A doula's pursuit to contribute more inclusivity within the birthing community
Earlier this year, I was supporting a family in labor. I instantly connected with them via Zoom since Covid prevented us from meeting in person. I think what I liked most about them was that I could feel their love, connection, and openness through the screen. Aaaaand I can be myself 100% unedited with them.
When it was their birthing time I headed over to their home. The plan was to labor with them there before we were to make our way to the birthing center.
At one point I was sitting alone in their living room, and I noticed something on the coffee table. It was something I have seen many many times before. I even referenced it during the labor of my firstborn almost 11 years ago. It was the Positions for Laboring Out of Bed handout that has been going around since the mid-'90s. It was updated in 2019 but it still lacked something very important to me. Diversity and inclusivity.
My client walked back into the living room and was met by her partner who was walking in from the kitchen. As they embraced each other, I observed the beautiful blend of their skin tones. I glanced back down at the handout and was met with disappointment. This handout that is so widely used didn't depict them. Not even close. It really bummed me out and the thought "they deserve better. We deserve better." crossed my mind.
I don't want to speak too poorly of this handout as I know for a fact it has helped an incredible amount of birthing people along in their labors! It's a very useful visual.
My disappointment didn't last long. I was evoked with inspiration by this lovely couple as their labor continued.
Shortly after baby entered the world, the three of them snuggled up in bed resting. I adore holding space for families as they figure out how to hold and feed their new littles. Gently offering any guidance if needed. But mostly encouraging them to trust and follow their instincts. I gazed at the three of them in their bonding bubble. There was now another skin tone to their blend. How gorgeous, I thought. They were involuntary artists at that moment, with a new color palette to offer the world.
I left their birth pretty fired up with excitement.
I wanted to develop a new handout. One that included different skin tones, different body types, different couples, different people. To represent the people and families I have worked with throughout the years. One that highlighted our differences. I wanted to be able to hand something to my clients, other doulas, and midwives that was a bit more representative of who we all are.
I can't draw or paint to save my life but I knew I could outsource that part. I would find a stellar artist that could help bring my vision to life. Long story short, I was put in contact with a female artist, Bela Vasconcelos, from Brazil. When she sent me a sample design based on a description I gave her and expressed how excited she was to work on the project with me, I knew she was the one. Over the next several months we emailed back and forth collaborating, commenting, and google translating.
Jessi Bouck, a doula I work with, also chimed in and gave valuable input!
I couldn't execute half of my ideas without her help.
I'm well aware that the new handout we created doesn't represent everyone, but it's a heck of an improvement in my opinion. Not stopping here. We have already begun working on the next handout. Keep a lookout!
Where can you purchase this handout? Great question! You can find it in our Etsy store.
We also have it available in a set of download and print flashcards.
All proceeds of this project are gifted to families in our community to provide education, resources, and birth support <3
Aritst Credit: Bela Vasconcelos
Ohhhhhhh and this little gem is going to be hanging on the wall in a birthing room in the Swedish film Gömmer Hei.