About Birthing Families Foundation

Welcome!

Birthing Families Foundation is a Canadian Charity whose mission is to fund, facilitate and carry out activities and programs which support birthing families. BFF Programs serve the birthing community with objectives to reduce health disparities for low income, marginalized, racialized, and oppressed populations and for those encountering disability, family violence, and/or addiction. Recent Research has demonstrated that when families, especially those who are at risk, are supported through the entire perinatal period and beyond, they experience improved birth outcomes and enhanced early childhood development.

Through the Birthing Families Foundation Programs and partnerships our goal is to offer families doula support, counselling, food and mentorship to fill the gaps in our system.

With improved support for families, these services will lead to better birth outcomes, the long term health and well-being of children and families, and a community of support workers (doulas) who are informed and supported in order to extend specialized perinatal care out into the community. Birthing Families Foundation supports both families and workers, ultimately strengthening and uplifting our communities as a whole. For more information about the Charity or our programs, please contact us.

With thanks!

The Birthing Families Foundation team.

OUR VALUES

Equitable Community Support

The Birthing Families Foundation was founded to address the foundational inequities in our society and challenge the private doula support model that has been mostly benefiting wealthy white families. We revisit our values yearly at our Annual General Meeting and seasonally throughout the year. We have selected three words to encapsulate our values and will use these words to keep us rooted in our purpose. We have elaborated on the meaning of these values below as a transparent measure that invites our partners, community and ourselves to continually reflect on.

Community

Community is an experience and a feeling, it is our relationships as well as a place. Within true iterations of community there is a web of support that creates a sense of interconnectedness and bolsters the folks who reside within. This is what we want the community and our relationships to feel like.

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Place – we recognize the land as the holder and connector of community and as a part of our community. We acknowledge the land and waters and we acknowledge that all of this is unceded Indigenous territory. We do not bypass or erase the violence of colonization when we commune with the land; loving this land must include the truth of what Indigenous families have been and still are subjected to and supporting families now is an embodied act of reconciliation. We support land back initiatives and land protection movements led by Indigenous communities. There is no family, no support, no community without place.

Communication – we aim for clear and non violent communication that is accountable. We look for where hierarchy or centering of self is inhibiting deeper connection. We name the legacy of horizontal violence between women as an expression of patriarchy and we seek to untangle these inherited knots. Our words matter and we seek inclusive word containers that hold people in the way they wish to be held. We are also committed to being brave with our words as we reject the white silence that enables complicity. Listening is a central tenet of communication that is often forgotten or bypassed; we recognize listening as essential, we aim to practice and celebrate active listening as a continued practice of undoing supremacy.

Rings of Support – each family is at the center of their experience and we seek to provide appropriate rings of support within the community. We see community as interlocking and concentric circles creating a mosaic where all parts contribute to the whole. Each person, business, service, provider, place, group, and modality of health has a place in the community and we would like to encourage our neighbors to see themselves as a ring of support. We inquire “What would the experience of family building and raising be if all people and spaces centered around and valued the needs of infants and caregivers?” Our organization embodies rings of support by connecting doula support, counselling services, postpartum care and food delivery in acknowledgement that families can benefit from many kinds of formal and community rooted rings of support, in ongoing ways. Looking at community through the lens of rings of support, helps us to move away from top down care structures that enable and reinforce supremacy and move towards the cultivation of egalitarian relationships with the families that we serve.

Collaboration – we welcome suggestions and opportunities to vision and work with every pocket of our community. There is no irrelevant discipline or area of service to the work of Family Support. We recognize our place as connectors and facilitators rather than experts or leaders. In collaboration we listen and consider the needs and dreams of our community, and we trust people as the authority on their own experience in their own body.

Cultural Competency – we recognize that birth and parenting are cultural and spiritual rites of passage for many people. We seek to connect families with supports and services that feel appropriate and culturally competent to their traditions, beliefs and practices. We push back against cultural appropriation in birth work and name the harm caused by the colonization of sacred practices by white birthworkers.

Humility – while cultural competence, deep listening, collaboration, and the like, can be expressions of humility, we explicitly name humility as a community care action intentionally. Underlying all efforts must be humility. Humility facilitates a softening, a releasing of rightness, a willingness to change and to be changed. When we face a moment of contraction, (personally, relationally or systemically) we ask “If I call humility forward, what would that allow for here?”

Skill sharing – from medicine to education, skills and methods of care have been colonized, commodified and sold back to the community. We recognize that skill sharing, as an ongoing practice, outside of a capitalist model, was the root of community for all of our ancestors for most of time, and is essential as an aspect of a healthy community in a liberatory future. We regularly share skills and best practices as and when needed, in addition to formal trainings and financial exchanges that support our organization’s continued existence.

