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Tuesday
Jun172014

"I'm So Happy"

By: Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

"I'm so happy."

These are the first words Q said to me yesterday, after having an abortion. I know this is not the only response--and I heard others while I was there--but the person I supported yesterday at the Women's Options Center at SFGH was no less than gleeful.

I'd volunteered through ACCESS to provide ride support to Q, a young woman in East Oakland. She was particularly stressed because she was hiding her pregnancy from her family and her boss was acting abusive toward her, and threatening to take away her hours for requesting the day off. We became friendly very quickly. I agreed to stay with her at the clinic during her abortion. 

At the Women's Options Center, Q asked staff if I could be with her during her abortion, and after some time, I was admitted. There were four women--the doctor, nurse, counselor and myself. As luck would have it, the counselor was a friend of mine. The counselor asked Q whether she wanted narration (she didn't) and knew exactly what to explain and how to do so. She helped her relax her lower half and I helped her feel held. I stroked her hair, held her hand, and kept her breathing with me and told her how good she was doing. The nurse and doctor spoke in soft tones as they worked. Q kept thanking me and looking at me with the kind of loving openness you don't see very often. OK, she had some anesthesia, but it felt real. She kept saying, "wow, you guys are so nice." 

Abortion doesn't have to suck. It can be like this. 

It is enough to make that choice; the rest should be done with what I'm going to call human love.

It exists in everyone, but good working and living conditions are needed to optimize it. We are privileged in the Bay Area to have clinics like the Women's Options Center, where the staff seems genuinely well-taken care of and committed and fabulous, where the doctor was not rushing out the door to fly to another state and where they can accept Medi-cal, and not worry about being forced out of business by laws or economics, and where volunteers can and are willing to spend the time doing this work. 

"I'm so proud of myself," Q said, when she met me back in the waiting room. "I did it."

I was elated to witness her empowerment. And, even in its glow, we both recognized that it takes a network of people and conditions to make this happen.  

This morning, Q texted me and asked how I was doing. I told her I was happy. I told her I was writing about her.

 

Tuesday
Jun102014

Self Care: Eat Your Nettles

By Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

This past Sunday, I (along with Lucy French and Megan Messinger) shared a practical support story to a group of new ACCESS volunteers. While I was speaking, I realized that I felt I wasn't getting across the sense that, despite some of the hard facts of this story, everything really was all right, all along. The young woman was OK. I was loving what I was doing and I wasn't crazy. After the three of us shared, I felt that the group looked excited, but overwhelmed. I started thinking about how it would feel to hear these stories; how intensely they fall upon the minds of people who are probably not used to sitting in this kind of emotional space.

The training was about to move into the "self care" section right after we were done. Good thing.   

The experience reminded me of the integral role self-care plays in this practice. Doulas often need to be nudged into taking care of themselves. The last time I supported a really, really challenging birth, Nickie Tilsner said, "I want to know what you're doing to take care of yourself" and I started crying, because I hadn't even noticed my own needs. 

I learned my lesson. I get massaged. I share my stories at least three times, with the right people. I write in my journal. I go to yoga and walk with my bare feet touching the ground. I cook and cry and get held. 

Lately, I've been collecting herbs, many of which I use in my doula practice, but would work for anyone. This week, I was inspired by an article I read on nettles, written by herbalist Tessa Mancini Gillan on her blog, The Mahini Maven Chronicles. It focused on nettles for the pregnant person, but I am using it all for myself. 

Gillan states a lot about of lovely facts about nettles, but this is my favorite self-care warranting part: "This plant is an energy changing, brain boosting, super stinging, whole body vitalizer. With usages so broad that virtually every body system benefits..." 

Although the nutritional benefits of nettles are numerous, I was interested in the boost of seratonin they're purported to give. I was also hungry to be outside, in the forest, harvesting this tricky plant. It is part of my self-care regimen. 

Nettles can still be found in forests or foresty areas, near creeks. I suggest the more coastal forests, where the air is cooler, because you want to pick nettles before they go to seed. They sting like hell, so wear gloves and bring scissors and a bag. Once you pick a bunch, you can dry them for teas or infusions, or you can steam them with garlin, salt and olive oil. You can also use them to darken your hair.

If you can't harvest, buy some dried nettles from an herb or natural foods store. Make ice tea, Drink it all the time. It will make you feel good. 

Source: http://www.thrivebirth.com/the-mahina-maven-chronicles-brain-health-for-baby-and-mama/

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jun042014

National Full-Spectrum Network Website is Live!

After several months (years, if you think of the history of experiences that has led to the creation of full-spectrum doulas!) of thinking, feeling, and acting, the Full-Spectrum Reproductive Support Network website (http://reproductivesupport.org/) is "live." This National Network works to support pregnant people across the spectrum of pregnancy experiences--birth, miscarriage, abortion, and postpartum care. Hooray!

