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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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Radical Doula Profiles: Amy Haaf

June 4, 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 Amy: Hi. My name is Amy. I’m a newly trained postpartum doula. I have three children ages 4, 16 and 18 years old. Besides being a busy mom and wife with children with a vastly varying age span. I am also passionate about many things such as breastfeeding and a positive birth experience for all women. I practice attachment parenting and believe in Waldorf and other natural teaching styles. I hold many hats as an elimination communication mentor through Diaper free Baby, a Certified Lactation Counselor and a WIC peer counselor. I practiced self weaning and baby led solids with all my children. I can be reached via email @ amysppdoula@aol.com. I am listed through Birth Columbia and also have an individual website. I also have a Facebook page called Amy’s Postpartum and Lactation Services. I offer a bevy of services to women through pregnancy as well as postpartum. Areas served: Columbia County, NY and Western MA.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have always felt drawn to birth and motherhood. I enjoy being able to empower women through helping them before and after their babies are born. Working with families is what I have always liked doing. I had positive birth experiences and help after my first son was born. I feel that I would have benefited greatly from a postpartum doula after my second and third children were born.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I feel that even with my first child I was drawn to very natural approaches despite what my peers believed in. Even at twenty two as a mom I believed in natural parenting, breastfeeding, no pacifiers, no bottles, baby wearing, co sleeping, baby led solids, elimination communication and much more.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe in all woman having a positive birth experience and have been particularly following the prison birth project and the different states that are passing anti shackling laws. I am a very caring and non judgemental person, much like my political beliefs.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I enjoy helping whole families adapt and well one new babies into their families.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I think that women need to always remember that it is their birth and their baby. Practicing skin to skin after baby’s birth and to let baby’s natural instincts and bonds help her with breastfeeding and closeness. I would say that the moments and hours after birth need to be handled with the utmost respect with as little medical intervention ( unless faced with an emergency situation) as possible to let the fourth trimester unfold naturally to ensure mom, baby and family are savoring these precious moments as baby is introduced to the world outside mom’s womb.


Radical Doula Profiles: Kaity Molé

May 28, 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!

Kaity wearing red shirt sitting in front of carAbout Kaity: Kaity sees herself today as a product of the struggle to accept and love despite the obstacles of conflict and despair. Kaity grew up as a military kid and moved around every 3 years, she doesn’t have roots and isn’t sure she wants them. She came face to face with numerous violent and abusive encounters throughout her life and has struggled deeply with depression, dissociation and the long path of healing from trauma. She speaks French and loves apples, safe spaces and her kooky queer community. She’s currently a nursing student at Hopkins in Baltimore, MD. She hopes to continue on to work in public health, nurse-midwifery and sexual assault/violence research. She’s learning to let the light in and to give back and pass onward all the good that comes her way.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I’ve always been interested in birth work, but probably in my late teens, as I was discovering feminism and intersectionality/race and class conflict in America and heard about being a doula, it seemed like such an important concept. Child-bearing people in America have a long history of being silenced and controlled. For there to be an advocate present, someone who can care for you and support you and help cultivate the space and experience you want for your birth…it sounds great! Haha. I wish I had a doula for everyday life….
I see it vitally important that all people feel safe, validated and cared for in their health experiences and like THEY are in control. I think that one of the biggest obstacles to good health and positive birth experiences is the wall that’s there between the medical institution and minority groups, whether it’s people of color, the poor, the queer or trans community etc.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because I see being a doula/birth and repro work as an inherently political thing. The ideas and practice surrounding birth work (and other care) in hospitals needs a massive overhaul and a healthy dose of patient empowerment. I believe in giving doula care with all intersections of people’s lives taken into account, particularly trauma history, race/experiences of racism, gender experiences, sexuality, orientation, ableism, self-concept etc. Everyone who gives birth is going to have a different experience that they’re bringing to the table, not everyone even identifies as a “woman”. These are really important things for doulas to be aware of and to nurture! As a queer birth worker with a long trauma history, I want to be a safe space for child-bearing people and to help empower them and amplify their voice in their experience.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My doula philosophy definitely is grounded in empowerment. I kind of went into this above, but particularly with birth and the creation of another life: people should do whatever they want to do.  I’m pursuing nurse-midwifery licensure mainly for reasons of insurance/Medicaid covering CNMs and the populations that I want to be accessible to, but for larger issues of birth work/midwife licensure and legal restrictions put on childbearing people, I think it’s bullshit. People should give birth/not give birth/do whatever they want with their bodies! Medical control of all people and particularly marginalized bodies needs to STOP.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Oh man. I still get tripped out when I see that little baby head come out and I still get all the endorphins, which is pretty great. I generally love everything about birth work. But probably the relationship that I create with the people/families I work with, it’s really something special. To be involved in such an intimate event, you become spiritual family. When I leave I’m just so honored and thankful that I got to witness such amazing badassery.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Definitely the limits and restrictions that are put on childbearing people. I would also really love to just annihilate all the crap that poor women, women of color and incarcerated women get for reproducing and how their motherhood and pregnant experience is shamed or devalued.