Continuity of care – Our models of support acknowledge that the first years of parenting bring many challenges for families and that trauma informed care must continue beyond the first few postpartum weeks. Our care models recognize that perinatal mood disorders can occur anytime in the first year of parenthood and that the perinatal mortality indexes include 365 days postpartum. We also recognize that the end of any pregnancy, whether it be a live full term birth, an early loss, or an abortion, will be followed by a postpartum period that deserves support. Support must also include resourcing people to thrive beyond early postpartum by setting up rings of support and encouraging folks to continue to model receiving support throughout their parenting journey.

Support

Support is a fundamental human right. We are interdependent beings and our world is created and facilitated by the visible and invisible labor of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people who are chronically under supported and erased. Working in an equitable support model, requires looking at the individual needs of each person and family while also recognizing that the doulas we train to provide care must also be supported so that cycles of trauma and burn out do not perpetuate.

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Individualized Care – the practice of integrating true support necessitates an agile approach that sees and hears each individual recipient of care and trusts them. It is essential that all employees, doulas, counsellors, educators that engage with families through BFF understand the significance of and potential treatment of patients/families based on their intersections of identity. All folks engaged with BFF are asked to be in dialogue and inquiry with themselves and colleagues around their own implicit biases. Recognizing that privilege facilitates blind spots and our blind spots (and unexcavated biases) are the places we are most likely to cause harm.

Trauma Informed Care – we reognize that many people are survivors of sexual violence and/or trauma and that normalized perinatal care models are traumatizing or re-traumatizing for many people. Support must be trauma informed and we also recognize that doulas and caregivers must have tools, resources and places to recover from and/or integrate trauma or secondary trauma that may occur in and around birthing spaces.

Anti racism – the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology was founded on the erasure of traditional birth attendants, Black Granny Midwives and the abuse of Black enslaved people. There are present day inequities from perinatal morbidity, to infant death, to perinatal mood disorders that carry on this racist legacy. Anyone working near or with pregnant or birthing bodies must reckon with these facts. Family separation, eugenics and the sterilization of Indigenous people have been Canadian tactics of white supremacy that continue to this day. Support within family care must be anti racist to be any kind of support at all and we commit to supporting families in this way

Ancestral Trauma – we must acknowledge ancestral trauma as a relevant barrier to support and valid reason that some folks mistrust or fear various systems in our society that are regularly engaged with while birthing and parenting. We acknowledge Indigenous pain within education, stemming from the legacy of residential schools. We acknowledge that patterns of addiction or abuse can and do perpetuate within lineages of all people. In supporting families we acknowledge that many people did not grow up in safe feeling homes with present caregivers and that parenting itself may feel traumatic to some. We trust people to care for their children, we know that parents love their children and reframe any implications of neglect or abuse as gaps of support caused by the violent legacies of misogyny and racism.

Systems Changes – doula care can not upend hospital practices or the educational model by which Obstetricians are trained. We understand that to truly support families we must also confront these systems by reflecting back best practices and normalized practices and gaps in practices that cause harm. We look for opportunities to support movements and be in conversation with VIHA, our local hospitals and with care providers who are interested in releasing old paradigms and building new and better ways that feel supportive to everyone. We also recognize that hospital staff and other support roles in our society are operating within a system that almost guarantees burnout and when we imagine changes in these systems we also envision their health and liberation. We believe that education and medicine are linked and that how we teach people to care for people matters.

Centering Parents – we see support as many hands holding a family where needed, when needed, as needed. Parents and children are the center of their own experience, experts on their own experience and our care models seek to hold them up as such. It is our intentionto approach birthing people as their own way finders and meet them where they are, without agenda or attachment to the delivery of care.

Physiologic Birth and Breastfeeding Support – while we recognize every person’s right to choose the birth and feeding plan that feels right to them, we root our practices in an understanding of what physiologic birth is and needs in order to occur as a natural rhythm rather than medical emergency. Our work is rooted in the innate wisdom of the body and a view that care and intervention models would do well to remember the power of bodies. Our support models remember and reflect that oxytocin is required for both physiologic birth and the human milk ejection reflex, a biochemical reminder that pregnancy, birth and parenting should foundationally center around connection, joy, love and safety.

Equity

Not all people need or want the same thing. Our organization upholds equitable practices and recognizes that all people see and receive support and care differently depending on who they are and how they are situated in society. Fairness is not sameness and we do not seek to be color blind or treat everyone the same.

