Radical Doula Profiles: Heather Jackson

October 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!

About Heather: A former teen, single mom, forever girl-mom educated by brave mistakes. I hail from the conservative state of North Dakota to Providence, Rhode Island. I made the choice to move last year, had the money, drove 26 hours, and did it; my daughter and rabbits in tow. I am queer, an anarchist, and a feminist. I write profusely, write zines that I sell on etsy and trade with others, I bike everywhere, and I love to cook and make crafts. I enjoy the company of others by going to dinner parties, but I also enjoy cuddling and drinking coffee. I was sober for a long time, but now I drink beer and wine moderately and occasionally and enjoy it in a healthy way! I was also in eating disorder treatment for 3 years and now I can say I enjoy food in a way I never have. I’ve had plenty of shitty things happen in life, but now my daughter is a teen, I’m in my early 30s, and I finally feel happy and content.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I got pregnant in high school. It was a really lonely time because I felt I failed my family and society. When looking back, it was not a bad thing that happened. I was pregnant! Her father and I broke up the summer I was pregnant and he was selling drugs and ended up getting arrested the day before I gave birth. I spent the day with his new girlfriend trying to find collateral to bail him out of jail. He was with me when I gave birth, but I had a lot of hospital staff coerce me into either adopting my baby or putting her in foster care. I had no one being an advocate or supporting me. I moved to Minnesota after a couple years and met some doulas and realized I wanted do that. When I moved back to North Dakota, I saw a birth doula class in a town class to where I lived. I finally decided to do it! My own experience as a teen mom with hardly no advocacy and support inspired me to turn my sad and lonely pregnancy and birth experience into a posi tive thing for others.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because I believe that my existence as a single, queer, former teen mom disrupts the assumption of who a mom is. I am also an anarchist and a feminist and an activist. I support a person’s right to choose and their own autonomy. I also support the many identities a pregnant person can have and I feel that being a radical doula encompasses all that support and advocacy. For example, not all pregnant people identify as women, are married, or want a “natural” child birth. I support a person’s choice in whatever they choose for their birth because that’s their choice.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Not only do I believe that people can birth their children without much or any medical interventions, I also believe that people need emotional and mental support during pregnancy and childbirth. However, I also believe in a person’s choice and autonomy to do what they want to do for their pregnancy. I also believe that pregnant people deserve support, no matter what they choose. If their partner is involved, I believe that they need emotional and mental support, as well, to be able to help the mother/father/partner. Sometimes people need help to find the voices that they have inside. That’s what I needed and I love bringing this to people and want to continue doing that.

This fits into my broader political beliefs because my anarchism supports a person’s autonomy to their own bodies, choices, and lives. I also am very non-judgmental when it comes to a person’s choice and I feel that my doula philosophy and anarchism fit right into that. I fully believe that people need support and advocacy when navigating a scary, hierarchical institution, as well. Sometimes the state and capitalism impede on our choices and if I can intervene in a way that provides support, I want to do that.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is being an advocate and helping a person find their voice and autonomy. Sometimes that is a scary thing to do, especially when a person is not used to it. I have been a fairly shy, soft-spoken, introverted person my whole life. So being an advocate for myself has been difficult, but it took practice. Now that I help and advocate for others, it also helps me. It’s great to see a person’s self-empowerment come in full force when finding their own voices and self-respect.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Trust the person who is pregnant, please! I think too many people and institutions do not do this and it has consequences. Please trust them!

Radical Doula Profiles: Rachel Blair

September 30, 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!

1About Rachel: Rachel trained with DONA International in Brooklyn, NY, and is now excited to offer her services to the greater Baltimore area. After her formal training, Rachel dove into her doula practice by sharing and honing her skills at Wyckoff Hospital, in an area of Brooklyn where doulas were scarce. Rachel continues to grow her skills through her current training as a Lamaze Instructor and International Childbirth Education Association Educator.


What inspired you to become a doula?
I have always been passionate about creation, and see birth as its ultimate manifestation. Through a long road of exploration, I discovered birth work as a way to share and positively impact acts of creation.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Empowering women is inherently radical. By encouraging women to reclaim their rights and abilities as birthers, we are creating a community of women who take ownership of their bodies.

