Kick-ass radical doulas, 3rd Ed: A collective post

Since I started this blog, I have gotten quite a few emails/comments from doulas from around the United States who have connected with the issues that I cover here, and particularly with the concept of Radical Doula. These have been some of the most moving and inspirational things that have come out of having this blog, and I wanted to share some of their stories with you all. Here are a few exerpts from their comments and emails (I will leave these excerpts anonymous, as I want to respect the privacy of these awesome doulas):

I am a doula living and working in Montreal (Quebec). My doula heart sighed a huge sigh of relief when i stumbled upon your blog. I have been a doula for two years and i still can’t find a place for myself within the ‘doula’ community. I feel unseen and isolated. I am struggling to find a doula ‘partner’ because though I know a lot of doulas, i can’t find one with politics that i can relate to. I have not met any doulas that were careful and knowing about transsexuality, class struggles, queerness, racism, and citizenship privilege. Right now i am trying to do more birthing work with women stuck in the immigration detention just outside of montreal. It is hard for me to access into those detention centers, so far i have only been able to assist at one birth. The other issue is (as i was saying earlier…) it is hard for me to find doulas that I trust to work with in those situations. I have never been more aware of my white privilege than at that birth. All this to say that i am finding the doula world lonely. There’s no way i’m the only doula that feels so deeply glad to know that you are there.

I am an RN that also became a doula and a childbirth educator. I did a ton of volunteering with clinics and I did OB nursing for 3 years in a hospital. I have worked in both home and birthing clinics and I much prefer home births. I had my first son when I was 18 in a typical hospital nightmare and had my second son at home in 2002, at 25. I had come a long way. I went to nursing school and received my BSN with the intention of going into midwifery school. The problem was, I was extremely radical and political. At my junior year, the university here in Missouri shut down it’s midwifery program due to pressure from the med school. There are no more Nurse Midwives here, they were all shut out. I became very involved in the politics of birthing. I was involved with the birthing center here that was run by a doctor, who has been mercilessly persecuted. I worked in the ER for the money, thinking that I could do nursey things and not feel bad about these skills, unlike OB. Because of my woman’s health experience, I started getting all of the rapes and the domestic violence. I had also done a lot of volunteer work in this area. I have become extremely angry since I began this journey. I have always loved pregnant woman, ever since I was little. But I have been so political as well. I have taught classes, spoken at medical tribunals, etc, etc…I feel so powerless. I am now in law school and about to finish my first year. I love law, and I will value what power it may afford me. However, after all this debt, will I be happy? Shouldn’t I be a midwife? Isn’t that where my heart lies? I don’t think that I could be happy with midwifery in the united states as it is now and I want to fight for it to become elevated to where it should be. I despise doctors and this is a major problem. You can imagine how hard it is to work as a nurse now, not even a primary caregiver, while going to law school. It is infuriating. I really don’t know what compelled me to write you. I guess it is just nice to hear about someone else that is as political as I am.

I came across your blog through Google and when I read this post I was so moved. I’m studying to become a doula and lactation consultant and I intend to work with women who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, woman who are incarcerated, young single mothers and women who are or have been in abusive relationships simply because I see a greater need in these women. I feel my efforts can best be used to aid women such as these rather than women who might have more intact support systems. I have seen firsthand how these women can fall between the cracks and their children fall with them. I know that when I am done training and begin to gain experience I will be providing them with the care and support they need to feel empowered and capable. Much of what you said resonates with me… I’ll be proud to some day consider myself a radical doula!

*waves* Radical doula here. I was previously in Wisconsin and now am in the boonies of Minnesota! I just discovered your blog from feministing, but I’ll be sure to check it out with regularity. I am currently childless, bisexual, married, and a steadfast radical I hope there’s even more of us out there!!

