Founding Abuela Doulas has been an absolute joy.
I have been a doula for the best part of two decades. What I noticed from the beginning was the lack of Black and brown bodied doulas. Now I know that there were some out there, but I couldn’t see them. For a long time I was pointed to as the Black doula whenever someone enquired. For me it became important to colour in the landscape of birth and see change.
I became a doula because of nosiness. I had supported my sister and a friend and on attending a school coffee morning I discovered that this was a job. Completing the doula course made me want to have another baby. The thought of birthing physiologically (as the body intended) really excited me. Arriving home and remembering that I already had five children helped deal with that.
When I began working as a doula, I discovered that Black bodied women were twice as likely as their white bodied counterparts to die in the perinatal period. Now, before you worry, do know that maternal mortality is low, it’s just that Black and brown bodied people are over represented in the statistics. This figure crept up to five times more likely (then there was a quick re classification of race and it ‘dropped’ to 4.35 times more likely).
Hearing white bodied doulas tell me that there is no difference for Black and brown bodied women and white bodied women in birth was the impetus that I needed to found Abuela Doulas. Abuela means grandmother in Spanish. I believe in bringing the wisdom of the grandmothers forward into modern birth. When the doulas study with me, they learn to go deep into their cultural heritage and look at what we may have lost in the world of birth. They also get to bring that cultural knowledge back into their work.
We hear all the ‘reasons’ why Black and brown bodied women and birthing people don’t do well in birth. Basically we’re ‘too Black, too poor, too stupid’. They walk with pre conditions that very very few are prepared to recognise as anti-Blackness, after all, we are the Global Majority.
The reason I run Abuela Doulas is because I believe that representation is important and Black and brown bodied people deserve to be heard and believed, not have their concerns brushed off with ‘are you sure that’s why..?’
As a Life Coach, I help Black and brown bodied people recognise the internalised misogynoir (hatred of Black women). As a doula educator, I support all people to learn how and when to advocate for those who are marginalised. When I look around at what Abuela Doulas has achieved, I’m proud of the many Black and brown bodied doulas that are now in the birthworld, and the white bodied doulas who understand cultural safety.
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