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 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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Radical Doula Profiles: adrienne maree brown

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 adrienne: adrienne maree is a doula, writer, facilitator and artist living in detroit, mi. adriennemaree@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

my sister started having babies in natural ways and the beauty and power of it blew my mind. at the same time folks were asking me to doula for them. i thought as a non-parent i couldn’t do it. then i was the first responder to a woman attacked behind my home and in sitting with her til the ambulance came it clicked for me: being with people through these moments of transition simply requires being deeply present to what is, and expanding their capacity to be present. so i apprenticed with an experienced doula and have been doing doula work ever since.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

i believe in what humans can do, in the power of our bodies and our communities to create and sustain life. too many of the institutional processes around reproduction and parenting are disempowering, unsacred, not aligned with the miraculous gift we have. so i see part of my work as a way to intervene in social systems that are losing humanity, and reclaim humanity one person at a time.

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

i believe everyone (all economic backgrounds, gender identities, abilities, races, everyone) going through any of the processes related to reproduction and parenting – trying to get pregnant, adopting, abortion, giving birth, unintended pregnancy loss, post-partum time, etc – should have support and access to determining how to go through the process with health, dignity and – where appropriate – joy.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

so far, it’s the opportunity to witness transformation. i get to be close to folks at one of the most important moments of their lives, and reflect all the strength i see in them – it’s healing for me.

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

that the default would be natural births at home. that hospitals, c-sections, and medical interventions would be seen as rare aspects of births only turned to for emergencies.

So what is a Radical Doula anyway?

Earlier today I looked over the language that had been on my Radical Doula??? page since 2009. I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to update it, but it was a good opportunity to revisit my definition of the term and how it’s changed over all these years blogging and working as a doula.

What’s there now is a long missive about this term, how I see it defined, and the context that has shaped my shifts in that regard. You can read the whole thing here, but a snippet to whet your appetite:

One thing that is really important to me is that I do not own the term Radical Doula. I might rent the domain radicaldoula.com, but I by no means see myself as the arbiter of what a Radical Doula is. It’s a term that very much popped out of my mouth in a surprising way–really it was a way to describe the alienation I felt within the doula community. Over the years as I’ve continued theRadical Doula Profile Series (a way to relinquish ownership of the term and highlight anyone who identifies with it) I’ve noticed that for some doulas, simply being a doula, trying to change the culture of birth, in and of itself is a radical act.

I understand that logic, but it is not what I meant when I started this blog. That does not make it wrong, it just makes it different than my original purpose.

This page used to include a laundry list of the identities and politics I hold that made me feel alienated. It included things like being “pro-choice” or supporting the right to abortion, the fact that I’m Latin@, that my parents are immigrants from Cuba, that I identify as queer and genderqueer, that I approach doula work as activism.

As the doula world has expanded, and as I’ve connected with more and more like-minded doulas through this blog, my definition of a radical doula has moved away from being centered on that laundry list of identities. Those still matter, don’t get me wrong, but I think what matters more is a political understanding of the role of the doula.

Being a Radical Doula, for me, is about understanding the politics of pregnancy and birth in the US, and working to use our role as doulas to interrupt this. I very much understand that our power to really change the balance of power is minuscule–but simply having a power analysis at all allows us to frame our work as doulas in a different way.

This different way means working hard to make our services as doulas accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise have doula support. The mechanics of this will look different for everyone, from volunteering with a program in a public hospital, to offering a sliding scale or barter system for your fees. It could be getting trained on how to support pregnant people with disabilities, or people who speak another language, or are queer or trans or gender non-conforming. The how will vary for all of us, but the bottom line is this: we care about working with marginalized communities, about providing doula support to those who would not otherwise have it.

For me birth activism is about working to improve the pregnancy and birth experiences of those who are already suffering the most–not just improving the experiences of those who already have the best outcomes. It is not that those who already have the best outcomes (which, in most cases, could still be significantly improved) don’t deserve better–it’s that if we work to improve the experiences of the most marginalized, everyone’s experiences will improve. It doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.

To me, being a Radical Doula is committing to the hard work of facing issues of racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia head-on in our work with pregnant and parenting people. It means understanding birth as just one instance in a wide spectrum of pregnancy-related experiences that include abortion, miscarriage and adoption, and understanding why doula support across that spectrum makes sense. It’s about providing non-judgmental and unconditional support to pregnant and parenting people, ultimately in service of social justice.

