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 for Colorlines and elsewhere, 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: Erynne M. Gilpin

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 Erynne: tânsi kiya,  my name is erynne michelle and i am of mixed Saulteaux-Cree Métis, Filipina, Irish and Scottish ancestry. As someone of mixed ancestry, I believe it is essential to work towards a world where Indigenous communities and cultures, and the values that ground them, take precedent in our societies today. As a light skinned iskwe (womyn), I believe that it is my responsibility to confront colonial sexualized violence and educate non-Indigenous societies about the importance of Indigenous ancestral knowledge, relational accountability and protocol.

I am currently a PhD Student in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria. My Doctoral work focuses on Indigenous wellness, leadership and body-governance; specifically birth-work. I further aspires to continue my collaborative research with community relations in the South through comparative North-South conversations and collaborations.
Erynne splits her time between Coast Salish/Lekwungen/WASANEC territories (Vancouver Island), Munsee Delaware/Oneida/Chippewa on the Thames Territories (Ontario) and Brazil.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I knew I wanted to be a birth worker for as long as I can remember.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across a grant for Indigenous folk seeking doula training- that I was able to access the training. In conversations with other birth workers, I began to understand the profound experience of birth, and the important roles of birthing traditions in efforts towards Indigenous sovereignty, well-being and self-determination. I do not see ceremony as divorced from politics, and furthermore body divorced from Land. Therefore, I believe that the work of an Indigenous doula, is integral for both physical and mental health as well as spiritual and emotional well-being.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula for two main reasons:
1) To acknowledge and therefore interrogate colonial historical legacies (founded upon racism, sexism and white-supremacist capitalist values) within mainstream health-care practice across Turtle Island.
2) To create safe spaces for Indigenous families to bring their new ones into their homes, clans, families and communities; in culturally safe and spiritually relevant ways.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy as a Doula is to first and foremost support the Mother and her relationships to herself, her body, her baby, partner/family and the Land.
I want her to feel a sense of confidence in her work, and to know that no matter what she has someone beside her at all times- and through all waves of struggle, emotion and triumph.
Furthermore, I believe that all families should be able to access safe health-care support, without the danger of racism or colonial violence. Therefore, I see myself as a mediator between non-Indigenous care-givers and the Indigenous families I support.
Finally, if the family chooses, I believe I have the responsibility to create birth spaces that feel culturally relevant and safe.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
While I have only attended two births (as I received my training this year-2016), I would have to say my favourite thing is the relationships that are established. These are life-long relationships because in some way the mothers- and families experience a re-birth as well. I feel honoured to be able to witness such miracles, as well as support the mothers/families in any way that they need.
Each time a young one is born, we are healed a little more.
I believe that when born into the Language, into the hands of a loving circle (parents, family, birth aunty), and with water songs- that child’s spirit knows where it belongs in Creation.
This is the power of birth work.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That ALL Indigenous families and families of Colour have access to loving birth support/doulas/birth aunties – who have undergone meaningful and in-depth training on decolonial health-care, anti-racist birth-work and Indigenous birth traditions.

Radical Doula Profiles: Melissa Scaggs

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!

Melissa smiling wearing a blue sweaterAbout Melissa: My name is Melissa and I am birth doula in the Washington DC area. I am pro-choice, feminist, queer woman of color. I am originally from New England and moved to DC in 2010 to become a nanny. After many years as a nanny, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a birth doula. I plan to become a postpartum, abortion, and bereavement doula in the future. I am particularly passionate about helping LGBTQ+ individuals, young people, and single parents. I serve Washington DC, NOVA, and southern Maryland. Please contact me at lissathedoula@gmail.com or call me at 860-303-9894.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I truly believe in the philosophy of “there is a doula for everyone”. My hope for my doula career is to ensure that all people who want a doula at their birth are able to have one, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, or faith. I also believe ongoing consent and bodily autonomy are essential to an empowering birth experience. This philosophy was born from my pro-choice and intersectional feminist beliefs.

Radical Doula Profiles: Sara Jane Goodman

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 Sara Jane: I am board president of CHOICES, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health in Memphis TN.  I became a radical doula 3 years ago when I became an abortion doula.

What inspired you to become a doula?
When I became board president of the clinic, I knew I would be going out in the community and people would ask me questions. I wanted to know exactly what happened in the clinic. I began volunteering as an abortion doula.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with this term because it is what I do.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Being an abortion doula is the most important volunteer gig I have ever had. I allows me to stand strong with women from every piece of society. It has opened my eyes to the issues that women face because of their gender. I am not a medical provider at all. I am a love sharer. For a few minutes, I hold her hand. I remind her to breathe, I wipe her tears, I fan her sweat, I encourage her and tell her she is brave. I often hold a puke bag. I do my best to meet every woman where she is and offer what she needs.  Then I clean the room and prepare it for our next client.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Sharing empathy and love. Some of our clients don’t get loving touches.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would give women more education and power over the circumstances that they find themselves in. We need more education earlier.  I believe that doula’s improve the experience for women. I am proud to stand as a radical doula.

Radical Doula Profiles: Ashley Medley

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!

