Radical Doula Profiles: Eliza Cooley

January 14, 2015

This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!

elizaEliza has provided doula services in the Dominican Republic, Colorado, and Nepal. Her experience as an international doula has inspired her to seek further training. In becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife, she hopes to train birth attendants in underdeveloped areas to provide safer pregnancy care and to reduce the astounding rates of maternal and infant mortality. Despite seeking further education, she plans to continue providing accessible doula care as part of her practice, as being with women during labor is her passion. Eliza is now based out of Massachusetts and travels frequently.

Website: elizathedoula.weebly.com
Email: eliza.the.doula@gmail.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
I became a doula by chance. I hadn’t heard the term “doula” when I was required to take a training before doing a medical internship in the Dominican Republic. After taking the workshop and attending my first birth, it was clear to me that birth work was my calling. I sought additional training and accepted a year-long position as a prenatal educator and doula for immigrant, refugee, and low-income populations in Denver, Colorado. Currently, I am providing support at births at a rural hospital in Nepal.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I once asked someone about the high rates of maternal and fetal mortalities in underdeveloped countries and was given a simple answer: it’s just how it is. Sure, it’s how it is, but it is not how it has to be. Birth care and outcomes are far from equal in our world. As a radical doula, my work focuses on making high quality care more accessible and questioning the standards of birth care as they exist in communities across the globe. Acknowledging an unacceptable condition and committing to changing it – that’s radicalism.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
A doula’s primary goal should be to provide continuous compassionate and nonjudgmental support and to reduce fear of labor and childbirth. Part of providing care should be empowering people to make their own decisions by providing accurate information. As a doula, I offer empathetic support and unbiased guidance but overall, I encourage women to use their knowledge, trust their bodies, and take control.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
When I first enter a room, figuring out how to manage the energy in the room by intuiting the laboring woman’s needs is exciting. It feels like an art form. I have also had women tell me that I reduced their perceived pain during labor – and that feels like a superpower!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
There needs to be a more sensitive application of Western medicine to pregnancy care. I have seen Western medicine save lives, but I have also seen it lead to major complications. I’d like to see a balance where providers hone skills in both natural techniques and the appropriate use of medical intervention. This balance, I believe, is the modern art of birth work.

A moment for White doulas to put allyship into practice and support doulas of color

January 7, 2015

Ever since I joined the doula movement there has been a strong anecdotal sense that the doula community is very white. While I haven’t seen any official data on this (I could imagine it’d be difficult to access a community that is pretty small, but also not congregated in any one organization), it’s the sense I’ve gotten from all of my time and work in this field.

In recent years there has been more attention to race and racism in the doula community, and way more doulas (and midwives, other birth activists) of color speaking up about race and representation.

I think there are many ways the doula community needs to engage with the reality of racism, how it impacts the maternal health of women of color, especially Black women, but increasing the number of doulas of color in our movement is one really important step.

I often get asked by white doulas–what can I do about racism and maternal health disparities? I talked a lot about this question in my speech from SQUATfest two years ago, but I didn’t explicitly answer it.

Well, now you have a major opportunity to step up. A group in the Bay Area is fundraising to bring more doulas of color (and low-income doulas, and formerly incarcerated doulas) into the work.

Infographic reads: "The training: 2 weekends of birth doula education, 1 weekend of breastfeeding and postpartum education, 5 mentored birth experiences."

Infographic that reads: "Your money goes to training 16 doulas of color, providing doulas to 80 families in the community that would not otherwise be able to receive doula support."

Infographic via East Bay Community Birth Support Project

Put your money where your mouth is. If we’re really going to change the culture of birth in the US, we’re going to need way more doulas who look like the women who are facing the most extreme challenges.

The fundraiser ends on Friday–now is your time.

Radical Doula Profiles: Erich Otten

January 7, 2015

This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!


