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: 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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Radical Doula Profiles: Cat Ennis Sears

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 Cat: Cat Ennis Sears is a mom of two exuberant boys born 2012 and 2014, a ToLabor trained birth doula, a Birthing From Within childbirth educator and an English teacher in Richmond, VA. Adira Birth Services and Childbirth Classes website.
Cat Ennis smiling with baby

What inspired you to become a doula?
Before I even got pregnant with my first son, I completed the reading for ToLabor doula certification. For some reason, I was just so drawn to this topic and couldn’t read enough or learn enough about it. I feel like childbirth and pregnancy is the place where women’s rights, critical literacy, narratives, myth making, rituals, feminism, self-determination, personal growth, and so much more all intersect in such an amazing way. My first birth concreted this desire to learn more about birth work. I was pushing with my first son for quite a long time. The presence of my doula when we transferred to the hospital from a birth center was reassuring and grounding. I wanted to provide that for other women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Radical comes from the Latin word radicem, which means root. It means to form the roots, to grow, to change, to become. What better word to describe a doula, who helps guide women and partners as they form their own family roots, as they change and become?

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe doulas are there to support families in whatever informed decision they would like to make. I don’t believe in imposing my own fantasy birth on them or making judgments. I feel like families will make the choices that are right for them when provided with the right information and emotional support.

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