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?”