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: Jenna Brown

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!

Jenna Brown (they/them/theirs) is a queer doula and radical educator, and the founder of Love Over Fear Wellness & Birth in Philadelphia, PA. As someone who has never shied away from vulnerability, Jenna shares the most intimate parts of their life willingly in the hopes that others will connect and feel less isolated. They have always felt called to something BIG, but it wasn’t until finding full-spectrum doula work in 2016 that their passions for social justice, trauma, somatics, philosophy, and meaningful self-work came together in brilliant harmony. Jenna is passionate about bringing the doula model of care to people and families experiencing transformations of all kinds – conception, pregnancy, birth, loss, abortion, postpartum, social/medical transitions, and more!

Jenna is a trans non-binary person, and sees their queer identity and its related experiences as strengths in their work. You see, Jenna is practiced in transition. They live in the space between who they were before, and who they are becoming. They lean into the discomfort of deeply understanding every nook and cranny of their own sense of self. They are familiar with the experience of isolation, even in moments when they are not alone. They relate to the feeling of existing outside of the “norm” in a world where the “norm” is an illusion.

You can learn more at loveoverfearwellness.com or by following @loveoverfearwellness on Instagram or Facebook.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired to become a doula in large part due to The Radical Doula Guide. I do not think that I would have felt at home in this work and identity without a resource like it, to show me that doula work could be part of my non-binary life. As my friends and community members began having children, and I started hearing for the first time about the state of perinatal care in the US, I was driven to take action. I felt that the skills and strengths I had developed would be a perfect fit for the work, and I have found so much continued growth since taking on the role of “doula.”

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I refer to myself as a “queer doula & radical educator,” to clarify how I approach doula work. There are so many misconceptions about what a doula is and does, and also so many diverse ways that people approach their work as a doula. I identify with the term “radical” because I believe the fundamental nature of what I do is politically-charged, in response to a need for massive reform, and at its root, connected to a return to intuition. I don’t think that someone needs to be a rebel in order to work with me, but I do think they need to be willing to identify and ask for what they need – and in our culture, that simplicity is radical.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I talk a lot about “radical self-awareness,” and bodily autonomy in both my professional work and my personal life. Radical self-awareness is part somatics, part emotional intelligent, and part social location. It is the practice of tapping into ones lived experience in their body. It is the practice of identifying ones emotional experience. It is the awareness of how ones identity, privilege, and/or circumstance impact the way in which they navigate the world around them.

Bodily autonomy is the capacity to exercise self-determination and basic human rights when it comes to existing within a body. This means choosing language that is in alignment with ones identity and experience. This means practicing informed consent when it comes to agency over ones body. This means giving oneself permission to say, “yes,” and to say, “no.”

These principles inform my belief that we are all subjective beings having dynamic experiences. That subjectivity makes for a lot of messiness when it comes to relating to one another, in particular in political spaces. I think that the awareness of social location is a large piece of what informs my broader political beliefs, especially as a privileged white person navigating my role in dismantling oppressive systems and forces.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is watching someone transform. Witnessing the moment or moments in which they realize what they want/need, create space for it, and live it. It is not something that I create for them, but it is something I feel honored to be a small part of.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Pregnancy and birth are incredibly personal. The experience is different for every single pregnant and birthing person. If I could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, it would be one big thing – I wish that the systems in place (care systems, but also social systems) left space for people to define that experience for themselves… that they didn’t project onto them, or make assumptions about them, but rather asked, “how is this for you?”

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Radical Doula Profiles: Teresa Bree Interlicchia

Smiling person with short hairAbout Teresa Bree Interlicchia: I’m a homeschooling mama to two beautiful babes, and I work in partnership with my dear friend Cris as a postpartum doula and class-offerer at Rally Doulas. I have a BA in History and am an avid devourer of folk-herbalism, folk-tales, oral histories, and all things associated with the normal people in History. We offer our work in the Finger Lakes to Rochester area of New York State. Website: http://www.rallydoulas.com

What inspired you to become a doula?
When I birthed my first child, 11-ish years ago, I was one of the first in my community to have a child. It seemed like everyone else was still playing in punk bands and living a pretty free lifestyle and postpartum hit me as a very difficult transition. I struggled with breastfeeding, I struggled with postpartum anxiety, I struggled. A lot.  As my friends became parents, I offered support. I helped with breastfeeding. I answered questions. I brought up the tough things that so often get skipped over when people visit postpartum folks. I wanted to be real and reinforce that all of the feelings are normal and should not be judged or dismissed.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
My goal as a postpartum doula is always to work myself out of a job. My long term goal (which class-offering is a huge part of) is to help people remember how to doula each other. I do not hold the belief that the role of Doula is one that can only be held by a “certified professional”. This idea is so new in our culture. I think that we are all capable of fulfilling the needs that parents have if we learn to communicate properly, remember how to receive, and drop our feelings of “not-enough-ness”. We need each other. I have done years of training (book learning, hands on learning, and mentorship) but I am not certified by a governing body to do postpartum work. And that is kind of by choice. This feels good (and radical) to me.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I think that we need to become re-connected in our communities. While I see the huge resource that the internet is, it is also doing us a huge disservice in our day to day interactions. There is likely someone on your very street or in your apartment building that could support you during postpartum (life) in someway! We need to re-connect with the people who are physically around us! And we need to make asking for help a normal and non-judged action. This also extends to my broader political (and social) beliefs. We all have skills. We all have things to offer. And we all need help. Let’s re-connect in our community. Let’s re-build physical connections. Let’s barter and trade our skills and our goods.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love being a gentle support that nudges parents in the direction of finding their confidence and voice. Most folks know what instinctually feels right when caring for new babes, they just don’t know how to hear that voice of knowing. We are so inundated with experts and websites and books…. we forget to pause and go to our gut. I love helping parents who want to breastfeed be successful in it. And I love listening to parents talk about all of the feelings and concerns and joys of caring for babes!

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would erase, in every parent, the weighing feeling that asking for help equals admitting defeat. We were never meant to go through the experiences of life alone. Historically, there have been social support systems in place to help with all of the thresholds from life to death. It is only very recently that we have turned these roles of support over to professionals and certified people.
I would instill the memory in every brain of every person in society that we are all capable of helping, and that we are all worthy of receiving help. And more bartering and trade!

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.

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.

Continue reading

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!