Connecting with Haitian moms

There is a unique phenomenon that I am trying to navigate with the Haitian moms in this setting. I will try to describe it to you.

If I had to guess, I would say that 1/4 to 1/3 of the women we are supporting are Haitian. At this public hospital, we are working with young doctors who either speak Spanish as a first language or as second language. Most of those who speak Spanish natively are Dominican and most who speak as a second language are Haitian. On any shift I have worked there may be two or three Haitian doctors. However, only the Dominican  doctors attempt to communicate with the Haitian mothers.

I know… Crazy, right? A Haitian doctor can be standing there hearing the mom speak in Kreole and not engage… or only engage en Español.

Navigating this medical environment en Español is a great challenge in itself. Making sure that I interact respectfully with the doctors is a priority. Some are very accommodating of our presence and invite us to participate in various aspects of the birth process and accept simple assistance with things when they find it makes their jobs easier. Others are more skeptical, so I am mindful about how I engage them.

Sometimes as I struggle to communicate with the doctors, a Haitian mom will begin to speak to me in Kreole.

May I take a moment to say how amazingly beautiful Kreole is? When they speak, it sounds like music and like honey rolling off of their tongues… Simply beautiful.

In those chaotic moments, when I have just realized that I did not understand what the doctor needed when they requested the lamp be turned on… or that someone bring a wheelchair… or understand what the doctor is saying after I ask what I am to be feeling for on the mom’s abdomen when I massage a mom’s belly to check for bleeding… or whatever else they say that is spoken so quickly that I am struggling to understand… I can get really caught up.

Often the Haitian mom we are attending to will begin to speak directly to me. In those moments, the only words I can muster are words in the language I have been trying to convey to the attending doctors: “Hablo Ingles… Hablo poquito Español… Repetes despacio, por favor…”

Before you think it is cruel of me to respond en Español, I must also make you aware that at least half of the Haitian moms I have encountered speak some amount of Spanish. So their effort to speak to me in Kreole is intentional and an effort to try to say something they did not want to share broadly with others.

When the Haitian mom’s begin to speak in their native tongue, I am hard pressed to find ANY of my Kreole… AT ALL… But the next thing they do is what hurts my heart the most. Most of them, after I respond in the only thing I can conjure up (which would be Español), divert their gaze from me and refuse to engage me again. It almost feels they sense a betrayal and now place me in the same category with those doctors who refuse to speak with them in their language in front of Dominicans.

ED07E891-B6B2-420B-926C-4312C8C5281F-4645-00000BAD006FD056Hold on…

I had to pause to make sure I downloaded Haitian Creole in my Google Translate App for work tonight. I realized it wasn’t downloaded properly last night while I was looking for a lifeline to the Haitian moms… and then I realized that it doesn’t provide pronunciation, so I hope I am able to remember some previous lessons about the Kreole alphabet.

I can tell you in another post about ways I am finding success with communicating with the Haitian moms. In this post, I just wanted to share this current challenge I am trying to figure out how to overcome over the next few days.

And please know that I do have a theory about why I am noticing this social cultural context in the hospital. I could be wrong, but it feels familiar. I notice a certain social context with the Haitian doctors as well that looks familiar. It’s not a complaint, just an observation. It could be for a myriad of reasons but I have my theory.

Perhaps I will share those thoughts in another post. I am headed to work now.

Send a sister some positive energy!🤰🏿🙌🏿🙏🏿👶🏾🤰🏾


So… Dr. Doula, why do you doula?

My conversations with Zinzile were rich and fulfilling while I was in South Africa. I used every available opportunity to ask questions about her work in maternal health with the Human Rights in Childbirth Summit: South Africa 2015, her experiences as the Zulu Doula, and her expertise as a town planner and the co-owner of Azania Strategic Urban & Rural Developers (Pty) Ltd in South Africa. I always find it intriguing to consider others’ processes and perspectives… Zee has much to share.

As we were awaiting our meals at a restaurant one day, we were discussing some of the experiences we had had together. We had visited some new mothers and their newborns the day before where out of the six mothers who had birthed, four had birthed by cesarean-sections, which they call caesars. Zee explained the high rates of c-sections at South Africa’s public hospitals and even higher rates at private hospitals.

Modern technological advancements in maternity care include c-sections for mothers that face medical challenges. Still, as with any major medical surgery, there are possible complications that have prompted the development of global initiatives to reduce c-section rates in an effort to improve maternal health.

At some point, Zee turned the video on me, asked me about my motivation for being a birth mentor and doula (among all of the other hats I wear), and pushed record.  Here was my impromptu response:

What is your Doula Perspective… in JAPANESE!

Do you remember the Doula Perspectives Survey? It was an opportunity to answer the question – What is Your Doula Perspective? I was overwhelmed by the responses from doulas of all ages, experience, expertise, and opinions. There were so many responses! I was even more excited when a fellow researcher reached out to me from Tokyo, Japan to inquire about translating the Doula Perspectives Matrix into Japanese and present it through her work.


Her name is Rieko Kishi Fukuzawa, Ph.D. and she is a nurse-midwife and assistant professor at University of Tokyo. She has been presenting information about doulas through Doula Laboratory in Child Research Net, a web-based research institution, in the Japanese language for Japanese people. Of the Doula Perspectives, Rieko stated:

“Although doulas are very newly emerging in Japan, I have noticed that there are already very diverse doulas, and people in the society also tend to perceive doulas variously. So your new theory is very interesting, clear, and very helpful.”

Here are two links regarding her work and research and work regarding doulas that may be of interest:

The Doula Movement in Japan:

Doula Services in Japan:

Doula Venn Diagram  - Gradient (2)What an exciting connection! My desire in presenting the Doula Perspectives was to encourage doulas, prospective doulas and those who might desire doula support to consider the diverse perspectives involved in doula care. As I have stated before, I have encountered few people whose perspectives are confined to boxes. I have noticed that most doulas overlap perspectives based on various personal beliefs and perspectives. That means that doulas are more likely to hold different perspectives than they are to view their doula work in exactly the same way.

If you did not complete the Doula Perspectives Survey in February, PLEASE DO! I am extending the Doula Perspectives Survey until April 30, 2015. I would appreciate you adding your perspective to the responses if you have not already.

THANKS IN ADVANCE! I am looking forward to MORE responses! 🙂