I also work with trans individuals and people all along the gender spectrum. I openly acknowledge that not all birthers are women. In a similar light, encouraging humans of all gender identities and expressions to be free of inhibitions and own a profound experience of the flesh radically shifts our birth culture to a place of openness and acceptance.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
All people should be able to own their bodily experiences with compassion, joy, and love. While I am a promoter a intervention-free childbirth whenever possible, I believe that a successful birth is defined by the birther. It is unfortunate that many of today’s political structures have stolen bodily autonomy, especially from women and trans individuals. Because my doula practice is focused on restoring environments conducive to the birther’s individual choices and inherent ability to birth, it a step towards restoring individual autonomy of the flesh.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
As a doula, I focus on the creation of environments. In addition to physical and emotional comfort measures, I help a birther to rewrite the social rules of a space to whatever is most conducive to their individual labor. Watching someone free of inhibitions brings me a sacred joy that could only be given by such a profound experience.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I long to abolish the typical image a woman birthing in first world maternity care: On her back, feet in stirrups, crying in agony – A suffering patient in need of a savior. This image has at best frightened and at worst traumatized those preparing for birth. I would replace these images with strong, capable, and joyful birthers.

Navajo midwives work to establish first Native birth center in the US

September 30, 2015
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Nicolle Gonzales in a video for The Changing Woman Initiative Fundraiser

Over at Colorlines, I wrote about an exciting new initiative led by two Native midwives, Nicolle Gonzales and Brittany Simplicio, to open a Native-run birth center for Native women in the New Mexico region.

Nicolle Gonzales is a 35-year-old certified nurse midwife (CNM) with three kids ages 9 to 14. She’s Navajo (or Diné, as Navajo people refer to themselves), from Waterflow, New Mexico, and has embarked on a journey to create the nation’s first Native American birth center. “I’d like to see a nice building with pictures of our grandmothers, cedar welcoming you into the door, and moccasins for babies instead of blankets,” says Gonzales. “I want a place where women and families feel welcome.”

Gonzales is among only 14 other Native American CNMs in the United States. She and Brittany Simplicio, another midwife who is Navajo/Zuni, began raising money for a nonprofit that will run the center, Changing Woman Initiative (CWI), last year.

Indigenous women face incredible health disparities and barriers to supportive and humanizing care during pregnancy and birth. I was really surprised to learn that 70% of births at Indian Health Services (the agency run by the federal government that provides most care to Native people in the US) are attended by CNMs. But very few of those midwives are Native themselves. Gonzales says she’s one of 14 Native American CNMs in the entire US.

It’s one major issue with the midwifery and birth center movement–just bringing the midwifery model of care isn’t enough. You also need to bring culturally appropriate care along with it, and sometimes the best way to do that is with midwives who are from the community they are serving.

Gonzales’ project is being supported by the National Association of Birth Centers of Color, and I hope we see more initiatives like this in the future.

You can support their work by donating to their online fundraiser!

And read the full article here.

Speaking: NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Fall Celebration

September 24, 2015

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I took a little bit of a hiatus from traveling and speaking this last year or so, and it was nice to get a chance to stay grounded for a bit and focus on my life at home. But I’m heading back out on the road, and am really excited to get to connect with incredible people around the country.

I’m starting with Austin, where I’ll be speaking at the NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Fall Celebration on October 28. It’s such a challenging time in Texas (did you read about the Latina woman arrested at her gyn’s office near Houston for presenting a fake ID?), but there is also amazing grassroots organizing happening in response. I’ll be talking about how my work as a doula has influenced my social justice values, and I’ll be sharing the stage with Representative Jessica Farrar, an incredible Latina RJ advocate and leader. I had the honor of working with her back when I started out in organizing, and it’s awesome to be able to circle back to that.

If you’re in the Austin area, please come! There are activist tickets available for $25.

More speaking gigs to come, so stay tuned. And if you’re interested in bringing me to your campus or community, get in touch: miriamzperez@gmail.com!

Radical Doula Profiles: Stacey Davis

September 23, 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!

Stacey and familyAbout Stacey Davis: Stacey has been in the birth world since 2009, when she attended her first birth as a Doula. After that first birth she knew she had found her calling. She attended 3 more births that year as a Doula, She then decided to receive Birth Doula training. Stacey trained at The Utah College of Midwifery for Birth Doula and Postpartum Doula in 2010. In 2010 she trained and added Placenta Encapsulation to her services. In 2010 she trained as a hypnodoula. Stacey is the current Southern Utah Representative for the Utah Doula Association. Stacey received her B.S. degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Utah Valley University. Visit her website.

