A Call for Radical Doulas

Taking a quick break from live blogging the Breastfeeding and Feminism conference for this important announcement/call for help:

Last week I received an email from a woman living in a small town outside of Minneapolis, MN who has had a terrible time trying to find a doula. She is now 17 weeks pregnant, and she told me how she has been turned down, not once, not twice, but THREE times by three different doulas. Why?

–The first doula turned her down because she is not sure if she wants to give birth without an epidural.

–The second doula turned her down because she was pregnant with twins, and decided to do a selective reduction and terminate one of the pregnancies at 11 weeks.

–The third doula turned her down because she is serving as a surrogate for a gay couple.

This is what is saddest to me–when doulas, who are supposed to support women in all their decisions around childbirth–would turn a woman away. I don’t know about you all, but in my doula training, this is NOT what we were taught. This situation highlights exactly why we need more radical doulas, progressive people willing to support women without judgment, so that no one who seeks out doula care will be denied.

In her own words:

I am at my wits end and cannot believe that I can’t find anyone in a profession designed to help and support women who is willing to help me. I’m just looking for someone compassionate and progressive and willing to help me out. I really hope that you can provide me with some information because at this point I’m really just kind of lost.

So I am turning to you all. Please, if you are or know of a doula in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (she lives about an hour and a half outside the city) who is willing to consider providing doula support for her, please, email me at radicaldoula@gmail.com. (Note, she is willing to pay for the services).

Also, if you are a doula or midwife blogger, and would like to cross post this call on your site, please do. My hope is that we can utilize this virtual network of radical doulas and midwives (and allies) to find a great support person for this woman.

Again, email me if you are a doula in the area or have any question (radicaldoula@gmail.com) and I will forward along the information to her.

In solidarity.


19 thoughts on “A Call for Radical Doulas

  1. Liz September 25, 2007 / 7:18 am

    Wow. That is tough.
    It’s probably better that the doulas were honest and didn’t try to bring any negative personal feelings into the relationship.
    She will find a doula- just wait and see.

  2. k. September 25, 2007 / 12:35 pm

    Which direction? I know people in the Mankato area who might be able to help…. I hope none of them are the ones you mentioned above….grumble.

  3. radicaldoula September 25, 2007 / 3:08 pm

    She says she is about 45 minutes from Mankato–K can you send me more info and I’ll pass it along to her? Thanks! radicaldoula@gmail.com

  4. Cara September 25, 2007 / 5:37 pm

    That really sucks. I hope that she finds someone.

  5. Peggydoula September 26, 2007 / 2:49 pm

    That is crazy! I can’t believe that a doula would ever turn someone away for those reasons. As a doula, it’s not your birth and so your ideas of morality don’t really matter. (at least, that’s the way I see it.) A doula for EVERY woman! Not just the women who think and act like you. Birth is no place for bigotry. So sad.

  6. k. September 27, 2007 / 12:33 pm

    One of the responses I got from the Mankato friends…
    Oh geez – I have no idea! I feel bad K, but the only person I know of in the doula business is you! There is a planned parenthood in town and as for women’s clinics – maybe the twin cities would be a better bet…
    Yeah the whole same sex couple thing with having kids, surrogacy – still quite taboo in the US – even in “liberal”MN I don’t think people realize the conservative tendancies here until something like that comes up – and then they still wouldn’t admit that they felt against it – kind of frustrating if you ask me…


  7. k. September 27, 2007 / 12:35 pm

    I’m still waiting for two other people… have a feeling they will have the same response… DRAT! Not even sure if you got my e-mail Radical Doula?
    I’ll keep up with the harassment.
    The more I think about it, the more angry I am getting. And feeling incredibly useless up here =(

  8. radicaldoula September 27, 2007 / 12:50 pm

    Thanks a lot K–I appreciate the efforts, even if nothing turns up. We’ll do the best we can, and that’s about it. Again, thanks for your work on this. Let me know if you hear anything useful from the other two doulas.

  9. twincitiesdoula September 30, 2007 / 8:55 pm

    I am a doula in the Twin Cities and wish I could help this woman! I am 10-weeks pregnant myself, so I don’t think I should take any more births that close to my own due date. I just wanted to let you know though that her story has been circulating, with plenty of disbelief that she was turned down for any of those reasons. I feel certain that someone who is a good match will contact you soon. From where I stand I think there are plenty of “radical” doulas out there. Just give it a few days for the word to get out…

  10. Beth Stenglein October 1, 2007 / 8:37 am

    Hello, I’m on the board of an organization called the Childbirth Collective http://www.childbirthcollective.org here in Minneapolis and I have passed along this information to our members, several of them are interested and said they will email you.

  11. radicaldoula October 1, 2007 / 1:55 pm

    Thank you so much to everyone who has pitched in on this effort! We’ve made some progress–I’m really impressed by what results can come from internet mobilizing.

