by Mary Schaefer
Khin Thaw Win is a doula in Jericho Road Community Health Center’s Priscilla Project. She chuckles when describing a day when she had three patients in labor at the same time. “I ran from one room to the next,” she laughs. “I’d hold one patient’s hand and count with her while she pushed. Then I’d run to the next room and massage another’s back, and to the next to help a patient count and push.”
Jericho Road’s Priscilla Project is a program focused on healthy birth outcomes. The goal is to help empower socially isolated, at-risk pregnant women throughout their pregnancy. This includes labor, delivery, and postpartum care, including encouraging and helping with breastfeeding. Providers include volunteer mentors, community health workers, and on-staff doulas. They help expectant mothers, many of whom are refugees, reach a healthy birth weight, and full-term pregnancy.
Khin’s journey to becoming a doula in Western New York began when she was 5 years old. Her family fled from civil war-torn Burma to a Thai refugee camp. Six years later, they resettled in the United States, landing in Buffalo. Khin attended school in Buffalo, and then became an interpreter and a doula at Jericho Road.
When asked to define the word “doula,” Khin rattles off a variety of descriptors — a friendly face, a motivator, a resource, and supporter. Doulas work closely with women throughout their pregnancy. They provide guidance and expertise, a listening ear, and hands-on assistance. Priscilla Project doulas also provide language interpretation for moms who can’t speak English.
One of Khin’s three patients laboring at the same time was former Priscilla Project doula Flora Thaw. Khin cared for Flora in the hospital, providing what Flora calls “the best massage ever.” After pushing for more than four hours, with a lot of coaching from Khin, Flora delivered a healthy baby boy, with her husband and Khin by her side. “I don’t think I could have done it without [her],” Flora says. “My husband was very supportive, but he isn’t a doula. Even though I was a doula for many years and encouraged my own patients to push, when it was my time, I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore!’ I was able to deliver without a C-section because of [Khin’s] support.”
For Khin, the long days and unpredictable hours haven’t dampened her love for the job. “I love what I’m doing, even though it often can mean going to the hospital for a delivery at two or three in the morning.” She says, “I just get up and go. I feel so special to be a part of such a life-changing period in someone’s life.”
Jericho Road provides primary medical care, dental care, behavioral health, and pharmacy services to all, regardless of ability to pay. To become a Jericho Road patient, call 716-881-6191. To learn more about the Priscilla Project, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.jrchc.org/programs/priscilla-project.
Mary Schaefer is Marketing & Communications Manager at Jericho Road Community Health Center.