Radical Doula Profiles: Heather Jackson

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 Heather: A former teen, single mom, forever girl-mom educated by brave mistakes. I hail from the conservative state of North Dakota to Providence, Rhode Island. I made the choice to move last year, had the money, drove 26 hours, and did it; my daughter and rabbits in tow. I am queer, an anarchist, and a feminist. I write profusely, write zines that I sell on etsy and trade with others, I bike everywhere, and I love to cook and make crafts. I enjoy the company of others by going to dinner parties, but I also enjoy cuddling and drinking coffee. I was sober for a long time, but now I drink beer and wine moderately and occasionally and enjoy it in a healthy way! I was also in eating disorder treatment for 3 years and now I can say I enjoy food in a way I never have. I’ve had plenty of shitty things happen in life, but now my daughter is a teen, I’m in my early 30s, and I finally feel happy and content.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I got pregnant in high school. It was a really lonely time because I felt I failed my family and society. When looking back, it was not a bad thing that happened. I was pregnant! Her father and I broke up the summer I was pregnant and he was selling drugs and ended up getting arrested the day before I gave birth. I spent the day with his new girlfriend trying to find collateral to bail him out of jail. He was with me when I gave birth, but I had a lot of hospital staff coerce me into either adopting my baby or putting her in foster care. I had no one being an advocate or supporting me. I moved to Minnesota after a couple years and met some doulas and realized I wanted do that. When I moved back to North Dakota, I saw a birth doula class in a town class to where I lived. I finally decided to do it! My own experience as a teen mom with hardly no advocacy and support inspired me to turn my sad and lonely pregnancy and birth experience into a posi tive thing for others.

Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify with the term radical doula because I believe that my existence as a single, queer, former teen mom disrupts the assumption of who a mom is. I am also an anarchist and a feminist and an activist. I support a person’s right to choose and their own autonomy. I also support the many identities a pregnant person can have and I feel that being a radical doula encompasses all that support and advocacy. For example, not all pregnant people identify as women, are married, or want a “natural” child birth. I support a person’s choice in whatever they choose for their birth because that’s their choice.

What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
Not only do I believe that people can birth their children without much or any medical interventions, I also believe that people need emotional and mental support during pregnancy and childbirth. However, I also believe in a person’s choice and autonomy to do what they want to do for their pregnancy. I also believe that pregnant people deserve support, no matter what they choose. If their partner is involved, I believe that they need emotional and mental support, as well, to be able to help the mother/father/partner. Sometimes people need help to find the voices that they have inside. That’s what I needed and I love bringing this to people and want to continue doing that.

This fits into my broader political beliefs because my anarchism supports a person’s autonomy to their own bodies, choices, and lives. I also am very non-judgmental when it comes to a person’s choice and I feel that my doula philosophy and anarchism fit right into that. I fully believe that people need support and advocacy when navigating a scary, hierarchical institution, as well. Sometimes the state and capitalism impede on our choices and if I can intervene in a way that provides support, I want to do that.

What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
My favorite thing about being a doula is being an advocate and helping a person find their voice and autonomy. Sometimes that is a scary thing to do, especially when a person is not used to it. I have been a fairly shy, soft-spoken, introverted person my whole life. So being an advocate for myself has been difficult, but it took practice. Now that I help and advocate for others, it also helps me. It’s great to see a person’s self-empowerment come in full force when finding their own voices and self-respect.

If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
Trust the person who is pregnant, please! I think too many people and institutions do not do this and it has consequences. Please trust them!