Erich Otten aka ‘The Doula Dude’ is a full-spectrum doula, anarchist birthkeeper and complementary therapist. He has supported women and reproductive people in various roles since 2008. Becoming a birth worker was naturally the next step, he services the St.Thomas – London, Ontario area. Offering scaled to income labour & breastfeeding support, birth counselling and pregnancy options counselling. As a doula he provides support and comprehensive care throughout the full spectrum of pregnancy outcomes. His practice name is Options Doula Care and he can be reach via his website or by e-mailing birthkeeper.erich@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have been supporting women and reproductive people since 2008. My interest in supporting women throughout the childbearing year led me to originally pursue midwifery as a career and calling. I attended the 2013 Birth and Beyond Conference in London, Ontario on an attendee scholarship. There I met many amazing women and yes, doulas. At the ‘An Evening with Ina May’ event I was fortunate enough to be able to ask her one question. I asked. “What is your advice for aspiring midwives?” she replied. “Become a Doula.” So I followed her advice and fell in love with the care and role of a ‘doula’.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Why do I identify as a ‘radical doula’? Well like the radical feminists before me reproductive rights have been at the forefront of advocacy. As a male embodied birth worker and intactivist, reproductive rights are at the forefront of my advocacy and beliefs.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
As a full-spectrum doula, I’ll advocate for whatever birth outcome the reproductive person chooses. A cesarean section, elective termination, homebirth, or an hospital birth with an epidural. Whether they choose parenting or adoption. I’ll be there to support them. I have a particular calling to serve marginalized populations such as LGBTQ1+, young mothers, immigrant women, survivors of abuse, and incarcerated folk. I offer my services on a sliding scale. One of my core beliefs is to have access to a doula no matter what one’s financial status.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favourite thing about being a doula is bearing witness. Being permitted to share and hold that space. Birth, all out comes. Not just what we frame as birth that is the live birth of babes. Is elemental, I find it the basic stuff of life. And it is such an honour to be invited to walk into that space.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would change birth shaming and care-provider competition. I find no place for either in birthing and reproductive spaces.

To the 13 year old interested in becoming a doula

January 5, 2015

I get many, many questions via email from people interested in doula work, interested in writing about doulas, looking for a doula, etc, etc. I try really hard to respond to everyone, but it often takes me months (such is the state of volunteer labor-of-love work). But sometimes I’m inspired to share an email and response with you all, in case others might find it interesting. This exchange was just really sweet, because I love the idea of a 13 year old who already know about doulas, and has such insightful questions about what the career path would be like.


I’m 13 (name removed for privacy), and I’m thirteen years old. I have always found the prospect of helping people give birth amazing and I was wondering, what is it like assisting a person give birth? Is it stressful? Do you and your “patients” stay in touch after the birth? Do you have a job other than being a Doula? Do you have to already know the midwife, is it easier if you do? If you don’t know the midwife, do you become as close as you do with the patients (I don’t know what else to call them)? Thank you.
Sincerely, 13

Hi 13–

Thanks for your email! You sound like you’re already well on your way. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be a doula. Yes, it can be stressful. Yes, it can be amazing. Sometimes you stay in touch, sometimes you’re just there for the birth and that is it.

I have always had jobs outside of being a doula–my doula work has been a volunteer thing. But there are people who live off of their work as doulas (although I will say it can be challenging financially–usually people supplement with other doula-related work).

Knowing the midwife definitely can make things easier, but no it’s not required. How close you become with the people you support (some people might call them clients) depends on you and them and how the relationship evolves–it’s not dependent on you knowing the provider.

Best of luck!

Radical Doula Profiles: Cara Del Favero

December 3, 2014

This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!

About Cara: Full spectrum (certified) birth doula, OSHA Certified placenta encapsulation specialist, childbirth educator, Certified Lactation Counselor and Certified Postpartum Doula. Serving the Albany, NY and Capital Region areas. Visit http://thealbanydoula.com or call (518)542-5475 for more information.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I identify as VERY pro-choice in my political views, however once I became pregnant, I realized that I also found the idea that pregnant people deserved the right to their own bodily autonomy during childbirth to be integral.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify as queer when it comes to my personal life, which allows me to gain a wider understanding of the specific needs that people have in the birth community. I have done plenty of research and reading to educate myself on the notion of white privilege and being a “placeholder” for those from marginalized groups. I acknowledge my privilege and work hard to help support the community in making new connections and changing traditional belief systems that may be harmful to some families.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula, which took me a long time to figure out, is knowing just how NOT about me childbirth is. I realized that birth is an intimate and very personal situation for all families and I learned just how important it is to meet people where they’re at and not where I would “want” them to be. My choices may not be yours and I completely love and respect that.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, I would let all birthing people know that they have options. I would make sure that they have all the resources available to them to learn about the choices they have available to them without having to face social or economic barriers to this information.

