02/5/14 by Crystal Azul
I grew up hearing stories about births and deaths from my mom, who was raised in a poor, evangelical home in Mexico. My mom would tell me the story of her nephew Esteban’s birth. It happened during the middle of a hurricane, the water had risen a foot into the tiny house, and my mom’s cousin was in active labor. Baby Esteban, nearly having a water birth, came out of his squatting mother like a slippery fish, caught by my mom’s capable hands.
When my friends started having babies, I became actively interested in birth justice work, especially after hearing their stories of unnecessary interventions, lack of communication from hospital staff about procedures, and the feelings of being too overwhelmed to make an informed decision during labor. As a feminist, womanist, and queer POC, I understood all too well the importance of advocacy during times of medical vulnerability. In 2011, I finally trained as a doula in Arcata (Humboldt County) and had my first client – a 17 year old woman who found me on a volunteer doula list through the Family Practice Nurses who worked with mothers on WIC. After this first experience of working for my client and representing her wishes, I knew that would never want to work for a hospital or similar institution and began searching for ways to be a doula in community.
Last August, I attended SQUATfest, a conference for people working in birth/reproductive justice and held at the Women’s Building in SF. As can be expected, the conference was predominantly white and cis, though some effort had been made to offer scholarships for low-income/POC birth workers. For many (qt)poc folks, accessibility with regards to affordability is one of the biggest obstacles to becoming a doula or hiring a doula. (There is a movement to include doula services through Medi-Cal, and there are volunteer doula programs in select hospitals that provide doulas for those who qualify as low-income.) During SQUATfest, I spent time in the Doulas & Midwives of color circle. There were many conversations about working in mostly white and privileged spaces, bringing services and support to communities of color, and burn-out being a major issue for (qt) POC birth workers. Some of the newer birthworkers discussed finding it challenging to “connect with birthworkers of color for mentorship because they are too done, tired and are moving on, have too much risk/responsibility already on their plate, or are homophobic/transphobic.” I had the privilege of hearing the wisdom of such birth justice workers as Midwives Makeda Kamara, Claudia Booker, and our local Certified Professional Midwife Laura Perez from Sacred Birth Place in Oakland.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.