Radical Doula Profiles: Kayla Q Frawley

May 14, 2014

Kayla smiling, lying on a bed with two other people

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 Kayla: Currently living in Austin Texas, Kayla is from South Minneapolis, and has attended births in Flores, Guatemala, El Paso, Texas, and Austin Texas. She is a yoga instructor, dancer, slam poet, and a student Midwife. She was raised by a social worker and a community developer in a progressive and segregated city. She spent her earlier years working with poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, collaborating with Philsbury House in Minneapolis as well as Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Kensington PA. After having had the opportunity to work with different communities in arenas of women’s health such as resource management, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and sex work she realized she wanted to be able to have more of an affect on women’s reproductive health. After doing her midwifery training in El Paso at Maternidad la Luz in 2012-2013 and attending dozens of clients she moved to Austin for a position at Austin Area Birth Center. She had the opportunity to co-facilitate the Cultural Competency class to the students of MLL Fall 2013. Behind her midwifery training and passion resides her devotion to addressing whiteness/white privilege/racism/oppressive practices in the medical and midwifery world. She is developing herself as an ally and desires to see more white women sharing dialogue about such issues.

What inspired you to become a doula?
Health Disparities.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because sometimes in the midst of midwives and doulas I feel like my language and passion need to be walking on egg shells. I identify with the term radical doula cause I am a white woman learning what is means to be a white midwife who wanted to become a midwife because of health disparities and the complexities of that identification. I consider myself a radical doula because I am always intersecting race/class/sexual orientation with birth experience because we can not be separated from our political bodies. I consider myself a radical doula because I see blatant racism practiced in all birthing environments I have worked in, in all institutions I have studied midwifery under and among preceptors, students, and myself throughout my pathway to midwifery-which in itself maybe isn’t radical-but realizing anti-racism work is just as important as contributing to decreasing health disparities and advoca ting for safe just birth. I also identify with being a radical doula in that I offer full-spectrum services with a main focus to meet individuals where they are in their reproductive health and offer the support they need with their individual care.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My doula/midwifery philosophy is looking at an individual wholely including her life experience, her political, sexual and spiritual identity as well as their desires, and needs so that they are met with the right support to give them the most control they can have over their pregnancy, birth, postpartum, miscarriage, abortion, and reproductive care. My doula/midwifery philosophy are not separate from my broader political beliefs.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
To be apart of individuals gaining more control or awareness of their bodies, minds and spirits, practicing anti-oppression work in the reproductive health arena and knowing that along everyone’s lineage there was always a midwife.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Free quality care for all women that need it in the full spectrum arena, and to enforce on-going white privilege conferences specific to midwifery and reproductive health to all white individuals who desire to go into reproductive health.


Radical Doula Profiles: Rachel Helfenstens

May 7, 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!

Photo of Rachel with long dark hairAbout Rachel: I’m a DONA trained & certified Birth Doula CD(DONA), Full Circle trained & certified independent placenta encapsulation specialist CIES(FCP), and currently working on my Postpartum Doula & CBE certifications through BAI. I’m also the Main Coordinator for the Jacksonville, Florida chapter of Improving Birth, Leader of the Northeast Florida chapter of the Peaceful Parenting Network, and a Co-Director of Intact Florida. I also volunteer with Operation Special Delivery & The Inn Ministry. I service the Jacksonville area & surrounding areas (St. Augustine, Middleburg,Orange Park, the very south of Georgia, etc.) and sometimes Volusia County as well. Se habla español, falo português. Email: ilithyiaslove@gmail.com website, Facebook page.  Areas Served: Jacksonville, FL & surrounding areas

What inspired you to become a doula?
My journey on becoming a Doula began with my personal birth & postpartum experiences. I was completely alone and uneducated with my first and had a horrible traumatizing birth. Having a Doula with my second made me feel empowered & in control even though I wound up with an emergency cesarean. Soon after I realized the passion I have for birth and now strive to give women an empowering birth experience!

