Radical Doula Profiles: Andi Johnson

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!

About Andi Johnson: I am a full-spectrum doula in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I provide birth doula services, placenta encapsulation, loss support, abortion support, postpartum doula services, and birth pool rentals. I love writing, roller derby, and recently took up burlesque. I can be found at www.offbeatdoula.com and on various social media platforms under @offbeatdoula.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I became a doula after my own experiences with birthing. I realized that people giving birth need more support, more information, and a medium for their voices to be heard.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
The term radical doula has alway resonated with me. I am vocal about my inclusiveness and political beliefs surrounding birth. As a queer, polyamorous woman, I am sensitive and knowledgeable of the variety of identities and genders, and I do not discriminate. I am a pro-choice feminist and I believe that everyone should be their authentic selves without fear of judgement.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that women should feel empowered, and that they deserve the information needed to make informed decisions. I believe that birthing women deserve the emotional and physical support they need to feel safe, comfortable, and trusted. My doula philosophy is based off of empowerment, security, trust, intuition, and choice.

This ties in to my political beliefs around women’s rights, reproductive justice, and equality. I will fight for women’s rights regarding their bodies and the marginalization they experience through everyday discrimination. I also will stand up for my LGBT family and believe we have a long way to go until we are equal. I am so very lucky to be in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005, and planned parenthood is not even a question.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favourite thing is seeing a family make choices confidently and using their voices. I love assisting women in letting go and trusting their bodies. I love helping women find empowerment.

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Radical Doula Profiles: Megan Othling

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!

About Megan Othling: I am Megan Othling, a birth doula and childbirth educator in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am married and have four young children who I home school. I’m also a dancer and writer. I support birthing people and their partners and families whether they choose to birth at home, birth center, or hospital. I have always been fascinated by pregnancy and birth, and I love walking through this sacred time with expectant families. I want to provide support to anyone who wants it, regardless of race, sexual orientation, or economic status. One of my ultimate goals is to start an organization that provides childbirth education and doula support for incarcerated persons in New Mexico. My email is megan@womanofvalorbirth.com and my website is womanofvalorbirth.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I decided to pursue becoming a birth doula after the birth of my third child. I saw the importance of not only physical support, but also emotional and informational support. I believe that birth is a normal, physiological event and that birthing people should be treated with respect and the acknowledgment that they are the experts on their own bodies. Pregnancy and birth are not diseases and ought not to be laced with fear. As a doula, I hope to ensure parents of their power and ability to make the best decisions for themselves and their children.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because I think that how we treat birth and birthing people is a reflection and predictor of how we value all of human life and experience. I want to provide all people with the respect and support they need to make choices about their pregnancies, births, and parenting journeys. I feel this is very important for incarcerated people because they have been stripped of agency and respect in many ways.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My doula philosophy is that pregnancy and birth are a normal part of being human and that birthing people and their families are fully equipped to make decisions and accomplish the births that are important to them. Of course, birth is unpredictable, but owning our decisions and realizing our strength are very important. Another large part of my philosophy is that every person deserves to be seen, acknowledged, and valued. This is also the foundation of my broader political beliefs. People need to be seen and listened to and have their humanity affirmed regardless of personal beliefs or choices.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is seeing pregnant and birthing people transform into parents through taking ownership of their experience. I believe that those who experience loss and those who choose to place their children for adoption are also parents, who have made real parenting decisions and a real life transformation.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would want all women to have the knowledge that they are in charge of their pregnancy, birth, and parenting decisions. There is no one who can truly “allow” or “not allow” them to do anything regarding their own health.

Radical Doula Profiles: Miajenell Peake

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!

About Miajenell Peake: I am a native of Memphis, Tennessee but moved to Georgia where I completed high school and graduated with a double major in psychology and women’s studies from Georgia State University. Shortly after I graduated, I joined the Peace Corps as a health educator in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. Here, I worked with local Ecuadorian women and adolescents to promote awareness in various topics including healthy pregnancies, cultural diversity, bullying, self esteem, healthy relations, and healthy balanced diets. After my service, I moved to Nashville to complete my masters in public health and health policy at Meharry Medical College. I currently live in Memphis with my partner. I can be reached at miapeake0330@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion to be of service to women. While pursing my education, I worked as a domestic violence shelter advocate, reproductive health specialist for women, and a crisis counselor. All occupations have forced me to serve women in very different areas. I decided to be a doula because I whole-heartedly believe that all women and families should have the right to bring a child in the world with the utmost support, education and peace. I hope to use my very own experiences to ensure women receive just that.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
To me, radical doula means meeting the woman where ever she is in life and serving her there. My opinions and beliefs might be different from her opinions and beliefs. However, her wants and desires are more than important than mines and she deserves to be heard. Whether she wants a natural, homebirth, epidural, abortion, cesarian, adoption- she deserves to have a doula to support her there in an unbiased non judgmental environment.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My motto is “meeting people where they are!”. Having empathy and respect for each and every person. Despite differences, all deserve equity. Equity goes far beyond equality.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Being apart of their transition in life- from woman to mother.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Birth is natural and shouldn’t be seen as this medicalized phenomenon. I would take the fear out of it and replace it with education, awareness and tranquility

