Welcome to Radical Doula

Hi! Thanks for visiting my website. Since February 2007 I’ve been maintaining this website and blog as a resource for doulas and other interested in the intersections between social justice and birth activism.

The blog part of this project isn’t as active these days, so I wanted to point you in a few directions in case you came here looking for resources.

You can read more about this project, and what I mean by “radical doula” here. You can learn more about me, my background, and my work here.

If you’re looking for advice about how to become a doula, check out this page. If you’re looking for volunteer doula organizations, go here. If you’re looking for organizations that train doulas, here.

If you’re looking for info about the book I published, The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer for Full-Spectrum Pregnancy and Childbirth Support, go here.

If you are here because you are looking for a doula, this post has some advice for your search.

You can check out all of the fabulous self-identified radical doulas that I’ve profiled over the years here. And if you identify with the term radical doula and want to be profiled, just go fill out this questionnaire and I will publish your responses.

If you’re looking to browse the blog, check out the sidebar (to the right, and down a bit) and click on any of the categories that interest you.

I also maintain a facebook page where I post regularly with things that I’m writing, but also other doula and birth activism related links and articles. Go here to like that page.

Lastly, I have a monthly email newsletter I send out, with links to what I’m writing and working on. You can sign up here.

Thank you for visiting, and for supporting this project over the years! If you have any questions you can’t get answered on this site, you can email me.

Radical Doula Profiles: Shelton Livingston

Woman with long hair and babyAbout Shelton Livingston LM, CPM: I am a Licensed Midwife and doula in Marin County, CA. Ive been attending births now for 20 years as a midwife, doula and mother. Sheltonrain@gmail.com. 415-300-7329

What inspired you to become a doula?
By chance I was invited to a home birth at age 16. I had previously attended the birth of my brother in the hospital and noticed the extreme difference in care. These experiences woke me up to the realization that birth is a natural event that has been happening since the beginning of humanity and people need to be treated with respect during birth. The birth EXPERIENCE is a huge part of the outcome, I recognized that and started attending more and more births.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I am committed to changing the birth practices in our culture. If it happens one family at a time, so be it.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that how we birth reflects how we live as a society and culture and its important to help families birth in safe and respectful ways. I believe that personal autonomy and freedom are a birthright, this should not be undermined during birth. Informed consent is key and the power dynamics we are all used to should be eliminated during birth rather than inflated.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
It doesn’t feel like work. I love that i just enjoy my time and I love seeing the babies grow up too.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Oooh, hmm. I suppose that I would change the way people go into it. Demystify. I wish birth wasn’t so removed from most peoples lives so that they could go into it having more confidence and knowledge instead of a 9 month crash course the first time.

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Radical Doula Profiles: Asia Ham

Woman smiling with glasses and a tank top and long hairWhat inspired you to become a doula?
I have always been intrigued by birth. From the as far back as I can remember I wanted to be an Obstetrician but after 12 years of school I was done. I joined the military and while on a deployment I came across midwife training which lead to me finding out about doulas. I really loved the idea that I get to be at the birth and not just the delivery. As son as I returned from my deployment I got trained as a doula.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
After taking my most recent doula training my mind was expanded to the physiological side of birth and to all the things happening behind the scenes. I was blown away by the fact that we were interrupting the physiological processes. We were not only interrupting a birthing woman but we were actually doing her harm by poking, prodding and managing her. I realized that millions of women birth before without doctors medical interventions and have birth great nations. I truly understand how important it is to run away from the medical community and let a woman birth without interruption. I never want another woman to have her power taken away or to hinder her climb up the mountain to get her baby.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that woman should be unhindered and unbothered during birth. Our bodies are extremely intelligent and know exactly how to bring a baby earthside. If left alone a woman transforms into someone so much more powerful. As a doula I am there to hold that sacred space as you take this intense journey to get your baby. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if we left women alone to tap into that maternal power. It transforms you as a woman. We have to stop hindering woman. Woman are birthing generations and we do not want to interrupt that process. I am here to advocate for women to control their own bodies!

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Just watching women find their rhythm. It is amazing to see how a woman just naturally follow her body or naturally flows into positions to comfort and progress her labor. Sometimes I just sit back in awe.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That a woman NEVER lose her power in birth and that dads truly understand how important they are in birth. I feel like a women is never more powerful than when she has to reach into the depths of her soul and pull all her power inside to bring forth her baby. Birth is truly transformational for women and we have to stop taking their power during birth. We also have to empower men with the knowledge that while a woman is in the trenches of labor and going to the mountain they are supposed to be there when she finally comes back hearthside with her baby.

Radical Doula Profiles: Amber Smith

Smiling woman with long hairAbout Amber: Hi! I’m Amber with Moon Mama Yoga and Birth Services in Mesa, Arizona! You can find me on facebook, on my website and on instagram. I have a studio in downtown called The Arizona Doulas Yoga and Education center located at 134 W. Pepper Place, Mesa AZ 85201. We have prenatal yoga classes, mommy and me, birth education, trainings, workshops, and more!

