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!
Acquanda is a Black Feminist, cultural anthropologist, Certified Lactation Educator (CLE), and ICTC-trained Full Circle Doula, who hopes to one day bring the combination of these to higher education when she’s a professor. Acquanda writes the Lactation Journey Blog, which was created as a space to chronicle her venture in breastfeeding advocacy that focuses largely on inequities among African Diasporic women and the overall community. She grew up in Southern California, the fourth and fifth (she has a twin) of six children, and is also a ‘super auntie’ and ‘othermother,’ who has played a hand in raising each of her 16 nieces and nephews – including her one-year-old great nephew. Acquanda lives in Washington State and is working on her first book – about breastfeeding. Visit her website.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I don’t have any children, so a positive or negative birth experience as something that ultimately shaped my reasons for practicing is not part of my story. I have been involved in critical breastfeeding awareness for a while now, to address the staggering health and social issues among Black women, who statistically rank the lowest of any group in this country in initiation and duration. I decided to become a doula because I saw it as a way to extend my breastfeeding advocacy and activism, and figured it would allow me to go deeper as well as provide an additional layer of insight. Initially, my goal was to participate postpartum and interact with women after their birthed and were home or settled, but after attending ICTC’s Full Circle Doula training that is based on a midwifery model of care, I recognized focusing all areas of pregnancy and birth are equally crucial in supporting breastfeeding and challenging maternal-infant mor tality and other social issues linked to this area.
Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
Until more recently, I had been very reluctant to label myself ‘radical’. Even though that’s the way most others viewed me, and is essentially the attitude I displayed, to me, the word seemed as if it carried a stigma and that it was synonymous with ‘obnoxious’ or ‘erratic’. But far from signifying those things I was concerned with, I identify with ‘radical’ because it means that I work to dismantle a system of injustice instead of simply recycling the power structure, and spitting it out as progress. And that since I am a person who wants to see radical changes as well as contribute to this radical transformation, then these ideas would come from my radical vision. Also, the statement by Angela Davis strongly resonates with me:
“If indeed we wish to be radical in our quest for change, then we must get to the root of our oppression. After all, radical simply means grasping things at the root.”
I see the injustice in breastfeeding and birth and countless others, that are infused with racism, white supremacy, and various interlocking forms of oppression that have shaped the way Black women, women of color, and many continue to be marginalized and I’m not afraid to challenge them.
What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I don’t know if I have a doula philosophy, per se, but my broader moral and political beliefs shape my views as a doula. I believe in equality and liberation and work towards actualizing these.
What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to just a ‘thing,’ but I really appreciate that for me, being a doula allows me to actively participate in challenging structural violence against Black women, our bodies, families and other areas. Being a doula is an additional tool in challenging a historical legacy of oppression in this country. I like that simply sitting in a room with a woman in labor allows her to have a better birth outcome. And I love that I am helping to build a legacy that will manifest itself for generations; using this platform as an additional tool in challenging social issues means that I may be able to imagine that one day when a woman is partnered with a doula, it is to engage in the tradition for spiritual beliefs or as a rite of passage – something of that sort, and not because social issues make pregnancy and birth a threat on a woman’s life.
If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?
I’m by far not as tenured as others in the birth realm – in fact, I’m pretty new, but from what I see so far if I could change one thing it would be that birth advocates would bring issues that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society to forefront. From what I see in birth and in breastfeeding, is there is too much idealism that causes many to overlook that issues of race, class, sexual identity and others really determine who is birthing, dying and who even goes home happy. Those issues need to become central to *all* our conversations.