New series: Radical Doula Profiles

Anne

In an effort to promote all of the amazing doulas out there doing this great work, I’m going to start posting profiles of Radical Doulas. I hope you enjoy meeting these doulas! If you have suggestions for doulas you think I should profile, email me at radicaldoula@gmail.com.

To kick off our series, I’d like to introduce Anne of Dragon Fly Doulas and Willow Birth.

Radical Doula: What inspired you to become a Doula?

Anne: In order to tell you how I became a Doula, I first have to explain how I became a mother.

In 2002, I was working as a paralegal when I became pregnant. I had a fairly easy pregnancy except for some morning sickness that was startlingly regular. My mother flew in from Los Angeles on the first day of my maternity leave. I was a bit frustrated that she chose to come so early, thinking I was going to have to entertain her for weeks. That night we sat down for dinner and my water broke. Later on she told me she had a dream that she would miss the birth if she came on time, so she flew up early. What can I say? Mother intuition is a powerful thing.

True to what I had been taught in my childbirth education class, I called my OBGYN, who ordered me to the hospital. What followed was a classic medically managed birth. It started with Pitocin upon admission, followed by narcotics, followed by epidural, and ended in a cesarean section 24 hours later. Unfortunately for me, what had been a benign heart murmur for most of life nearly killed me during the surgery and led to an extended stay in the hospital. The worst part was when I was told I couldn’t breast feed because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they had me on heavy blood thinning drugs. On the third day of my hospital stay I sat in a chair weeping when a woman I had never met opened the door. “Why are you crying?” she asked. I told her that nothing had gone as planned and now I couldn’t even breastfeed. I was such a failure at birth. She frowned and said, “I’ll be right back.” She returned 2 minutes later with a breast pump and spent the next hour talking to me about my birth, showing me how to “pump and dump” and generally telling me I wasn’t a bad person. I will never forget her kindness.

Four years later, I found myself in Eugene, Oregon hoping I could repay that kindness by serving others as a Doula.

RD: How do you run your Doula practice?
Anne:
Well, other than the money aspect, I suppose I run my practice like everyone else does. Two pre-natal visits, attendance at the birth, and one to two postpartum visits. Also, for my bigger clients (I hate the term obese and never use it to refer to my clients), I like to schedule a weekly visit for the last month to help them tidy the house and just to talk about the additional issues they may face during a hospital birth (size discrimination, lack of facilities/equipment, etc…). On the financial side, because I still work 2 days a week as a paralegal, I’m able to offer the sliding scale services, which is not always a possibility for a Doula trying to make it on her own.

RD: How does your Doula work and birth activism fit into your broader political beliefs?
Anne: I have long been a proponent of free choice; in love; life; religion; birth, and death. These things are our inalienable rights and despite what we may be told, no one has the power to dictate how we should pursue our own happiness. Birth activism is just one more branch of the broader tree of free choice to me. It is still shocking to me that the biggest battleground of free choice is what rights we have over our own bodies, as if we cannot be trusted to make the proper decisions when we are the ones who must live in our skins each day.

RD: What is your favorite thing about being a Doula?
Anne: Of course, I love babies (who doesn’t?) but the thing I love most is seeing a new mother’s face when her baby is in her arms. No matter how that child was born, or how long it takes to get that connection, when she looks down and really sees her baby, this creature that she created, the love just radiates out from her.

RD: If you could change one thing about the way women birth in the US, what would it be?
Anne: I think the single most damaging tool used in the US is the clock. As little as 100 years ago women routinely labored safely for 3 or even 4 days, and now women are only given one day from onset of labor to delivery before they are too many clicks away from the standard medical definition of labor and providers start talking about massive interventions. I hate going into a room and seeing two, sometimes three clocks on the wall, so that no matter where a client looks, she is reminded of how long she’s been in labor. The same thing for the due date. The average gestation time is between 39 and 42 weeks, but that’s only the average, which means it is completely normal to go into labor before or after that time and have a healthy baby. Now providers are telling clients that they are overdue at 40 weeks, and even inducting or performing cesareans at 39 weeks. If could wave a magic wand, I would remove the clock from the birth world and focus only on the actual state of the woman and baby.
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3 thoughts on “New series: Radical Doula Profiles

  1. Lala September 3, 2008 / 10:31 am

    GREAT feature, great idea. I’m on my way to becoming a Doula after having put it off for a long time so I’ll be leaning on your site to keep me going. Plus I’ll share it with the other Doulas I know.

  2. Mom-of-3 March 14, 2010 / 2:00 am

    Anne,
    I read your profile and I was reminded of the wonderful birthing experience I had when my first child was born in Eugene, OR. I recently gave birth to my third child and I have to say towards the end I was ready to throw out EVERY clock and calendar in the county! My pregnancy went all the way up until 41 1/2 weeks and every family member and their dog were hounding us EVERY day about if I was having contractions…I should just get induced…and I am so glad I didn’t!!! I had pitocin with my other two and it was terrible having it…it doesn’t let your body do its own work. 😦 Anyways, I didn’t have it this time and boy was that a battle at the hospital!!! I was there a for a day and a half before the delivery and they had pretty much threatened me with it if I didn’t hurry up! But, thank goodness the baby finally came and all was well. It was the most wonderful experience. I love my babies!

    Thank you for your work!

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