12 Doulas, 1 Year, How Many Lives Changed?

A doula is a childbirth assistant who provides informational, physical and emotional support before, during, and shortly after labor. These women are a growing trend and necessity in the United States and the western world. But what about Swaziland? 

Before my OB friend, Dr. Bob introduced the idea of doula to RFM, the medical staff had never heard of or worked with a doula. After some months of me doula-ing in the ward, the idea was catching. 

Why Does Swaziland Need Doulas?

Honestly y’all, you might be appalled if you walked into the Labor Ward. It’s an open area, with 3 short (pushing) beds about 2.5 feet away from each other. No screens. No walls dividing. So if you delivered here, you would have 2 other strangers laboring and pushing (naked) beside you. By the time you enter the labor Ward, you’d be expected to know about contractions, bloody shows, how to push and anything else that goes along with it. But you live in a country with limited literature describing these aspects of birth in your native tongue. The clinics you visit for prenatal education are overcrowded and understaffed, so the nurses don’t have time to answer your questions, nor is it really acceptable for you to HAVE questions to ask. You need to know things, but your girlfriends and best case scenario an experienced mom will probably tell you “it hurts” and “the baby comes out here,” with some gesturing. You’ll watch your belly grow and wonder if you’ll be one of other women whose baby is delivered in a khumbi (minibus), or at 11 months, or without medical assistance because the ambulance wasn’t available. 

In my time as a doula, I found one of the most influential components to my work was knowledge. With knowledge and no doula, clients would report: 

Thank you so much. The birth was great. I wasn’t afraid. I remembered what you told me, so when the contractions came regulary, I went to the hospital. Everything was good! It happened just like you said it would!

And tiny bundles would be presented to me with requests for information about breastfeeding. 

If there was limited knowledge, but a doula present during labor, at best she’d have a companion who could translate what the nurses said in layman’s terms, give her water, tell her what “you’re 6 cms” means along with other invaluable information and encouragements. With knowledge, i watched scared girls transform into focused warrior-moms. With knowledge comes empowerment. The birthing room is no different. 

Why THIS Program Will Change Things 

I’m so excited that Siphilile and I met! Our vision for this project would flop without the right women as doulas. We need women with compassion, education, resolve, and understanding of birth. Ideally we need women who know how to teach and counsel someone, build trust and already do this in some capacity in their lives. 

Siphilile’s mentor mothers are each given a section of town to cover, 1 month of training, and a backpack with a scale in it. Each day they visit families, screen for Tb, assess malnourished children; educate about health and hugiene, safe sex and pregnancy nutrition. In short, the mentor mothers are doulas on steroids who just never make it into the labor Ward. . . Until now! 

I could not have dreamed of a more perfect organization or group of women to vanguard this project!

What’s Left? 

We have raised 35% of our yearly budget. Keep in mind this will employee 12women part time for a year! We only need $5,520 more! 😳 

✔️ Have you or did you have access to helpful childbirth education classes? Please consider giving that same opportunity to Swaziland’s  women. (Doulas heavily educate mothers on nutrition, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and carrying for a newborn.)

✔️ do you wish you’d had access to helpful childbirth education classes?? Consider helping these women. 

✔️Was your doula invaluable at your delivery? Could you share that chance with countless women who cannot provide that themselves?

✔️ Wish you’d heard of a doula when you had kids? Now you have! Consider donating so, others have that chance! 

You can donate by:
1. sending a tax deductible check to: Manna Global Ministries; PO Box 9240; Riviera Beach, FL 33419

– write the check to: Manna – Swaziland; please include a sticky note that says, “Doula Project”

2. clicking the link “Donate” on the sidebar of this page. Please note Paypal charges a 3% processing fee and is not tax deductible

I look forward to connecting with many of you while we’re in the States in 10 days!😄🎉 

Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Christmas Party

The weekend before Christmas was our church’s planned Christmas party. Everyone had drawn a name and was meant to get a small gift for that person. The men would supply the meat, while the women provided and prepared everything else.

In Swazi fashion, the women gathered at the church by 7am to start the fire and begin the dicing and slicing. I walked the 5 minutes to the church, while leaving Cedar at home with Sean. She was sleeping, so he had a relaxing morning, while I sat with about 6 other women and some teenage girls. Since I was late, I was left to chop about 10 lbs of carrots, peel the boiled beets, and grate both beets and carrots.

