Radical Doula Profiles: Maggie Weber-Striplin

February 10, 2016

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!

Maggie Weber-StriplinAbout Maggie Weber-Striplin: I serve as a volunteer doula at San Francisco General Hospital serving a dozen births as well as a few private births. I have been a post-partum doula, sibling doula, and nanny in the Bay Area for 8 years for families with singles and twins.

What inspired you to become a doula?
The first few moments of life are so precious and so important to to our beliefs that we are loved, worthy, safe, and whole in the world. In the first five years of life is when 90% of our brain development happens and beliefs about the world are formed. Parents need the most support at this time in adjusting to their new family member so that the whole family can thrive as they grow together.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Radical is a term I apply to most areas of my life. I went to a radical college and a radical cooking school. I regularly attend protests and sign petitions. I believe everyone should have access to support. If radical is bringing birth back to its origins of community,support, love, trust and celebration, I’m radical!

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Everyone should have access to a doula or birth support. This ties into my larger beliefs of believing in coming back to a community approach to living, where we can find an abundance of support in our communities.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
The magic moment of birth and family unity never get old. Seeing women just about give up and then tap into their inner strength, is so powerful and inspiring!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would ensure everyone got the support they needed and that birth was once more looked at not as a medical experience of pain, but a community experience of power.


Radical Doula Profiles: Cat Ennis Sears

February 3, 2016

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 Cat: Cat Ennis Sears is a mom of two exuberant boys born 2012 and 2014, a ToLabor trained birth doula, a Birthing From Within childbirth educator and an English teacher in Richmond, VA. Adira Birth Services and Childbirth Classes website.
Cat Ennis smiling with baby

What inspired you to become a doula?
Before I even got pregnant with my first son, I completed the reading for ToLabor doula certification. For some reason, I was just so drawn to this topic and couldn’t read enough or learn enough about it. I feel like childbirth and pregnancy is the place where women’s rights, critical literacy, narratives, myth making, rituals, feminism, self-determination, personal growth, and so much more all intersect in such an amazing way. My first birth concreted this desire to learn more about birth work. I was pushing with my first son for quite a long time. The presence of my doula when we transferred to the hospital from a birth center was reassuring and grounding. I wanted to provide that for other women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Radical comes from the Latin word radicem, which means root. It means to form the roots, to grow, to change, to become. What better word to describe a doula, who helps guide women and partners as they form their own family roots, as they change and become?

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe doulas are there to support families in whatever informed decision they would like to make. I don’t believe in imposing my own fantasy birth on them or making judgments. I feel like families will make the choices that are right for them when provided with the right information and emotional support.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love prenatal meetings, which is why I chose to pursue Birthing From Within childbirth education training. I love to discuss women’s fears, hopes, plans, histories, preferences, dreams.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I wish we would stop judging each other as parents. I don’t like the ins and outs club of parenting. I wish we would all recognize that other people are experts in their own lives, that no one knows what another woman’s pregnant body feels like or what is right for that woman and baby in childbirth, breastfeeding and beyond.
I also wish that labor tubs would fill up faster and that electronic fetal monitors were consistently and reliably waterproof! : )


Radical Doula Profiles: Sarah Michelson

January 27, 2016

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!

Sarah in a black dressAbout Sarah: Hi! I’m Sarah Michelson, a St. Louis native with a rich history of fighting for reproductive justice, human rights, and labor rights. I live in South City. I enjoy attending concerts, creating herbal products, and studying birth.

I graduated from University of Missouri- St. Louis with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Political Science and Certificate of Women and Gender Studies. I am also a midwife. I graduated from Maternidad La Luz’s MEAC-accredited one year midwifery program in March of 2014. I am a member of Midwives Alliance of North America, Friends of Missouri Midwives, and the Missouri Midwives St. Louis study group.

You can contact me by e-mailing breadandrosesmidwifery@gmail.com or by checking out my website at www.breadandrosesmidwifery.com. Thank you!

