AUSTIN – Elizabeth Reyna, a graduating senior enrolled in the health science program at Eastside Memorial Early College High School is perhaps the first registered Doula in a Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway for assisting high school students to early careers while still in high school. On a recent early morning at Seton Main Hospital, Reyna assisted in the birth of a new born, being present and supportive to the new mother.
A Doula is a recognized healthcare professional who provides comfort and assistance to new mothers during child birth. The doula is an integral partner for women seeking help from mid wives during a more natural child birth experience. Doulas also provide education and support to new mother and family after the birth of the child. Reyna had been previously attending doctor visits with the expectant mother and provided exercises and instructions to the mother and new father prior to and during the birth.
Reyna enrolled in the health science program during her freshmen year at the school; with the intention of becoming a mid wife. Although she transferred outside the district for her sophomore year of high school, she continued to pursue her dream after returning during her junior year. It was during her junior year that she; along with assistance from Dr. Sanford Jeames- coordinator of health science programs; began in earnest to locate a doula training program that would be open to high school students. Reyna contacted the Doulas of North America (DONA) and was soon put in touch with a registered training program. She was informed they were open to 16 year olds and she registered in the fall of 2018 to attend the training. However, due a significant number of other applicants, she was put on a waiting list for the upcoming March 2019 training. Not to be deterred, Reyna was then introduced to Darline Turner, a former teacher at Eastside Memorial who was also organizing Doula trainings through her organization; ‘Healing Hands Doula Project’. This community based organization had been recognized in Austin and Central Texas for their efforts to provide education and training to recruit more doulas from populations of color. Turner was very interested in community education and outreach initiatives to bring attention to mortality rates of birthing mothers; especially among African American women and Hispanic women.
Reyna was enrolled in the Healing Hands Doula Training program and attending classes during the summer and fall of 2019. The doula training program is a series of educational seminars and hands on training. She has received classes on breast feeding, vaginal births, Cesarean section births, pre-natal care and post-partum care of newborns.
During the spring semester, Elizabeth will be participating in an internship program at the Austin Milk Bank to learn more about the importance of breast milk donation. Her placement will also provide her with an opportunity to learn more breastfeeding and its impact on overall health of new mothers and new babies. She will get the opportunity to interact with new mothers who visit the facility and she will educate other new mothers about the importance of breast milk donation to help others throughout the region. Reyna will graduate in May 2020 and has applied and been accepted to Austin Community College. Her plans are to then enroll in the Registered Nursing program in preparation to become a Registered Mid-wife. Becoming a Doula is a strong step for this high school student to achieve her goals.