Radical Doula Profiles: Simiya Sudduth

November 4, 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 Simiya Sudduth: Simiya is an ICTC trained, Full Circle Doula, mother of two multi-racial, breastfed children, aspiring midwife and visual artist, currently serving families in St. Louis, Missouri. Focused on providing culturally competent birth support to a wide variety of communities, Simiya offers her services on a sliding fee scale. She is passionate about serving families of color, teens, victims of trauma and sexual assault, single parents, low-income families, LGBTQ people and immigrant communities.

Sage Moon Doula
St. Louis, MO
Full Spectrum Birth and Postpartum Doula Services, Placenta Encapsulation and Lactation Support

www.sagemoondoula.com
contact@sagemoondoula.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
I am called to birthwork because of the dire need of culturally competent birth services. I am a firm believer in accessible, culturally relevant birth services as a means to eliminate racial and health disparities in underserved communities. I’ve seen first hand how race and income can negatively impact childbirth. Like many doulas, my personal birthing experiences informed my decision to become a doula. I was called to this work after the traumatic birth of my first child in 2011. I was a low income mom, in my very early 20’s, right after college graduation and planning for a natural, intervention-free birth in the hospital. I chose a hospital birth because I could not afford to pay out of pocket for a homebirth, my insurance provider did not cover homebirth with a midwife and there were no birth centers in my area at the time. After a failed induction and 3 days of highly medicated and managed labor all of my plans and preparation for a beautiful, natural birth went out the window and I ended up with an emergency c-section in the middle of the night. I became part of the growing statistic in the U.S. of women of color subjected to unnecessary c-sections. During my 3 days of labor in the hospital I experienced racism, lack of informed consent, forced medical procedures from nurses and a resident, blatant disrespect and inhumane treatment. After I achieved a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my second daughter I decided to go forward with my doula training. I traveled to Portland, OR and attended my 30 hour training with my infant daughter who was 5 months old at the time.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
am a radical doula because I believe that birth support is a right and doulas should be accessible to all communities. I identify as a radical Black feminist and I understand the impact that the intersections of race, class, sexuality and gender identity have on access to healthcare, education and resources. I understand the impact those intersections can have on pregnancy outcomes and the health of a birthing parent and their child. All birth outcomes deserve compassionate support. I am dedicated to supporting families through miscarriage, abortion, loss, stillbirth, adoption and full term birth and making my services available to low and no income families.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
All people are entitled to safe, informed and consent based health care. I believe that culturally competent pregnancy, birth, lactation and parenting support are fundamental rights. Access to accurate information, resources and education are requirements for the empowerment of all types of families. Every community needs supportive and inclusive providers that represent and reflect the communities that they serve. As a doula, I am committed to fully serving and supporting birthing parents and their families in a wide variety of birth outcomes. I am committed to providing support, education, materials and resources that are inclusive and diverse in representation of family structure, race, culture, sexuality, gender identity and economic status. My doula work is an essential part of my feminist and social justice praxis.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I am honored to be invited into the sacred space of birth for so many families. I enjoy working with many different families, offering them information and education on pregnancy, birth and childcare. I enjoying bonding with the families I serve by giving them my love and support. There is absolutely nothing better than being present when parents meet their baby for the first time! It is so amazing to bear witness to birth and watching a new human arrive Earthside!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I’d start by eliminating the harmful impact that patriarchal oppression has on pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and menstruation. Pregnancy, birth, lactation and menstruation are sacred, powerful events that should be honored as such by removing all of the associated stigma, shame, coercion, fear and secrecy. No mother should be shamed for breastfeeding her child. Childbirth in the hospital should not be marked by forced procedures, lack of informed consent, patriarchal domination and dehumanizing treatment. Positive change starts with recognizing and honoring the bodily autonomy of birthing parents and trusting pregnancy and birth.


Radical Doula Profiles: Liz Jones

October 28, 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!

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.57.57 PMAbout Liz Jones: I am a labor and postpartum doula and certified lactation counselor located in Baltimore, MD. I am also the founder of the community doula collective, Wildcat Birth. As a collective, we work to provide doula care to the whole community by offering our services on a sliding scale and providing volunteer services to birthing parents with significant barriers to care. I can be contacted at liz@wildcatbirth.com or www.wildcatbirth.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired to become a doula by the birth of my son and an abortion I had two years later. I had always felt passionate about reproductive justice, but these experiences really opened my eyes to the need for support across the spectrum of pregnancy. I am continually shocked by the stigma pregnant people face through a wide range of choices and experiences and want to do something about it.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because my work is firmly grounded in my ideals of social and reproductive justice. I am fiercely pro-choice and work hard to make my services available to everyone, regardless of funds. I believe in growing communities not profits, and believe that this work is both sustainable and important.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite part about being a doula is holding space for birthing parents and helping them recognize their strength in trying times. I love being another person in a birthing parent’s corner, because I believe that you can never have too much support.


