As I’ve been going through our Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan, I’ve been continuously thinking about doula care and community aid, and how we can continue to decolonize our practices. As doula care becomes more “trendy” in current society, as it continues to dominate mostly higher-class spaces, how do we reflect on the roots of doula care, and stay true to community work? Of course, as doulas we do not feed ourselves and pay the bills off of warm and fuzzy feelings, but I think it is realistic to say most of us enter the field with a certain amount of passion and drive to create change in our communities. Whether that be being inspired by our own birth experience, or noticing how much of a difference our own doula made, most of us come to doula care for a deep reason.
However you identify, birth work has the ability to bring folks together. The birth and the postpartum periods are intimate and vulnerable. Individuals from marginalized communities may wish to hire someone with the same identity or lived experience as them. As someone from a certain background you may possess a set of skills, knowledge or spiritual/cultural teachings that someone from an outside identity may not. For example, a Muslim family may choose to hire a Muslim doula who may better understand their traditional customs and practices surrounding birth. An Indigenous family may choose an Indigenous doula who understands and celebrates their practices and understands the risk of violence within the medical system.
Below are some tips on using your practice and voice as a doula to help your community:
Marry your interests
An easy equation for finding what population you want to serve is this: identifier + lived experience + passions and skills.
Between your lived experiences and passions/interests and skill, lays your intended community. For example, as an Indigenous mental health practitioner who grew up low-income, I chose to narrow my focus on low-income families and trauma survivors. Think about the spaces you frequent, the groups you are a part of, your professional training and hobbies.
Identifier: Indigenous, Queer
Lived experience: Poverty
Skill: Social work background
Low Income Families
2. What can you afford to give?
Whether that is your time, or money, or expertise. Some doulas choose to dedicate acouple of births per year pro-bono or sliding scale. Perhaps, you decide to attend protests and events as a community member that are relevant to your population. You may have resources you don’t mind sharing.or books to loan out. Be creative!
What issues are impacting your community? How can you use your voice in a way that helps others? Perhaps you can assist in social movements regarding reproductive health.How do you use your social media. What current issues are really important to you?
These are just a few of the ways that you can take your profession, and use it for social change. What other ways can you make waves?
Here are some exploratory journal prompts for you:
Why did I choose to become a doula?
What social issues am I passionate about?
What can I afford to give?
-Kayt Ward, EDI Co-lead, BSW