What inspired you to become a doula?
I became a doula because I was drawn specifically to work with other queer and trans folks who are not getting the quality healthcare we deserve. I want to create a safer space for other marginalized folks while providing excellent, comfortable, and continuous care.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Categories such as race, class and gender have material consequences in the world we live in, I want to help bridge healthcare gaps created by capitalism and socially constructed ideas about our bodies through challenging social norms in birthwork.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
The phrase ‘bread and roses’ comes from a 1912 textile strike in which Rose Schneiderman said “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” This phrase has been used for over a century by feminists and activists, meaning that we want our sustenance but we also want beauty and we want both without compromise.

Birthwork is the fight for autonomy over normal life processes, specifically during the childbearing years. The universal midwifery tradition is to build practices based on reciprocity, continuity of care, consent, and support. As both a doula and a midwife, I work to maintain natural life cycles through community-based knowledge and love. Birthworkers labor for access to safer options and better outcomes with self determination over our own bodies and communities. We take a holistic view of family through a social context, and work to create open and dynamic spaces and roles for ourselves and each other. This must include continuing education, expertise in counseling, and playing supportive roles during normal, healthy, and safe childbirth experiences.

This is the struggle of birthwork.

“Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.”

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
One of the best parts of being a doula is the special moment that sometimes happens after a parent has had their baby, and they are holding the baby and everything else melts away for them. This welcoming of new life is so beautiful and touching, and a breathtaking experience to be able to watch.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
The first step I would take to create safer and healthier experiences of pregnancy and birth would be to start universal comprehensive sexuality education programs that are inclusive of the LGBTQQIIAA spectrum, that focus specifically on sex positivity and healthy relationships, and that lead to more open gender roles, especially during the childbearing years.


Radical Doula Profiles: Becca Spence Dobias

January 20, 2016

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!

Becca Spence DobiasAbout Becca Spence Dobias: Becca is a doula serving the Inland Empire in Southern California. She is certified through Childbirth International and has an M.A. in Applied Women’s Studies. She is a member of Seasons Within Doula Group. She enjoys yoga, hockey, lady-centric comic books, and writing. She is a mom to a wonderful two-year-old. She can be found at continuationsdoula.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I had to do an internship for my Applied Women’s Studies program. A friend who is also a doula (and is also featured on this site– hi Lauren!) had just posted something about The Doula Project and I decided to contact them. I interned with them for a summer and learned how awesome doula work is, but I wasn’t sure if it was for me. When I got pregnant, I became more interested. I didn’t hire a doula but I was lucky enough to have an amazing nurse who gave me wonderful support. I decided I wanted to provide that kind of support for others.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify as a radical doula for many reasons. I support people of any gender identity and sexuality. I try not to use gender-specific terms or tropes as I offer support. I also consider myself radically evidence-based. Doula work is about way more than having babies. It’s about helping people have access to information and choices and to their own voices and power. In a realm where that isn’t always encouraged, it’s radical.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe deeply in mindfulness as a powerful tool for helping families stay present in each moment— to more effectively meet the challenges and more fully experience the joy of their transitions and transformations.

In Zen Buddhism, birth and death are not beginnings and endings the way we normally think about them. Instead, they are referred to as “continuations” because we do not come from nothing when we are born or become nothing when we die. Rather, we continue from one moment to the next, in different forms each moment, depending on the existing conditions.

As a birth doula, I strive to help folks stay present and mindful for this exciting continuation. As a termination doula, I want to help people explore what this continuation means to them– without pressure to define it in any particular way, and to remain present and compassionate with themselves.

Mindfulness is totally a political practice. I think the practice of real presence and compassion for ourselves and others can change the world.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love really getting to know my clients and seeing them light up as we prepare for their birth. I leave client meetings glowing from great conversations.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
The fear! For everybody. I would take away all the horror stories pregnant and birthing people hear. For providers, I’d take away the fear of being sued and the fear of doing something outside the norm. If everyone was less afraid, the whole experience of pregnancy and birth would feel less antagonistic and more like the amazing phenomenon it is.


