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.


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!

erichotten

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.


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.


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.


Radical Doula Profiles: Joey Larson

November 19, 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!

Picture of Joey Larson holding a newbornAbout Joey: Birth has become a passion in my life, the rights for woman and how she is treated before, during, and after birth should make her feel no less than honored and treasured. My mom taught me compassion, choice, love and support are so important in a woman’s life..and behold a doula was born…The idea of birth makes me cry and the truth is it is a true MIRACLE. Working with my many types of families and situations has opened my eyes and appreciation to different cultures and customs of birth. I am in awe how birth changes yet stays the same all over the world. It truly is a universal miracle. I live in Minnesota. Contact: birthingmiracles.yolasite.com or birthingmiracles.jl@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was so lucky to be chosen by God to be birthed in to a family with a mother who loved the miracle of what birth was..I always worked and loved the babies and mama’s..My mom taught me compassion, choice, love and support are so important in a woman’s life..and behold a doula was born…The idea of birth makes me cry and the truth is it is a true MIRACLE.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I believe a woman should have rights, rights to her body during pregnancy. She should choose when and where she births. A woman should have the right to decide what she puts in her body and her babies body during and after birth. A woman should not have a stereotype because of how she births or what she chooses in the birthing process. Birth is a miracle and should be treated no less than of which it truly is.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My doula philosophy is a woman should have the birth she chooses. She should have many choices. I believe that to have a great birth you need to treasure a woman in all areas, like emotional, physical and spiritual. To teach her to advocate and give her a voice. I also let women know they can interview, fire, and change at any point in their birth.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I would say my favorite thing is watching the transformation from a woman to a mother and when a partner’s face changes when they see the picture of LOVE in their new baby or babies. I love holding a space and having a women feel treasured. I also think a great birth is the partner feeling empowered and supported as well.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
CHOICES.. lots and less judgement.


Radical Doula Profiles: Natasha Crouch

November 12, 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!

Natasha Crouch smiling in black and whiteNatasha Crouch is a certifying doula working with Full Spectrum Doulas and Birth Arts International in Seattle Washington. She has a background in sexual education, women’s & men’s empowerment and a passion for helping women and families feel safe and strong in the decisions regarding their bodies and minds. She can be contacted through her website.

What inspired you to become a doula?
There are layers of things that inspired me to walk this path, when I was 16 I had a late term miscarriage and had an incredibly impossible time finding information or support for myself – or later for and with other women going through the complex emotions of a miscarriage or abortion. I held hands of very amazing friends during their labor and discovered that there was a gap in the professional care provided by hospitals. Wanting to help fill that gap is what really lead me here, for the full spectrum of care – offered to all women – because care and information should not be so difficult to come by.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term because I believe care should be accessible by all people of all walks of life. I strive to work with women and families with trauma in their backgrounds, anxiety, depression and other mental complexities. I work both within my community (both LGBT and Polyamourous families) as well as outside of my family (anyone) needing non-judgmental and understanding support. My motto in life has always been that I cannot judge what I do not know – so I work to help people transition during the many walks of life. No one should ever feel alone. No one should be denied support when they need it.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that support should be readily available as families and individuals need it, I am committed to providing evidence-based, Mother/Family-friendly, non-judgmental Full Spectrum Doula services. With the core belief that each of these essential experiences are as unique as the individual. While birth, life and death cannot be something we control – that is what makes our stories unique. That uniqueness is what defines and excites the world. Providing support and education through birth, miscarriage, abortion, adoption and any other major transition is a gigantic passion of mine.

Politically I feel the same; we should not allow others to take away our power, we should not step on the heads of our fellow humans in order to gain our own prosperity. Unity and strength in community is what keeps us whole and gives us strength. Information and Education gives us the power of choice and choice is one of the most essential keys to life. To take away someones choice and make them feel powerless – is a deep and terrible crime.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
This varies, I love the moment in birth when the family becomes a family – that moment of understanding on a primal level that life has happened and that that moment brings unity to the individuals in the room. The primal strength of a mother embracing herself and finding peace and wisdom in the birth space – that deep trust that can happen in a safe and ideal birth setting.

Overall though – its seeing the moment when the peace that trusting ‘your’ body, ‘your’ decisions and the moment – when I see that in a room with a woman/mother/family – no matter what the path is – that’s the most amazing thing in the world.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would remove the fear and dis-information, I would push more medical facilities and popular media sources to not rely on fear mongering and judgement to inform people – but allow the space for people to be fully informed and the empowerment to make their own decisions and not feel as though they had no control.


Radical Doula Profiles: Stephanie Gentry-Fernandez

August 29, 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!

Stephanie smiling in black tank top

Stephanie Gentry-Fernandez is a bilingual (Spanish/English) ICTC-certified Full Circle Doula. As a registered nurse, health educator, artist, and organizer, she has long advocated for the use of trauma-informed, holistic, and culturally sensitive frameworks that use harm reduction to be inclusive to all people seeking healthier lives. Using evidence-based practice, Stephanie incorporates emotional, spiritual, and physical support during pregnancies by honoring traditional birthing customs and promoting breastfeeding. Stephanie is a native life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side and is committed to providing services to all Chicago-area residents, particularly those living in the south side and south suburbs.

For the past 15 years, Stephanie has been a source of support to people in crisis through venues as diverse as juvenile detention centers, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, homeless drop in centers, rape and domestic violence crisis hotlines, and community empowerment and faith-based organizations. Over the years, Stephanie has learned it is imperative to meet people where they are at, provide education and advocacy, and support their decisions in making healthier choices, which are all important components of harm reduction and trauma-informed frameworks.

Contact Stephanie at stephanie.gentry@gmail.com, or visit Stephanie’s website if you are interested in having her be your doula.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have been supporting all kinds of people with their reproductive choices since high school, but it wasn’t until my nephew was born in 2011 that I realized how amazing witnessing childbirth is, and how my personality type can be supportive and useful for people laboring.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
As a native of the South Side of Chicago, ensuring people from my community also have access to doulas is in itself radical. I use gender-neutral language as much as possible as a nurse and as a doula, which is rare, especially in Labor&Delivery/prenatal care. I’m also deeply committed to supporting people’s choices when it comes to their health, pregnancy, termination, and safer sex options.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy is to support people in their reproductive choices by educating, informing, and listening. All too often, people of color, women, transgender, genderqueer and queer people, low-income people, disabled people, people of size, and immigrants are informed by their providers how their plan of care will be rather than it being a mutual and informed decision among both patient and provider. I’m also deeply committed to normalizing birth and improving birth outcomes, particularly among Black/African-American communities. I find it interesting that while sterilization abuse is no longer the norm, C-sections increasingly are. At the same time, access to birth control seems to be decreased more every day. Child birth has become extremely pathologized, and I’m excited to be working at Illinois’ first stand-alone birthing center to continue normalizing childbirth and labor.

I truly believe everyone has the right to having their birth plan followed as much as humanly possible. Lastly, I also believe everyone should have access to organic food, holistic care, and indigenous birthing customs.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Seeing babies get born :)

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
The attitudes of nurses and providers in hospitals.


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