Radical Doula Profiles: Carlyn Mast

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!

Photo of Carlyn, sitting cross-legged in the grassAbout Carlyn: I am a birth doula serving women in the Baltimore City area. In addition to my doula endeavors, I am also a graduate student focusing on maternal and infant health at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Similar to how I approach my role as a social worker, I value empathy, informed consent, social justice, self determination and respect in my doula practice. My email is carlyn.mast@umaryland.edu.

What inspired you to become a doula?
After graduating from college, I began working for a nonprofit women’s health clinic in Baltimore. During the two years that I worked in the clinic, I saw how factors such as race, gender and socioeconomic status effect women’s ability to access quality healthcare. The role that doulas play in addressing inequalities in prenatal care and the birthing experience is a powerful step in the right direction.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I consider myself a ‘radical doula’ because I view doula work as a form of activism and empowerment. I have found that there is a disturbing disparity in access to doula care based on income in Baltimore City. As a doula, I volunteer my services to women who wouldn’t otherwise have access. Throughout my career, I also plan to infuse my clinical social practice with my work as a doula.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I believe that all women should have equal access to quality healthcare, including doula care. In Baltimore City, the neighborhood where you live is in effective indicator of maternal and infant mortality. I believe that this in unacceptable. There is a fairly large volume of research supporting the benefits of doula care and I do not believe that factors such as race and socio economic factors, amongst others, should impede women’s ability to access care.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I would change the whole system! To give a more specific answer, I would make it mandatory that medicaid and private insurance reimburse for doula care.

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Radical Doula Profiles: Iresha Picot

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!

Iresha wearing a dress, holding a babyIresha Picot is a birth and full-spectrum doula and peer breastfeeding counselor in Philadelphia, by way of Virginia. Iresha has been doing doula work for a few years now, training with Birth Arts International and works with the North Philadelphia Doula Co-op program that provides Doulas to Black, Puerto Rican and Dominican Women in what is considered the “bad lands” of North Philadelphia. She is also an hand-holder with Planned Parenthood, where she was trained with the Doula Project out of New York. Outside of providing Doula services, Iresha is a Behavior Specialist and Therapist in Philadelphia and Community Activist. working against the Prison Industrial Complex. Contact: Iresha.Picot@gmail.com or website: www.52ndstreetdoula.com

 

What inspired you to become a doula?
I am a supporter of Women; especially Mamas and what greater way to do that, than in their process of pregnancy; whether its an pregnancy for termination or for birth. Mamas need support and as a community we can tend to forget that due to preconceived notions of Women, particularly Black Women as being pillars of overt strength, who do not emotionally crumble or become tired. I grew up with a overworked single mother who at some points in her life, had no support in raising four children, so I understand firsthand how that strain can affect ones sensibilities in their parenting. Also, I wanted to combat in some way, the high cesarean sections rates for young black women.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
When the word “radical” pops up in my head, I think of go-getters. Someone who is not dormant about their struggles and takes action. That lays at the root of all of my work. As a Black Woman, I face oppression on many fronts. I know this. But, I am also out here making noise for change. Being able to provide doula services to women who have never heard of that term, is radical in more ways than one. I am a radical doula.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
My Doula philosophy is to treat Mamas with a lot of love, empathy and less judgement. I want to assist Mamas in finding their fire to advocate for themselves.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
Knowing that I helped another Mama–another sister, and also knowing that the very act of assisting and working with other women defies all types of patriarchal notions that women cannot be supportive of each other.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
I want all Mamas to feel secure and confident in their choice to give birth or not to give birth and feel good about that choice without judgement from the world. If she wants to have five babies all alone, she should feel empowered to do so. If she wants to have an abortion, that’s all good too. I would also create alternatives to birthing; creating more birth centers in economic isolated neighborhoods, or if a Mama wants to have a hospital birth, she can move around and not always give birth on her back. Oh, and every Mama will have a Doula to support and advocate for her in that process. ❤

Radical Doula Profiles: Jasmine Krapf

Jasmine in pink shirt holding small kitten

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 Jasmine: Jasmine is a doula in Denver, Colorado. In her free time, she likes to dance, garden, and write for Mother Wild Zine-Blog. She works as a massage therapist and is studying midwifery, women’s studies, and herbalism. Jasmine is a member of Colorado Doulas Association (CDA), Colorado Midwives Association (CMA), and Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA). She is also a member of the low-cost doula program through the CDA working with low income families.

Find Jasmine: On the web, and on facebook.

What inspired you to become a doula?

A transformative and empowering birth experience is what inspired me to become a birthworker. I remember weeping weeks after the birth of my daughter remembering how sterile and eerily silent the labor & delivery unit was – I was the only woman moaning through contractions, the only woman to experience a natural birth in that hospital in a very long time (said the nurse). I felt heartbroken thinking of how sad the current system is. Birth is a biological process that is to be deeply respected. Women’s bodies and the mother-baby experience of birth can be so powerful when left alone to blossom in its own time, in its own way.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I suppose I identify with the term “radical doula” because I’m somewhat radical in my approach to social activism, not only in the world of birth, but in human rights as well. Along with being a mom and a doula, I’m a massage therapist, student midwife, “placenta enthusiast,” amateur herbalist, and all-around birth geek. I’m also currently pursuing a degree in Women’s Studies because I feel birthworkers should know about all of women’s issues, and not just the realm of reproductive health. I run a blog and magazine and love to get involved in the street art scene (painting quotes about women’s empowerment and midwifery).

