A different kind of Mother’s Day celebration

An image of a person holding a baby, with text that says "Radical Doulas: Your love and care for pregnant and parenting people makes every day a Mama's Day!
Make your own card at mamasday.org

The vast majority of my living comes from the work I do with non-profit organizations, the majority of whom are in the reproductive justice arena, helping them with their online and digital communications work. It’s a skillset I’ve developed over the years of running this blog, as well as my time working at Feministing, and the work with these groups. It’s often very invisible work because I’m behind the scenes, providing support to staff, helping to plan campaigns, crafting strategies for how to use social media and other platforms.

But right now is the culmination of one of my main projects so far this year, for a group I’ve worked with going on three years now. They are called Forward Together, and they:

Forward Together is a multi-racial organization that works with community leaders and organizations to transform culture and policy to catalyze social change. Our mission is to ensure that women, youth and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential.  By developing strong leaders, building networks across communities, and implementing innovative campaigns, we are making our mission a reality.

This is the third year I’ve worked with them on their annual Mama’s Day campaign. It’s a campaign that seeks to shift the narrative on motherhood, and specifically bring love and light to the mamas who are more often demonized by our political climate and our media than celebrated. These means mamas of color, immigrant mamas, queer mamas, young mamas, incarcerated mamas and more.

This is the second year we’ve tried to do this by creating an ecard tool, with fabulous art by activist artists, that people can use to send cards to the caregivers in their lives, but also to create strong messages to share anywhere online.

The cards are absolutely beautiful, and there is also a powerful blog series from all sorts of folks reflecting on motherhood and parenting. There are a few cards that look like doula cards, and that I’ve seen folks using to send love between doulas and parents. The above one is my shout out to all of you and the incredible work you do.

Go here to make your own card.

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What’s the goal of the doula movement?

In my latest column for RH Reality Check I muse about the question of the goal of the doula movement.

I felt a bit nervous putting this one out there because it touches on issues of money, sustainability, access to our services for those who need it most, and how institutional affiliation impacts the ability to make change.

When I talk about these issues I’m very conscious of the fact that I don’t make a living as a doula. While a few of the things I do that relate to doula work–publishing the Radical Doula Guide, writing my column for RH Reality Check, the occasional speaking gig–brings in some modest income (we’re talking under a few thousand dollars per year), the bulk of my pay-the-rent money comes from non-doula related work (primarily my work with non-profit orgs as communications consultant). So, I know that all of my commentary on these issues comes from the position of someone outside the doula work is my living community.

And I want to make clear that I find nothing wrong with doula work as a profession, it’s just not the path I’ve chosen for myself or my work, for many mostly personal and logistical reasons.

So, the column:

There is no easy answer to the question of where the doula movement is headed. It’s clear to me that doulas provide an important and potentially transformative intervention for our maternal health system. But it’s also clear to me that institutionalization and professionalization threaten the very model we’ve developed, a model that, because it is outside the medical system, allows us to shift the dynamic and improve outcomes.

An alternative that I think may be more feasible is working to bring the doula model of care to existing participants in the health-care system. How could the doula model transform the way current providers, like doctors and nurses, care for their patients? Rather than creating a vast doula profession, could we transform maternity care by turning everyone into doulas? Could family members, for example, be trained or shown how to provide the kind of support that doulas provide?

I think doula work is valuable and important, and I also don’t believe the essence of doula work—non-judgmental and unconditional support for pregnant and parenting people—needs to be locked away in a system that says only a certain amount of training, certificates, or other paperwork bestows upon someone the right to provide this support. We run the risk of replicating the model we’re trying to revolutionize. And I don’t think that is where real social change happens.

Read the full thing for my whole analysis, including one example of a midwife bringing doula-like training to existing members of the broader health care network.

I would love to hear from you, fellow doulas, what do you think is the goal of our movement? How do you think we’ll get there?

DC Doulas for Choice recruiting new volunteers

An opportunity to get involved with a full-spectrum doula group in the Washington, DC metro area. About DCDC:

The DC Doulas for Choice Collective is a DC-based, volunteer-led-and-run, pro-choice organization that seeks to provide doula care to people across the full spectrum of reproductive health, pregnancy, and choice.

The Collective began in 2011 with a group of pro-choice birth doulas and reproductive justice advocates who believe that people seeking abortions may desire and benefit from the same type of patient-centered, non-judgmental physical and emotional support that doulas traditionally provide to people during labor and birth.

The training will be June 1. More info about the training and how to apply is here.

Celebrating six years of Radical Doula

Cupcake with Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the day that I launched this blog. Each year that this date rolls around it feels like an incredible feat to have made it this far and to still have energy and desire and ideas for how to cultivate this space.

In blog years, particularly in the era of the million other platforms out there, six years feels ancient.

And while it’s true that every year feels like a major accomplishment, I’m particularly proud of this past one.

Publishing the Radical Doula Guide was a feat that I’m still not sure how I accomplished, but I continue to feel really proud that it is out in the world. I’ve sold about 750 copies so far, and I hope to sell many more in the years to come.

The conversation about how to improve doula trainings, how to expand the role of doulas, how to finally start talking about how race and class have a huge impact on birth outcomes is moving. It’s moving, and growing, but still has a long way to go. The Radical Doula Guide is my contribution to this conversation, my attempt at filling some of the gaps. I offer it with humility, knowing how much more there is to do and say. It’s just one step of the million we need to take before we see anything close to birth justice in our world.

I launched the fundraiser for the guide on this day last year, and I owe a tremendous thanks to all of you who generously donated and made that project happen.

