pregnant offender was placed with a potentially dangerous roommate. The doula contacted a chaplain about the situation and within 24 hours the pregnant mom was moved to a different cell.  

Another situation was when a mom carrying twins had suffered severe trauma as a child and because of it she had an inability to swallow a lot of the prison food. A doula appealed to the nurses on her behalf, and she received liquid meal supplements and started gaining healthy weight again.