As always, I invite you to explain why you identify as a Radical Doula by participating in the Radical Doula Profile series.

Can I be a doula if I’m physically disabled?

Over the last year or so I’ve received a number of questions via email from doulas with disabilities writing to ask if they can pursue doula work. I am no expert on disability, disability justice, or disability and doula work. But I know that these questions come to me because there are very few people even addressing this intersection, and I’ve done it in modest ways on this blog and in the Radical Doula Guide.

So here are snippets of my answers to two inquiries about disability and doula work. Have additional resources? Leave them in comments below, or email me at radicaldoula@gmail.com.

One question from Ashley:

I stumbled upon your blog recently, as I’ve begun research on becoming a doula myself. I’m trying to touch base with real life doulas to get opinions on my particular situation. I’m incredibly interested in becoming a doula, particularly a Postpartum doula, but there’s a bit of a catch. I have Cerebral Palsy, so I have to use a walker or crutches to walk. However, I have full use of my hands, and live on my own and am able to function daily with minimal to no issues. I just wanted to know where you think I should start my journey to becoming a doula. I also hope that once I become certified I can work with physically disabled mothers, as I can understand and relate to some of their personal struggles. Do you have any suggestions as far as how to start the process? I’ve looked at various online certification programs and the one downside is that they’re pricey. Because of my disability, job options are limited and therefore I don’t have much extra cash coming in.

If you have any advice for me, I’d be incredibly thankful!

My response:

Thank you for your email and for reaching out. I’m glad you’ve begun considering the beautiful work of doulas!

I would say that yes, you could definitely serve as a postpartum doula if you feel like you’d be able to support a new parent in their home with newborn chores like baby changing, cleaning and of course support with breastfeeding and other newborn things. Some of this expertise you’d learn in a postpartum doula training.

As long as you were clear about what you could offer to new parents in that role, I think you’d be fine. I also love the idea of trying to work with other physically disabled mothers–I believe there is a lot of power in serving those within our own community.

In terms of cost I would say this: certification is not always necessary. Is just the training financially accessible to you? That is where I would start, and only explore certification if you feel like it’s necessary for your work. I am not certified as a doula, and have not felt compelled to take that route (you can see more on this here and here). While the training orgs are presenting it more and more as a requirement, there are many doulas out there who are not certified, and I think it’s up to each individual to decide what works for them.

Ashley is looking to connect with folks, so feel free to email her beautifulashes328@gmail.com.

I received another question via email from a doula with cerebral palsy asking about the potential of being a birth doula. I’ll paraphrase her question as I did not get explicit permission to reprint it here. She shared that she has cerebral palsy and is confined to a motorized wheelchair.* She asked about how her disability might impact the amount of physical support she could provide during labor, and how much physical support plays a role in birth doulas work. She also asked about how often birth doulas attend clients at home, as that might be a challenge due to accessibility concerns for wheelchair access in private homes.

My answer:

I think you can definitely be a doula and be wheelchair bound. The amount of physical support required to do doula work depends largely on your style and the client’s desires, but what I would suggest is thinking of teaming up with a co-doula who could provide some of the physical support techniques that might be challenging for you. (Things like the double hip squeeze, or massage). You could even choose to partner with the co-doula only when working with someone who is definitely interested in physical support (some folks may not be interested in touch).

Also, alternatively, if the people you work with have partners, you might be able to guide their partners to do some of the physical support techniques that you cannot. This is something I have done anyway, just as a way to involve the partner more in providing support.

In terms of setting, I actually think most doulas provide support in hospital settings because that is where the vast majority of births take place (98%). I personally have only worked in hospitals. That’s good news for your questions about accessibility. Doulas do often do prenatal visits with clients, but that doesn’t have to be in their home–it could be in a public space, or in your home. Sometimes doulas will go to a person’s home when they are laboring but not ready to go to the hospital yet–but if the client’s home is not accessible to you, you could discuss this in advance, and if necessary, use a co-doula for that support.

Lastly I would say you might consider a really important and unique niche in your work as a doula: supporting other disabled folks who might be pregnant or parenting. I’ve found little out there in terms of resources for pregnant disabled people, and some people might appreciate getting doula support from another person who is disabled. (Not that this is all you could do, but it could be a great fit as part of your work).