In honor of my 6th anniversary, I’m offering $2 off The Radical Doula Guide. To get the discount use the code SIXYEARS when purchasing a copy in my online store. It will only work through the end of this week, so act now to get a copy for only $10 each.

The other major Radical Doula related accomplishment I’ll take a moment to pat myself on the shoulder for was my TEDx talk: Transforming Empathy. Doing that talk was an incredible opportunity to try and translate the work we do as full spectrum doulas to an audience who I couldn’t assume knew anything about doula work, and I’m really glad I had that challenge. Our work has many universal applications, and it’s taught me so much about how to approach social change work. If you haven’t already, you can watch the talk here.

This coming year is going to be about improving on what I’m already doing, which mainly these days is providing a resource, a platform and a point of connection for all the radical doulas out there. I’m constantly working on my resource pages, and trying to promote all the opportunities for engaging in radical doula work here. And of course, I’d love to feature you if you identify as a radical doula. I’m also starting to do more speaking engagements related to my work here, so please be in touch if you’re interested in organizing something (radicaldoula@gmail.com).

And as always, Radical Doula is just one slice of what I spend my time on. The best way to keep up with the rest of what I do is to follow me on twitter, subscribe to/follow my public updates on facebook, or join my email list.

Thanks for your support! Here’s to many more anniversaries and many more radical doulas in our movement.

Asheville, NC full spectrum doula group looking for new volunteer doulas

Check them out and apply if you are interested.

We are looking for people interested in training as abortion doulas to work with clients in the clinic. Doulas will be present and provide emotional support to clients before, during and after abortions. We are looking for people who can work at least 2 days a month as well as complete the required training, provided by the Open Umbrella Collective in September of 2012. Trained birth doulas are particularly encouraged to apply, though we are excited to bring on reproductive health and justice activists who have no prior doula training.

Details here.

Bay Area Doula Project launches at home medication abortion support

I absolutely love seeing how the different full-spectrum doula groups around the country are developing their models. At this point, the majority are working to support people having abortions by partnering directly with clinics, so that everyone who comes to that clinic for a procedure has the option of doula support.

BADP just announced yesterday that they’ll be beginning to offer medication abortion support directly to people having abortions.

While providing the obvious benefits of privacy, confidentiality, and comfort, medication abortions pose some challenges to patients who may require extra support during their experience. Our doulas are prepared to offer in-home physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual support during the medication abortion experience. BADP has created a comprehensive model for providing in-home support after months of careful planning and training. To do this, we have consulted with medical experts, home-birth professional doula groups, and abortion access communities to ensure that it has responded to various practical concerns: for example, client contracts will be used to address issues of doula and client safety and legality of practice. The BADP has also created internal procedures to provide on-going guidance to volunteer doulas as they provide in-home support to clients.

Medication abortions are done through a series of pills that the person takes at home (sometimes the first dose is taken at the clinic) and then goes home where they will experience cramping and bleeding for a few days. BADP will send their volunteer doulas to support folks at home while they deal with the after-effects of the medication.

It’s possible there are other doulas out there who have already been providing this kind of support, but I’m excited to see a group organize volunteer care in this model. They’ve also created a training so that the doulas are adequately prepared. I can imagine a lot of the techniques we use during pregnancy and labor could be useful for dealing with the possible discomfort caused by the cramping and bleeding.

Remembering those still waiting for the promise of Roe

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the historic Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that opened the door for legal access to abortion in the US.
Every year the anniversary rolls around to different activities, commemorations, reflections. It’s my 7th anniversary as an active member of the broader reproductive justice community and I’m tired. Particularly as things play out in the media, as the different organizations put out their media initiatives, press releases, blog carnivals, I feel tired.

Tired of the same fights, tired of the old dynamics, tired of the fact that we’re losing. Generally, around the country, in those seven years since I’ve been part of this movement with a capital M, access to abortion has only gotten harder. More restrictions, more laws, more hurdles and barriers.

It’s tiring to fight a fight that we’re losing. From my latest column:

Each year, as the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade rolls around, I respond with a sigh. Each year comes the reminder that one complicated court case, hung on the premise of privacy, has wholly framed this movement I call home. The reminder that the conversation about Roe is usually uncomfortably celebratory. The reminder that the anti-choice movement almost always host rallies that outnumber ours by thousands on that day. The reminder that the media conversation tends to be dominated by white women who praise Roe, or questions of where the young people, like me, are in the “pro-choice” movement.

The reminder that the promise of Roe has yet to be achieved for many, and that hundreds of dedicated activists, my peers, use their spare time to raise money for those for whom Roe is a hypothetical promise when the bank account sum doesn’t add up and the state programs say no. Each year, the celebration feels even less celebratory, as the laws and restrictions pile onto themselves. The legal concept of doctor/patient privacy may protect the procedure, but it doesn’t protect against forced misinformation, ultrasounds, waiting periods, public shame and financial barriers.

But. But there is always that little inkling of hope, there are always those moments of change, of shifting, of opening that make you believe that maybe we are heading in the right direction. Full-spectrum doulas, and the movement we’re apart of, give me hope. The internet and the community it builds gives me hope. The Strong Families media series I helped promote this year that centered voices of people of color gives me hope. The video above, produced by an organization I’ve worked with for the last seven years (and just transitioned out of) gives me hope. It’s that hope the keeps me pushing even when I’m tired, even when I’m frustrated. You all give me hope.

You can read more about the media series in my latest column at RH Reality Check. I also had the fabulous opportunity to record a radio segment with Pati Garcia, aka Chula Doula, about the doula movement in honor of the Roe anniversary on a Los Angeles based show called Feministing Magazine on KPFK. Listen here!