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Doulas in Ontario say they are victims of fraud by a woman now facing dozens of charges

A group of registered doulas in Ontario believe they are the victims of a Brantford woman who is now facing dozens of charges for fraudulently seeking their services. Investigators say the woman allegedly sought the assistance of registered doulas across the province for false pregnancies and false stillbirths from June 2022 to February 2023.

Brantford police have charged Kaitlyn Braun with criminal harassment, fraud and sexual assault

A woman places her hand on the pregnant belly of an expectant mother.
A group of registered doulas in Ontario believe they are the victims of a Brantford woman who has been arrested and is facing dozens of charges ranging from criminal harassment and fraud to sexual assault. (Shutterstock)

A group of doulas in Ontario believe they are the victims of a Brantford woman who is now facing dozens of charges for fraudulently seeking their services.

Kaitlyn Braun, 24, was arrested by Brantford police on Monday and is facing more than 30 charges ranging from criminal harassment and fraud to sexual assault. Investigators say she allegedly sought the assistance of registered doulas across the province for false pregnancies and false stillbirths from June 2022 to February 2023.

CBC spoke with three women who are part of a group of about 50 doulas in Ontario who believe they are all victims. They say the ordeal has caused them severe trauma, along with the loss of valuable time, and in some cases, no financial compensation.

None of the allegations have been tested or proven in court.

"I've been present at multiple births, so I know what labour looks like, sounds like and feels like," said Amy Silva, a London, Ont., doula who's been practising for five years. "Nothing seemed to be off about this person, either to me or the other doulas. And we've all talked about it."   

doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to clients before, during and shortly after childbirth. They also help with grief and trauma around pregnancy loss, but they're not health-care professionals who deliver babies and they don't have access to medical records or equipment.

Woman sought pregnancy loss support

The doulas CBC News spoke to all shared similar stories regarding how Braun contacted them.

They said Braun would get in touch on social media to seek their services, including pregnancy loss support, stillbirth labour and labour. One said Braun told her that doctors couldn't find a heartbeat for her fetus. 

The doulas also said Braun would tell them her pregnancy was a result of sexual assault and that she had no support from her friends or family. They say she gave them all different accounts of how far along in her pregnancy she was. Many doulas she reached out to said they felt compassion for her situation and agreed to work with her free of charge. 

Silva says Braun contacted her in mid-February claiming she was 24 weeks pregnant and needed help delivering a stillborn.

"Our business is based on building trust and relationships with people, so when somebody comes to us and says 'I'm experiencing a loss,' we don't question that," she said. 

Doula grows suspicious

Braun reached out to London doula Seanna Hayes in August 2022 and told her she was 41 weeks pregnant and needed support for a live birth at her home in Brantford. Hayes says Braun made countless excuses to avoid going to a hospital.

"She was crying and screaming, saying that she'd been assaulted outside a hospital and it was very triggering for her," Hayes said. 

A woman wearing colourful glasses smiles for a portrait.
London doula Seanna Tesse said Braun would make excuses to avoid going to a hospital. (Submitted by Seanna Tesse)

"I laboured in her home for three days, after which we went to Cambridge hospital and her labour mysteriously stalled and she would pretend to make phone calls to the hospital, telling me doctors told her she can stay home."

Hayes grew suspicious and called the hospital herself. She said officials there denied ever telling a pregnant patient to stay home. Hayes then convinced Braun that they should return to the hospital and get checked out. Once there, Hayes said she overheard a doctor tell Braun that she wasn't pregnant and that there was nothing inside her except an IUD — a form of birth control.

Hayes said at that point Braun acted very confused and got emotional, saying she didn't know what had happened.

No red flags

Silva said Braun told her that she was a fourth-year university student and claimed to live in residence..

She said Braun claimed that she didn't feel comfortable labouring in her home with roommates, so she rented an Airbnb for privacy.

A woman with long brown hair and a nose ring smiles for a portrait.
Amy Silva, who has been a doula for five years, says the business is based on building trust, so when people tell doulas they're experiencing a loss 'we don't question that.' (Submitted by Amy Silva. )

According to Silva, everything about Braun's labour process seemed normal and there were no red flags. 

"Her contractions were spaced out, which is normal when you're nervous," Silva said. 

"She would cry and say 'I'm really scared and I can't do this,' and when she felt safe, they'd pick up again, so it didn't present as a fake labour. She's very good at acting."

Doula Abigail Dienesch from Durham, Ont., said she was helping Braun with a stillbirth as recently as last week, and that they were together when Braun received a call from police telling her she was being investigated for fraud.

"It was really shocking, it honestly felt like a movie," Dienesch said. 

"It's hard to process that the person I was with is the same person everyone's talking about."

'It was really traumatizing'

The three doulas CBC spoke with all said they have no idea what led Braun to do this. They all said their encounters with the woman have taken a toll on their lives.

Dienesch says Braun signed a contract agreeing to pay her $800 for her services, compensation she says she never received. 

A woman with blond hair wears a brown hat and smiles for a portrait.
Abigail Dienesch, a doula from Durham, Ont., says she and Braun were together when Braun got a call from police telling her she was being investigated for fraud. (Submitted by Abigail Dienesch)

"My kids spent two days at their grandma's house because I wasn't able to be home with them," she said. "Had it gone any longer I would've had to cancel other work."

Hayes says she's now seeing a therapist herself because her experience with Braun has left her questioning any potential client who contacts her.

"It was really traumatizing for me and it's hard for me to even have consultations with people, which is really unhealthy and not conducive to a trusting relationship with my clients, which is important in this line of work," she said. 

According to Silva, many doulas like herself who don't charge for services such as pregnancy loss support are now considering doing so.

"I took the time out of my busy life to support this person, no questions asked, without asking for anything in return," Silva said. 

More victims possible

Brantford police investigators say they are releasing Braun's name because they believe there could be more victims. They are asking anyone who believes they may have been a victim to contact them at 519-756-7050 ext. 2262 or via Crime Stoppers at 519-750-8477. 

Braun is facing the following charges: 

  • 10 counts of criminal harassment.
  • 12 counts of false pretenses.
  • 4 counts of fraud.
  • 3 counts of sexual assault.
  • 3 counts of indecent act. 

She will remain in police custody until her next court appearance on Friday.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story referred to Seanna Hayes by her middle name, Tasse.
    Mar 15, 2023 10:45 AM ET

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said that the doulas CBC spoke to were registered. In fact, they do not have a regulating body to register with. Some have certifications with different organizations.
    Mar 15, 2023 10:42 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at isha.bhargava@cbc.ca

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