During previous food-prep times like this, I felt incredibly awkward. I would stand around, asking one women who I knew well enough what I should do. I didn’t understand much, so I couldn’t chime in. This time, I still didn’t do a lot of talking in the larger group. I’ve found that my “international” personality is a much more “watch and learn” one that my American personality. When I was alone with just one other mom, I’d make small talk. Sometimes it’s really, really challenging because not many initiate a conversation with me. It seems we’re all afraid of each other’s languages. :)

By about 10, they did inform me it was time to go home and get cleaned up in order to return for church since all the food was finished. I offered to stay because no one else was walking away at that moment, but they shooed me off. Off I went. To nurse Cedar, wrap my gift, pack up some cups and last-minute supplies we needed, snag my Bible, and walk back to church with Sean and Cedar this time.

Church usually lasts from 11-1, but on that day, it went a little longer. I was grateful for the first of two preachers who actually shared a message about the Christmas story and coming of Christ. It has been my experience around holidays that the messages, songs, and services are not geared towards the Christian celebration. There’s no mention of an empty grave at Easter, no Lord-as-a-babe for Christmas. But this Sunday there was! It made church stretch longer, but it was worth it.

During church, Cedar does much better if a Swazi mom or girl holds her. After some time with Sean or I, she’ll get anxious and sqwuak quite a bit. It makes things challenging, especially because it’s either hold-her-in-your-lap-while-she-fusses, or let-her-crawl-in-the-dust-and-terrorize-people. We tag-teamed throughout the service and sighed a bit when it concluded after 2.5 hours.

Then came the gift exchanging. But first, a prayer over the gifts and givers. We had all brought our gifts to the front of the room and placed what would fit on a small wooden bench, which also double as our pulpit. The Sunday school children received a gift from their teacher. One-by-one, each small gift was picked up, the name was read, and we all waited patiently, expectantly as the recipient walked to the front, curtsied and received their gift with cupped hands – showed respect. At one point, after the children seemed to hesitate in approaching the front, Babe  Dlamini said, “Hurry up! Go. It’s your teacher. Don’t be afraid.” The gift-giving procedded slightly faster after that encouragement!

After the children had received their gifts, there were still some without, and some recipients who hadn’t arrived to claim them. All the children without gifts made a line at the front. Once the teacher saw how many remained without gifts, she sent them back to their seats. I’m not sure if they’ll get gifts later, or just missed out. It did amaze me that almost no sadness or disappointment crossed the faces of the children who had no gift in their hands. Additionally, they were told to open them when they were home. Wakhile, the 5-year old daughter of a friend, and I giggled over what could be inside. She and her mother felt around, trying to guess. Her mother determined what it was. The suspense almost killed the little girl. It’s about the same everywhere isn’t it?

The adult’s gift-giving proceeded about the same. I had agonized a bit over what gift I would give to the young woman whose name I had pulled. In the end, I went with dishes. 2 dinner plates. 4 small coffee cups. And a packet of biscuits (hard cookies). Most adults didn’t open their presents at the church, but a few of them did. Everyone (including me) whose gifts I saw had some type of dish, tupperware, or kitchen item. Whew!  I was relieved I had gone with my gut and bought dishes. I was uncertain the price range I was supposed to spend. I decided that a little spoiling was okay, so I spent a little bit more than I thought others would. But it was a perfect time to bless someone without sticking out – anonymous gifting- hello!

After we all received our packages, there was more waiting and planning and then finally we got to dish up the food. Platters were scooped out from the main bowls to serve the children outside. Make Gwebu piled on the rice. Make Zwane added the sauce and chicken. I piled on the salads -beet root, carrot, and potato. I apparently piled too much in the beginning because Make Zwane asked Make Gwebu to tell me to only do one scoop each! oops!

Shortly after eating, Cedar was getting unruly . . . aka she was biting Sean. So he took her home. I gobbled my food (at 2:30) and told the women I’d be back. I trotted home after Sean and Cedar to nurse her and put her down for a nap. I peed. Then trotted back to the church for the third time. Being within walking distance of church is super convenient and good for exercise. :)

Everyone was just chilling out. Most of the children had gone home, some of the adults had vacated. Those who were left were the young girls who were washing all the dishes (that’s the job. The mothers cook, the young girls wash the dishes. I’m actually not sure what the fathers do :/). We all lounged and relaxed. I sat perched pretty awkwardly on that bench – desperately trying to be present – but seriously tired and ready for an afternoon nap! It wasn’t too long when we all decided it was time to go.