Radical Doula Profiles: Alana Apfel

January 13, 2016

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!

Alana ApfelAbout Alana Apfel: I am a doula, writer and birth activist currently living in the UK. In Bristol where I live I am part of a collective of doulas offering sliding scale community birth work. I recently moved from California where I was part of the San Francisco General Doula Program and the Birthways center. Both programs provide volunteer doulas for people without means to pay. As an activist writer I gathered stories from doulas working within these organisations as well as the Bay Area Doula Project, BirthKeepers, Birth Justice Project and SQUAT. These contributions are featured in my forthcoming book Birth Work as Care Work: Stories from Activist Birth Communities published by PM Press in Spring of next year. More info can be found here.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was brought up by a family of healers, health activists and a mother who was a midwife. I was her fourth child born at home. I have always been taught that birthing women and others who give birth are strong powerful beings who are fully capable of doing so in their own way and on their own terms. This is never something I have doubted. This conviction directly shapes my doula practice today. The wonder of giving birth and supporting others through birth has always been with me. It is my legacy and my life’s passion.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Radical birth work for me begins with the recognition that birth, and actually all reproductive processes, are both deeply personal and highly politicised events. We cannot separete the “personal” from the “political” in birth. How we birth, and how we support others through birth, is a direct reflection of society’s politics.

Radical birth work also requires confronting systems of privilege that run throughout society. Some continue to benefit whilst others continue to be harmed. What is unique about doulas in this case, is that while we work (most often) within hospitals, we work for ourselves. This enables us to bring a degree of institutional critique to our practice. From this position birth workers avoid being “medicalized” leaving us with the potential to confront and redress institutional forms of violence that are inflicted upon reproductive and birthing bodies. A radical doula is a caregiver whose activism holds the ability to literally reimagine lifes beginnings.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I recognise no “correct” way to give birth instead honoring the unique rhythms of each birth giver as they move through their own birthing process. Regardless of where or how you give birth – home, hospital, vaginal or c-section – every birth signifies a beautiful occurrence. Every birth giver and every kind of birth outcome deserves loving support and respect.

My sense is that we need to broaden the nature and language of care to incorporate a greater diversity of reproductive needs. Not everyone experiences their sexual and reproductive bodies in the same way. To subsume all birth givers within the same form of reproductive care is to erase individual identities and lived experiences. Birth workers hold space for others to discover their own inner potential, helping to facilitate, but never take charge of, the trials, joys and beauty that come from navigating one’s own reproductive journey.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Witnessing the immense, surreal and mystical power of all birth givers as they move through their own birth journey and emerge triumphant to hold the children they carried, nurtured and brought into this world, for the first time.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
One problem with healthcare today is the framing of reproductive experiences as a matter of “choice.” This framework promotes a belief that the individual has full agency in decision making over their health whilst overlooking, and therefore masking, intersections of race, gender, sexuality, physical ability, citizenship and economics that differentially affect health outcomes and determine the quality and extent of care that is given. Economically disadvantaged communities, communities of colour, queer and gender nonconforming communities, in particular, bear the brunt of institutional forms of violence. Breaking cycles of oppression means directly engaging these systems in order to reimagine a language of birth that creates room for all birth givers to feel heard, affirmed and respected.


Radical Doula Profiles: Torrey Moorman

January 6, 2016

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 Torrey: I was raised in a family of nurses, and ultimately by my single mother. I was Blessed that Mary Rose Tully was a family friend, so I learned excellent lactation support as a teenager! I attended my first birth as a teen, not knowing that I was supporting my friend intuitively and laying the foundation for my future doula work. Ten years later I officially trained with Pam England in Albuquerque where Doula.by.Donation. is primarily based. I have attended over 150 births in 3 different states and provide phone and online consults as well.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I think I was born a doula, and just didn’t figure out the name for it until I got pregnant with my son. At the beginning, I naively believed I could “change the world, one birth at a time.” That is my business motto! I have learned that to change the world, I have to educate and help entire families break generations of misinformation and sometimes abuse. This discovery is what transformed me into a radical doula.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
My doula practice has evolved into a trauma healing practice. In the past 10 years, I have only had 4 clients who were not survivors of childhood sexual assault, nor survivors of military sexual trauma. Two of those 4 were survivors of domestic violence.