Radical Doula Profiles: Nicolle Kasch

October 21, 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 Nicolle Kasch: I’m a mother of two (three if you include my rescue dog) married to a pretty cool guy and living in Orange County, CA. I am a certified Mongan Method HypnoBirthing practitioner and currently working towards my birth doula certification with CAPPA.

www.hypnobirthingoc.com
hypnobirthingoc@gmail.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to have a natural birth at a hospital which meant I needed a doula. I had a WONDERFUL experience birthing him naturally, but was not happy with my treatment at the hospital. It was a combination of that joy and disappointment that created this passion to help other pregnant women find their own birthing power.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I feel like a bit of an outcast in my conservative community. I am an athiest and profoundly pro-choice, which creates a bit of discord with my contemporaries. I now realize there is a term for me, and that is “radical”!

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe all women have a right to bodily autonomy in ALL situations – including abortion, miscarriage, and birth. It’s this passion that inspires me to educate myself as much as I can to better serve women who are underserved by our current maternal health care system.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Working with pregnant women to empower themselves, and watching babies be born!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be? The elimination of fear. I’m deeply saddened by how many women fear such a natural process, so much so that they risk their own babies’ safety by medicating the experience. If I knew an easier way to dispel these fears, I would!


Radical Doula Profiles: Grace Rivera Roman

October 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!

imageGrace Rivera Roman: I am a Doula, providing care and support to NYC and Westchester moms and dad’s. A recent Mercy College graduate student with a degree in Psychology. I am also a mom of three with a passion for education and reproductive arts. Currently I am heading a homeschooling group in the Bronx where families from many backgrounds come and teaching methods come together to share and inspire one another.

What inspired you to become a doula?
My inspiration is 17 yrs in the making. For I was to go into medical school but then through my high school education I became environmentally aware and began learning about holistic living, conservation and preservation of our land. A few years later I conceived my first child and from the beginning it seemed like both my body and the system did not want me to be pregnant. I had many infections and hospitalization so but the worst was going into pre term labor and the treatment I received. Fast forward 16 yrs later, now I’m better educated, and still receiving the same treatment from the hospital. Despite my last pregnancy also being high risk and pre term, I birthed naturally. Slowly on my own I educated myself on birth and what I wanted. I knew when I was in labor even though the medical staff said no. I birthed in a hospital but I did so with no interventions, I birthed my baby myself and held her first, it was the craziest thing ever. Unfortunately, I was alone. My kids where not allowed in my room, my partner had to stay home with them. I needed a gentle, quite hand and had no one. The hospital staff wanted things their way, loud, rushed and forced. This is when I decided to stop fighting what I was supposed to do a long time ago. Go back to my natural state of helping and being of service. Help other women so they are not alone during such an amazing but vulnerable time in their lives. I became a Doula and didn’t even know it.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I’m a radical doula because I serve a community that doesn’t even realize that they need help. Our low births rates are rising, maternal death rates are rising, unnecessary c section rates are rising. All because there is little to no birth support to women of color, worse yet if you are low income. I am a radical doula because I support a women’s right to choose and help her learn that within those choices there are even more choices. For women of color being given choices is huge, for a white women this choices are innate for us, they must be given but there done so with boundaries and with stipulations. We women are the givers, we raise humanity yet are bound by the same birth right. I am radical because I will educate, I will serve, I will help women from all socio economic status, LGBT, teen moms, single moms, older moms, VBACs, HBACs, hospital births and everything in between. I am radical because I support birth.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My doula philosophy is simple, women’s birth rights are theirs. Women can and will decide what it is they want for their bodies, sexual pleasure and reproduction. Women have the right to choose whether they want children or not, women have the right to choose how they will birth and how many times. How does this fit into my political beliefs? I am an activist, I will and fight for women and our birth right to birth or not however we darn please. Period. I do so by teaching and providing information to all women. I do so by demonstrating it through my own actions and decisions.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is that very split second when a women suddenly releases herself, allows herself to be one with nature, that moment when she takes that breath and you know it’s game on. That’s my fave part because you know she knows, she is working with herself and has become anointed with that primal wisdom we all carry. It’s beautiful!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
i would change how pregnancy and birth are labeled. Hospital reference material, the media, women to women they all label birth as such a scary and painful event that must be taken care of. Yes birth can be scary, yes it is painful but it’s also beautiful, it’s also fulfilling, it’s empowering, it’s bliss and can be quite pleasurable. With support birth can be quite a journey.


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.

maidenguild.com
BlairRachelA@gmail.com
(716)418-4791

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
Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 4.22.19 PM

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.


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