Radical Doula Profiles: Latrice Hankerson

October 30, 2013

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 Latrice: I am a mother of 3 expecting my 4th child in December. We live in Boynton Beach. I aspire to travel long term very soon with my family. I am very critical of the status quo. I seek to find the truth and inform and inspire people through education. I aspire to be a published writer in the next 3 years. I also am very passionate about helping mothers help other mothers, and would love to be the UN Ambassador of Maternal Health one day!

What inspired you to become a doula?

I became a doula because I believe in women. I believe in mothers and I firmly believe that the only way to strengthen goodness in the world is to support, uplift and inspire mothers. Mothers represent the me, the future of our planet.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I identify with that term because I have recently made the connection between the disempowerment of women during the birth process and accordingly in life. Women have been sold the story that we are passive participants in our births and that is NOT the way it should be. I believe that the decline in midwifery is directly correlated to war and violence in the world. I believe in radical change in the way we look at, speak of and treat birth. I am strongly interested in Africa as a region for the upliftment of birthing mothers. Africa represents to me ground zero of humanity and ironically, ground zero of the worst places on the planet to birth. Sad but true.

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

My philosophy is that the more women know, the more empowered they are to ask questions and hold health care providers accountable. Women will be the catalyst for changing birth from a capitalist venture to a sacred experience worthy of respect.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

It is like meeting God. Attending birth is a divine gift. Fragile and powerful, urgent and timely. Birth is magical.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?

It would be that women are afraid. Afraid and fractured from an experience that should be life alteringly beautiful and unforgettable. No woman should ever have to birth alone or fearfully. That is changeable. NOW.

 

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Radical Doula Profiles: Kira Kim

October 23, 2013

Kira Kim smiling with red lipstick

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 Kira Kim: I am Mama to two awesome kids who are 3 and 1 and I live on the North Shore about 20 miles north of Boston. I am a labor doula, lactation educator and placenta encapsulation specialist. I am also a student midwife through the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance and loving every minute. Society likes to put us in boxes. I hate it and break out constantly. But if I had to be put in boxes, these would be them and of these I’m the most proud: I’m a wife, a Mama, an existentialist. A doula, a lactation educator and a student midwife. A biology nerd, lover of placentas, and an extroverted introvert. A cellist, an open-minded individual and an all around hypocritical oxymoron. Find Kira on the web, on facebook, or via email: kira@northshorebirthservices.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

My first birth was traumatic in so many ways. I was uninformed going into it and didn’t have a strong support system. I was bullied by staff and since I had no knowledge that could cement me to the floor, I lost my ground. My second birth was amazing. There was so much of it that was similar to my first. But my support system was out of this world and with me the whole entire time. They left me when I wanted to retreat. They gathered around me when I felt that I didn’t have the strength to go on. I want every woman to experience this feeling of being so radiant and so warm and so powerful in the company of Wise Women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

There are so many definitions of the word radical. The one that comes to mind quickly for most is going against the grain, following policies of extreme change, etc.

I prefer this one (from Merriam Webster): designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased and potentially diseased tissue

The current medical system, in my frank opinion, is a diseased tissue. In order to change the face of maternal care in this country, we not only need to treat the effects, but remove the disease itself. Changing women’s views on their abilities and the abilities of their bodies is big for me. We are taught that are bodies are flawed (this is the effect of the medicalization of birth). If every birthing woman could have a doula and we could form the lost community of women who teach younger women, the trickle down effect of the medicalization of birth could be stopped. Then we could get to the diseased tissue which, in my opinion, is a combination of liability insurance costs and a lot of kiss arse policies that save practitioners while hurting women.

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

My philosophy is that your body knows that it is doing and that forming a community of women is an empowering way to come to an understanding of who you are. This fits into my broader views that interpersonal relationships have been completely destroyed and greed and corporations (*cough* pharma *cough*) are ruining us mind, body, and spirit.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

It’s humbling and awe-inspiring. Being invited into one of the most intimate and personal times in a woman’s life is humbling on a level that I’ve never experienced.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?

That it be owned by the woman experiencing it. Not a doctor. Not a book. Not a company. By you. You are the owner of your body.


Radical Doula Profiles: Joce

October 17, 2013

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 Joce's back with a sign that says About Joce: My name is Joce. I’m 26 years old and have been in the business of babies and families for almost a decade. After the traumatic and at the same time beautiful birth of my son, I questioned what I knew about birth, womanhood, person-hood and so much more on issues I thought I clearly understood. When I relocated to Portland I thought I had made it to birth Mecca…but unfortunately I found that low income mothers from all walks of life, women of size, of color and young mothers aren’t just disenfranchised and underrepresented in the city itself..but they are total minorities within the birth community. It was with this gained knowledge that I created Gresham Doula Joce, a low cost and barter trade option for those minorities. I serve families in the SE Portland, Gresham and Troutdale area. It was with this gained knowledge that I created Gresham Doula Joce, a low cost and barter trade option for those minorities. I serve families in the SE Portland, Gresham and Troutdale area. Find Joce on Facebook, or at their website.

What inspired you to become a doula?

My homebirth cesarean was supported by a student midwife who stepped into the role of doula for me when no one else knew how. If I close my eyes I can still see her piercing gaze. Without words, her look told me that I was stronger than any contraction, fiercer than any scalpel. She saw in me what I had forgotten.

As a doula, I bring light to the power and drive within a birthing mother and her team.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

For me, the most important part of being a radical doula is sharing my skills and knowledge with disenfranchised and poorly represented communities like low income families, plus sized women, women of color, LGBT men and women and immigrants. My services are available to all families welcoming a new member, regardless of the labels and class systems we have devised.

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

My presence at a birth is my chance to pay respect to the process of creating and bringing life into this world. It is a precious moment in time that I hope to make even more positive by trying to fulfill the wishes of the laboring mother.

I feel that all too often, class systems play into who we deem “deserving” of certain services or education. I also believe we within the birthing community do not engage fully in the debates and discussions that bring about real change to the field. If we continue churning out the same information and never challenge ideas on things like unassisted birth, outdoor birth or race privilege in birth, we are no better than the medical field still providing women with 50′s non-science.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

I feel a quote from a discussion I had with a fellow doula sums up why I love the work that I do!

“an activist doula sparks discussion where there is none, suggests alternatives to the alternative and thinks globally about birth, community and connectivity.”

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?

I feel we focus too much on pregnancy being over. We consider it a burden and that birth is the final hellish moment before its all over and done with and everything goes back to normal. If we considered birth the first step on a long journey that will inevitably change the existence of those involved…I think we would respect it more as a life experience and less of a “baby making event”. The baby is the cherry!


Remarks from SQUATfest: Birth activism as part of the movement for reproductive justice

September 3, 2013

In early August I had the honor of speaking at the SQUATfest conference. It was a first of its kind gathering that brought together doulas, midwives and other birth activists interested in radical politics. It didn’t have a central theme, but I knew that it was going to be a unique space.

I gave the talk below to the attendees on the morning of the second day. I have a lot more to say about the gathering, and the topics I addressed below, which I’ll do in follow up posts. Makeda Kamara gave an absolutely earth-shattering and life-altering keynote address the following day. I don’t believe that it was recorded, but if you ever have a chance to read Makeda’s writing or see her speak, you have to do it. She has incredible wisdom about midwifery, as well as racial justice movements in the US and abroad.

The gathering was inspiring, but it was also another reminder that there is much work left to do, even within the “radical” parts of our movement, particularly around questions of racial justice and dealing with white privilege.

—————–

The reason I started my blog, Radical Doula, in 2007, was because I couldn’t imagine a room like this one existing. I had been a doula for a few years, and as my own identity and politics developed, I looked around me and felt alone.

I felt alone as a queer and genderqueer person. I felt alone as a Cuban-American, a Latina, a child of immigrants. I felt alone as a reproductive justice activist and someone who supported access to abortion as well as access to homebirth and midwives. I felt alone as someone who approached my work as a doula as social justice activism.

I remember one of the first, possibly the very first, conversation I had with another doula who felt similarly. Christy Hall, who is here today, and I met at a reproductive justice conference, and the memory of crouching in the corner with her, infant in arms, talking about being doulas with radical politics is seared in my brain.

So very much has changed since that first conversation all those years ago. The fact that this gathering is happening at all is a major testament to that change.

