Stephanie Dank helps run the Harmony House, a medicinal herb cooperative in Lincoln, NE, working to build community around sustainable farming practices and healing holistically. She is a full-time student, stay-at-home-mom, radical doula, and evolving herbalist, focusing much of her work in reclaiming the Wise Women Tradition of folk medicine and traditional midwifery/womancare. She lives with a wild man she calls her partner, several hens, and a delightful, hilarious gift of a baby. She likes to play the frame drum and take several deep breaths at a time.
What inspired you to become a doula?
When I started teaching workshops on positive menstruation I became a sort of agent for women to have access to all sorts of zines and alternative media about women’s health. And so when I became pregnant, it was natural for me to seek out all of the empowering information out there about birth. I soon found out that as easy as it was for me to find as somebody already tapped in, it wasn’t as accessible for most pregnant people. I wanted to become a doula to help others have access to information that could empower their experiences. Also, birth rights are extremely restricted here in Nebraska, so I want to help broaden the spectrum of options. I had an doula-attended, drug-free hospital birth. I’m proof that it can be done with the right support.
Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Birth is a feminist issue, and it’s a radical feminist issue in that it often gets left out of the mainline feminist discussion, not to mention the reproductive rights debate. I definitely see myself as an agent of change on the political front by working to empower women to be in control of their own experience. There needs to be more birth workers out there that align themselves with some sort of intent, because the landscape of this work is in need of a lot of change. There are doulas that stay neutral and accessible to people who are turned off by attaching ideology to their birth experience, and that’s totally fine. My community doesn’t need another doula like that. I’ve had to come to the decision to be out with my intent whether it works against me sometimes or not.
What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I work to provide access to as much information to mothers and families as possible. I believe that a lack of information feeds fear, and that fear is the biggest factor in the amount of pain and trauma during and after childbirth. As a doula, I try to offer as many resources for a non-violent birth as possible, and this is a draw from my political and spiritual beliefs. Helping women to reclaim their power, starting with their health, is, to me, the first step to positive transformation from a patriarchal, scientific and violent paradigm. Peaceful birth has the ability to transform the way we accept children into our communities, how we conduct our intimate relationships, and the way we feel about our bodies. I work with my clients to open dialogue on these issues, but to also support them in whatever informed decisions they make.
If you could change one thing about birth in the US, what would it be?
Definitely the structure of support around pregnant and postpartum women. It’s our birth rite to be surrounded by an unspoken infrastructure of supportive, experienced women while going through this process, and so if I could change anything, it would be to give back the rite of passage that birth once was to mothers, and restore it’s ability to bring communities together. Pregnancy and birth would be trusted. It would be sacred again.