Davis has been a doula for six years and says she’s helped more than 20 individuals and families give birth. A self-described “black, Jewish, dyke,” her training started in Brooklyn, New York where she realized she didn’t want to be a midwife. She decided instead to become a doula.
Doulas provide a wide range of pregnancy and childbirth support, which can include childbirth education, prenatal and postpartum care.
“I like to say a doula is from the waist up, and a midwife is from the belly button down,” Davis explains.
Though doulas are not medical professionals, some parents and moms are turning to midwives and doulas instead of traditional hospitals for more support during the birth process.
While Davis warns they’re not the magic wands to a perfect birth, she believes there’s a doula for everyone.
“If you want an Asian doula, there are Asian doulas,” Davis says. “If you want a free doula, there are tons of free doulas. If you want a trans person, there’s trans doulas. There’s literally a doula for everyone.”
Part of Davis’ appeal to clients is her intersectional identity as a black, gay, Jewish woman. She says she has shared the same experiences that queer parents face and recognizes the fears some women of color have about maternal health, which can make her clients feel safer.
Read the rest on NPR.
Big thanks to Esmy Jimenez for this feature
Happy 2016 Readers!
I feel like my mother saying this, but it seems like 2015 FLEW by! I can't believe it's already 2016-The year that I aspire to take my doula business off the ground! So many goals, so many dreams, so many opportunities to improve who I am as a woman, wife and doula and I'm SO excited to start!
I'm thrilled that I have my first 2016 birth booked for March. These clients are interested in having a HypnoBirth, which means I've been doing research and reading all I can shove onto my mobile's already stuffed memory on the subject. I'm excited to be working with this couple and am excited that the birth they want to have is a natural one. It should make for amazing learning for all three of us.
I'm also excited about Postpartum Doula training in February. I've been wanting to do more PP training since I had my first mother with serious nursing issues almost 3 years ago now! It was a humbling experience to realize that while I'd been trained to a degree, my training didn't prepare me for her issues.
My other goals for 2016 are to train and certify as a Child Birth Educator and to FINALLY become a yoga instructor. I think that these three additions to my birth work will make me a premier, well-rounded birth educator in the South Puget Sound.
If you're due to give birth in April, May or June of 2016
I pride myself on being a black, queer Jewish doula, but does that mean I'm the right doula for someone who, say, identifies as a white, heterosexual Christian? Yes, maybe.
According to an article about Black Midwives in the LA area, "Nationwide, black women are at the greatest risk of pregnancy-related death, have the highest rates of C-sectionsand, compared with whites, black infants are four times as likely to die of complications at birth and twice as likely to die before their first birthday."
This disparity in maternal care along racial lines is something that can't be ignored. When a woman of color in the hospital birthing system is possibly surrounded by doctors and nurses who don't look like her, having a black doula to help her advocate for herself can be the difference between a natural birth and an emergency c-section. I want to be clear that this isn't to say that a white doula couldn't provide a woman of color care that is just as comprehensive and caring, it's just different. A black doula shares a similar life experience as her black client, even if they come from two separate worlds.
So what about religion? Is it important that my doula matches my personal religion? Again, I can't say, though I've personally doulaed for couples who shared my religious background and those who did not. For some, the religious/spiritual aspect of birth is important. It can mark a new life cycle event that requires special prayers or affirmations be recited. Having a doula who is familiar with those rituals can be helpful. For others, birth is just a part of life that doesn't hold any specific religious significants, but has a spiritual element that a doula can help facilitate. Mother blessings, placenta burying, and similar are all rituals that a doula can help plan.
Lastly, what about sexual orientation. Would it be weird to have a lesbian doula at my birth if I'm not a lesbian myself? Again, I can't answer this question for anyone. However, I will say that all of my clients to date have been straight couples or single women and it hasn't been an issue. Like race and religion, having a doula who understands differing pronouns, gender presentation, language, and processes can be helpful for couples and singles in a hospital setting, where awareness and sensitivity may be limited.
So what does this all mean? Should I only accept clients who are like me? No, not at all. I love that my client base has been an incredibly diverse mix of single women, couples, friends and strangers. I love that I've been able to whisper tehillim (Psalms) while a woman labors and mimic "Thank you, Jesus" when an exhausted mother holds her baby for the first time. I always encourage clients that I meet for consultation to interview at least two (or more) doulas to find the one that "fits". And if the one that fits happens to be similar to you, great. If the doula does not, well, that's great too.
There's a stereotype that only one kind of person hires a doula. The image is usually of a woman who is white, in a higher socio-economic bracket. She is, perhaps, a professional with a hippy edge. She is educated and informed about her birth. And it's true. Women like the one I have described may opt for a doula to attend their birth or hire a postpartum doula. But other people hire doulas as well:
Trans people hire doulas.
Black and Latino (and Asian, and, and and) hire doulas.
Jewish women hire doulas.
Muslim women hire doulas.
Stay at home parents hire doulas.
And yes, folks who are "poor" hire doulas.
One of the reasons that I decided to become a doula and to train with Ancient Song Doula is because ASDS is an organization started by a woman of color and an organization focused on training women of color as doulas. ASDS spends time in the community it aims to serve, educating people about birth.
Doulas aren't just for the rich, they're not only for white folks, or for straight people. It's my philosophy that ANY PERSON giving birth not only needs, but deserves to have a doula by their side. And ANY PERSON who has given birth not only needs, but deserves the support of a postpartum doula in the weeks following birth.
Less than one hundred years ago, people birthed surrounded by their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, cousins and friends. We birthed in Red Tents, in Birthing Huts, in low-lit rooms of homes. We roared our babies earthed from our bodies without fear, because we'd seen birth. A doula's job is to help provide that tribe we've lost. And while we're only one person, rather than the mother, grandmothers, and aunties of the past, we stay by your side. Reminding you of your strength, telling you that you're beautiful, and holding space for you to birth your baby in the way that's best for YOU.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.