I identify as a radical doula because I teach radical acceptance and radical ideas regarding childbirth, lactation, and autonomy. I work hard to locate women in underserved communities and encourage them to pursue doula training. I try to find representatives in each community to apprentice with me so they can take the knowledge back into their communities.

And I try to get folks comfortable talking about sex, anywhere. Because if women can reclaim their sexuality, and their autonomy, they can reclaim their birth experience. Radical, right?

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe every birth offers a healing experience. I believe every infant needs to have its autonomy respected, and be allowed to birth itself as it needs.

I believe our culture has a very difficult time remembering we are each souls, who happen to animate a body. Each soul has its own lessons to learn, and we have an obligation to be grateful when we are allowed to be a part of another soul’s journey.

Just as our culture fails to recognize an infant’s autonomy, we fail to recognize and respect the autonomy of women, minorities, survivors, and anyone who is “other”. I fight to shine light on these issues.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Asking the right questions so a woman can regain her power! Over 90% of my moms gain the confidence to challenge the state to meet the federal requirement that homebirths be covered by Medicaid in states where they are legal.

My second favorite part is lactation education, and ~70% of my moms are still breastfeeding through the third year. Watching them become lactation advocates for other women, and challenging established ideas on breastfeeding, gives me hope that we are changing the world.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That homebirth mommas who say “something just doesn’t feel right” would be honored by hospital personnel instead of shamed. A woman’s intuition should be celebrated, nurtured and cultivated. Not shamed.


A Little Year End Love Letter

December 30, 2015
Scrabble tiles spelling out "love"

Samantha Celera/Flickr

Hi dearest Radical Doula fans,

I know, I know. Posts on this blog have gotten rare these days, especially if they aren’t Radical Doula Profiles. It’s just the nature of my life and how blogging has evolved, I think. I hope you don’t take my lack of writing as a sign that I don’t care, or have forgotten about my little labor of love (now almost 9 years old!). Radical Doula is still my home, still represents the intersection of all of the issues I care about most. But when I write, these days, it’s for other outlets that require a more journalistic approach, and also allow me to explore topics outside of the niche of this site. You can find most of my writing over at Colorlines, and sometimes other places. The best way to keep up with that is to join my email list, where I send almost-monthly notes with links to my writing. I also post to the Radical Doula Facebook page pretty often, so that’s another good way to stay in touch.

But this site continues, as a blog and a resource. I have plans to do a design refresh to make RD more reader friendly in 2016.  I’m hoping to get some feedback from all of you on what you might like to see, so stay tuned for a very exciting survey! The Radical Doula Guide continues to sell well, and even three years later I still love putting each one in the mail to all of you. So far I’ve sold over 2000 copies, and often get lovely emails about how the guide has helped you with your doula journey. Thank you!

Meanwhile I’ve kept up with the doula trainings and volunteer programs lists–thanks to everyone who helps me keep them current! If you have information to share about either, just fill out one of these two forms (doula trainings and volunteer programs) and I’ll consider adding them to the site.

I have a bunch of great Radical Doula Profiles coming next year as well. I hope you enjoy those as much as I do! I love seeing what kind of doulas are in the world and why it is they consider themselves to be “radical.” I also hear anecdotally that these profiles help bring potential clients to doulas. If you are interested in being part of the series, just fill out this form and I’ll get you in.

It’s been a tough year in so many ways. I put together a round-up of 15 women of color who did amazing things this year for Colorlines. Writing it provided me with a lot of hope and optimism about the state of the world–perhaps reading it will offer you the same.

Thanks, as always, for your amazing kick-ass radical doula work, for supporting me and this little blog of mine, and for making the world a more just place. You rock.

Abrazos and happy new year!


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