Ashley sitting on the stairs in a white shirtAbout Ashley: I am a public health advocate and full-spectrum doula in the Washington DC area. I earned my BA from California Lutheran University in Sociology with minors in Women’s Studies and Religion and a Master’s in Public Policy from George Mason University. My background is in public health research and policy and gender rights advocacy. I have worked in community health activism, international maternal and child health programs and am currently practicing as a full-spectrum doula supporting people through everything from pregnancy termination to birth. With a passion for women’s & LGBTQ health and social policy, I also strongly believe sexual violence is a public health concern that affects every single member of a community and am on the Board of a local organization, Cultures of Consent.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have a life long passion for women’s health, healthy communication, wellness and healthy families. I seek to provide support for diverse families, however they come to be. My personal background is in broader women’s health program development and policy. My undergraduate and graduate degrees have focused on social aspects of health: I earned my Bachelor’s degree from California Lutheran University in 2008 and my Master’s degree from George Mason University in 2010. How I came to doula work was by working in international maternal and newborn health and nutrition programs primarily in Africa. While my career developed in policy and programs, my personal interests were locked on maternal health here in the U.S.. Eventually I became trained and certified as a doula and continued to learn all I can on prenatal and maternal health. Now I work and volunteer providing support for birth and labor as well as abortion/termination support services to women in the Washington, DC area. I believe as a culture, we must trust women and their bodies.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I originally came to doula work with the intention of being an abortion doula, only supporting terminations. Within a couple months I wanted more. I wanted to support birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, sexual assault survivors, everything. I watched people go through such intense moments and react in as many diverse ways as their were people! I watched them surprise themselves with strength, with tears, with panic, and learn what they were made of. And I wanted to do the same.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe as a culture, we must trust women and their bodies. I aim for a woman to feel supported and empowered throughout her pregnancy. Whether that is trying to become pregnant or ending a pregnancy. I feel so privileged to support people through the most intimate, vulnerable and powerful moments of their lives. I’ve seen first hand that people are desperate to start families and just as desperate to terminate their pregnancies. What is so lacking in our world is compassion for both (and everything in between). I strongly believe that as a society, we must work together to make the world a better place for ourselves and future generations. I see this play out in birth in that a woman can set the tone of her birth experience while the baby guides the journey.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Every experience is unique. No two days in my life are the same. I have such intimate access to people – it truly is a tremendous honor. To help prepare and then support and watch people go through an experience physically and emotionally that shows them what they are made of – that’s unreal. There’s a quote “your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is all coming from you.” I say that to people and they will say, “Holy fuck. I’m strong.” And, “Yeah, you are.”

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
System-wide, in the U.S., I’m hopeful we can return to a time and place where it is standard that midwives are the assumed care providers for low risk pregnancies. So many unnecessary interventions can be avoided with this standard. Secondly, whether it is a midwife, OB, or nurse a vaginal exam should always come after permission and it should be phrased as a question. That is, “Is it okay with you if we do a vaginal exam?” No one should ever touch a vagina without asking.

Radical Doula Profiles: Ursula Sabia Sukinik

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!

Ursula circle photoAbout Ursula: Ursula Sabia Sukinik is not only a certified childbirth educator, but is also a birth doula, a birth assistant, and mother of two teenage boys. Known for her easy laughter, radiant energy and knowledge of the birthing woman; to say that she is an inspiration is an understatement. She is a true believer in honoring women’s bodies and the natural process, Ursula not only inspires her clients to better understand how choices affect well being, but she takes the mind-body connection to a whole new level with her practice as a birth worker. Ursula has personally worked with thousands of women during the birthing process. With this passion she owns and runs Birth You Desire where you can find a list of childbirth classes, TENS rentals, workshops and speaking engagements in the DC Metro area as well as choose a doula to support you at your birth. Learn more about Ursula and her team at BirthYouDesire.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have always been passionate about women’s choices and rights. When pregnant I searched out collaborative midwife program that allow for me to have a potentially high risk pregnancy in a low risk way. Through this process a desire to do birth work was inspired. But it was at my first solo birth as a doula that I was called to birth work. I was the only person in the small bathroom during a sudden precipitous birth. Catching baby Cole was for me a pivotal point where I was blessed to be given the honor of catching him and witnessing his mother in her full power. At that moment, I knew I had found my life’s work.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
For me birth activism is about working to improve the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences of those who are challenged to have positive outcomes. All births and outcomes needs to be supported from loss to rainbow births, from natural to cesarean deliveries, low risk to high risk, and traditional to LGBT. For needs outside of our scope, Birth You Desire works in partnership with many providers so that their clients get the best possible personal care. Our partners include Metropolitan Breastfeeding to support and induce lactation in both LGBT mothers.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Birth You Desire’s mission is to support, educate and inspire women on their personal birth journeys. Our doulas will support each family with personalized one-on-one care. No matter what the woman’s journey is, no matter where she is coming from or going, we will support her in the way she desires. Birthing can be a personal special event no matter the location.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite moment at the birth, for the mother, is when she finds her personal power and births her baby. My favorite moment to watch is the first time the partner looks at their baby. The moment on awareness of unconditional love in their face is very powerful.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I wish that quality evidence-based informational support could be available to everyone. That mother’s could know their choices before being made to make a decision. And all families can be supported, educated and inspired to have the best possible outcome for themselves with out judgement.

Radical Doula Profiles: Maggie Weber-Striplin

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!

Maggie Weber-StriplinAbout Maggie Weber-Striplin: I serve as a volunteer doula at San Francisco General Hospital serving a dozen births as well as a few private births. I have been a post-partum doula, sibling doula, and nanny in the Bay Area for 8 years for families with singles and twins.

What inspired you to become a doula?
The first few moments of life are so precious and so important to to our beliefs that we are loved, worthy, safe, and whole in the world. In the first five years of life is when 90% of our brain development happens and beliefs about the world are formed. Parents need the most support at this time in adjusting to their new family member so that the whole family can thrive as they grow together.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Radical is a term I apply to most areas of my life. I went to a radical college and a radical cooking school. I regularly attend protests and sign petitions. I believe everyone should have access to support. If radical is bringing birth back to its origins of community,support, love, trust and celebration, I’m radical!

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Everyone should have access to a doula or birth support. This ties into my larger beliefs of believing in coming back to a community approach to living, where we can find an abundance of support in our communities.

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