Review: The Radical Doula Guide

By Sarah Whedon

When it arrived in the mail, I devoured Miriam Zoila Pérez’s new work, The Radical Doula Guide. It’s accessible without being dumbed down, as it deftly places doula work in its social context.

This 50 page booklet won’t teach you the skills a doula needs or how to set up practice, but it will make you think differently about doula work.  It introduces the pieces of doula training that are missing because, “Issues of race, class, and sexual orientation were rarely discussed – the unspoken assumption seemed to be that we were working with heterosexual, wealthy, White women.”

One of the more interesting themes throughout the book is the tension between the politicization and the private nature of providing support for reproductive experiences. Pérez argues that “doula work can never be apolitical because people rarely live apolitical lives.” But she also admonishes doulas to check their assumptions and their politics at the door when they arrive to work with a pregnant person — “unconditional and non-judgmental support. That is the essence of doula work.” 

The paradox of doula work always being activism, because “Doulas are an intervention into the gaps left by our current maternity care system” and never being activism because one’s political agenda “has little place in the birthing or procedure room” is one that I think full spectrum doulas will have to continue to engage.

In fact, my only real complaint about The Radical Doula Guide is how it alludes to so much left unsaid. The topics covered include abortion, miscarriage, adoption, certification, body differences, immigration, incarceration, and more. With only 50 pages to work with, Pérez often seems backed into disclaimers such as this one: “It’s almost impossible to address a topic as important and far reaching as race in a space as limited as this.” 

I don’t know what’s next on her agenda, but I want some publisher to give Pérez a hefty advance check so she can turn this work, which sometimes feels like an extended outline, into a full book with enough space to really unpack the issues and illustrate how she’s seen them at work in her doulaing experience. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the work she’s done to put this guide together, and I think every doula should read it. 

I’ll end with Pérez’s own words from her final page: “Let’s be doulas who want to help not only those who know how to seek our support, but also those who might not even know doulas exist.”


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