The most important op-ed you’ll read this year

December 1, 2014

This op-ed is a few weeks old at this point, but I wanted to make sure everyone saw it and takes note. As birth activists, this is one of our most important connections to the broader movement for reproductive rights and justice. Even if you are not supportive of abortion rights, you need to understand the ways the new wave of laws that are trying to limit abortion rights are also impacting the rights of those who are trying to parent and give birth in the way they see fit.

With the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee’s anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the “personhood” rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.

But it is not just those who support abortion rights who have reason to worry. Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant.

Such laws are increasingly being used as the basis for arresting women who have no intention of ending a pregnancy and for preventing women from making their own decisions about how they will give birth.

How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

One of the authors of this is Lynn Paltrow, who is in many ways responsible for the birth of Radical Doula, explicitly because of her work to bring birth activists and abortion rights folks together.

This op-ed is an exciting breakthrough for Lynn and her organization National Advocates for Pregnant Women, and while it was precipitated by a series of really damaging laws and lawsuits, I’m hoping this represents a shift in framing of what these laws really are. From the op-ed:

We should be able to work across the spectrum of opinion about abortion to unite in the defense of one basic principle: that at no point in her pregnancy should a woman lose her civil and human rights.

Radical Doula Profiles: Anna Berger

November 26, 2014

This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!

About Anna: I’m a DONA International-certified birth doula and CAnna outside, wearing jeans and a black jacketAPPA-trained prenatal educator working in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I holds a BA in political theory from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s in Library Science focused on community information resources for youth and families from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As a doula, I dedicate my practice to assisting families as they prepare for their birth via education and emotional support, offering evidence-based information throughout the planning process and helping to explain the various changes and concerns many families face during the birthing year. In addition to my own support in pregnancy, labour, and the early postpartum period, I strive to help families find ways to connect with their communities for support and companionship as they enter a new stage of their lives.

For more information or to get in touch, you can find me at www.midtowndoula.ca.

What inspired you to become a doula?
The combination of my education background, professional experience in undergraduate student affairs, education, and community library services, and the process of immigrating to Canada in 2011, I came to realize how difficult it can be to transition into a new life in a culture where our local community connections have taken such a hit, and I began working toward becoming a resource for members of my community who might find themselves disconnected or lacking in support. I quickly found that new parents and young families, especially those who come to this tremendously diverse city from other parts of the country and around the world, are among those who most struggle to find connection and the tools they need to find and engage with others who share their stories.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
In a way, I think most doulas are a bit radical–we are working hard on a movement toward a colossal change in the way our culture approaches birth, moving from the expectation that pregnant people will take directions toward the expectation that they will make choices for themselves that must be respected and informed.

Additionally, however, I am pro-choice and strive for an inclusive practice that is welcoming and embracing of diverse families and experiences. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know how difficult it can be to find providers and support people who do more than pay lip service to inclusive work. I do everything I can to make sure not only my practice but the resources I share and the referrals I offer are the most inclusive I can find.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy as a doula is that every family should have support for their reproductive choices, regardless of what they might be, and it really ends there. I strive to be a source of reliable, balanced information and support, whom people can approach without fear of judgment or discomfort, and do everything I can to be someone you can trust to help you follow through on individual decisions once you’ve made them.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
In the grand scheme, I love being the link between people. When I can connect someone with another person and know they’ll find the support they need in one another, I know I’ve done my job well and met my personal and professional goals.

In a more specific sense, I absolutely love seeing the sun rise after an overnight labour, whether it’s the first sunrise we’ve shared or the second. I’ve seen them in all seasons and from many different parts of my city, and it feels powerful and magical every time. I’ve always loved mornings, but my appreciation for them has grown immensely since I started this work.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would love to see a cultural shift in the way pregnancy information is presented. Although I know most of the information sources need to be approachable enough for a wide range of educational backgrounds, I wish more of our resources shared the information to help families make informed decisions rather than simply telling them what will happen at various stages in the pregnancy and birth process. It’s sometimes a subtle difference, but I think it’s so, so important.

I would also like to see a greater focus on informed choice (which to me implies a fairly even balance between the right to consent and the right to refuse) and informed consent (which makes informed refusal feel heavily discouraged). Again a sometimes subtle difference in terms of outcomes, but not such a subtle difference in approach.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,922 other followers

%d bloggers like this: