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


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.

A moment for White doulas to put allyship into practice and support doulas of color

January 7, 2015

Ever since I joined the doula movement there has been a strong anecdotal sense that the doula community is very white. While I haven’t seen any official data on this (I could imagine it’d be difficult to access a community that is pretty small, but also not congregated in any one organization), it’s the sense I’ve gotten from all of my time and work in this field.

In recent years there has been more attention to race and racism in the doula community, and way more doulas (and midwives, other birth activists) of color speaking up about race and representation.

I think there are many ways the doula community needs to engage with the reality of racism, how it impacts the maternal health of women of color, especially Black women, but increasing the number of doulas of color in our movement is one really important step.

I often get asked by white doulas–what can I do about racism and maternal health disparities? I talked a lot about this question in my speech from SQUATfest two years ago, but I didn’t explicitly answer it.

Well, now you have a major opportunity to step up. A group in the Bay Area is fundraising to bring more doulas of color (and low-income doulas, and formerly incarcerated doulas) into the work.

Infographic reads: "The training: 2 weekends of birth doula education, 1 weekend of breastfeeding and postpartum education, 5 mentored birth experiences."

Infographic that reads: "Your money goes to training 16 doulas of color, providing doulas to 80 families in the community that would not otherwise be able to receive doula support."

Infographic via East Bay Community Birth Support Project

Put your money where your mouth is. If we’re really going to change the culture of birth in the US, we’re going to need way more doulas who look like the women who are facing the most extreme challenges.

The fundraiser ends on Friday–now is your time.

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

Radical Doula Profiles: Ynanna Djehuty

December 19, 2012

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!

Ynanna DjehutyYnanna Djehuty is an Afro-Dominican woman born and raised in the Bronx. She is a writer and certified birth doula. She is a member of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC), and a sister of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Inc. The focus of her work is the empowerment of women and people of the African Diaspora, specifically discussing the Afro-Latina Identity. She utilizes her experience as a birth doula to raise awareness on maternal and infant health for women, highlighting the disparities in the healthcare system in the United States for women of color. She is studying to become a midwife to continue to advocate for women and their overall well-being. Contact her at ynanna@thesewatersrundeep.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I was inspired to be a doula after I began to learn more about my reproductive health. My interest grew into maternal and infant health, and I decided to explore a profession helping women. I wanted to provide my therapeutic healing skills to women at a time they need it most.
Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
When I look at the world “radical”, I think of the Latin word it is derived from, radix meaning “root”. In my work as a doula and writer, I am interested in helping those around me set down strong and healthy roots while examining what historical precedence has led to our modern day society. I identify as a radical doula because of my passion to return back to the foundation of traditional and earth medicine to heal my self and women.

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

Birth is a natural part of life. It is a very important moment for a woman and her family. In a matter of moments, a new being is brought into the world and a mother is born. I believe in natural birth. I have my own personal views that I only share with the women I serve, but to put it briefly, I am against unnecessary interventions. I believe in compassionate use of epidurals but encourage women to trust and work with the pain. I believe that if the mother and child are truly in danger, a medical team should absolutely do everything they can to ensure a safe delivery. I am against unnecessary Cesarean sections and believe they should occur in emergency situations, as there are more risks involved that the mother only finds out after the fact.

With all that said, my opinions do not matter when it comes to caring for the woman. I honor and respect all the mother’s views and decisions – it’s not about me, it’s all about her. I believe in working as a team with the mother and partner/family so that they are her familiar face and I am the objective, nurturing and continuous non-medical support in the room. My focus prenatally is asking the mother questions about her mental and emotional state of being. True preparation for birth is moreso understanding a woman’s fears, concerns, hopes and dreams than whether or not she knows all the medical parts of what is going on. I believe the mother should be as informed as possible about the medical and physiological part of birth, but also have witnessed all that information and all that she learned in classes fly right out the window when the most important thing becomes focusing on delivering a child and getting in tune with herself, managing her contractions and breathing.

This level of respect carries over into all my work, where I recognize the disenfranchisement of marginalized groups such as women, Afro-descendants and impoverish people. Basic human rights, access to information and self-determination is often obstructed by de jure (by law) and de facto (by fact) discrimination. Oppression such as this for generations has an impact on the holistic health of our communities, and thus respecting the humanity of people, their right to choose and determine their life outcomes is the platform of all my political beliefs. Furthermore, as it relates to women and within that, marginalized women, having sovereignty over their lives is a radical and revolutionary act in a world that seeks to silence us.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

I love being able to share such an important moment in the life of a family. It is a life affirming charge that fills me with hope every time I assist a women in empowering herself.

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

My biggest gripe with the state of birthing is the overmedicalization of it. I would love to reduce the amount of medical interventions that occur to just necessary and emergency situations.


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