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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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Only 300 copies of the Radical Doula Guide left

April 7, 2014

Cover of Radical Doula Guide

About a month back I had to set up a new online store for the Radical Doula Guide, as my old one decided to no longer offer the service. You can now order copies of the guide here. Same deal, similar credit card processing, new look and URL!

I’ve sold over 1100 copies since it published a year and a half ago. I’ve been blown away by the interest and support for it–so a major thank you to everyone who has bought a copy, or suggested it as a resource. I sincerely hope it’s been of use.

I have about 300 copies left. Haven’t decided what I’ll do when they run out–whether I’ll order a new run to keep selling print copies, create a digital version for download, etc. But if you have been wanting to get a copy, now is a good time to order one.

If you have links to the old Radical Doula Guide store on your website, consider updating them. This page is a good reference as it will always be updated with the most recent information.


Radical Doula Profiles: Jessie Bryer

March 20, 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 radical doula Jessie BryerJessie Bryer is a mom of 2, family studies major and doula willing to provide full-spectrum support to women in the Yuma, Arizona area. Find her at: https://www.facebook.com/jessie.bryerdoula, or email her at yumadoula@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

My own birth experiences and the privilege of witnessing a friend’s birth motivated me to share my experience and help other women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

Because I am willing to provide my support where it is needed, regardless of the circumstances. I am liberal and pro-choice.

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

I think that we are natural beings and that pregnancy, birth, and lactation are natural processes. I believe strongly in a woman’s autonomy and her right to make choices regarding her body and her reproductive function. All women should have access to good quality, safe medical procedures whether they are seeking abortion, birthing at home, refusing procedures or in need of contraception and I support anyone who needs me.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

My favorite part of being a doula is helping people and knowing that they felt braver, stronger, and empowered by my presence.

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

I would take the fear that women feel during labor away.


Celebrating six years of Radical Doula

February 27, 2013

Cupcake with Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the day that I launched this blog. Each year that this date rolls around it feels like an incredible feat to have made it this far and to still have energy and desire and ideas for how to cultivate this space.

In blog years, particularly in the era of the million other platforms out there, six years feels ancient.

And while it’s true that every year feels like a major accomplishment, I’m particularly proud of this past one.

Publishing the Radical Doula Guide was a feat that I’m still not sure how I accomplished, but I continue to feel really proud that it is out in the world. I’ve sold about 750 copies so far, and I hope to sell many more in the years to come.

The conversation about how to improve doula trainings, how to expand the role of doulas, how to finally start talking about how race and class have a huge impact on birth outcomes is moving. It’s moving, and growing, but still has a long way to go. The Radical Doula Guide is my contribution to this conversation, my attempt at filling some of the gaps. I offer it with humility, knowing how much more there is to do and say. It’s just one step of the million we need to take before we see anything close to birth justice in our world.

I launched the fundraiser for the guide on this day last year, and I owe a tremendous thanks to all of you who generously donated and made that project happen.

In honor of my 6th anniversary, I’m offering $2 off The Radical Doula Guide. To get the discount use the code SIXYEARS when purchasing a copy in my online store. It will only work through the end of this week, so act now to get a copy for only $10 each.

The other major Radical Doula related accomplishment I’ll take a moment to pat myself on the shoulder for was my TEDx talk: Transforming Empathy. Doing that talk was an incredible opportunity to try and translate the work we do as full spectrum doulas to an audience who I couldn’t assume knew anything about doula work, and I’m really glad I had that challenge. Our work has many universal applications, and it’s taught me so much about how to approach social change work. If you haven’t already, you can watch the talk here.

This coming year is going to be about improving on what I’m already doing, which mainly these days is providing a resource, a platform and a point of connection for all the radical doulas out there. I’m constantly working on my resource pages, and trying to promote all the opportunities for engaging in radical doula work here. And of course, I’d love to feature you if you identify as a radical doula. I’m also starting to do more speaking engagements related to my work here, so please be in touch if you’re interested in organizing something (radicaldoula@gmail.com).

And as always, Radical Doula is just one slice of what I spend my time on. The best way to keep up with the rest of what I do is to follow me on twitter, subscribe to/follow my public updates on facebook, or join my email list.

Thanks for your support! Here’s to many more anniversaries and many more radical doulas in our movement.


Radical Doula Profiles: Acquanda Stanford

February 7, 2013

Acquanda

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.


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