Do you have additional advice or resources for disabled doulas, or potential doulas? My research has not turned up much in this arena, although I expect that will change as doulas become more prevalent. Please add them in comments.

I’d hazard to say there is almost no one to whom I would say “no, you shouldn’t be a doula.” We all have limitations, things we can and cannot provide or offer, and there is no perfect template for doula work. It’s about knowing your limitations, being clear in what you can offer folks, and finding additional resources to fill the gaps that you cannot.

*On twitter someone asked about my use of the word “confined” here. I paraphrased from the original email, but used her language in this instance. I know that issues of language and (dis)ability are complicated, and while I will undoubtedly make mistakes, I try to mirror language folks in the community use to describe themselves as much as possible.

Radical Doula Profiles: Caitlin Caulfield

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!

A photo of radical doula Caitlin Caulfield.

Caitlin was born and raised in Alaska where she grew up among the birch and spruce taiga forest of the Interior. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in Anthropology and Elementary Education in 2008, and since then has worked as a bookseller, a farmer, and a teacher.

Caitlin trained as a doula with Warm Welcome Birth Services in Western Massachusetts in January of 2011 and is now working as a doula while pursuing further studies in midwifery. As a queer femme, Caitlin has a particular interest in working with queer and trans families of all shapes and sizes. She believes that birth is always radical! You can learn more about her doula practice, Malia Kai Birth Services, at http://www.maliakaibirth.com or email her at maliakaibirth@gmail.com.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I have had a passion for birth and women’s health since my brother was born at our home in England when I was three. The midwife who attended his birth would bring child-size replicas of some of her equipment such as slings and thermometers, and I would faithfully follow along on my dolls as she did postpartum checks on my brother. Growing up, my interest in babies expanded as I learned about the importance of women’s health issues around the world and deepened as friends began having children.

I think that everyone giving birth deserves to have physical and emotional support from someone they trust and feel a personal connection with, who can help them articulate their needs and desires and advocate for themselves. Being a doula is phenomenally powerful because it means deeply listening to someone else.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?

For me, radicalism has a lot to do with intersectionality. By which I mean: recognizing the many, many factors (race, culture, class, ability, age, gender, sexuality, religion, and more) that influence all of our lives, and attempting to keep them all in mind as we work to improve the world (slowly, surely…). It means connecting my birth work to my feminism. It means not talking about birth in the USA without talking about the wide disparity in birth outcomes between white women and women of color. It means approaching birth work from a reproductive justice perspective which equally validates the right to have an abortion, and the right to carry and raise your children (no matter how poor/young/brown/queer you are). And it means working in broader justice movements to create and sustain support networks that make all of this possible.

As a radical doula, I am always trying to make connections between ideas, communities, and people.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?

The babies! I can’t lie. The babies are my favorite. Watching the transition within minutes from goopy, purple, vernix-covered little beings into small rosy people is incredible.

I also feel so honored to be present for such an intimate moment in a family’s life, and to see the immense love on the faces of friends or family members who are present.

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

Just one thing? I would like all hospitals to start practicing evidence-based care around pregnancy and birth, with a lot fewer unnecessary interventions. And I would like all pregnant people to have easy (early) access to compassionate, quality, culturally appropriate prenatal care.

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.

Minneapolis Radical Doula Guide Release Party!

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Supporters at the Chicago Radical Doula Guide Release Party!

I’m psyched to announce that Tuesday, November 27, we’ll be hosting a Twin Cities Radical Doula Guide Release Party in conjunction with the Family Tree Clinic, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, and the Smitten Kitten. The party will benefit The Ilythia Project, a group that provides doula services for pregnant women living with HIV.

It’s going to be a low-key get together, with opportunities to purchase the guide, get to know local doulas and reproductive justice activists, and raise funds for The Ilythia Project! We’ll have a short discussion about the guide, Q&A and a raffle. Light snacks and beverages provided. There will also be a photobooth!

I’m really excited for this event, which once again will be hosted at another fabulous feminist sex shop, Smitten Kitten (review I wrote in 2008!).


Tuesday November 27
Smitten Kitten
3010 Lyndale Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55408

Facebook event here.

Hope to see you there!

Mega thanks to Erin Wilkins from the Family Tree Clinic for organizing this event.