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical for the pure fact that I am behind my clients, their choices, and their beliefs 100%. I witness for them, I advocate for them. It is THEIR moment, and no one else’s. I treat no client different regardless of WHO they are. Race, sexual orientation, body type, religious views, etc…there is NO reason to treat them differently for it. Does a transgender [person] need to be treated differently and receive different medical care as compared to a cis woman? NO! Does an LGBTQ couple require different medical care during L&D compared to a cis couple? NO! Do pagan couples deserve no respect compared to Christian couples? Or Muslims? Or Jews? Or anyone else for that matter? NO! Every client deserves the same treatment, the same respect, and the same knowledge of their options & legal rights & strength.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy in life, not just Doula work, is that everyone deserves to be treated with respect & basic human rights. I respect everyone’s religious views, right to bodily autonomy, freedom, right to religious freedom, right to live whomever they choose, etc. Not everyone requires, wants, or winds up with the same type of birth. Each birth is unique, as is each child, each pregnancy….each person.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a Doula by far is being there to watch such a BEAUTIFUL moment! The birth of a child is nothing short of miraculous! And the fact that these families have graciously allowed me to be there and WITNESS such a POWERFUL and INTIMATE moment makes me feel blessed. I am able to witness the POWER women have. It’s simply amazing!

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, it would be that every pregnant woman is aware of ALL her options, all the pros/con’s/benefits/risks of each option, and of her rights. So in then each woman feels more in control of her birth and in turn is EMPOWERED by this most powerful and sacred experience…the birth of her child(ren).


Radical Doula Profiles: Carlyn Mast

April 30, 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!

Photo of Carlyn, sitting cross-legged in the grassAbout Carlyn: I am a birth doula serving women in the Baltimore City area. In addition to my doula endeavors, I am also a graduate student focusing on maternal and infant health at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Similar to how I approach my role as a social worker, I value empathy, informed consent, social justice, self determination and respect in my doula practice. My email is carlyn.mast@umaryland.edu.

What inspired you to become a doula?
After graduating from college, I began working for a nonprofit women’s health clinic in Baltimore. During the two years that I worked in the clinic, I saw how factors such as race, gender and socioeconomic status effect women’s ability to access quality healthcare. The role that doulas play in addressing inequalities in prenatal care and the birthing experience is a powerful step in the right direction.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I consider myself a ‘radical doula’ because I view doula work as a form of activism and empowerment. I have found that there is a disturbing disparity in access to doula care based on income in Baltimore City. As a doula, I volunteer my services to women who wouldn’t otherwise have access. Throughout my career, I also plan to infuse my clinical social practice with my work as a doula.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that all women should have equal access to quality healthcare, including doula care. In Baltimore City, the neighborhood where you live is in effective indicator of maternal and infant mortality. I believe that this in unacceptable. There is a fairly large volume of research supporting the benefits of doula care and I do not believe that factors such as race and socio economic factors, amongst others, should impede women’s ability to access care.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would change the whole system! To give a more specific answer, I would make it mandatory that medicaid and private insurance reimburse for doula care.


Radical Doula Profiles: Iresha Picot

April 23, 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!

Iresha wearing a dress, holding a babyIresha Picot is a birth and full-spectrum doula and peer breastfeeding counselor in Philadelphia, by way of Virginia. Iresha has been doing doula work for a few years now, training with Birth Arts International and works with the North Philadelphia Doula Co-op program that provides Doulas to Black, Puerto Rican and Dominican Women in what is considered the “bad lands” of North Philadelphia. She is also an hand-holder with Planned Parenthood, where she was trained with the Doula Project out of New York. Outside of providing Doula services, Iresha is a Behavior Specialist and Therapist in Philadelphia and Community Activist. working against the Prison Industrial Complex. Contact: Iresha.Picot@gmail.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
I am a supporter of Women; especially Mamas and what greater way to do that, than in their process of pregnancy; whether its an pregnancy for termination or for birth. Mamas need support and as a community we can tend to forget that due to preconceived notions of Women, particularly Black Women as being pillars of overt strength, who do not emotionally crumble or become tired. I grew up with a overworked single mother who at some points in her life, had no support in raising four children, so I understand firsthand how that strain can affect ones sensibilities in their parenting. Also, I wanted to combat in some way, the high cesarean sections rates for young black women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
When the word “radical” pops up in my head, I think of go-getters. Someone who is not dormant about their struggles and takes action. That lays at the root of all of my work. As a Black Woman, I face oppression on many fronts. I know this. But, I am also out here making noise for change. Being able to provide doula services to women who have never heard of that term, is radical in more ways than one. I am a radical doula.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My Doula philosophy is to treat Mamas with a lot of love, empathy and less judgement. I want to assist Mamas in finding their fire to advocate for themselves.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Knowing that I helped another Mama–another sister, and also knowing that the very act of assisting and working with other women defies all types of patriarchal notions that women cannot be supportive of each other.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I want all Mamas to feel secure and confident in their choice to give birth or not to give birth and feel good about that choice without judgement from the world. If she wants to have five babies all alone, she should feel empowered to do so. If she wants to have an abortion, that’s all good too. I would also create alternatives to birthing; creating more birth centers in economic isolated neighborhoods, or if a Mama wants to have a hospital birth, she can move around and not always give birth on her back. Oh, and every Mama will have a Doula to support and advocate for her in that process. <3


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