Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Waterbirth with a doula, and race in the natural birth movement

Via Bellies and Babies:

I really liked hearing the doula in this video talk a little about the racial connotations that natural/unmedicated birth has in our country (I would venture to say class connotations are equally important). While several of the women shown giving birth in "The Business of Being Born" are women of color, in general the natural birth movement has been by and for white women.

I admit I am uncomfortable with the way this plays out in many situations. In AmeriCorps, my fellow doulas and myself were all young, white, native English speakers who had all grown up at least middle-class and attended college (and none of us had yet given birth ourselves). We were working with mostly low-income, Spanish-speaking Latina women. Do you need have the same background as a woman to be a good doula? Absolutely not, and we forged strong bonds with many of our clients. But the fact was that our AmeriCorps positions were not accessible many women from other backgrounds for a variety of reasons (the long hours and very low pay, a program that hired only college grads, and not a lot of resources for recruitment to ensure a diverse applicant pool).

In becoming an IBCLC, I will again be a white woman joining a mostly white profession...that aims to reach ALL women and help them to breastfeed. I would like to do some thinking in my doula and LC practice about how I can not only be more culturally competent myself (because it should never be the expectation that any individual is absolved from being able to work competently with the people they serve) but also take responsibility for the opportunities I've been given by encouraging more diversity in my professions. Our breastfeeding advocacy group is thinking about fundraising for a scholarship to help women from underrepresented groups access IBCLC training. I hope that will be a start.

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