Radical Doula Profiles: Rory O’Brien

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!

About Rory O’Brien: I’m a genderqueer doula working in the DC Metro area with a passion for supporting LGBTQ families grow. I am currently a pre-certified labor and postpartum doula with DTI and ProDoula, and expect to complete certification by March 2017. In addition to working as a labor and postpartum doula, I hope to soon provide supportive services for LGBTQ people and families seeking surrogacy, adoption, and abortion. I can be contacted at rorypadraig@gmail.com or by visiting my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RoryOBrienDoula/

In addition to my doula practice, I am a faculty member of the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at American University, a sex-positive educator with Lotus Blooms, and a skilled expert in violence prevention. I hold a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.

What inspired you to become a doula?
As a public health social worker, I am passionate about filling the gaps in services that are offered to my LGBTQ community. After learning about doula work through friends and colleagues, I recognized a need and felt that I could meet it.

On a personal note, I also felt separated from the birth world despite my long-term involvement in movements for reproductive and sexual justice. I saw my doula practice as a way of being involved in a truly incredible chapter of people’s lives. I feel incredibly honored to be welcomed into this work and world.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify as a radical doula because I am a doula who supports the birthing person in achieving the most fulfilling birth possible, however the birthing person sees fit. I support varied family arrangements, including same-sex, trans and genderqueer, polyamorous, single, and asexual people and families. I support people through labor and postpartum and I hope to support people through adoption, surrogacy, and abortion – however people choose to expand or not expand their families, I want to be available to them to support them through that choice.

I am radical in my perspective on birth, my methods of support, and my commitment to this work. I advocate for the right of every birthing person to self-determination.

Finally, my work as a doula breaks gender boundaries. As a genderqueer and male doula, I distort perceptions of who can provide care and compassion and I present a model to other male-bodied people that directly opposes violence and control over the bodies of women, queers, trans, and people of color. I am proud to represent new ways of being in this world.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I honor the self-determination of LGBTQ people. This alone sets me apart in placing trust in the abilities of LGBTQ people to parent. I believe that we all have the right to choose what we do with our bodies, and that we all deserve respect and support in times of beauty and strife. I fully support the choices of the people I serve, with regards to how and whether to have sex, give birth, have an abortion, breastfeed, parent alone, adopt, alter our bodies, and do any other thing that is of a personal and intimate nature.

I support you in making that choice and I will advocate on your behalf to ensure that you can make that choice now and in the future. I will stand in the streets, call my representatives, publish editorials, and draft policy. If you ask me, I will happily raise up your voice so that we might change these systems together.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love the idea of supporting people to express themselves confidently in the face of serious challenges. I am excited to be a part of this momentous occasion, to see the excitement, joy, and triumph of a new family.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
If I could change one thing, I would set a new rule: pregnancy and birth can be challenging and scary, so people going through this experience deserve our support, not our negativity. I want all birthing people to be surrounded by empathy and encouragement.

Radical Doula Profiles: Emily Mozingo

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!

About Emily: I am a wife and mother offering full spectrum doula and lactation support in Central Virginia. I work with families in all walks of life and fully support any decisions my clients make in pregnancy and after. I am currently working towards certifications in birth doula support and childbirth education. I hold a certificate in lactation education-counseling from University of California San Diego Extension and am also working towards the education and experience needed to sit for the IBCLC exam. Facebook page, littlelovebirthservices@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?
My love for information and autonomy led me to pursue birth doula certification. In pregnancy I craved knowledge of all things childbirth and decided I wanted to help women feel empowered in their own pregnancies and births, no matter the outcome.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I feel I identify as a radical doula because of the belief that all people require autonomy over their bodies. Support is needed, in today’s world driven by fear, politics, and emotion to help people maintain ownership over their bodies and reproductive decisions.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy is that all pregnant people should feel educated and supported when it comes to if/when/how they give birth. Pregnant people need to know all the options available to them and should receive the least biased information possible, free of judgement for their decisions. My belief is that my political feelings do not belong in a client’s pregnancy and birth space and it is not my place to judge their beliefs.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is helping a client feel like they have control over what happens in their reproductive experience.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the pregnancy and birth experience it would be that all pregnant people would be fully educated and fully supported in all options.