I am so happy you put this up! I too am a radical doula/midwife in training. I work in a county hospital in the midwest with all-low-income mothers, 99% of whom are of color. Latina, East African, West African, incarcerated mothers, addicts and well, all the other low-income moms of color who are deemed difficult, at risk, and less than, for more reasons than any of us can or should count. Though I work with some other amazing doulas I am frequently ( read:always) the only woman of color ( I am African American) in the room, let alone the bi, pro-choice woman in the room. I have one child and another on the way and as my journey of motherhood and birth professional continues I find my self though personally further from the place in my life where I might need to utilize my choice to terminate a pregnancy, more deeply pro-choice than ever before in my life, the idea that anyone would have to embark on this journey from government coercion, makes me dizzy with outrage. More deeply though I find that the link between the anti-choice anti-birth trends so insulting. For me the deep intuitive understanding of the conciousness of my baby as he approaches his birth clarifies for me that only women understand the choices they make, that they HAVE to make and to remove this from them in any aspect of their reproductive lives seems to fly in the face the precious gifts of sentience and spirit and the amazing power which we have.

Thanks to all the radical doulas out there who are doing such amazing work and inspire me to keep going with this and my own doula projects. Some day we are going to have to have a radical doula convening!

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6 thoughts on “Kick-ass radical doulas, 3rd Ed: A collective post

  1. FTM Doula August 2, 2007 / 4:03 pm

    It’s so great to see posts like this.

    I consider myself to be a radical doula, seeing as that I am a gay post-transition transman who works primarily with queer families. I became a doula before transitioning from female to male, and decided (with great amounts of internal strife and discussion with friends and other birth professionals) to continue being a doula, even though being a man (and I do consider myself to be male, not female or genderqueer) in this community has challenges. My own challenges have drastically opened my eyes to the challenges of others, and I work every day to be more aware of privilege (in its many forms) and its impact on pregnancy, birth, birthing families, and parenting.

    I only recently discovered your weblog, but I am loving it so far. It makes me so happy to know that there are people out there who are on the same political page as I am! My local birth community has its fair share of intolerance, classism, racism, and I have distanced myself from it as a result. I am hoping to get to a point where I feel strong enough to become an activist within my local birth community, but for now I am working on fighting that intolerance by supporting families who are greatly impacted by it.

    Interestingly, this intolerance is also why I have not signed my name on this comment. I am not out as being trans (I am known simply as a male doula to the local general public) and I am, at this point, too afraid of transphobia to out myself. I am working on that fear. 🙂

  2. Caro February 7, 2009 / 8:13 pm

    I was just sent a link to your blog from a supportive friend who is constantly encouraging me to fight the alienation, to hold fast and be a warrior for what I believe in.

    I’m a student in a Canadian midwifery school (bachelor degree in health sciences, midwifery) and I feel so isolated. I’m queer, kinky, feminist, a fat-ally, trans-ally and I hold anti-opression politics to my heart. My pro-choice and sex-positive politics at the core of my beliefs. I didn’t realise that I’d be so alone. We have social-worky classes in our curriculum to help fight this, but it’s not enough. People need to take it to heart and not just read-regurgitate for marks.

    I didn’t realise that heterocentrism and others’ ignorance of gender/race/class privilege would get in the way of me finding a place in the birthing community – but it is.

    I’m so glad to have found your blog. Please keep posting. The community needs your voice.
    xox

  3. an isolated midwifery student February 7, 2009 / 8:17 pm

    I was just sent a link to your blog from a supportive friend who is constantly encouraging me to fight the alienation, to hold fast and be a warrior for what I believe in.

    I’m a student in a Canadian midwifery school (bachelor degree in health sciences, midwifery) and I feel so isolated. I’m queer, kinky, feminist, a fat-ally, trans-ally and I hold anti-oppression politics to my heart. My pro-choice and sex-positive politics at the core of my beliefs. I’ve come to midwifery primarily because I am focused on the autonomy of women and I want to support their birthing choices and directly provide care. I didn’t realise that I’d be so alone. We have one social-worky class in our curriculum to help fight this, but it’s not enough. People need to take it to heart and not just read-regurgitate for marks.

    I didn’t realise that heterocentrism and others’ ignorance of gender/race/class privilege would get in the way of me finding a place in the birthing community – but it is.

    I’m so glad to have found your blog. Please keep posting. The community needs your voice.

    Due to the newness of my career, I’d rather not sign my name now.

    xox

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