  12. Red Pomegranate October 1, 2007 / 2:01 pm

    I’m from Mankato (currently living in the Cities) and know many of the doulas there, I’m saddened that she’s (you’ve) had to put up with this bollocks but I can assure you that not all doulas judge your choices. I’m due any day now, by the time you’re ready to have your baby I may be taking clients again, so if you’d like to talk, just let me know. Otherwise goodluck, I know you’ll find just the right person to support you!

  13. susan lane October 1, 2007 / 11:48 pm

    I am wondering where and when you are giving birth? I cannot travel that far ( I don’t even do suburbs largely because I have a somewhat unreliable old car so I need to be within affordable taxi distance of clients)…….but I do have connections to doulas around the state through both DONA and Lamaze and I’d be happy to try and find someone who is right for you…….
    So where are you giving birth? Who are your caregivers? What is your due date estimated? That info will help me find a doula who can serve you.
    I want to say that I am lesbian-friendly and totally comfortable with surrogate birthing, but I am less comfortable with the epidural thing because it’s risky for baby and risky for birth mom (you) and I have the evidence-based randomized controlled trials that demonstrate that statement. Giving birth is one of the hardest things a woman does in her life, a peak life experience like climbing a mountain or growing a prize bull for the state fair or composing a concerto…….it’s a work of a lifetime. Just because you aren’t keeping the baby doesn’t mean you can avoid the significance of this ultimate sexual event in your life. I think there may be good reason for you to consider epidural anesthesia, but it should be discussed with intended parents, what the effects on baby will be and how they can compensate, and it needs to be considered from a number of points of view by you yourself. There are over 30 side effects of epidurals, one of which is the increased liklihood of cesarean, and that comes with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality for the birth mom and baby…….I am not trying to frighten you but if you are mentally healthy then you want to know what risks you are taking in the process of birthing this child, when those risks are justified, and what the alternatives might be. Also, do you know what “cocktail” of drugs your local hospital includes in their epidurals? Over ten drugs that I am aware of are often included, and some are not approved by the FDA (they are “off label”)
    So please don’t think that doulas who have concerns about epidurals are all a bunch of granolas trapped in sixties romantic views childbirth. My data is post-2000, and doesn’t indicate that epidurals are bad in all cases, only that they have serious side effects for mothers and babies that must be weighted against the mother’s needs and desired outcomes for both mom and babe.
    I can’t be your doula, but I’d like to help you find the right person and I am also available to discuss your birth options, share data on birth methods, and help you have all the information you need to decide what’s safest and best for you and baby.
    I can be reached at 612-722-7001 or at salane@visi.com.
    You are someone’s angel to do this hard and blessed thing. Be an angel to yourself at the same time. This can be.
    Susan Lane

  14. Connie Tallen October 2, 2007 / 9:03 am

    I am both sad and appalled that someone could be treated this way. Everyone deserves love and support during labor and I believe that everyone has a right to choose the kind of birth options that they would like. I congratulate you on your generous gift of love to this couple. Noone could give a greater gift. While epidurals can lead to problems sometimes, they do not always. In my heart, I am always a proponent of natural birth but that is an individual choice and I would support any decision that you would choose in an informed way. I believe I would be available to assist you in your birth. I am a new doula and I am working on my certification. I am 58 years old and do have some experience because 28 years ago I worked “coaching” (as they used to call it)) single mothers but I have not so in recent years. I have gone through Doula training and am eagar to get started once again. If you are interested in contacting me, you can call me at 651-645-8207. A possible plus side to a new doula is that we work for free. I am leaving the country from the 13th of October through the 6th of November for my grandson’s birthday in France. Please call before if you are interested. Whatever you choose to do I wish you the best of luck. Sincerely, Connie

  15. Kat October 26, 2007 / 3:59 pm


    I’m a volunteer doula/midwife student in Minneapolis. It seems like you have a wealth of responses here, but if you are still searching, my email is donnelkh at gmail dot com.

  16. Anne April 7, 2008 / 7:22 pm

    That breaks my heart. A doula should be open to a woman’s choices, not bound by her own agenda ;-(

  17. MoMo April 11, 2008 / 9:12 am

    Maybe I’m on the naive side of things, but I wondered if it isn’t also a good idea for a doula to perhaps evaluate what situations she feels she can not render service? She has the right to refuse service, right? If I were an exceptionally religious person who say wanted everyone to pray at the birth and the doula didn’t feel comfy for that, I wouldn’t hold it against her for saying she wasn’t the right doula for me. I just think we need to be open minded about this and not jump to calling everyone a bigot if they don’t act or feel the same way. Everyone is unique. What is important is finding that doula who fits you best. And believe me, just because the mom and doula are both “conservative” or “liberal” or whatever, that’s not always an automatic guaranteed fit.

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