Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: The Radical Doula Guide

I have been a fan of Miriam Zoila Perez's writing ever since I read her work on Feministing. I knew she also did doula work and had a blog talking about that community. I have become, in the vernacular, a birth/parenting junkie. It started when I was a kid and saw how my mother was treated as a mom (although a good chunk of that was due to the abusive marriage she was in, but different topic for a different day) and I hated it. I hated that women especially, but all caregivers are treated differently because of the choice to rear children. I gobbled down Ariel Gore's works, devoured The Business of Being Born and other birth movies and generally tried to absorb as much information as possible. I was ecstatic to hear that Perez was going to release a guide about doula work, called The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer for Full Spectrum Pregnancy and Childbirth Support.

Even as someone as informed as I was about this side of birth work, I was still blown away by this guide. It made me think and really set aside beliefs I didn't realize I had.

The author breaks down the slim volume into three sections: the introduction, the role of the doula and the politics of pregnancy and birth. The introduction discusses exactly what a doula is; in short, someone who offers a variety of support to pregnant people. The second section describes the different ways doulas offer support; physical (hand holding or assistance) emotional, verbal, etc. There are also doulas for birth, adoption, miscarriage and abortion, frequently called "full spectrum doulas."

The last section talks about intersectionality and how politics, even though they shouldn't, often affect birth and pregnancy, in terms of race, class, gender, documentation status and whether the person is incarcerated. Perez brought up one aspect that, in hindsight makes perfect sense, but at the time of reading it, was a shining example of privilege I hadn't examined.

Speaking about assumptions, "I read about how women intuitively 'know' how to give birth because of their feminine instincts. What does that imply about the difference between men and women's brains?...Over and over again, I see how the ideas of feminine wisdom and connection are used to justify and promote midwifery, natural birth and doulas....But it concerns me that we are fighting against gender essentialism with more gender essentialism."

I have read all about the feminine wisdom and see it discussed and never once made this connection. This is just one of the many amazing pieces of writing throughout the guide. Perez also includes several doulas to speak about their personal experiences working in the field.

A must read for anyone interested in doula work or in the birth and parenting community!

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