SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Preparing for a baby's arrival begins long before labor and delivery. Having the support of family and friends during a pregnancy is key to a healthy and happy delivery.

Though many expected mothers within the military ohana find themselves alone during pregnancy, support is available through Operation Special Delivery (OSD.)

"My husband was deployed when my second daughter was born," said Laura Winston, a registered nurse and certified doula. "I can empathize with women who are in the same situation."

Winston first became a doula - a specialty trained individual who focuses on informational, emotional and physical support to women during childbirth - through Doulas Of North America, more than 16 years ago. She is the Hawaii state coordinator for OSD, and in 2001, she joined the OSD team.

The nonprofit organization specializes in reaching out to pregnant women whose husbands or partners have been severely injured, who have lost their lives due to the global war on terror, or who will be deployed at the time that they are due to give birth.

Although a doula does not perform medical tasks, they are trained to provide uninterrupted support to a mother in labor. The organization provides trained volunteer doulas to aid military spouses.

"Being a doula gives me the opportunity to empower women by helping them find the strength to go through childbirth without their spouse by their side," said Winston. "I am highly involved with the expectant mother to help her have the most ideal birth possible and for her to know that she is not alone."

Founded following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, OSD provides volunteer labor doulas to all 50 states and all military installations and personnel worldwide. Giving birth is a key experience in a mother's life, and OSD provides the doulas to care for the emotional well being of each mother throughout the many stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

"The assistance was amazing," said Capt. Irene Hanks, Judge Advocate General, U.S. Army-Pacific. "(The doula) assisted me at home during the early stages of contractions and into active labor, and provided techniques to speed up the contractions and keep me calm and focused."

Since 2005, OSD has served nearly 700 mothers with more than 600 volunteer doulas participating.
"They provide you with so much support and are with you throughout," said Senior Airman Carol Reed-Arce, 13th Air Force. "It's like having an extended family member by your side."

For more information on Operation Special Delivery, or to volunteer to become a doula, visit <a href=http://www.operationspecialdelivery.com> www.operationspecialdelivery.com</a> or e-mail Laura Winston at <a href=mailto:LJ6772@aol.com> LJ6772@aol.com</a>.

Page last updated Fri January 16th, 2009 at 15:31