Radical Doula Profiles: Madeleine Shernock

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!

madeleine shernockMy name is Madeleine Shernock. My training and experiences include work as a teen sexuality educator, doula, shodhini, and student midwife. As a birth professional, I have worked to increase access to evidence-based care for low-income women, homeless families, people of color, and LGBT families. My goal has always been to not let cost be an issue for expectant families; everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and satisfying birth experience free of trauma. In Sacramento, I founded Welcome Home Doula Services. WHDS is a group practice of doulas, childbirth educators, and other professionals who prioritize labor support for low-income women. Through the organization I trained several apprentice doulas, organized a call schedule with a local teaching hospital, and provided over 4000 hours of support to families. As far as I know, this was the first organization of its kind in the greater Sacramento area, and is still for the most part volunteer-run. Now that I am in Arcata (my hometown), I have been working to start a similar program (Pacific Northwest Birth Services) in the redwoods. Contact Info: madeleine@pnwbirth.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I became a doula originally as a stepping stone to becoming a midwife; after labor support training with a handful of organizations/individuals, I truly appreciated the essential role that doulas play in maintaining an emotionally (and thus physically) safe atmosphere for those giving birth, and those being born. I’ve stuck around as a doula and educator for the last couple of years, and don’t plan on quitting until there isn’t a need for continuous labor support in the birthing room.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I think it’s totally wild that being a calm, supportive, objective force for folks experiencing the spectrum of pregnancy choices and outcomes can be termed “radical,” and I think that speaks to the bigger forces at work in our maternity and reproductive care setup in the U.S.

I think that the role of a doula is to stand by someone and walk through it with them (whatever “it” happens to be), bear witness to their emotions and physical changes, provide support, and share their story with others to create social change. I suppose it’s seen as radical that I support people through abortions, miscarriages, lesbian pregnancies, births, and so on…my goal is always to help people feel more comfortable in their bodies, to remove shame and guilt from the equation, and to safeguard individual reproductive experiences whatever they may be.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

The philosophy that drives my work as a doula is that everyone is entitled to (emotionally and physically) safe, culturally appropriate reproductive care as a basic human right. This care is different from person to person, but it should always recognize the individual as the primary care provider for their body. I encourage public policies, organizations, and individuals who support this concept and work to make it accessible to all.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

I love teaching, whether it’s teaching a group class or having a one-on-one consult with a client; I love the information exchange that happens, because we all learn something.

If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?

I would organize for many more funding opportunities for midwifery students; there are so, so many people who want to be care providers for pregnant folks and very few programs offer scholarships or even loans. More funding for midwifery education means closing disparities in care, midwives serving their own communities, and safer pregnancies and births.

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