Needless to say, I no longer feel alone. Instead I’m in awe of the incredible growth in the doula movement, and particularly in the movement of doulas who see their work as part of a broader social justice vision. For so many of us, this work isn’t just about improving a few select people’s experiences with pregnancy and birth–it’s about changing the systems altogether.

This is no easy task. And while the growth and expansion of the doula movement is really good news in many ways, it also presents its own unique challenges.

What I wanted to talk about today is how I see our work as birth activists as part of the broader reproductive justice movement.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, reproductive justice is a movement that was established by women of color in the reproductive rights movement who wanted a framework through which to see their organizing that better mirrored the lives of the people in their communities. It’s an intersectional framework that acknowledges the complexity of people’s lives and the many issues that affects them.

One way I describe it is building a world where everyone has what they need to create the family that they want to create.

While abortion still tends to most of the attention in this work, I think birth workers, are also perfectly suited to be part of this movement and to utilize the framework to support our own efforts.

So what does it really mean to understand our work as doulas, or midwives, or birth activists, as part of the movement for reproductive justice?

First it means we put at the center of our work those who face the most challenges.

Read the rest of this entry »


Radical Doula Profiles: Erin Carter

August 21, 2013

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!

Erin Carter with familyAbout Erin Carter: I am a birth doula and placenta encapsulator located in Lawndale, CA; just south of Los Angeles. I have a Bachelors in Biology and embrace the skills my scientific training offers while maintaining the view that birth is a completely natural process. I believe that women are, biologically and spiritually, perfectly equipped to bring new life into the world through birth. I am trained through DONA International and as a perpetually curious mind I am constantly seeking out continuing education. I am proud to be ‘momma’ to a beautiful little girl whose birth started me on this journey and wife to a strong supportive husband. Website: http://www.biomamabirth.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BioMamaBirth

What inspired you to become a doula?
My birth experience was sad and traumatic; all of the things that I knew and all of the things that I desired for my birth were stripped away and I was reduced to a pile of statistics that the hospital staff ‘didn’t like.’ I take great issue with the use of fear tactics to coerce and control laboring women.

I wish for each client to help build them up and empower them to make their own choices and stand firm in the face of opposition when it is rooted in bias or practices that are not evidence-based. I wish for birth culture that we can consistently work to bring humanity back to the birthing process for ALL women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
As a feminist, a plus-size woman, a child of a low-income single mom, and part of an interracial marriage/family: radical is where I live. I’m a short, white woman with a cute round face, so to the casual observer I seem pretty mainstream and folks are often surprised at how passionate I am about the divides of race, class, gender, sexuality, size, etc.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My aim is to help bring back the belief in the abilities of the birthing woman and the value of her experience. No matter how a baby comes into this world that child deserves to be placed into the arms of a family that has been empowered and built-up by their birth team. I hate the mommy-wars and the way our society thrives on making others feel ‘lesser.’ I strive for the DONA mission of “a doula for every woman who wants one.” I don’t care who you are; if you think I’m the right doula for you I’ll do everything I can to be there, or I’ll help you find someone who can.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Making a difference in the lives of my clients and being one voice in a growing sea of supporters of birthing women.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Respect for the experience from all professionals involved in the birth process. ‘Healthy mother, healthy baby’ is terribly oversimplified and dismisses the psychological, emotional, and physical effects that trickle down through the months and years after birth. Let’s talk about healthy families and how we can give them the best start through a respectful and humanizing birth experience.


Radical Doula Profiles: Carrie Murphy

August 14, 2013

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!

carriemurphyCarrie Murphy is a poet and birth doula currently working in Northern VA and Washington DC. In addition to her birth work, she works as a freelance writer and teacher. Contact: web and email: carriemurphydoula@gmail.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
I’ve worked in childcare off and on for the majority of my life, and I’ve wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been interested in all aspects ofpregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Becoming a doula felt like a natural fit for me, a way to combine my feminist ideals with my own interests…in a job where I’m my own boss and I don’t have to work in an office! I wanted to become a doula not just for myself, but because, as a pro-choice woman, I feel passionately that women should be supported in all of their health care decisions. Women are entitled to bodily autonomy, to bodily integrity, from birth control to the birthing room and beyond.