Equity can only be expressed in practice, and as our organization develops we will aim to share specific practices rooted in equity so that this often overused and under practiced word can be made visible to our community. Below are commitments to confront the invisible structures and the ways they are experienced as oppressive by birthing people and people in care work.

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These are the ways in which we will address equity:

  • Bias, racism, ableism, heteronormativity, Canada’s history of colonial violence and present supremacy structures are named explicitly in all our learning spaces and considered in the creation of care models, resource documents and provider referrals.
  • We recognize that care work is traditionally undervalued and we wish to transform this by addressing pay gaps and compensating doulas and associated individuals for their labor.
  • Equity must include trans people, non binary families, intersex people and children, as well as all kinds of family building. We aim to hold a container that can explore both gender equity AND trans and non binary inclusion.
  • We are aware that at-risk and marginalized birthing people and parents are often subjected to reactive, coercive, or punitive medical ‘care’ and we seek to name this directly. Birthing families and parents are educated on informed consent practices, and informed refusal. All support people working with BFF must understand why equity and advocacy are linked.
  • Our organization considers and centers the needs of the most marginalized folks in our community when making decisions.
  • Our organization is living the inquiry of what can be accomplished towards collective liberation within the non profit industrial complex.
  • Our organization recognizes that charities are an expression of saviorism and that we must continue to evaluate how and why we are in operation and who is being served.
  • Our organization is founded on and continually supported by white privilege, we recognize patterns and expressions of whiteness can and will persist and we are committed to recognizing and rooting out the moments and places this shows up.
  • Our organization is committed to doing the labor of challenging white supremacist structures while operating within them.

OUR TEAM

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Birthing Families Foundation is governed by a board of dedicated people who provide guidance and participate in designing the strategic plan for the Foundation.

Azlina T. BA
Board Chair

Azlina T
Azlina is the current Chair of the board, and is a birth and postpartum doula as well as a future midwife. Having developed a passion for public and maternal health issues very young, it wasn’t until the last year of her undergraduate degree that she found her calling in midwifery.

As a visible minority, she is acutely aware of race dynamics, discrimination, and marginalization in different fields (including healthcare). As such, she has developed an approach that is person-based and trauma-informed, whilst being rooted in an evidence-based perspective. Her first- and second-hand experiences and continually growing knowledge of reproductive injustice in the birth industrial complex, especially amongst BIPOC populations, is what drives her work as Chair.

When she is not busy with work or studies, chances are that you’ll find her soaking up some sunshine somewhere outdoors or whipping up meals for her loved ones.

Allison Runnalls
Board Co-Chair

Allison Runnalls

Allison has been on the board of the Birthing Families Foundation since March of 2021 and is currently the Co-Chair. She moved from the mainland to the island in 2020.

A birth doula since 1996, she has worked with thousands of birthing families in her private practice as well as with community based programs such as S.M.I.L.E., CBP, and YPP throughout her career. Allison continues to be passionate about supporting vulnerable families throughout their birthing journey. She also mentors other doulas across the island and in the Lower Mainland.

Allison is a mother of four and enjoys spending time with her grand-doggies, dying her hair multiple colours and wearing mismatched socks.

Ashley Jardie
Community Outreach Coordinator

Ashley Jardine

Ashley is a full-spectrum birth worker, freelance writer, yoga teacher, and parent of two young kiddos. She felt the calling to birthwork after a traumatic first birth and untethered postpartum, and took her postpartum doula training with Birdsong in New York. Fast-forward to her second birth just 19 months later and she was met with a host of health problems that left her hospitalized for 6 weeks. It was then (while hooked up to a chest tube) that she felt called to move her practice full-spectrum, offering support to folks at all stages of their reproductive journey since curveballs rarely follow a timeline.

As a cis-hetero white woman living uninvited on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, she firmly believes in using her privilege to redistribute wealth and bring safe community support to folks who need it—and that means taking care of community support workers in these communities too

Renee Ahmad
Research Coordinator

Renee Ahmadi
Rennee was raised in a small community in North Western B.C. Her connection to community, land, seasons and cycles of life has always been a part of her reality.

She has been teaching a wide variety of community-based yoga classes and workshops since 2011 in Victoria B.C, and in 2014 she completed the DONA birth doula training. Renee is passionate about supporting families wherever they are at, without judgment or agenda. With all her work she focuses on finding adaptive solutions that ensure her body can maximize mobility, safety and comfort.

OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM

Sadie Hodswood (she/her) BA VISA UBC
Executive Director

Sadie Hodswood
Sadie Hodswood is a mother of two, (And, currently mothering an 9 month old and working when she can from within the time cracks of her life.) a full spectrum doula and an artist who lives and works within the ancestral and unceded traditional territory of the Hul’qumi’num and SENĆOŦEN speaking peoples.

