Monday, March 9, 2009

Pregnant Teens-A Model of Care and Hope

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A Doula Story is a moving hour-long documentary about a doula who works with pregnant teenagers in Chicago. The doula, Loretha Weisinger, shows and explains how she nurtures the pregnant girls so they can nurture their babies. She also exposes the challenges these girls face as she follows them through their pregnancies, births and their lives afterward.

There is a call to action that begins with the opening words printed on the screen.

"One out of nine births in this country is to a teenager."

"Many face their pregnancy and parenthood alone."

This call to action intensifies as the viewer witnesses Loretha Weisenger's understanding and compassion for each girl. By her actions, she clearly shows us what is needed to provide hope for a better life for these families.

From the film's description at Black Public Media's website:

"A Doula Story documents one African American woman’s fierce commitment to empower pregnant teenagers with the skills and knowledge they need to become confident, nurturing mothers. Produced by The Kindling Group, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, this powerful film follows Loretha Weisinger back to the same disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood where she once struggled as a teen mom. Loretha uses patience, compassion and humor to teach “her girls” about everything from the importance of breastfeeding and reading to their babies, to communicating effectively with health care professionals."

We see the significant barriers to breastfeeding these girls face. At the same time, it is clear that when these girls do breastfeed, the health and emotional benefits can be crucial and satisfying for the mom who can take pride in her unique gift that only she can give to her baby. Watching Ms. Weisinger help these girls to breastfeed, reminded me of a story a WIC breastfeeding counselor shared with me.

The WIC counselor was working with an African American woman whose baby was thriving on breast milk. The woman weaned her baby when she returned to work because she was overwhelmed by a lack of support and the increased demands of returning to work when her baby was quite young. Subsequently, her baby ended up in the emergency room many times for illnesses and intolerance to the different formulas. In frustration, the mother said to the WIC counselor, "Why didn't you chain me to a chair and make me breastfeed?" The WIC counselor's response was that she had to respect the mother's right to choose. What choices did this mother really have? She wanted to breastfeed but the barriers overwhelmed her.

If you wish to learn more about the services and mission of Marillac House, where Ms. Weisinger works, click here

Click here to view the hour-long film.

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