Deciding On A Doula? Meet Toronto Family Doulas Founder Meaghan Grant
Today on the blog, we're talking to Meaghan Grant, Founder of Toronto Family Doulas.
Meaghan founded Toronto Family Doulas (TFD) in 2015 to provide support to families across the GTA. She is also a Birth & Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Infant Feeding Specialist and of course - Car Seat Passenger Safety Technician.
Join our Founder, Katie, and Meaghan from TFD on October 6th for a new episode of Birth & Baby Talk on Facebook Live!
(Sonday) The first question I had when I started looking for additional support in preparation for birth was, what is the difference between a Midwife and a Doula? - IS this the most common question you get?
(Meaghan) A midwife is not a doula! A birth doula is a trained labour support person who provides emotional & physical support to those giving birth and their families. While not medical professionals, doulas can offer a wide range of comfort measures. Doulas are paid for out of pocket by clients.
Midwives are health-care professionals who provide government-funded (in Ontario) expert primary care to pregnant people and their newborns. As midwives are experts in low-risk pregnancy and birth/delivery, midwifery clients will not see a physician unless there are concerns or complications. If complications arise, midwives can consult with or, if necessary, transfer a client’s care to a physician.
(Meaghan) It’s funny, this was definitely the most common question I got when I first became a doula eight years ago. I don’t hear it as often these days, I think doulas are more ‘mainstream’ now and more people know what we do. Or, they at least know we aren’t midwives!
What are the range of services you offer to women, and what do you find are the most common?
Each of our agencies are a little different. Our childbirth classes in Hamilton are very well known in the community, and in Ottawa we do a lot of birth support. Toronto does a lot of postpartum care and I think that’s because we are supportive of all feeding, sleeping, and parenting choices, and because we don’t put an arbitrary time limit on what counts as “postpartum”.
What are some of your most FAQs?
I definitely hear that doulas are only for home births or unmedicated births a lot. Which isn’t true at all! In my early practice I actually specialized in multiples and high risk pregnancies and became very comfortable supporting highly medicalized births. Now I support everything from home births to scheduled caesareans.
We also get asked if we will advocate for our clients a lot. And the thing is, even if we tried the healthcare providers wouldn’t listen to us because we aren’t you! I often describe our role as something of a bridge, we are there to help facilitate communication rather than speak on anyone’s behalf. We do definitely help people to advocate for themselves though.
When does Doula care typically start and end with your clients? What stages of their pregnancy and postpartum journey?
This is such a broad question and different doulas will have different answers. Our agencies support clients at any point in their journey. I’ve gotten calls about positive pregnancy tests before spouses, and I’ve gotten calls from folks who are in labour and realizing they need some support.
On the postpartum side, we’ve joined clients in the postpartum unit of the hospital, and we’ve ushered in a few 2nd birthdays. Especially on the postpartum side of things, we believe that families are the best people to determine what constitutes as “postpartum”.
What are the top benefits that women share about having a Doula?
I think the benefits are different for everyone because every birth, and every persons needs, are unique. That said, as a doula we can’t change birth outcomes, but we can help families feel like they were informed, had choices, and were supported throughout their journey. For a lot of people, that is the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic one, no matter whether things went according to hopes and plans or not.
How did the pandemic change the way you work with clients? What are the biggest learnings you have from having to do distant care?
Virtual care was definitely a new experience. As a business owner, if I never hear the word “pivot” again it will be too soon! We definitely had to learn a new way if supporting a birth. When you are in a birthing room, there is a balance between talking and silent support that doesn’t exist in the same way when providing virtual support. We definitely had to be more vocal and more descriptive than we are in person. But I actually think it was a huge, positive learning experience for us as doulas as well. We figured out how to support our clients and continue to maintain a positive relationship with medical care providers, all through a screen during a pandemic. Which is pretty amazing.
You started TFD in 2015 with your business partner, Alex. What was the genesis of TFD and what need did you want to serve?
I had actually hired Alex as my birth doula for my second pregnancy. I knew who she was and I appreciated her approach to doula work. Working with her as a client solidified my respect for her professionalism and not long after giving birth, I approached her about going into business together.
For us, TFD had two goals: (1) was to provide non-judgemental support to birthing and postpartum families in the GTA. The doula profession was born out of a place of activism and advocacy that made sense at the time, but too often is used to shame and pressure expecting people and families now. TFD was about supporting families without an agenda, I often tell clients that I’m the only person in the room without an opinion.
And (2), to help create a more sustainable industry. The average “lifespan” of a doula was 2 years when I did my first training. And both Alex and I knew that the encouragement of pro-bono services, endlessly being on-call, and lack of business knowledge and training were huge contributing factors to the loss of experience and knowledge that continually plagued the profession. Those same things contributed to a lack of diversity in the field as well. When we built TFD, we did so with the intention of providing living wages, a work-life balance, and opportunities to grown and be mentored.
And now you own additional properties across Ontario?
We have 3 doula agencies and an educational brand. Toronto Family Doulas was our first agency, we then joined our fabulous partner Leanne Palmerston in Hamilton Family Doulas, and then we grew to include Family Doulas of Ottawa where we partner with (the other) Meghan Bowser-Taylor. All three of our agencies offer birth and postpartum support, childbirth education, infant feeding support, and sleep support.
At the start of the pandemic we launched Birth & Baby Talk. What had originally been intended as a podcast (pre-pandemic) actually became a weekly live show and newsletter. This is our educational arm and we launched it because so much of birth and parenting is true regardless of where folks live and we wanted to create a “one-stop-shop” for information. That said, we encourage everyone to follow all three agencies as well on social media as there is expanded content, tips and tricks, and recommendations shared by each brand.
Contact Toronto Family Doulas!
You can find Meaghan & her team through
Phone: (416) 834-9958
Additional Questions from our Interview
Do Doulas make any medical recommendations or try to sway women into having natural births?
Well, I can’t speak for all doulas because truthfully, there are some out there like this! That’s why it’s so important for expectant families to get a feel for a doula or agency philosophy. Our doulas definitely do not do this though! In fact, workings with care providers is a big part of our job, nothing good comes from a doula making waves in a birth room or in a postpartum environment. It’s true that sometimes we make suggestions that we have seen at other hospitals or with other professionals, but it’s always presented as a question or collaboration and never as a criticism or instruction.
What is the main difference between a Birth Doula and Postpartum Doula?
I thought there was a lot of difference when I first became a doula, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate how similar the roles are. The need for accurate, up-to-date, and unbiased information is the same, the need for physical support is the same, even if the precise type of physical support is different. And the emotional support of very similar, hormones do a lot of things to our bodies and minds and that’s true on both sides of giving birth. And, let’s be honest, birth or postpartum I usually head home with something gross on my shirt!
In Ontario, what major hospitals are allowing Doulas back in for birthing support? (at the time of writing, August 31, 2021)
It’s hard to say for all of Ontario, unfortunately there is no universal standard and each hospital sets its own policies. At this point, most hospitals in the province have opened up to additional support people, including doulas. But there are definitely a few holdouts still. Unfortunately, during the pandemic there were some doulas who were (and are) very vocally against the closures, masks, infection prevention and control measures, and vaccines. I think that contributes to some hospitals being nervous to welcome doulas back. The hospitals we are back in though are so excited to see us. It’s amazing being greeted by doctors, nurses, and midwives we haven’t seen in eighteen months and having them say how much they’ve missed us!