She is a co-founder of the Birthing Families Foundation (BFF) which is a project she envisioned when she first became a doula, 7 years ago. At that time Sadie recognized that the birth world had many inequities and she felt propelled to make doula support available to all families, not just the privileged few. Always keen to learn, in 2017 she travelled to Brooklyn NY to take part in another doula training with Ancient Song Doula services, this training helped to anchor her dedication to create change back at home. Sadie is passionate about systems change and reproductive justice and she is driven to learn new ways to show up in this world.

When not working with BFF, and of course mothering 24/7, you will find her getting creative in her studio or out of doors drinking in nature.

Laura Interlandi
Education Coordinator

Laura Interlandi is a postpartum-centric full-spectrum doula, and mother of 3 living on unceded Quw’utsun and Malahat land. She comes from a lineage of educators and uses her creative background, and desire for full-scale systems change, to re-imagine emergent learning experiences.

Laura became a doula in New York City where she had the opportunity to learn from powerful and diverse teachers and leaders at the front lines of reproductive justice movements; she hears the voices of her mentors in her mind and strives to honour them through her work.

When she isn’t working in the community through Birthing Families Foundation, or in her private doula practice, Laura can be found writing and collaborating with her creative soulmate Erica Livingston through their shared platform and business, Birdsong Brooklyn. Laura loves to make people laugh in uncomfortable situations, and her favorite place to be is in her garden belting out 90’s diva classics while pretending like she knows what she’s doing with plants.

Pamela Shakespeare, BA
Administrative Coordinator

Pamela has a BA in Global Studies from Vancouver Island University which gave her an in depth global perspective of the inequities our society is facing. This lead her to social justice movements such as indigenous rights, occupy Wall Street, refugee crisis’ and then to birth justice, which she became more aware of when she was pregnant with her second child six years ago.

Now she is passionate about creating a healthy, inclusive, equitable world, which begins with healthy beginnings and where she came to co-found Birthing Families Foundation. She also loves growing food and providing nourishing meals for her family, being out in nature hiking, surfing, scuba diving and exploring.

OUR VOLUNTEERS

Our amazing volunteers…

Laiken Pratt (she/her they/them)
Laiken Pratt

Laiken (she/her or they/them) is a white settler person living on unceded Lkwungen territory. They are a postpartum doula and general volunteer with BFF.

Besides being a doula, they also work in food justice and harm reduction in the community. They enjoy the rest of their time by being horizontal, laughing with friends, and learning a thing or two.

Candice May

Candice May
Candice is a birth and postpartum doula living in the quaint community of Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island. A mom to two amazing kiddos, it was the birth of her second child that lead her on the path to becoming a doula after suffering alone with severe postpartum anxiety.

Candice has shifted her doula work into more postpartum centered care with a focus on creating community and support networks with the families she serves. In her (very limited) spare time she loves expressing her creativity with art, crafts and small interior design projects.

Kylie Spring

Candice May
Living in Nanoose Bay, with her three daughters and husband, Kylie is a stay-at-home mom with a passion for community care.

She spends her free time creating art, singing, trying to successfully grow a garden, all while unpacking childhood trauma and rewriting her narrative.

Our Sponsors

We would like to thank the Salt Spring Island Foundation for selecting us as a recipient of one of their community grants! This Grant will help us bridge Salt Spring Island’s Midwives and Doulas to create a collaborative and supportive perinatal care model for families.

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BFF would like to generously thank the Victoria Foundation for their continued support in choosing us as a recipient of the Community Grants Program. This vital grant will contribute to our Wrap-around Referral Based Program which provides relevant doula support to vulnerable families through collaboration with existing perinatal support organizations on Vancouver Island.

We also received a grant from the Victoria Foundation's Community Grants Program collaboration stream to help us further interdisciplinary collaborations between perinatal support systems to achieve more optimal care strategies island wide. Thank you for your continued support and care for the health of perinatal families on Vancouver Island.

Victoria Foundation

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We at Birthing Families Foundation would like to extend a big thank you to the Coastal Community Credit Union for selecting us as a recipient of their Relief and Resiliency Fund grant! This will fund the JaneApp software we require to launch our Counselling for Birthing Families program, coming soon. We are so happy for the support of the Coastal Community Credit Union towards our initiative to build resilient, healthy families in our communities!

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Thank you to the Victoria Foundation, along with Community Foundations of Canada for supporting the Community Doula Connection program, as well as the Nesting Doula Collective's programming to support birthing families, via the Gender Equality Fund.

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The United Way of Greater Victoria

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