O’Hara woman’s bereavement doulas group supports families experiencing loss
Nearly two decades after founding the Pittsburgh Doula Network, O’Hara resident Heather Bradley is fostering a similar network for families who need a different type of compassion.
“Our mission is to support mothers and their loved ones who are experiencing this loss by providing compassionate guidance,” Bradley said.
She is trained through Resolve Through Sharing as a bereavement coordinator. Her group offers free labor and postpartum doula services to families.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 % of all pregnancies in the United States end with a stillbirth.
Bradley worked several years on the idea before launching Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas.
Her eyes were opened to the silent tragedies women and families were experiencing all around her and how ill-equipped most people — including herself — were in handling it, Bradley said.
She strove to “change how we engage with people who have experienced the loss of their baby and improve the quality of support families receive.
“I had a new mission to make these births special and help parents create their child’s legacy,” Bradley said.
A network of bereavement doulas provide information about options for burial while they support parents who simultaneously welcome and bid farewell to their newborn.
Bradley takes casts of hands and feet to offer solid memories.
“I get to witness so much love,” she said. “I feel so privileged and honored to be there.”
While most of her time is dedicated to the bereavement program, Bradley continues to manage the postpartum doulas as well.
She and others provide a supporting voice, comforting arm and helping hand at childbirth.
They wash clothes, make meals and do light housekeeping. Many times, simply lending an ear is the most important thing they do.
The doulas offer companionship without the weight of judgment, Bradley said.
“I feel like (new parents) are expected to do it all,” said the mother of two young boys, two teenage daughters and two older step-daughters. “It’s a wonderful journey, but it’s hard.”