Radical Doula Profiles: Summer Diegel

This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!
Summer

About Summer: Summer Gail Diegel is a children’s minister and full spectrum doula in Duwamish Tribal lands that have come to be known as Seattle, WA. ​Summer has prioritized continued education to develop their artistry in communication, body care, spiritual guidance, and all-ages wellness education. Summer develops curriculum, facilitates workshops, courses, and offers doula care services– but is most at home cozied up with a sci-fi or fantasy novel. They use their love of story to create imaginative methods of facilitating connection through skilled planning, soothing techniques, on-call care, and education for children and adults. Check out their website.

What inspired you to become a doula?
Even as a child I was drawn to people who were skilled in de-escalation, who were kind hearted, who were artists, and often people that were spiritual. I had really authentic relationships with the people in my community who cared for me, a lot of them have been teachers, ministry, and community cooks at churches I grew up attending. So I knew that I wanted to care for people the way that I saw those people caring for people. The first doulas I knew were and are in queer communities, in churches, feeding their neighbors, supporting overdose prevention programs, organizing healing & first aid support on the streets, and making poetry, jewelry, art.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I am drawn to full spectrum support because it centers the values of clients’ choice. The idea of full spectrum care is to provide non judgemental support regardless of a person’s outcome. In pregnancy that includes birth, miscarriage, abortion, or adoption. In WA state we have a lot of legal choices in death too, including various disposition methods, and end-of-life supports like Medical Aid in Dying, and Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking.

I’ve worked in death care for several years. But I only began learning the doula model of care three years ago. I think I may have said this earlier, but it’s most important to me to learn doula care and grow my personal toolbox so that I can be prepared for my elders, my friends, and my family. And I really enjoy this work, so if really anyone chooses me as their doula, I would like to make my services accessible to them. Sometimes my doula work is relational, other times it is volunteer, barter based, or sliding scale. That’s what intertwines my doula work with my activism. It’s up to each person how they make it fit their needs.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I really believe that a lot of doula work happens all the time, in small moments and transitions. So I think to offer doula care it’s important that I slow down and find what is authentic to me, to recognize this work as community-centered, and to honor it as such without creating gates or replicating patterns that keep others from care. And I encourage people to learn with others and seek long-term mentorship rather than try to practice alone, because accountability in care work is really important to keeping our clients and community members safe.

My Irish and Polish ancestors shared traditions and cultural stories of life transitions such as pregnancy and end-of-life– they had community roles, wisdom, and sacred medicines for that to teach one another and share in accountable care work. But because of a number of things, including several hundred years of European colonization and American imperialism, that knowledge has shifted out of my family, this is one way of re-learning those skills. That’s what I consider the doula model of care to be– a re-introduction to knowledge that is my right as a human in a body.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love that I can become more prepared with skills for my disabled community members, my elders, my friends, and my family. So I love that it can prepare me to love people more. I am growing my skills for doula care in so many different ways currently. My favorite thing is being young and in a position of learning with my teachers– which is a privilege. It feels sacred to me to be a young person who feels pulled to work at the threshold, where I have been invited to witness experts at work and practice among them.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
If I could change one experience of pregnancy and birth then every person would be receiving long-term postpartum support in their tradition or preferences; regardless of their pregnancy outcome.

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