Meet Giving Austin Labor Support: Introducing AIGA Austin’s 2019 Changemaker Series Change Organizations

Julianne Hanckel
May 29, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo from Giving Austin Labor Support

The AIGA Austin Changemaker Series is excited to announce its 2019 Changemaker Organizations: Giving Austin Labor Support (GALS), Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas, and Black Mamas Community Collective.

With the second ATX Changemaker Series challenge focusing on “How we might ensure all mothers have access to quality, equitable support and healthcare before, during and after childbirth,” we set out to partner with these inspiring nonprofits and change organizations that serve women in all stages of their maternal health journey.

Before the Change Organizations join us at our Weekend Workshop for the official kick-off to their three-month projects on June 8th, we wanted to get to know them a bit more.

Giving Austin Labor Support

Giving Austin Labor Support (GALS) is an organization dedicated to ensuring no one gives birth alone. Over 65 birth support companions and doulas provide free emotional, physical and informational support to those who are under-supported in order to improve birth outcomes and empower birthing individuals and their families.

GALS has provided a non-judgemental presence and support for all birthing preferences and locations — hospital, birth center or home — for the last 10 years.

We also work with medical providers and family members to reduce traumatic births (ex: helping to slow down decision making to encourage informed consent).

Q&A with GALS

Can you tell us about the work you do with/in the maternal healthcare space?

Studies show that the presence of a Doula or birth support companion reduces interventions and complications in birth. According to a 2017 Cochrane Review, those who receive birth support from a non-medical, and non-related person, are more likely to have a vaginal birth without needing forcep or vacuum assistance. They are also less likely to request pain medication or have a cesarean birth and are more likely to have a shorter labor and be more satisfied with their birth experience.

Who benefits from the services that your organization offers?

GALS believes that every person should have access to birth support if they would like it. Through three programs, GALS has assisted over 400 families in the transition to parenthood. The bread and butter of our organization will always be the On-Call Program. It is through this program that we go to anyone who needs support in birth. Our dispatch phone rings 24/7/365 and can send a volunteer to support someone in less than three hours. Our Prenatal Doula Program provides traditional doula support to individuals with low incomes and an inability to pay for doula services out-of-pocket. Many families in this program are referred to us through local clinics or social service organizations.

Additionally, we provided prenatal education and birth support to incarcerated pregnant people of Travis County Correctional Complex — ultimately serving over 18 families.

What projects are you currently working on? What’s in store for 2019–2020?

GALS knows that having volunteer support available 24/7 is amazing.

However, it doesn’t do anyone any good if patients and medical providers don’t know that they can call us for this kind of support. In response, we are expanding our outreach to include presence at conferences and have begun tabling every week at local farmers markets — catch us Sundays at HOPE Farmer’s Market on Comal!

Our mission, while focusing primarily on birthing individuals, also encompasses two other important stakeholders: the birth workers that dedicate mad hours to this work for very little (if any) compensation, and the medical providers we work with to ease the burden of one-on-one care for the higher acuity patients. Moving forward, we will dedicate more time to these two groups by increasing training opportunities, outreach, and support.

Right now, what’s the biggest hurdle in the way of your mission? What are your biggest frustrations?

With 10 years serving Central Texas families, we have made do with a fairly steady base of supporters, volunteers, and philanthropic base.

GALS, however, dreams of serving more families, increasing revenue for our birth companions, securing a space for the families we serve to congregate and build community, expanding our reach outside of Central Texas, and more.

We realize that we really matter to the people that we matter to, but how might GALS investigate deeply and integrate why we matter to each of our audience segments/stakeholders to then build a foundation for expanding our brand identity, our philanthropic efforts, and expansion to new terrain? This is why GALS applied to be a part of the Changemaker Series.

What do you wish the public knew about your work, your cause or about the people you serve?

Maternal mortality and morbidity aren’t going to be “solved” through one non-profit's efforts. The systemic issues of racism and sexism in our society are deeply ingrained in pregnancy and postpartum care within, and outside of, the medical system. However, through the utilization of GALS services, our truest hope is that birthing individuals are respected, supported, and provided the opportunity to make informed choices. The birth of a mother is just as important as the birth of the baby. We know that when a birthing person is given all the information and trusted to make the best decisions for themselves and their child, they will. Through each GALS experience, we hope the individuals we serve will feel their own power and grow a little more confident in their strength and ability to parent.

How does your organization work to overcome the many myths and misconceptions that exist about maternal health?

Our culture has created a shame bubble around bodies, sex, and birth. Because of this, the way Americans talk about birth is through a lens of disempowerment. Birth is called scary, gross, painful, and even shameful. This viewpoint is troubling. Not only does it limit the birthing person’s ability to view their body as purposeful and powerful, it creates a foundation for birth to be a traumatic event. It is deemed “ok” for other people to make decisions for the birthing person because in a world where we don’t give people with uteruses thorough education around their bodies, how could we expect them to make the best decisions for themselves?

The power dynamic often leads to a lack of informed consent. Layer the systemic racism that leads to people of color, and black women specifically, being ignored and disrespected and you see even worse outcomes for both moms and babies. If we want a society where all races and genders are treated equitably, we must adjust the way we hold space for birthing people. GALS believes that all people are deserving of respect and support. By holding space in birth rooms, we are able to shift the paradigm that birth is traumatic to birth is an empowering and important moment in which a mother digs deep and learns they are stronger than they thought.

Have you worked with designers before? What was the overall experience like? Is there anything you wish designers would do differently or you would do differently?

We haven’t worked with designers before. GALS is excited to learn and grow from new perspectives!

What’s your organization’s problem-solving process like? How much room for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking exists in decision making? Have you incorporated any design thinking methods into your organization’s workflow?

Our values are grounded in our roots as an all-volunteer organization. We learned quickly that the next great idea is one volunteer away, so we work hard to ingrain a culture of inclusivity; GALS is not just an organization to belong to, but one that people can feel ownership of. Our programming was designed through out-of-the-box thinking and came together through a group of individuals working together. When there is a problem or decision to make, GALS leadership seeks to honor our past by ensuring everyone can come to the table with new ideas and solutions. We don’t currently use design thinking, but we are excited to learn and apply in the future.

If only one thing was to come out of the 2019 Changemaker Series experience for the benefit of your organization, what would you want that to be?

We hope that at the end of this experience, we have a plan for growth, expansion, and stewardship of those currently involved.

To learn more and connect with Giving Austin Labor Support (GALS):

WebsiteFacebookInstagram

Have more questions about the AIGA Austin Changemaker Series?

Email us at changemaker@austin.aiga.org. Following @AIGAAustin on social media or join our Changemaker Series email list to stay in the loop.

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