Maia from Guerrilla Mama Medicine has some greats thought up from the International Center on Traditional Childbearing Conference. She also talks about her own experience with DONA, the primary organization that trains and certifies doulas:
but i never finished getting my DONA certification. something about DONA rubbed me wrong when i was in my 3-day workshop. i guess, it was the protocal. the protocal that says i am not supposed to contradict the doctor or midwife or nurse. the code of ethics and the scope of practice that describes ways to communicate that are presented as ideals of respect when they are really white culture-centered forms of respectful expression. also the workshop and training programs never require for doulas to deal with issues such as race, class, sexuality, etc.
but i kept convincing myself that i needed to complete my DONA certification because i had already invested so much money and time and energy into DONA. even if i did feel a little dirty inside about it all.
i have been having dreams of birth sisters…women who support women through birth, no matter what. revolutionary sisters. women who will go to jail for a birthing person. someone who will support you as much or as little as you need. through an herbal abortion. a miscarriage. on the phone during an unassisted birth. without insurance.
when i told midwives while i was preggers that i wanted an unassisted birth, they thought that it was because i didnt have the money to afford a home birth. it wasnt that at all. i wasnt desperate. i was confident in my body. and the level of racist and classist condescension i received from midwives in minneapolis (which is supposed to be such a mecca midwifery in the states) makes me cringe for the future of professional legal midwifery.
help me think of a name…and we can start a fire that burns all of the pretentious midwives who go to mexico as midwife students, but then return to the first world and finance their upper middle class lifestyle by giving birth to upper middle class women’s babies with the skills that they learned from the bodies and strength of brown women whom they only see now washing dishes and pushing strollers. brown women who usually cannot afford such professional expertise birthing professionals.
I have had similar thoughts and feelings about DONA over the years. I did my training with a DONA certified trainer (the now famous orgasmic birth advocate Debra Pascali-Bonaro). I really like Debra, and I think she is a great birth advocate. But what Maia says is true. We never talked about race, class or other issues that impact the women we might work with. There was also a focus on the “business” side of doula-ing. I never had any interest in being a professional doula, in making money from the work. For me, it’s a form of activism, a way to support and accompany women through their labor. Women who are in need, immigrant women, young women, low-income women, incarcerated women. I think that all the doulas out there who work for professional women, with class privilege and the ability to really choose their birthing environment are great. Necessary. Important. All women deserve to be supported during their births.
But I, like Maia, yearn for a community of radical doulas who want to use their doula work as a way to impact the larger systems that oppress us. Who want to empower women of color, young women, incarcerated women. Who want to talk about systems of racial oppression, sexual oppression. Who want to support and be supported by radical queer, trans and gender non-comforming doulas. Who want to re-center our medical system around the needs and wants of the people in our community, who have historically been abused, marginalized, manipulated.
I did my DONA training, but I never completed my certification. This process takes a few years, a significant amount of money and A LOT of paperwork. The paper work was my biggest deterrent. The only doula work I have ever done was as a volunteer. After offering my services to women in a public hospital, I felt that it was unfair of me to then ask them to fill out paperwork about my role as a doula. I didn’t want to do my doula work in a way that was self-serving. It wasn’t about me, it was about them. So I never became certified, and I hope that the day I begin my work as a doula again, this will not stand in my way.