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

I personally believe childbirth has the power to transform women and families on some of the deepest levels. As care providers, we either assist or hinder that transformation by either respecting or disrespecting her autonomy. I’m a firm believer in informed choice and the “live and let live” philosophy, meaning every birth is as unique as the woman and baby experiencing it – and we should honor that by staying present, mindful, and aware of her special desires.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

I’ve attended both home and hospital births, both unmedicated and medicated, both physiological and induced births – and the one thing I’ve noticed they all have in common, no matter how a labor and birth unfolds, is that families come together with strength and grace and a beauty all their own. I believe in my heart that when we celebrate new life, when we connect, laugh, weep, and rejoice – we realize what it means to be human. After all, why hush ourselves? We’re alive.

If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?

I would remove the fear of birth from women’s hearts and minds. I’d love to see a world where women looked at birth as a creative and intensely beautiful rite of passage.

Radical Doula Profiles: Grace Dillon-Moore

Gracie with baby, smiling in black and white photo

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!

Gracie Dillon-Moore, a radical doula in Knoxville, Tennessee has a double degree in women’s studies and psychology. Intrenched in the psychology of pregnancy and birth and motivated to assist women in the physiological, unmedicated birth they desire, Gracie became a childbirth researcher, educator, and certified doula. Gracie seeks change in the American woman’s birth experience. She believes education, support and resolve can carry a woman through the birth experience, naturally. Contact Gracie here.

What inspired you to become a doula?

My own birth experience inspired me to help other women who desire an unmedicated, natural, physiological birth. I believe this process of birth as nature intended is a springboard to the rest of the mother and family’s life together.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I identify with the term radical doula because unlike most doulas and childbirth educators, I choose to work only with women who seek unmedicated births. It may seem exclusionary to some but I find my student’s needs for information and support on giving birth naturally are sugar-coated and often dumbed down by those trying to honor all types of birth (which of course is necessary, too). If you are seeking a natural, unmedicated birth, you must build resolve, confidence and awareness. Only through respect of your body and the labor process can a woman own and champion an unmedicated birth in the United States. Therefore, I support Radical Mamas, who seek Radical Birth. I am a Radical Doula.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

My doula philosophy is that every woman deserves support in labor and birth. That support should come from her partner first and her doula second. The doula is the guardian of both mom and partner, meeting their gaze at each glance-offering steady reassurance and unwavering compassion.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

My favorite thing about being a doula and childbirth educator is the change I witness between mom and partner. During my 12 week course, the partner shifts from passive to active participant in the birth process. During birh, both mom and partner are overcome with the gravity of what they accomplished together. Each time I attend a student’s birth I witness a couple, transformed by th power of their unity; this moment is my favorite thing about being a doula.

If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?

I would change the dismissive, condescending, threatening, intrusive, disrespectful, non-evidence based “care” women receive in the majority of medicalized pregnancy, labor and birth. I would restore respect in women’s care during pregnancy and birth, encouraging women to tune into their instincts and intuition.

Radical Doula Profiles: Angela Emery

Angela wearing green sweater with a younger person wearing a red jacket

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 Angela: I am just returning to the doula-world after a five year hiatus. In the birth have worked as a birth and postpartum doula, a childbirth educator, abortion counselor, and residential counselor at a home for pregnant and parenting teens. I have also as a homeless out reach worker, disability rights activist, mental health counselor, and girls-program coordinator at a feminist organization. My doula business is called RaDoula and is open to everyone and works on a sliding-scale. I offer doula services in abortion, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I am particularly interested in serving queer, teen, low-income, disabled, in immigrant populations. On a personal level, I am a queer, poet, activist, midwifery student, and mama to an 11-year old wonder girl. My dog only has 3 legs but can run faster than you.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I started studying midwifery shortly before I became pregnant with my daughter. A lot of midwifery courses suggest or require that you have doula training. Once I started working as a doula, I realized how important the role is in a birth. Additionally, I am very interested in politics, anthropology, and feminism- the three of those things combined along with a nurturing personality lent to me being a natural at this doula thing!

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I guess I’d have to take a Rebecca West stance on this when she said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Radical comes from the Latin world for “root”. Being a radical doula, to me, means that I’m getting at the root of the feminist, the root of feminism, the root of biology… the root of a person and believing in them… and maybe helping them to grow.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

As a doula the two most important aspects to my services are 1. Providing information to assist in decision making and 2. Offer support and advocacy, regarding the wishes of my client, regardless of my own opinions.

