Recently, a student from the University of California, Riverside, asked me to be a part of a senior study on doulas. One of the questions that she posed has really stuck with me:
On your Twitter and blog, it seems that you don’t mix your personal with your business. Have you always separated the two?
I’ve thought a lot about this question as my decision to become a full-time doula has coincided with by hiatus from the feminist world I once devoured.
When I began the transition into full time birth work, I had to decide whether or not I would bring my very strong political beliefs directly into the lives of the families that I would support as a doula.
Prior to becoming a birth doula, I had a digital media firm working for organizations doing social good and I was a very active in the online feminist and queer communities. As a public figure, and due to the nature of my professional work, everything I had done as an adult could be found online - protests that I was a part of, courses that I taught as an adjunct professor, blogs about my life as a queer woman of color, tidbits about my life with a woman (who is now my wife), etc.
In some ways, I thought it would surely be easier to gain a cliental of progressive-minded families by using my google-able name and personal experiences. On the other hand, I knew my personal business could exclude families who didn’t feel the same way that I did.
For me, being a doula meant and continues to mean, providing unconditional support. I felt that some women who needed (and deserved) a doula could end up feeling less-then if they didn’t share the same feminist convictions that I had and continue to have. Every family, and every woman, defines him or her self differently and has different ways of moving through the world. The last thing I wanted was a mom to feel as though she wasn’t powerful because she was in a heterosexual relationship, and lived the “cookie-cutter” life – a life that it seemed (at least online) I was protesting.
I ultimately felt that I would be doing a disservice as a doula, a person who is supposed to hold no judgment, if I unintentionally forced my clients into believing in the same things I did. And so, I made the very conscious decision to keep my personal and political life separate from my work as a doula.
As we live in the age of media and access, I am deeply aware that most of the people who hire me have most likely googled my name and found the work that I am doing/have done. In fact, many of them hire me because they share similar beliefs and will bring it up! But every once in a while I work with a more socially/politically ‘conservative’ family and I am so grateful that they can trust that I won’t judge who they are and that I can support and love them fully in their journey.