What inspired you to become a doula?
The births of my own two children inspired me to become a doula. It all started with prenatal yoga when I was pregnant with my daughter 10 years ago. I took a yoga class at a studio in Gilbert and sobbed through the entire hour and a half! I realized that I wasn’t connected at all with my baby inside nor the miraculous transformation my body and mind were going through. I also knew that I wasn’t the only expectant parent to feel this way and I couldn’t deny the pull to help others connect with body, baby, and breath. My journey started with becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher in 2010, then the Prenatal Yoga Teacher certification along with the Birth Doula training in 2015. I had two extraordinary births (one unmedicated hospital birth, one home birth) and I knew all families could have their most ideal birth, not just me! After my experiences, I felt I could help dismantle the belief that birth was scary, painful, medical, one family at a time. Thus tilting the tipping point into a place of birth empowerment for ALL involved.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Since I started working as a doula, I have found that in my conservative state of Arizona, I absolutely AM radical. I have joined various doula groups only to leave because of the non-inclusive nature of them. The god fearing, dogma enriched, judgmental way of doula-ing churned my stomach and I knew I was in the wrong place with these groups. Being a doula isn’t linear for me, it is all inclusive, it is spaghetti, it intertwines with all walks of life. A doula meets her client where they are at, not the other way around. We have VERY LITTLE support here in AZ (and especially the east valley) when it comes to anything but the classic “Mom+Dad=baby” scenario. We are completely ignoring a large portion of our community. One that needs our support the most.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I draw from Hypnobirthing- deep breaths, calm mind, incredible birth. I believe that women have an innate power to birth and that throughout history that power has been taken from us, we have been convinced as birthing women that we don’t know what we are doing. I tap into ancient practices and intuition to empower my birthing families. Fears, terrors, rage, all kinds of emotions come up as we dismantle these debilitating historical and systemic beliefs. I hold my families and work through these so my clients can birth freely. We used to birth this way, but over time things have shifted. I believe in oder to tip the scales once again, birthing families need doulas (and awesome support circles) to regain their confidence, believe in their power, and voice their rights– no matter who they are, what they look like, whom/what they associate with, or what their spiritual beliefs are. We are all human. And we all have rights.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing is witnessing total and complete transformation. It rattles my bones every time. And I love it.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That all families would be represented, supported, loved, and truly cared for throughout their experience.

Twelve Years of Radical Doula

It’s been so many years (three to be exact) since I’ve written an actual blog post that I almost don’t know how to do it. I wanted to start this the way I would start an email newsletter, because that’s the closest approximation to this kind of writing in my life these days.

But today is exactly twelve years since I launched this little site, and so I felt like it was time for some reflection, and maybe a few updates about what I’m up to and where this project is headed.

Twelve years! It’s hard to wrap my mind around that amount of time, and where I am now. Also where the movement for birth activism is now. Things have changed so much, mostly in really really great ways.

I say this often when I speak, but the reason that I started Radical Doula is now obsolete. I started this site because I felt really alone in the birth activist community because of my identity and my politics–as a pro-choice, Latinx, queer, genderqueer, activist doula. I felt alienated and hungry to connect with other people who saw doula work fitting into broader social justice work, and who didn’t think you had to look or be a certain way to be a doula.

It’s been many years (maybe like ten?) since I’ve felt alone as a doula for any of the reasons above. There are so many doulas and birth activists who share my identities and my politics. I think that’s partially true because the doula world has grown so much–there are just exponentially more doulas now than there were back in 2005 when I did my training. And many of those folks are activists, and queer and trans and people of color and reproductive justice supporters.

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Radical Doula Profiles: Sierra Holland

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!

White woman with brown hair smiles in front of a colorful wall

About Sierra Holland: I am a queer femme-identified doula serving pregnant and birthing people and new families in the greater Boston area. My passion lies in providing affirming and inclusive support to people from marginalized groups as they navigate their reproductive pathways. I am certified by BEST Doula Training and hold a PhD in Sociology (with a Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies) from the University of Florida, where I completed a dissertation on the transition to first-time parenthood for women partnered with women. You can reach me at hello@allbodiesbirth.com or through allbodiesbirth.comfacebook, or instagram. (She/her)

