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Brood’s progressive pre- and post-partum care delivers a bundle of joy to B.C. families.
Lizzy Karp may be one-third of the team behind Vancouver family-care agency Brood. But, two years ago, she only knew one thing about doulas. “I was aware that Erykah Badu was a doula, and that was about it,” she laughs.
But—as we all well know by now—a pandemic can change things. Today, Karp and partners Emma Devin and Gillian Damborg are spreading the doula gospel via their modern, inclusive, community-driven doula and education services.
Devin brings the hands-on experience and educator skillset: they’re a full-spectrum doula with a decade-plus of experience, one who supported friends Damborg and Karp during their respective 2020 births. “It was an… intimate moment,” says Devin, thoughtfully. “We got to know each other really well.”
If you, like Karp once was, are new to the idea of doula-ing: it’s the act of caretaking before, during and after a birth, in whatever unique form that might take for a birther and their family. “I saw Emma support Gill through her pregnancy and postpartum mental health and feeding stuff, and I just thought it was so wonderful to see someone I loved be so supported,” says Karp. She saw something special in that level of personal, thoughtful care, particularly in the thick of a lonely lockdown, when friends and family weren’t able to be part of the experience.
And so, in midst of the pandemic, a big idea was born (alongside Damborg’s and Karp’s happy, healthy babies). “It’s like, ‘A doula and two new moms walk into a bar… oh wait, we can’t walk in, it’s the pandemic, so instead we walk into a park and we dream the future that we want,’” says Karp. That future was one where birthers and families feel cared for and supported and respected, every step of the way; one where they can find reliable, accessible care that isn’t rooted in fear.
Karp and Damborg applied their marketing, strategy and branding expertise to Devin’s experience and talents as a care lead and educator, and then there was Brood: a labour of love. Today, Brood’s bold and beautiful mission statement is that “care is a radical and powerful act.” “We do this because giving and receiving care changes us. It’s proven to give us purpose, support our mental health and resilience, and give us the energy to show up for our families, our work and our communities,” says Karp. The Vancouver-based organization redefines the meaning of family care, creating an ongoing community of birth workers and parents of all stripes. (Trans- and queer-competent care is a huge pillar for Brood.) “We want families to access care in ways that work for them, with language that supports them, that meets them where they’re at,” Devin explains.
And meet them, they have. In just over a year, Brood has served more than 300 families, via a care team of 40 doulas and courses that strive to take care of families from those early days of pregnancy (or miscarriage) into that roller-coaster first year of parenthood. But what’s on offer here is more than simply prenatal education—it’s an opportunity for connection. For instance, Brood recently hosted a sound bath session with Oto Healing. “We hung out, read some tarot cards,” says Devin. And on Family Day, the Brood community came out in full force for complimentary photos—capturing playful portraits of whatever family might mean to them.
Those touchy-feely moments, though, are backed by science, particularly in Brood’s online and IRL classes and workshops. “We’re pushing against that hippie stereotype,” says Karp. “These are super-smart, specialized courses.” A clinical advisory board reviews the courses to ensure medical accuracy and safety.
Naturally, there are the birth-prep courses, but Brood takes a holistic approach to reproductive health and family-rearing: a toolkit for those who work in the abortion space; an endometriosis workbook; support for perinatal mood disorders. Many of the resources are free. “We have this network of amazing educators and are using them to help create resources that don’t exist because of sexism and many other isms,” says Karp. These resources also intentionally offer representation (in imagery and language) for those who don’t typically see themselves in the birth conversation—whether that’s queer or non-binary parents, single parents or those using a surrogate.
Beyond the families who use Brood’s services, you’ll find a parallel (though sometimes overlapping) community of doulas: a network of careworkers who are being mentored, supported and legitimized by the living-wage-certified Brood.
Traditionally, doulas are unregulated; existing information about the industry is hazy at best. “We don’t know how many people out there practice, or who they care for,” explains Karp. “But, anecdotally, many burn out in five years.” Working in isolation, running a small business, offering such emotionally intense care—it’s a lot to handle solo. “It’s really, really nice to be able to uplift and validate that type of work,” says Devin. Down the road, the Brood crew is launching a doula training program in 2024 and expanding beyond B.C. to offer value-aligned doula care around the country.
But that’s the future. Right now, with their newborn business, the Brood brood is trying to live in the moment and appreciate that their dream of a better way to birth has come true. “It’s the simple things,” Devin says. “When we have a prenatal class, everybody’s nervous at first, and by the end, people say they’re excited. Birth is not this terrifying looming thing anymore. That’s so impactful.”
This story was originally published in the July/August 2023 print issue of Vancouver magazine—find the digital issue here.