Radical Doula Profiles: Erynne M. Gilpin

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!

About Erynne: tânsi kiya,  my name is erynne michelle and i am of mixed Saulteaux-Cree Métis, Filipina, Irish and Scottish ancestry. As someone of mixed ancestry, I believe it is essential to work towards a world where Indigenous communities and cultures, and the values that ground them, take precedent in our societies today. As a light skinned iskwe (womyn), I believe that it is my responsibility to confront colonial sexualized violence and educate non-Indigenous societies about the importance of Indigenous ancestral knowledge, relational accountability and protocol.

I am currently a PhD Student in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria. My Doctoral work focuses on Indigenous wellness, leadership and body-governance; specifically birth-work. I further aspires to continue my collaborative research with community relations in the South through comparative North-South conversations and collaborations.
Erynne splits her time between Coast Salish/Lekwungen/WASANEC territories (Vancouver Island), Munsee Delaware/Oneida/Chippewa on the Thames Territories (Ontario) and Brazil.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I knew I wanted to be a birth worker for as long as I can remember.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across a grant for Indigenous folk seeking doula training- that I was able to access the training. In conversations with other birth workers, I began to understand the profound experience of birth, and the important roles of birthing traditions in efforts towards Indigenous sovereignty, well-being and self-determination. I do not see ceremony as divorced from politics, and furthermore body divorced from Land. Therefore, I believe that the work of an Indigenous doula, is integral for both physical and mental health as well as spiritual and emotional well-being.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula for two main reasons:
1) To acknowledge and therefore interrogate colonial historical legacies (founded upon racism, sexism and white-supremacist capitalist values) within mainstream health-care practice across Turtle Island.
2) To create safe spaces for Indigenous families to bring their new ones into their homes, clans, families and communities; in culturally safe and spiritually relevant ways.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My philosophy as a Doula is to first and foremost support the Mother and her relationships to herself, her body, her baby, partner/family and the Land.
I want her to feel a sense of confidence in her work, and to know that no matter what she has someone beside her at all times- and through all waves of struggle, emotion and triumph.
Furthermore, I believe that all families should be able to access safe health-care support, without the danger of racism or colonial violence. Therefore, I see myself as a mediator between non-Indigenous care-givers and the Indigenous families I support.
Finally, if the family chooses, I believe I have the responsibility to create birth spaces that feel culturally relevant and safe.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
While I have only attended two births (as I received my training this year-2016), I would have to say my favourite thing is the relationships that are established. These are life-long relationships because in some way the mothers- and families experience a re-birth as well. I feel honoured to be able to witness such miracles, as well as support the mothers/families in any way that they need.
Each time a young one is born, we are healed a little more.
I believe that when born into the Language, into the hands of a loving circle (parents, family, birth aunty), and with water songs- that child’s spirit knows where it belongs in Creation.
This is the power of birth work.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
That ALL Indigenous families and families of Colour have access to loving birth support/doulas/birth aunties – who have undergone meaningful and in-depth training on decolonial health-care, anti-racist birth-work and Indigenous birth traditions.

Radical Doula Profiles: Melissa Scaggs

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!

Melissa smiling wearing a blue sweaterAbout Melissa: My name is Melissa and I am birth doula in the Washington DC area. I am pro-choice, feminist, queer woman of color. I am originally from New England and moved to DC in 2010 to become a nanny. After many years as a nanny, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a birth doula. I plan to become a postpartum, abortion, and bereavement doula in the future. I am particularly passionate about helping LGBTQ+ individuals, young people, and single parents. I serve Washington DC, NOVA, and southern Maryland. Please contact me at lissathedoula@gmail.com or call me at 860-303-9894.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I truly believe in the philosophy of “there is a doula for everyone”. My hope for my doula career is to ensure that all people who want a doula at their birth are able to have one, no matter their race, gender, sexuality, or faith. I also believe ongoing consent and bodily autonomy are essential to an empowering birth experience. This philosophy was born from my pro-choice and intersectional feminist beliefs.