What inspired you to become a doula?
With my 2nd pregnancy I struggled with postpartum depression from the time I was 26 weeks pregnant. My birth journey was a typical hospital birth. I fought with the nurse to have no epidural. After coming out of the darkness that ppd creates I began my journey to find a better way. Through my research I found that reducing a mom’s risk of ppd begins during pregnancy and birth. By having a positive birth experience you can drastically reduce your risk of postpartum blues and depression! A critical difference in moms who have a positive birth journey and those who do not is having the continuous labor support.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I march to my own drum, I carve my own way

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Birth is the foundation for which is co-parenting is created. When two parents come together to get through the tough work and they are able to do it together they can do amazing things with parenting. this fits in with my political beliefs because one must work hard to get to the easy part.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Empowering women with choices. Guiding them to find their own research to enable them to make choices unique to their body and their baby and their family

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
eliminate fear

Radical Doula Profiles: Jacoba

September 17, 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!

1934213_165529690657_2338217_nName: Jacoba, full spectrum doula at Mama Aicha

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired on Birth Work during my Peace Corps years in Morocco (2003-05) when while working on developing a Reproductive and Sexual health Education Program for Berber rural women in Ouled Berhil with my limited Derija skills but my passionate spirit, I met Midwife Aicha. After that we both started to develop a comprehensive sexual education program for women and started doing workshops in the community, and following her to her births. She inspired me to continue my studies in Midwifery and I continued my passion for accessibility on Reproductive and Sexual health services for women of color trough Taller Salud. Women themselves on a day to day basis inspired me to continue to these days. I got more inspiration to work with trans families and variations of resources later when working on Chicago Womens Health Center, and with teen mothers on topics around shame and estigma while volunteering on Little Village, Chicago. I kept noticing the lack of affordable Doula services connected with reproductive justice and specially with a class and race perspective; so here I am, doing my part and trying to convince others to join me!

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Because it is a political thing for me. In these days, where the system seems to have already a plan with all our time, our environment, our health and time; giving people options to become autonomous and empowered to go against it has become a radical thing itself. I believe in that power because it has done amazing things on my own life, I believe it can do the same to other people, and when done and I have seen it on other women’s lives around me, Ive seen the results and it is powerful. I believe being a Doula is political because it is a resistance of not losing ancestral practices, whichever are connected to your history and culture. It is political because out there the services keep on being inaccessible for people, meaning for us people of color too, and this has been historical and has to stop. It is, because when services are developed without considering the lack of other health services around women’s communities, you are setting their reproductive and sexual health to failure and because of this, we Doulas are an important key to help organization and critical analysis with the people and for the people, because it is a matter of justice

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Popular Education and education for the oppressed (Freire/ Boal). Reproduction Justice and education with, by and for the people.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Being present! I always feel, when Doula-ing that I am part of something bigger and more powerful than just one birth. I feel I am part of a bigger collective out there of women willing to make a difference not only on other women’s lives but in society. I love the feeling of working for a more justice world for us all. I love feeling it so natural, part of healthy human relations and support system that makes us better human beings into this wonderful world.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would change laws that don’t let traditional Midwives in Puerto Rico and Illinois to practice autonomously their passion and cut the accessibility of resources for women and people. I would change that more Doulas could feel the urge and passion to organize by region and moving collective agendas for reproductive justice, I really wish people could understand it is a bigger people. i swear I would keep on doing it trough my work, i know were are many more out there; that makes me happy!

Know your history: Coercive sterilization of Latinas at L.A. County Hospital in the 70s

June 22, 2015

I think it’s really important for doulas, and activists, and birth workers to understand the social and political context of pregnancy and birth in the US. Clearly, I think it’s so important that I wrote a book about it.

A big piece of this history is understanding how the fertility of women of color, and low-income women, and immigrants, and those who are mentally-ill or incarcerated has been manipulated by government institutions, including hospitals.

I recently interviewed the director of a new documentary about one of these instances, where Latina immigrant women in a teaching hospital in Los Angeles were sterilized after c-sections without their full and proper consent. It’s a really heart-wrenching story, but also one of resilience and successful pushback–laws mandating informed consent for tubal ligations arose as a direct result of this situation.

You can read the full interview with the director over at Colorlines.


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