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Chanel L. Porchia-Albert, the founder of Ancient Song Doula Services, has one key piece of advice that she’d like to give pregnant women: “Question everything.” And she should know: On a daily basis, Porchia-Albert works to give women the tools and the information to know that their prenatal care comes not from a place of fear, but from a place of knowledge and empowerment. “Don’t ever take anything at just face value,” she adds.
The core mission of Ancient Song Doula Services, which is based in Brooklyn and has been around since 2008, is to offer quality doula services to local women regardless of their race and socio-economic status. Their primary focus is on women of color, women from low-income families, and women from immigrant families. Ancient Song does not turn anyone away based on ability to pay, and, regardless of whether they end up paying $100 or $0, women can be sure that they’re getting the same quality of care and a doula to help them through their pregnancy and beyond.
Porchia-Albert, who has four children ages 4-6, credits her own kids as the reason why she does the work that she does. Before she started Ancient Song, Porchia-Albert was a commodities broker who stumbled upon a natural birth expo in Union Square, where the information, professionals, and supportive atmosphere caught her attention. When she first became pregnant, she started out going to a regular OB-GYN, but soon found that she was not receiving the quality of care that she had hoped for. Following her own advice, she took her care into her own hands, hired a midwife and a doula, and had a homebirth. Her birth experience changed her perspective about the importance of having that information that many women of color, from low-income and immigrant families, do not have had easy access to, she explains.
When it came time to name her business, Porchia-Albert turned to her own first experience with homebirth. As a coping mechanism, she sang during her labor, and chose “Ancient Song” as the name for her business, because, she explains, all women have a particular, ancient song to sing while they are in labor, tapping into an energy they may have not even known was present. “When you see someone so empowered around their birth choices, you can also see how it transfers to the rest of their life,” Porchia-Albert says. “It is actually the greatest joy.”
To further their important work, Ancient Song Doula Services recently received a grant of $154,000 from Every Mother Counts, a charitable organization headed by Christy Turlington Burns, to do exactly that. Porchia-Albert and her colleagues have been providing services to women in the parts of the city with the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. These services include labor and postpartum doulas, a six-week program called “Pregnancy Kitchen” which addresses nutrition and food habits during the prenatal phase and beyond, and pregnancy support groups where women with close due dates support each other. Through the grant, Ancient Song has also already been about to train 50 women since receiving the grant (and over 200 in all) to offer labor and postpartum doula services in their communities, a crucial part of Porchia-Albert’s mission, as these new doulas not only provide support, but also develop entrepreneurial and economic skills.
Porchia-Albert also tries to incorporate her children in everything she does. She homeschools them and brings them to her office, so that they can see first-hand how she strives to help her community, while encouraging other women at the office to do the same. “Children get something unique when they see their mothers working to help others,” she says. “It instills in them a sense of pride and confidence that they can grow up to do whatever they want to do, too.”
To learn more about Ancient Song Doula Services, visit ancientsongdoulaservices.com.