In the second edition of the Radical Doula Profiles, we have the awesome Sasa Ynoa from the Dar a Luz Project. It’s really a beautiful website, so be sure to check it out! She’s also working on a film project, so stay tuned for more information about that.
Radical Doula: How does your Doula work and birth activism fit into your broader political beliefs? My birth activism revolves around the vision that birthing should be as healthy and beautiful as possible even if there are complications or moms have health conditions. I feel like this vision extends farther than the actual room and experience but to the policies, insurance companies, and institutions that implement very inconvenient protocols/policies that make birthing in hospitals undesirable.
There really is a birthing crisis – with serious cuts in access to prenatal care facilities and hospitals closing their L&D units yearly. It’s not profitable to hospitals. This also affects birth centers as they rely on nearby hospitals to transfer laboring mothers with complications. It is quite involved and I ultimately think it starts with education. Lack of facilities affect a child’s future and a mom’s health. There are simple things that screening and nutritional advice can prevent. Although I strongly advocate midwives, the reality is that there are some women who may not be a candidate for a birth center/homebirth or midwife care. Their pregnancy maybe complicated by a health condition. How are they going get to their Ob/Gyn? This can become especially difficult when the visits become more frequent in the third trimester aside from their work and/or family responsibilities. These are concrete obstacles that pose serious health risks. Just like we talk about environmental sustainability, foreign policy, and the economy we must elevate Childbirth and Prenatal Care to the forefront of political discussions where it becomes an umbrella in and of itself. Prenatal care is disparate among communities of people. We know that this is the case when it comes to education, food, and public services, and disparities in prenatal care fall along the same socio-economic lines. This is reflected in an infant mortality rate that is twice as high among Black women than for White woman in the United States. This in essence is a violent crime on our children, moms, and communities. Change can not occur until our voices are heard.
RD: What is your favorite thing about being a Doula? Knowing that I was present to a momentous experience in a woman and child’s life. I love seeing the excitement from family to see a new life on earth. I used to swell up with tears. As a labor and delivery nurse, I still get very excited.
RD: If you could change one thing about the way women birth in the US, what would it be? Many of the moms I see are young and their pregnancies are often times unplanned. I observe that some of these moms often approach their pregnancy in a very hands off manner. Many expect to relinquish complete control to the hands of health care practitioners. I would like to see more mothers and moms-to-be involved in attaining a healthy pregnancy and learning coping strategies throughout labor. I know that there are programs for young moms but I would like to see more as a standard of care. Childbirth education should be free and accessible community wide. I feel when women, especially those marginalized, become more educated and gain confidence in their power to birth, the result will be a beneficial shift in our birthing culture and in our communities.
Don’t forget to check out her website: www.daraluzproject.com
RD: What inspired you to become a Doula? I was inspired to become a doula in 2000 after the birth of my first child. I had a midwife and a long, but beautiful labor. It was empowering to not rely on modern technology and have a female centered community to birth in. I feel like it was revolutionary for me in various aspects of my life – politically, emotionally, physically. I don’t feel these aspects are exclusive of each other but to really impact all of these together is profound. I had numerous impersonal and wack experiences as a young woman in public clinics as I am sure they are no different than the experiences that other women from similar backgrounds have had. I feel like receiving care from a midwife is essentially different since most trust the process and are schooled in a philosophy of empowerment.
RD: How do you run your Doula practice? I currently don’t run a doula practice. I did births ranging from home and birthcenter to hospital. My last doula experience was in May 2006. In 2007, however, I became a full-time Labor and Delivery (L&D) Nurse and I am always advocating for patients. Many of my co-workers joke around and call me “the doula.”
I think the roles are different though. I am constantly trying to educate and work against some of the constraints of a physician as well as work load. I feel like a doula is very important and I remember how important it is to educate and familiarize new moms to the terminology and process. This is especially comforting when they are making decisions in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes I am running back and forth and really wish I could be there to stand by their side and support their decisions. Moms do have a voice but so few express themselves and some doctors don’t phrase interventions as choices so they feel powerless. Many times family members inadvertently influence new moms to get epidurals or bottle-feed. Epidurals to laboring moms are like candy to children. During labor, moms are in pain and they may have made a commitment to natural birthing but after so many offerings and criticisms, many concede. While I always believe women have the choice to labor in their own manner, if someone is even considering a natural labor I am an enthusiastic supporter.