Army of two
Military moms paired with free doulas to help through labor
By Katie Foutz
When her husband was away on military service, a woman who was pregnant with her fourth child called doula Val Staples for assistance.
Staples is the program director for Georgia-based Operation Special Delivery, which offers free birthing assistance to women whose partners are deployed, severely injured or killed in the military around their due date. The woman was happy to have help this time around.
"When she had her third child, her husband was deployed then, too," Staples said. "She left her two older children with the neighbors and drove herself to the hospital. This should not be happening. This is why we do this."
The nonprofit Operation Special Delivery is new to Illinois but has served military families in other states since late 2001, Staples said.
"The original idea was that there were some of these women whose husbands were killed in the terrorist attacks and were pregnant," she said. "It's such a terrible time to be alone, and there were so many people volunteering to help, which is why we expanded it to the military."
The volunteers are doulas — people who attend the birthing family before, during and just after the birth of the baby, according to Operation Special Delivery's parent organization, the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. A certified doula is trained to deliver emotional support from home to hospital and be there through the entire labor.
Operation Special Delivery supports all branches of the military and serves all over the world.
To enroll, moms-to-be should contact Operation Special Delivery at (800) 692-2772 or visit www.operationspecialdelivery.com . Staples will match each applicant with a volunteer doula in her area.
If none are available, Staples asks local doulas to volunteer, or she schedules a training session in the area for new doulas. Operation Special Delivery also offers discounts on doula training if military moms want to join the effort. Training typically costs $350, but military moms can train for $150, Staples said.
Fifteen doulas in Illinois work with Operation Special Delivery, and many are in Chicago and the suburbs. Participating Naperville-area doulas did not respond to requests for comment.
To learn about the doulas' impact, visitors to the Operation Special Delivery Web site can read testimonies and view photos. Proud moms and doulas pose with newborns, along with words of thanks.
"Every once in a while, I get thank-you notes from moms," Staples said. "They say, 'You don't know how I worried I was, how grateful I was I didn't have to do this alone.'"
Contact Katie Foutz at email@example.com or (630) 416-5216.
GlossaryDoula: A non-medical professional who attends the birthing family before, during and just after the birth of the baby, according to the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. A certified doula is trained to deliver emotional support from home to hospital and be there through the entire labor.
FYIGeorgia-based Operation Special Delivery has volunteer doulas in Yorkville, New Lenox, South Elgin and other Chicago-area cities and offers doula training. To get information or to enroll, call (800) 692-2772 or visit www.operationspecialdelivery.com . To volunteer, call Val Staples at (334) 703-3025 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association