Pregnant Inmates and Why Do We Help Them

Today we had childbirth class with the pregnant inmates. We taught the class twice since there were a couple of pregnant inmates in medical and could not be with the population. It was Brittany Johnson and myself.

We got as far as 2 locked doors to where we were to go, when a deputy came to us and said it could be a while, we have a situation. Sometimes that means we never do get to go to teach because of a problem with one or more inmates. We waited for about 10 minutes then the next locked door opened and we heard a voice that said we could go. As we walked down the stair well to the next locked door, we passed a female deputy who looked at us and said, Good Luck". Not sure what that meant, we went through the next door. We waited as they were getting ready to escort a group of female inmates to another location. Normally, they are not allowed to talk in line. But one girl looked at me and said, "Who are you"? I looked at the deputy to make sure it was ok to talk and told her my name was Janice with For The Love of Birth. She got a big smile on her face. She said, "you don't recognize me because I changed the color of my hair! I was here at the beginning of the year and you all helped me when I had my baby". I asked her her name and realized who she was. I asked about her baby. Asked who was taking care of her while she was here. I smiled at her and said - hope things work out good for you and that you get to see your daughter soon! Then I said what I always say before we see someone for the last time - Hey now, don't come back her, ok? She smiled at me and said ok.

I looked at my watch and realized that we now only had 45 minutes of class time left if we went to the room right then. Brittany and I waited while they were transferring inmates. They had not asked for my list of pregnant inmates yet. I knew it could be even 15 more minutes.

They were able to get to our list and started calling out the names of the girls to the different deputies in the pods. Finally the girls started coming out. One of the pregnant girls said, remember me? I was here 5 years ago when I had my baby. I had seen her name already and knew she was a repeat. What is amazing, she has had another baby in between the one we were with her and the one she is pregnant with now.

The Deputy escorted Brittany and myself and the girls to the programs room. We worked quickly getting our things out for class knowing we only had a short time to be with them. Just the paper work for the new ones takes time. After answering all of their questions, getting due dates for those that did not know yet, we could finally start the class. One girl asked for a piece of paper to write her question on since it was so personal, she did not want to say it out loud. She handed me the paper and I answered her question quietly to her to keep it private. She seemed relieved at the answer that I gave her.

We had quit a few due very close together, but I looked at our mom that is due sooner than the rest and told her, you get to pick what we will talk about since you are closer to your due date. She wanted to talk about postpartum depression. I had them take their books that we wrote about pregnancy and childbirth and turn to the page that talks about ppd. As soon as she said depression, the other girls eyes got very big and they all shook their heads yes and all of them were worried about it.

This whole time, Brittany is very busy with paper work, filling out certificates to the inmates that had done their homework, and getting making sure each inmate got all of her paperwork back and also received the new handouts.

We went over the different symptoms and then talked about how it feels and some of the other girls that have had it talked about it.

The one that we had been with 5 years before that was very worried about it too and talked about how she felt. I then realized this could be our first inmate that we work with twice. It made my heart just sink.

We finished the class, when back to the front desk to check in and then to check out again to go to medical. There we met with 2 girls that were new to us. The Deputy said that both girls had been waiting for us and was afraid we had forgotten them. We saw them in a very small room where we were allowed to meet with them. One girl, who is not far from her sue date, cried almost the whole time. It does not matter what we tell them, it still breaks their heart to know they will have their baby in jail. The questions and concerns of these 2 girls got even deeper. I was afraid to look over at Brittany. I knew I was having a hard time to keep myself together and I knew if I looked at her, I was afraid I would cry. I did not know that Brittany was thinking the same thing. The other girl had lost 2 babies at 10 weeks of pregnancy. She was afraid she was loosing this one too. She also talked about looking at prison time and that it could be a long time before she would be out to be with her baby.

I am not sure what happened in that room. I don't know if it was their questions, or the tears of the one girl, but I knew I was having a different feeling. One I had never had before. I did not know it, but Brittany was feeling this too. There seemed to be a very heavy feeling in the room. Maybe the best way to describe it is that maybe it was a feeling of despair. A deputy came and let us out. Another deputy got us to the other section of the jail. During this, Brittany and I did not look at each other or talk.

We got to the lobby, turned in our paper work and signed out. We still did not talk or look. We got to the locker that has our keys and phones. We still did not talk. We got outside and it was raining. We ran the long distance to my car with our bags in tow. We still did not talk.

We got to the car. Got everything in and we got in. We were both breathing pretty hard from the run. I turned on the air and just stared ahead. I was still afraid to look at Brittany. She was not looking at me either.

Almost at the same time, we both just broke down and started crying - hard.

In the 10 years I have been doing this, that has never happened. We have been teary eyed before. But it ALWAYS had been only one was done and the other doula would be the consoler.

We probably say for about 5 minutes before I moved the car. And then we talked for the first time. We could not put words to it on how we felt.

Finally, Brittany said - it is such a heavy feeling.

That was it! The heaviness that we both had in our heart that day.

We stopped about 5 miles down the road and tried to catch our breath again.

All we know is that this was a very hard day with the girls. The girls were all dealing with more than usual difficult problems. And they shed many tears.

In the 10 years I have been going to the jail to teach, this was the hardest.

But I will keep going back to teach and talk to the girls. And so will Brittany.

Why?

Because they need us and we as doulas, mothering the mother, we know we can be there to help them.

That is why we keep going back.