What inspired you to become a doula?
I spent years doing research at the intersection of gender/sexuality, families, and medicine, but I found the knowledge I was building and my capacity for supporting pregnant people was constrained by the demands of academic life and politics. I began seeking opportunities to connect directly with pregnant people and to make real, immediate, and tangible improvements to their birth experiences, which led me to birth work. My practice is focused on two main goals: to provide support to people who are marginalized along their reproductive pathways, and to impact the culture of birth and birth work towards a more affirming, radical direction.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
My work is grounded in an understanding of how power impacts every single area of our lives and, specifically, shapes our reproductive choices, experiences, and pathways. To question systems of marginalization like our current healthcare system, the medicalization of birth, and white heteropatriarchal control of birthing bodies is, to me, a radical act that deeply informs my birth work. I seek to honor and value how differences among people – especially those that create oppression – inform experiences of the body and reproduction in ways that are deeply impactful to the mind, body, and spirit.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that all pregnant people should have access to knowledge about their bodies and available choices, as well as the resources and support to act on that knowledge with confidence and autonomy. I believe that systems of oppression are fundamentally intertwined, and so my birth work emerges from a position of reproductive justice that values and affirms the locations and identities of all birthing people and their right to birth and parent with dignity. For me, this radiates out from individual birth experiences to the health and wellness of our communities and our connections with one another.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Besides providing empowering and affirming support during a person’s reproductive experience, I am deeply invested in creating conversation around the wellbeing of pregnant people and normalizing healthy, empowered birth experiences. Seeing a fellow birth worker move towards gender-neutral terms around birth, watching an uncensored birth video or unscripted view of postpartum life, hearing open and honest dialogue about breastfeeding, etc. are all things that replenish me to keep doing this work!

Radical Doula Profiles: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson

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!

Brunette woman smiling with bangs in her eyesAbout Autumn: Autumn is an author, abortion doula, and feminist theologian who has been writing, appearing on television and speaking internationally about reproductive justice and feminism since 2010 when she founded Richmond Clinic Defense to help escort patients past protesters at an abortion clinic in Richmond, Virginia. She has spoken to thousands of people over the years as well as written for many popular and academic publications. In 2014, Autumn was one of four finalists for the Generation Personal Award given by the National Women’s Law Center in recognition of her work as a clinic defense founder and in 2015 Blog For Choice listed her as one of “15 Awesome Pro Choice Activists Who Work To #Protectthezone”. Autumn is an aspiring Anglican deacon and one-woman ministry that provides Albertans with transportation, housing, funds, childcare and other necessities as they seek abortion care. She is the author of The Guide to Humanist Ceremonies (Humanist Press, 2018) and is currently at work on her second book, The Companion: How To Become an Abortion Doula (2019). She is an American now living happily in Canada. You can visit her website here.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I’m not sure there was ever a single moment. I actually kind of slowly moved into the work! One of my favorite aspects of clinic defense was always when I got to interact with patients and reassure them or answer their questions. It was always most disturbing to me when I saw women in the clinic waiting around for a cab to take them home post-procedure. So, when I moved to Canada, it was only natural that I set up shop as an abortion doula so that I could work more intimately with patients. Now I’m working on setting up a formal curriculum to go along with the book I’m now writing on becoming an abortion doula.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I think what is radical about what I do is that I do it as a Christian ministry and soon-to-be clergywoman. I am in the discernment process to (hopefully!) be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada where I will be concentrating specifically on this work. That’s pretty crazy to most people who might be used to religion always being on the anti-abortion side.

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Radical Doula Profiles: Savannah Taylor

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!

Blond woman with baby in her lap, sitting on a bench smilingAbout Savannah Taylor: I am a Birth Doula from Austin, Texas. Birth work is a true passion of mine, and I feel like it is a form of service and a form of activism. I have a degree in political science from Southwestern University. I am a mother myself, to a darling baby girl. Her birth is what inspired me to become a doula, and through my work, I hope to empower birthing persons from all walks of life through their journey into parenthood. Contact: savannahtaylordoula@gmail.com,  Facebook at Savannah Taylor, Birth Doula, Instagram at @savannataylordoula

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired to become a doula by my own experience with birth. I was induced for high blood pressure at 38 weeks, and my induction led to a high intervention birth, all the way from pitocin to an episiotomy. Although it was the happiest day of my life, I do not think I was prepared for the emotional and spiritual effects birth would have on me as a mother and as a person. I decided to become a doula so I could hold the hands of others and to hopefully change the culture around birth as a whole. However you give birth, it will fundamentally deconstruct and reconstruct your entire being, and as a doula, I want to be there to support people in this time.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Birth is inherently radical. It is spontaneous, it is pain, it is love, it is bloody, it is long, it is hard, and it creates change. Every birth changes the universe, and as a doula, it is my job to empower that radical nature of birth.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that parenthood is a political act. You are the president of your baby’s world for the first few years. You teach them how to treat others and how to treat the world. As a doula, I want to empower all birthing persons to feel secure and strong enough with themselves and their ability to make a change in this world through parenting.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
There is absolutely nothing like watching the beginning of someone’s life, be that the life of the baby or the life of the parent. Being there at that moment of birth is truly a cosmic blessing.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would probably change the societal culture around the way women and non-binary birthing persons are treated in general. I think that as a culture, we do not respect motherhood and we do not value the work that is done during pregnancy and birth. I would like to see paid parental leave for up to a year, insurance coverage for doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants, more breastfeeding support, and expanded mental health services for pregnant and postpartum individuals.