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Ready, Set, Deliver!


Sonja Spoo ’13 wants to ease the labor process. Photo by Laurence Kesterson

Sonja Spoo ’13 has found an unorthodox method for gaining perspective on test taking at Swarthmore: Hang out with women in labor.

After 10 hours in a Philadelphia hospital supporting a woman through what ended up being a complicated birth, Spoo had to duck out and catch a train to campus to take a test before returning for the baby’s delivery. “The test was easy in comparison—I thought, ‘at least there’s a definite end to this!’”

An interest in childbirth has been delivered to the College by Spoo and faculty adviser Satya Nelms, who once was a doula (a supportive labor coach) herself. The rapidly growing popularity of doulas, who provide emotional support to a mother during the birthing process, first attracted Spoo when she worked in a women’s clinic in London during a year abroad.

After recruiting 15 students for the club at last year’s activities fair, Spoo and Nelms enlisted the help of doula trainer Jackie Kelleher from Doulas of North America (DONA). The group, characterized by Spoo as students “passionate about reproductive health,” then pursued DONA’s training requirements. In four weeks, they underwent 27 hours of in-class training by Kelleher, learning about everything from medical and emotional processes during labor to patient advocacy and the layout of hospital rooms.

Once the classroom-based training is complete, the fledgling doulas are required to be lead doulas on three births before being certified, which most members were still chipping away at in late May.

Ten of the original 15 members of Swarthmore Doulas graduated in May, including Spoo, and many are exploring careers in reproductive medicine as a result. The club will endure, and Spoo, who plans to remain involved, hopes to create a network with underserved communities such as Chester, Pa., to serve low-income mothers who may not otherwise have the means for doula care.

“Being born is something we all go through,” says Spoo, citing studies showing that mother-child bonds are greatly improved with the presence of a doula. “Every person has a mother, so having support in that experience is important.”

–Carrie Compton

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