She's Too Radical

When I look in the mirror these days I see a caricature of Mrs. Tiggywinkle. My body changed over the past ten years. Even though I still run four kilometers three or four times a week, and I feel quite fit, more or less, my shoulders have changed shape, my waist has thickened, my grey hair is down to my bum but no one ever sees it because I wrap it in a scarf, and...well, I feel different.

Mrs Tiggywinkle, however, is a laundress. She is an independent female: round in shape, granted, and she is a little perhaps neurotic, but she takes care of herself, of her small house, does other people's laundry AND makes friend with a little girl in distress.

And she's got fearsome prickles.

Is she radical?

I met a prospective client the other day. Lovely woman, nice partner. She had heard about me through one of the long grapevines that eventually lead my way. I'm not big on advertising, publicity, I never wanted to be on Oprah, and I don't have a fan club. So people usually hear about me from other women in a round about way.

But this lady had gone through a list of doulas in Montreal, found them wanting, and came to me. And she expressed one doubt, which was that I may be "too radical".

Radical has its root from root: from Late Latin "radicalis" ("of or pertaining to the root, having roots, radical"), and from Latin radix (root).
And the definition is: Favouring fundamental change, or change at the root cause of a matter. 

What is the root cause of the birth matter? I believe the root cause of abusive maternity care shares its root with woman abuse in every aspect of our lives. So, in "favouring fundamental change", I am going to go to the root of the matter. I am not going to spout empty slogans and run other women's lives according to my agenda.

The root of birth abuse is a culturally useful and familiar disrespect for women in general, and for birthing women in particular. If I am going to practice as a radical doula, then my priority will be respecting the birthing woman. To this end, I will not persuade her to make choices that conform to me agenda. Ever.

The woman I met may have been imagining a furie, a Roman goddess of vengeance, guarding the door of the birth room with an eye to exacting payment for past wrongs.

The furie would insist that the woman follow her rules: no interventions, under any circumstances; upright positions throughout; lots of vocalizing required; partner hands-on at all times.

But radical doulas are not furies. We respect the desires of the women we accompany. We melt our egos and support the woman's choices. Our agendas stay at home. We are just and fair, possibly to a fault. It is a fine line between supporting a woman during childbirth and feeling like you are witnessing, indeed apologizing for, an abusive act that should be named. But in the naming, the birth process is damaged. Our role is to bear witness, to take notes, and to love the one you're with.


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