History of Black Midwives slideshow by ICTC

February 11, 2013

The International Center for Traditional Childbearing published this slideshow about the history of Black midwives in the US. It’s important for all us to understand the role Black midwives have played in the midwifery movement. While this is unlikely to be comprehensive, it’s an important resource in elevating this history.

ICTC also has a doula training program that centers communities of color. Read this guest post for one perspective on their training. They have a training coming up in March in Portland, OR. More info here.

Radical Doula Profiles: Acquanda Stanford

February 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!

Acquanda is a Black Feminist, cultural anthropologist, Certified Lactation Educator (CLE), and ICTC-trained Full Circle Doula, who hopes to one day bring the combination of these to higher education when she’s a professor. Acquanda writes the Lactation Journey Blog, which was created as a space to chronicle her venture in breastfeeding advocacy that focuses largely on inequities among African Diasporic women and the overall community. She grew up in Southern California, the fourth and fifth (she has a twin) of six children, and is also a ‘super auntie’ and ‘othermother,’ who has played a hand in raising each of her 16 nieces and nephews – including her one-year-old great nephew. Acquanda lives in Washington State and is working on her first book – about breastfeeding. Visit her website.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I don’t have any children, so a positive or negative birth experience as something that ultimately shaped my reasons for practicing is not part of my story. I have been involved in critical breastfeeding awareness for a while now, to address the staggering health and social issues among Black women, who statistically rank the lowest of any group in this country in initiation and duration. I decided to become a doula because I saw it as a way to extend my breastfeeding advocacy and activism, and figured it would allow me to go deeper as well as provide an additional layer of insight. Initially, my goal was to participate postpartum and interact with women after their birthed and were home or settled, but after attending ICTC’s Full Circle Doula training that is based on a midwifery model of care, I recognized focusing all areas of pregnancy and birth are equally crucial in supporting breastfeeding and challenging maternal-infant mor tality and other social issues linked to this area.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

Until more recently, I had been very reluctant to label myself ‘radical’. Even though that’s the way most others viewed me, and is essentially the attitude I displayed, to me, the word seemed as if it carried a stigma and that it was synonymous with ‘obnoxious’ or ‘erratic’. But far from signifying those things I was concerned with, I identify with ‘radical’ because it means that I work to dismantle a system of injustice instead of simply recycling the power structure, and spitting it out as progress. And that since I am a person who wants to see radical changes as well as contribute to this radical transformation, then these ideas would come from my radical vision. Also, the statement by Angela Davis strongly resonates with me:

“If indeed we wish to be radical in our quest for change, then we must get to the root of our oppression. After all, radical simply means grasping things at the root.”

I see the injustice in breastfeeding and birth and countless others, that are infused with racism, white supremacy, and various interlocking forms of oppression that have shaped the way Black women, women of color, and many continue to be marginalized and I’m not afraid to challenge them.

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

I don’t know if I have a doula philosophy, per se, but my broader moral and political beliefs shape my views as a doula. I believe in equality and liberation and work towards actualizing these.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to just a ‘thing,’ but I really appreciate that for me, being a doula allows me to actively participate in challenging structural violence against Black women, our bodies, families and other areas. Being a doula is an additional tool in challenging a historical legacy of oppression in this country. I like that simply sitting in a room with a woman in labor allows her to have a better birth outcome. And I love that I am helping to build a legacy that will manifest itself for generations; using this platform as an additional tool in challenging social issues means that I may be able to imagine that one day when a woman is partnered with a doula, it is to engage in the tradition for spiritual beliefs or as a rite of passage – something of that sort, and not because social issues make pregnancy and birth a threat on a woman’s life.

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

I’m by far not as tenured as others in the birth realm – in fact, I’m pretty new, but from what I see so far if I could change one thing it would be that birth advocates would bring issues that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society to forefront. From what I see in birth and in breastfeeding, is there is too much idealism that causes many to overlook that issues of race, class, sexual identity and others really determine who is birthing, dying and who even goes home happy. Those issues need to become central to *all* our conversations.

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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