“Is it so radical to believe that every person should be treated with respect, no matter what they’re going through?” – Lyssa Kaehler
The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer for full spectrum pregnancy and childbirth support by Miriam Zoila Pérez is just plain fantastic. The topics span all that one hopes for themselves as providers of care, for women as patients, and for ourselves and our family members and friends. The words ring true for every aspect of women’s care, from miscarriage to birth in prisons, from abortion doulas to the powers of class and race in healthcare settings.
What a fantastic overview, rite of passage, and rational 101 for anyone working in the world of reproductive healthcare. What does it mean to be radical at what we do? Is it to push the boundaries, challenge the norm, question ourselves and our work to continue in our own betterment, and thus the betterment of the movement? Or perhaps being radical is to put aside the bigger picture, remember the humanity in what we do, and, like Lyssa Kaehler is quoted above, begin from respect, and I might add, love. And why is that so radical? Because it has been lost, cast aside, particularly in the hustle of healthcare. One-on-one doula care, and its focus as outlined in this guide, brings much humanity back to healthcare. Especially in low-income communities, among the uninsured, the non-English speaking, the marginalized groups of our society. Especially for, with, and because of those women, those people, must we be radical about humanity, respect, and love.
If I may be so bold as to quote Miriam: “Doulas are an intervention to the gap left by our current maternity care system. These gaps aren’t always due to negligence; sometimes they are simply an issue of capacity. Labor and delivery nurses now manage multiple patients at a time. Continuous and uninterrupted support is literally impossible for most nurses, doctors, and even midwives working in hospital settings… The appeal of doula work is that I hope it can interrupt these statistics and politics… Positive experiences, simply feeling validated by another person, can shift things in our minds and hearts such that everything moving forward is different.”
Each section leaves the reader wanting more. In many parts, I found myself agreeing with each word, but then wondering, “But then what? What comes next?” Including the part about miscarriage and the role of in-home support. Including in the tricky world of government coverage for certain types of contraceptives, and its silent role in coercing low income women into certain methods of birth control, a blind eye to their actual cost. Including in the international role of midwives, where women from countries where parteras are discredited meet me and hear my introduction as such. Including how the ideas of femininity in birth care came from sexism and ostracizing women out of the obstetric profession, leading midwives to use femininity and motherly connection as a way back in. I was constantly left thinking, “So now what?”
As a midwife, I have been so fortunate to see some amazing doulas at work. I know some awesome doulas who became midwives. I have seen my own care through a doula’s eyes. I have been jealous of the role of a doula in a birth where I wished I had more time to spend with the woman on a busy labor and birth unit. I have often wished some of the women I work with had doulas with the during their clinic visits, whether for annual exams and Pap smears, miscarriage follow-up, abortion follow-up, and prenatal care at term when closing in in the due date.
I consider a great doula to be somewhat of the exact best friend a woman needs at that point in time: silent type, sarcastic humor, full of warm and caressing touches, the best masseuse, the presence in the room to not feel alone, someone to cry with, someone to not judge, the lone person in her life to know of a trauma or history and to know how to handle it, and either knowledgeable about her process or born with so much empathy for any process that it courses through the doula’s veins. Women’s lives demand this. The pain and the struggle that so many of the women I work with are going through scream to have someone to share it with. And I know at the end of our 15min, even if I stretch it to 30 or 45, more support is needed for that women at that time in her life. Doulas, especially the radical ones, can be nothing but incredible for women. And any doula, any provider, and woman, can benefit from the succinct and clear wisdom in The Radical Doula Guide. I know that my midwifery care has already benefited from reading Miriam’s words, experiences, and thoughts on care.
There have been fantastic reviews of The Radical Doula Guide from the Bay Area Doula Project and the Feminist Librarian. I wholeheartedly agree with the comments suggesting this be but a gateway for Miriam to flush out these ideas, that this be just the outline for further thought.
“Let’s be doulas who want to help not only those who know how to seek our support, but also those who might not even know doulas exist.” – Miriam Zoila Pérez
Miriam Zoila Pérez has been so generous as to offer one copy of The Radical Doula guide to Feminist Midwife readers for free! To enter to win, leave a comment by midnight CT on January 4th fat the bottom of this post or on the Feminist Midwife Facebook page on the announcement of this post. If you are so bold, I would love it if you would leave a comment describing one way that you try to be radical at what you do. Winner will be chosen by my partner’s generous random number generator services, and I will announce the winner after January 5th. Looking forward to reading the comments!
Interested in purchasing The Radical Doula Guide? Visit Miriam’s awesome blog for more info. Also, find her on Facebook and Twitter. And get really excited when you see her at conferences, or selling her guide at your local sex shop. You know, women’s healthcare celebrity-style.