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November 20, 2012 10:40 am

Birth Under Fire: Israel’s Doulas Unite for The South

avatar by Chelsea Mosery / Tazpit News Agency

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Magen David Adom ambulance in Israel. Photo: wiki commons.

Throughout the country, thousands of reservists have been called to the border with Gaza. These men left behind wives, mothers, children and friends. Some have had to say good-bye to their pregnant wives; whether in the first stages of their pregnancy or approaching their due-dates.

For some, the constant threat of rocket fire doesn’t matter. For the doulas of Israel, there is work to be done. A doula is a certified assistant for natural births. The doula, unlike a midwife, begins working with the expecting mother long before the birth, and accompanies her during and after the birth, offering both physical and emotional support.

Israeli doulas have formed a group of volunteers who are offering their services free of charge to the residents of the south, women whose husbands have been called to the reserves, and any pregnant woman feeling distressed due to the current situation. The doulas are divided into smaller groups based on their residence, offering immediate support to expecting mothers all over the south. These services include meetings in which the doula visits her client’s home and performs services such as reflexology, massages and shiatsu. In addition, women who wish to consult a doula can do so via their Facebook group called ‘Women Supporting Women- Operation Pillar of Defense.’

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This group of dedicated volunteers was established by Ravit Stern-Ginat, aged 33, who has nine years of experience working as a doula. Ravit lives in Alfei Menashe, a community in Samaria. After watching the news and hearing the endless wail of the sirens, she felt helpless. The idea to establish the group came to her when she saw a picture of a pregnant woman hugging her husband as he departed for the reserves. Her immediate thought was that she finally found a way to help. “Whether before, during or after the pregnancy, being a new mother is no easy task,” Ravit told Tazpit News Agency, “especially for those who no longer have the support of their significant other. I wanted to help them.” Ravit turned to her friends and fellow doulas, and their response was “of course”. Thus began the Facebook group ‘Women Supporting Women- Operation Pillar of Defense,’ currently numbering 1,347 members. Members of the group include professional doulas, women seeking advice in pregnancy related matters, or even those just seeking moral support. Ravit was amazed by the success of the ‘operation’ and at the positive results, just two days after she first thought of the idea. Besides the ever-growing Facebook group, companies have contacted her to offer free gifts for the mothers receiving treatment.

Ravit’s goal is to reach as many women as possible to ensure that they receive the help and support they need. She was interviewed by Israel’s Arutz 1. They were impressed by the initiative and the readiness of the volunteers. “We’re making a lot of noise so that we can help as many as possible. We want to help; this is the purpose of our job”, Ravit said.

Yifat and Orly are two of the hundreds of volunteers. Yifat Hovev, aged 26, is a mother of three living in Jerusalem. She heard of Ravit’s group and loved the idea. To her, this is proof that “We, the Israelis, are all brothers. This is the least we can do.” Yifat’s husband has not been called into the reserves yet, but has been told to be on standby. If he is called, Yifat will continue providing the support.

Orly Kalush, mother to ten and a grandmother to four, dreamed of being a doula since giving birth to her first child. She lives in Maon, a small community south of Hebron. When she saw Ravit’s Facebook page calling for volunteers, she joined immediately. “We are ready to give support everywhere, all areas are covered.” Orly has not yet had the chance to care for an expecting mother affected by the situation in the south. She explains: “There are just too many doulas who signed on to help!”

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