As of now, there are 8 states and 9 organizations represented on the Full-Spectrum Reproductive Support Network website: California (BADP and Autonomous Communities for Reproductive and Abortion Support),  Connecticut (The Weslyan Doula Project),  Illinois (The Chicago Doula Circle),  Massachussetts (The Boston Doula Project), Minnesota (The Spiral Collective),  New York (The Doula Project), North Carolina (The Open Umbrella Collective), Texas (The Cicada Collective).

There are other full-spectrum doula support organizations active, such as Full-Spectrum Doulas in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the DC Doulas for Choice Collective, who are not (yet) on the national website. But there is a form for new groups to join -- the Network wants to include and profile the work being done by full-spectrum groups all over the nation! 

The website will help facilitate people getting the reproductive support they need, whether it is practical (rides, housing, resources) or doula support. It will also help people donate, and direct potential abortion doulas to trainings, and will allow full-spectrum groups to collaborate, share resources, and stay connected to the larger reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. 

This is a huge step in asserting the presence of full-spectrum doula support; and, thus, in reducing abortion and general reproductive health care stigma, because it puts out the word--on a national level--that abortion and doula care go together. We are growing, solidifying our presence and connections, breaking down patriarchal oppression experience by experience.

Check it out!

http://reproductivesupport.org/

Tuesday
May272014

Meet the Doulas: Eliana Rubin 

Who are the doulas who volunteer with the Bay Area Doula Project?  They're amazing, diverse people, doing so much great work in the world, it's hard to believe any of them has time to volunteer with us. We've been using this space to introduce you to many of the BADP doulas.  This week, meet Eliana Rubin.

Eliana is a local organizer in the Bay Area working towards a liberatory praxis for supporting people throughout their reproducive experiences. They are a full spectrum doula and work with currently and previously incarcerated people around sexuality, gender, identity and reproductive health. Eliana graduated from a self-directed bachelors program at Goddard College in Health Arts & Sciences in which their focus was on herbs and traditions for reproductive life transitions. Eliana's work as a doula brings together their passions for justice and empathic health-care. They joined the BADP Salon Series team in 2013 and have deeply appreciated being a part of shaping community dialogues that allow us to network, learn, grow and build the movement. And for good measure (to not let "work" be what defines them) they ride their bike along the bay, dig their hands in the dirt, escape to the hills for adventure times, sing silly ditties, get down on the dance floor, and hold hands with loved ones. 

Tuesday
May272014

SFGH Volunteer Doulas Say a Wonderful Good-Bye to Monnie

By: Vanessa Norton, BADP Volunteer

So many BADP volunteers are or have been volunteers in SFGH's Volunteer Doula Program that news of RN and Program founder, Monnie Reba Efross's departure is pertinent to us all. Last week's SFGH Volunteer Doula Meeting was Monnie's last, and absolutely one of the most beautiful meetings of any kind I've ever attended. It was held in the SFGH Wellness Center and had the usual potluck fixings and the chairs arranged in a circle, but what was shared at this meeting left me feeling that doula work is the most important work in the world; that it is the space-holder of emotion, psychology, and spirit in the birth room. 

Due to Monnie's vision, sensitivity and hard work, women who birth at SFGH--notably, they are generally poor, and thus without access to doula care--have had the option of doula support since about 1993. This is huge, historical.

The meeting consisted of each doula sharing some basic information about her involvement in the Program, then telling a birth story, and dropping a handful of black-eyed peas into a jar to symbolize the births the doula supported. The birth stories were breathtaking. Unsurprisingly, each was utterly unique. Each expressed the values Monnie reinforced and reinvigorated in each of us, each was proof that these values are living parts of our practice. The emotion, the mind, the spirit was so alive at this meeting, I couldn't stop myself from birthing platitudes the rest of the night. "Birth is about poetry as much as it's about science," I kept saying (to myself).

Speaking of poetry, I will never forget the poem Monnie read at an Induction Termination training. The poem was about a stillbirth; naturally, it was really sad, but the emotions it manifested in the attending doulas that night added such weight and honesty to that meeting. It showed me that the meeting was a safe space to have these emotions--that meetings were spaces to cry in if that's what's happening. As a member of our new Induction Termination Doula Group, I often think of how Monnie supported me in this work, how her words and aura about the experience felt so there. At this meeting, she repeated, "I've never been afraid to sit with paradox."  

Monnie plans to continue teaching Authentic Movement classes and is involved in creating a volunteer doula program at Highland Hospital, among many other things. We wish her a wonderful next stage. 

  Monnie, you have been such an important influence in birth care. You will be so missed.

For more information on SFGH Volunteer Doula Program, click here.