I became a doula because I wanted to support women on one on the most monumental days of their lives. I also became a doula to support women and their families in making their own choices about their birthing experiences—whether that means a totally unmedicated birth or a prescheduled Caesearan section. I believe that a woman can and should have the birth she wants (if that includes the use of pain medication or other medical interventions or not).

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula first and foremost because I identify as a pro-choice feminist. I think I also like the term because of the possibilities it opens up in the realm of doula work…that being a doula can, does, and will mean much more than just supporting women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

I believe that everyone, every woman, has inherent bodily autonomy and the right to make decisions about their own body. In my practice, I strive to make every woman (and partner, and family member) feel supported and empowered in the choices she makes about her care and her baby’s care. My doula work is informed by and is imbued with my fierce belief that women must have choice in all aspects of the reproductive process. I was a pro-choice feminist before I was ever a doula and I will be a pro-choice feminist if I ever stop my work as a doula.

What I’ve learned from doula work so far is that I cannot and will not let my personal feelings about what a birth “should” or “should not” be color the birth experiences of my clients or the caliber of my commitment to doula work. My role is to support the hopes, desires, and choices of the laboring woman and her family. Your body, your baby, your choice. Period.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I live for the moment when the mother sees the baby, that first glimpse. It gives me chills every single time!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Could I just somehow make it magically happen that every woman feels like a willing, informed, active participant in her own care? I’d of course like to lessen the insane level of medicalization of childbirth in current American society, but I’d start with careful, respectful, considerate care across the spectrum, for all women.


Radical Doula Profiles: O’Keefe Kelly D’Elia

August 7, 2013

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!

D'Elia

About O’Keefe Kelly D’Elia: I live in Flagler County, Florida with my spouse and partner-in-all-things and our 3 children. I completed my midwifery apprenticeship in 2010 in Miami and have attended over 120 births. I have worked as a labor and postpartum doula and midwife’s assistant. I’m proud to say I’ve made a career of volunteer work as well, working with many non-profits. I’m currently halfway through an RN program (eventually pursuing my CNM) and between parenting and studenting I devote as much time as I can to birth justice and human rights activism.

My current project is to create a full spectrum doula organization in Florida. The goal is to organize and train volunteers. Full spectrum doulas provide compassionate support to those exercising their autonomy in the full spectrum of reproductive experiences, including abortion. For anyone interested in joining or helping to create this group please contact me at fullspectrumflorida@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
Both ends of my candle were lit by contrasting forces- my own positive, empowering birth experiences and my awareness of the dishonest, condescending and abusive way that birth is commonly practiced in our culture.
As an individual and a member of a community I want to do everything I can to support parents in achieving what they envision, the experience that gives them confidence and strength to raise their families independent and interconnected.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I have always identified as a radicalized individual, but only because what seems plainly true to me is thwarted by the forces of the culture I live in.

I advocate for all persons at all times to have the right to choose how, where, with whom and whether to have a child. I believe love makes a family, period. I believe all persons should have the resources they need to survive and thrive but that our current system is designed to deny that to most. I believe language has a powerful influence on how we perceive and treat others. I believe that the struggles of women, of persons living (and working) in poverty, of LGBTQ persons, of persons of color- are all connected. I strive to live these beliefs every day and they guide my choices and work.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My bedrock belief is that bringing a child into the world is a family event. Pregnancy, labor and birth are powerful forces in the creation of a parent/s and a community. Whether positive or negative, the experience ripples outward.
I also believe deeply that there is more than one “right” way to do anything. That includes pregnancy, labor, birth, parenting. I do not judge others for the informed choices they make. My job is to make sure they are educated, empowered and uncoerced.

Too often I see fear, misinformation and disrespectful treatment used to create uncertainty, regret and ultimately powerlessness in those who should be supported to take power over their lives. For anyone to whom it is not given freely, taking power over our lives and choices- including the families we create- is a radical act.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Sharing knowledge. Witnessing moments of transformation. Being called to guard and support a person in a time of vulnerability. All of these are a doula’s privilege and honor.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That for every person the experience would be joyful, empowering and freely chosen. Eyes and heart wide open.


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