I made it home and crashed on the couch, while Cedar was still napping. She took a hearty long nap, so I was able to pass out for 50 minutes while Sean went to work out. It was a good exhaustion. The one that comes from straining your ear to understand siSwati all day. The exhaustion that comes from walking up and down your dusty dirt track. And juggling a baby in church. And laughing with other women. And sweating in the extreme heat. And guessing presents with the young girl beside you who plays with your daughter. An exhaustion that ends the day with a contented sigh and remembers the  moments with a smile, all the tired and hurt forgotten, with only the memories of love, joy, shared time, and beautiful people remaining, which is a lot of what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

May your days be rich with passion and energy. May you be exhausted from all the love and joy. 


Make Zwane and our pile of gifts for each other. The children sat quietly, but attentively. :)


Note the 4 week old passed out on the mat on the left wall. Gotta sleep sometime!


Blurry, but alas, you can see well our pews and all the men waiting for food!


Cedar and Sean hanging in there. . .

Categories: Family Life, Kingdom Coming Related, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

An Overview of Last Week’s Doula Meetings

Forgive me for not adding too much flair and zest to this update. I want to share the updates, but nothing is too fancy.

Here’s an overview of the last week:

Tuesday – I had a fantastic meeting with the CEO of Siphililie, a Mentor Mother’s program based in Matsapha, Swaziland. Their 45 mentor mothers each have a designated section of the town that they cover. Being mentors, they connect with people, assess family healthy needs, offer counseling on hygiene, HIV transmission, TB prevention, as well as prenatal counseling and constant encouragement for ill or HIV positive folks to frequent the clinic.

When I was speaking with the CEO, I thought these women would make perfect doulas! We had a stimulating, collaborative conversation with the following conclusion: Siphilile will sponsor 8 part-time doulas. They will partner with this Doula Swaziland project fully – including letting their mentor mothers apply as doulas, and all doulas can attend the Siphilile monthly training meetings, as well as, be involved in the initial month-long training. 

This partnership is beyond exeptional and could be the difference in the success and failure over the long-term. Woo hoo!

During the week – I furiously researched, read articles, perused grant applications, and created Manna’s official grant application complete with 6 pages of instructions, and 7 pages of information needed. I really worked hard to ensure this grant application will be a tool that propels the project forward, and additionally walks participants through all expected needs. Once this is complete, I imagine things can fall into place quite nicely!

Friday – There was a stakeholders’ meeting at RFM hospital, which included the CMO, myself, a midwife from the labor ward, another volunteer doula, and several representatives from different departments in the hospital. We discussed how to further the project, budget, implementation logistics, and even set a date. We hope to be training our first set of doulas by April 1, 2016. Our work is cut out for us with the holidays coming up! With diligence and a lot of grace, I’m certain we can make it.

I will not lie. This task is daunting, and I think I rushed into some aspects a bit too quickly. I realized that on Friday at our meeting, but we are communicating the necessary changes and wait to see how the Lord will deliver us. Remember when I declared that I’m in over my head!Yes, I still feel that way.

What’s Next?

  • RFM and I need to lay out each groups’ roles; complete an MOU, which I had no idea about until 10 days ago
  • RFM will complete Manna’s grant application
  • The committee will secure a trainer and tentative dates
  • All three parties – RFM, Manna/me, and Siphilile – must decide on their on involvement, roles, and responsibilities (easier written than done)
  • and the Lord only knows what else!


We’re raising $8,500. Several pledges have been made, so our current needs are only $7,970 left! Two donors are gifting a donation to Doula Swaziland in honor of a family member for Christmas. What a magnificent gift that will give multiple times over!

A reminder of how to partner with us:

You can pledge your donation by emailing me at boehrig2@gmail.com

OR you can donate by:

  1. sending a tax deductible check to: Manna Global Ministries; PO Box 9240; Riviera Beach, FL 33419

– write the check to: Manna – Swaziland; please include a sticky note that says, “Doula Project

2. clicking the link “Donate” on the sidebar of this page. Please note Paypal charges a 3% processing fee and is not tax deductible


Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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