Can Doulas Uphold Justice?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple of circles of discussion about birth and the disparaging numbers that represent maternal mortality in the US. Most especially in my home state of TX. One of the speakers, Hermine Hayes-Klein, of Hayes-Klein Law Firm, specializes in maternal health & childbirth law. She has had the opportunity to study the stories of birth from all parts of the world. She spent some time in the Netherlands as a professor of law at Hague University, as well as the director of the Research Center for Reproductive Rights at the Bynkershoek Institute. She oversaw the dissertations of several doctorate students from an abundance of backgrounds, and through this work she began seeing similarities in the birth communities all over the world. All of this sprung a curiosity that sent her searching back into our history for some anthropological answers. My first experience hearing her speak, she spoke of writings as old as the bible (our incredibly overly translated modern version) exemplifying negative patriarchal control of a woman’s fertility and body autonomy. Her research paired with the true stories her students were researching shed light on the the history of oppressive movements.

Why is this information pertinent? The climate specific to woman’s rights is still littered with limitations within birth, economic suppression, sex, gender, and the family. These factors effect so many aspects of life, but in this blog I will focus on birthing and fertility. Thanks to our modern technology, the ability to track and calculate data, and programs funneling support and research to our communities. We now have numbers proving the disparaging effects of oppression. I will bring forth thoughts on racial oppression as an outsider, and utilizing both numbers and personal experience working with oppressed individuals to shed some light on the alarming maternal mortality rates. I will also explore medicine, protocol, and patients rights, as a means to support a possible shift in perspective and respect for the birthing experience. Most of all, I find the experience of a doula holding space for birthing and growing families essential in educating for an individuals birth journey.

So, Can doulas uphold justice? Yes. They have the ability to educate their clients, so that they are able to advocate for them selves. That doesn’t mean we stand quiet and allow for maltreatment to take place. We can speak out for all to hear, and even get video evidence of the incident. As discussed with Hayes-Klein in our workshop. Doulas do not have any liability in this space, and we can - and should do everything within our power to stop a situation from happening when a birthing person is in any danger or disrespected. Now, there is certainly a cadence that will be set from the moment we arrive to the hospital, and we mustn’t forget the most important piece in this puzzle - the partner! It is imperative we honor this person and give them the charge. Their word is lawful, legal, and will make the loudest statement in that room. A doula can provide guidance through mediation and conflict resolution, just by sparking conversation with the partner. This alone can change birth significantly. As with all these I will be expanding on the partners role, first trimester through 4th trimester.

I have been incubating this blog for quite some time. These are concepts that have felt bigger than me for a fair amount of my career, and truly - they still do. I think with every position we commit to requires evolution, and this theory and similar discussions around these numbers has had a huge part in broadening my view of both birth culture, and society as a whole. Keep your eye peeled for my next blog on oppression and it’s role in the maternal mortality rate. So, in the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Arnold in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts!”

Setting Boundaries in Public

Boundaries. This is a concept we learn overtime. For me it was through a slough of embarrassing moments in my 20s. No lesson is ever learned without a mess. I say this often when I’m attending births. In my role as a doula, boundaries are a large part of the discussion that I continue to have, even on the day of the birth with my clients. Placing such distinctions for your birth is paramount in delivering your baby. Remember. These preparations will not change any potential curve balls in your expectations of your birth, but having a clear idea of the environment you need to have in order to feel safe and vulnerable will give you a leg up in the process.

On paper, that all sounds pretty doable. Now, we add in your current lifestyle. Whether you planned this for years, or your caught by surprise, this is a major change in your individual lives. The stress of finances, the pressure of responsibilities in your work lives, and managing schedules in the hopes of spending a day or two together. This climate isn’t always cut out for the efforts it takes to really come to terms with expanding your family. Naturally we turn to others that have been through it before. How did they cope? Where did they give birth? How was there experience in comparison to their expectations? Most of the time pregnant individuals don’t even get a chance to ask. Pregnancy tends to draw people near you regardless of how you are feeling in the moment. This is a great place to implement those boundaries. It sounds silly, but I always recommend having a specific statement prepared for the unwelcome interactions. “I respect and appreciate your experience, but have to be on my way” Simple, respectful, and concise. How they take that is on them.

Next week we discuss boundaries in your birthing environment. How to decide who you want in your space, and taking the steps to set those standards ahead of time.

This weeks blog is featured with The Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas

I was recently asked to brainstorm on a blog for The Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas. I wrote about the role of a postpartum doula, and the benefits in the sort of care. I reflect a bit on our society's mentality to internalize our needs, rather than vocalize for help. Here's a link to the full article, "Postpartum Doulas: The Support New Mom's Deserve"