Written by: Nnamdi Chiekwe, Therapeutic Recreation Student
Interview with: Kelly Carrington, Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) & Doula
Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS) is writing a monthly blog post highlighting “Faces of Black Health”. This post highlights Kelly Carrington and the professions of Registered Massage Therapist & Doula.
What do you do?
I am a dad of three boys primarily, a husband, and also a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT), have been for 18 years, and I run my own mobile massage therapy company. I am also a birth doula.
What’s your role in your health Profession?
As an RMT I provide massage therapy services, but my company model is mobile, so I go to companies and I go to people’s residence to provide services. As a birth doula I provide education to families, prenatally, I provide physical and emotional support during the the birth day itself, and then provide postpartum support for the families as long as they need afterwards, but nothing clinical. Doulas do not deliver babies, which is the biggest misconception, that is for the OB/GYN and midwives.
A lot of it is education, so before the baby comes we will go through prenatal education, so pretty much anything they want to know about, whether that is the physical changes in the body or the physiology of the actual act of birth and what happens, all the hormone changes, etc., and during that time we make a plan on how they would like to see the outcome of this happen. Obviously, they’d want mom, baby and family healthy, but how do you actually go about doing that? Now it is often very medicalized, and it doesn’t always need to be, and people don’t know that.
Most people think that you get pregnant, go to the hospital, have your baby and go home, but you don’t have to do all of those things. You have choice along the way and people need to know about their informed choices and what decisions they can make, and that’s where I come in to give them all of those options that are there for them to choose from. If they decide to choose them or not, it is [more] about them having the option to know what they can actually do, because a lot of people go in and follow what the doctors say. The doctor’s job is to keep mom and baby safe, but sometimes in that, people feel that at the end of the day they weren’t really listened to, they did not have much choice, and feel that they have given over their own power about their own body, and for women that’s important for them to know that it is their body and anyone that is going to touch you does need informed consent.
You have so many options of how you get to having your baby, people just need to be educated on how that process works, and that’s where I come in. I am there with them during the birth the entire time and helping them physically and making sure that both parties are fed, have water and if they have any questions. I am there with the family, so they feel like I am one of their team. Afterwards, it is hard because there is breastfeeding, and healing from possible surgery, and all those types of things, still in a non-clinical setting, but I am there to support them with all of that because I have been there since the beginning.
If you have/feel comfortable sharing, can you explain your experiences as a Black Health professional in your field?
I honestly don’t really have any. I am biracial, I grew in that household, so I don’t know what it’s like not to be, but I don’t think it’s ever been an issue, I mean I kind of stand out like a sore thumb, not only because it’s a very female dominated profession, both RMT and Doula, and I was the first male to be certified through DONA, first in Canada and Nova Scotia, and the fact that I am a Black guy, well I guess is a good thing, only because when you picture in your mind what a Doula is, this is not what you picture. I’ve always said I don’t think it matters that I’m a man, and it doesn’t matter that I am a Black man, it is my intention of what I’m doing that matters, it is the intention that the work is in the right place, that’s what matters. For me it’s the right fit for me and works well, what I look like I don’t think matters as much compared to the work that I do.
Can you explain your experiences and ability to access health services?
I have three boys, and with kids you’re always in the hospital at some point. There was one particular time where it was sort of a defining moment, and my wife and I dealing with the decision of who is going to go to emerg. I stayed home with all three kids when they were younger before they went to school and then ran my business in the evenings, and there was a time where my middle guy broke his arm at pre-school, so I had to take him to emerg and I was there for a long time, like a really really long time. Then my wife showed up and he was taken care of right away. I hate to read into it too much, it could have been circumstance, his arm wasn’t hanging off by a thread, but he still had a broken arm and the amount of time that I was there with him sitting in a room [where] he was watching an iPad that they gave us while waiting for x-rays, compared to the amount of time that she [wife] was there, where he got attended to, casted and discharged was significantly shorter. So since then, if there is something that needs to happen, like if we have to take the kids to the IWK, she [wife] goes. I’m not saying that one incident is indicative of the care that I get, or my children get when I go there, but I don’t know what other people’s experiences are, and that one experience changed the way that my wife and I decided who is going to go. It was nothing that was overt, but after the fact when I was driving home, I was mad, only because it’s not about me, it’s about my child, he needed to get some stuff done. I don’t know what was happening in that emerg at the time, but that was the only incident in my entire life that I ever was “oh”. So now, my wife and I do have that discussion that “well maybe you should go” and it really pains me to say that, but that’s the reality, we had to have that discussion because of that one experience.
That’s the only time that I’ve had any dealings with the healthcare system that I was like “hmmm interesting”, but I don’t want to make it a huge thing because I don’t know if that is what actually happened, it was just an observation, but is that observation enough?
Imagine all the other families that have to take their kids in there, or are being treated themselves, they do not know what it is not like to be a visible minority going into that same situation. The job of the hospital is to take care of whoever comes in, period.
How have you found/finding community in your profession?
Within the massage profession I’ve been around for a long time, so I’m very involved with the Massage Therapy association Nova Scotia, I’ve been on the board, served two terms as president and now vice president, I’m very involved in the massage community.
Within the Doula community, I was on the board for a short term. I am an accepted member of the community. But I’m quite involved in my profession.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on my website; www.evolutionmassage.ca!