This philosophy fits into my very strong political pro-choice beliefs. These beliefs extend beyond choices before/during pregnancy, but also into birth, post postpartum and through out life. I believe that an individual body is that individuals body-period. With that said, I also believe that our society makes a lot of misinformed and uninformed decisions. The pregnancy, birth, and postpartum worlds are all ones with which I am very familiar. I am proud to offer that information to my clients and then support them, no matter what their decision. One of my favorite quotes is “If you don’t know your options than you don’t have any.” I stand by that.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

The connection and seeing women feel empowered and POWERFUL!

If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?

Well, I don’t have a problem with BIRTH, per se, but the medical system that has taken over the birth process and changed it into a business pisses me off a bunch- I would change that for sure.

Radical Doula Profiles: Elyana

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!

elyana

Elyana can be described using the words activist, feminist, radical, compassionate, creative and connected. She brings her diverse background and skills in herbal medicine, communication, sex education, earth-based ritual, counseling and more to her doula practice. She has worked in many different contexts as an ally for folks all along the spectrum. Email her at bayarearadicaldoula@gmail.com or visit her website.

What inspired you to become a doula?

Sexuality has been a main thread in my life for as long as I can remember. I consider sexuality to be at the foundation of what makes a culture thrive and struggle. I am committed to the movement towards freedom to express our sexuality and reproductive rights in diverse and varied ways. A big focus in my life is to weave an understand of systems oppression and participate in the stories of liberating ourselves from these systems.

My work as a doula began long before I attended any training or births. Being a caregiver is part of my identity, a role that I play with my friends, family and community.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

I identify as a radical doula because of my commitment to an anti-oppressive practice including people of all colors, gender identity, sexual orientation, class and other marginalized groups. For me, bringing “radical” into the doula world entails bringing an analysis of current systems affecting reproductive health & justice and working to engage more authentic and empowering ways of birth, abortion and everything in between.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?

For thousands of years traditional cultures around the world have guided new mothers in their experience of childbirth — primarily in a context of home and community. Interventions were rarely used, and contrary to popular belief, most births which happened naturally this way, resulted in healthy mothers and healthy babies. In today’s world we are exposed to the medical industrial complex and all the images and messages about birth that come along with that. This becomes a problem, not because of the services that hospitals offer, but because of the all too common infringement on a persons right to choose how they birth their child. I am not here to promote any particular choice to be made. My foundational belief is that people have the right to choose: if, how, where and with whom they will birth their child. Much of the birthing experience cannot be controlled, (which can be a scary or exciting thing) so it is important that we a re empowered to make informed and consensual decisions. My views, as described above, are founded in a radical analysis of the modern capitalist industrial complex and all the ways it affects peoples lives. Birth is unfortunately just one of many examples of places that our patriarchal culture has invaded and robbed us of our rights. My guiding philosophy in working with folks is in discovering what a sense of safety looks like for them and reclaiming this connection to comfort and support that has been principle in the childbearing process for all of time.

Radical Doula Profiles: Venus Zephyr

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!

Venus Zephyr

Venus Zephyr is a birth and post partum doula,community herbalist, plant spirit practitioner, herbal re-sourceress, mother of Sela Jade, Artist, Activist and Community Organizer. She has studied plant medicine with teachers, healers and root doctors, and has learned the ancient art of spiritual plant bathing from Rocio Alarcon(Ecuador), Rosita Arvigo(Belize), Grandmother Dona Enriqueta(Mexico) and Pam Montgomery(Vermont). A graduate of Blazing Star Herbal School, Partner Earth Education Center in the modalities of advanced western herbalism and plant spirit healing. Venus has attended families as a post partum doula for the past 7 years and most recently completed in 2011 a birth doula training with Michelle L’Esperance of Warm Welcome Birth Services. Contact her at boneflowerbotanikals@gmail.com or soulflowerbirth@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

Birth is such a magickal, empowering and pivitol piece of a woman’s herstory! I am constantly amazed at how many womyn don’t know that they actually have choices about how they give birth, where they give birth and that YES, their bodies can do it too, they are resilient and they have the absolute right to birth exactly anyway they chose. It is actually a deep blessing to assist someone in labor and in their tender pregnancy and post partum times. It is a mystery how any of us find the strength and get to the other side of being mothers, and I remember so clearly how literally AWE-some it was for me, I knew about half way into my birth that I needed to help womyn do this too. I’m not sure I know another way to be than care taker and birth steward of life, babies, creations and in the role of impeccable discovering. BirthWork fills that place in me that knows we are all Holy-and Whole, and of course Ah-mazing Goddesses.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

In general I would call myself radical, but defining myself as a radical doula comes from the not so radical idea that birth is something that simply happens if we allow the space and opening for it. In our culture however that truth is radical, because it isn’t what we’re taught, shown or led to believe in just about every forum, television, media, even childbirth education. The idea of being radical isn’t so much a way to define my style but more a way to get in touch with very simple truths about birth that are very much hidden and shrouded in main stream American culture. I believe in the fact that all women should be allowed to have the birth they envision and that all women have the right to birth support, education and attendance regardless of their background, race, or socio economic status. I am committed to providing doula care to all women.

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