Categories
interviews

Chaney Williams

Chaney Williams. She/They. @TheIntersectionalDoula & their website. Help Chaney pay for midwifery school!

Emma: Well, welcome. I’m excited to spend some time this afternoon with you and to hear more about your practice, and your studies and what you’re working on. So let’s start there – tell us about you, and your practice and what you offer to the world?

Chaney: My name is Chaney Williams, my pronouns are she/they. I kind of go into this on Instagram a lot, but I really feel like birth work is a calling for me. I think it’s an interesting word, cause my granny’s a nun, so she’s always talked about her calling from God and stuff like that. I’m not a religious person at all, I’m more spiritual, but I really do feel like birth work, specifically midwifery, is something I was called to do. I believe in a lot of ancestral stuff, ancestral healing, and I feel like this was just a part of what I’m here for, if that makes sense. So, I did a doula training with DTI in 2018 and it was a person of color, queer doula training, which was cool. It was for birth and postpartum. In that spring of 2018, I did a full-spectrum doula training with Louiville Doula Project, which is a full-spectrum doula collective which I’ve been really heavily involved with since then and they do sliding scale postpartum, birth, abortion and miscarriage support – which I think is a really important thing. Oh, and I’m in midwifery school, which is a big one! I’m like, what else should I say (laughs). So, I started midwifery school in the fall, I started in August and I’m at Birthwise. I’m really excited to be there, cause I actually found them, when I did my doula training with DTI, and I started looking, cause I knew midwifery was a thing I wanted to do eventually. It was just – they were just a school that really stood out to me because it really aligned with my values, if that makes sense. 

Emma: Yeah, that definitely does make sense. I love all these little upcroppings of queer birth workers, rooted in the full-spectrum collectives that are dotted around the world. 

Chaney: I do too, it makes me so happy!

Emma: It’s awesome, I’m so glad you’re in midwifery school! It sounds like many folks who start attending births, and attending doula trainings and stuff, as a stepping stone to this eventual goal. So it sounds like you’re in the middle of that, which is amazing. I’m curious, what are you queering right now? 

Chaney: Can you go more into that… Haha, I know how I would take that, but, yeah..

Emma: Yeah, people can interpret it differently! Anything – is there anything that you are making queer, or with your impact, with your perspective on it.. 

Chaney: One thing that’s been really important to me is, so, I’m also polyamorous – I’m ethically non-monogamous, and intersecting that along with birth work is really important in the queer community. That’s something I’ve been really diving into, and with school.. I don’t think there’s a lot of providers right now who give care from that kind of lens. All those intersections, if that makes sense. One big thing I’m working on, I did a mini research project in school about it is BDSM in pregnancy. Because I think that’s a thing that’s not really talked about, do you know what I mean?

Emma: I do know what you mean, haha.

Chaney: Yeah, it’s just not! I’m really glad I have really great faculty and was able to find really good resources from people online of things that I thought just need to be more widely known. You know what I mean? Because, it’s just not talked about, it’s seen as “taboo.”

Emma: Absolutely. Or it is talked about, but it is just talked about in the kink community and not at all in the pregnancy community. 

Chaney: There’s not an intersection and there should be. 

Emma: Absolutely. 

Chaney: There’s just so many things that I feel like pregnant people and providers need to know. 

Emma: Yes!

Chaney: Information and resource wise, and not feeling embarrassed or like they’re gonna be judged for bringing that up. 

Emma: A hundred percent, yeah! I love that, I agree with you, I don’t think that there’s a ton of providers that would self-identify as non-monogamous, or as kinky, or whatever, but we’re in the pipeline (laughs). Like, these people are in school right now (laughs) they are gonna be your providers in like, a year or three. So glad you’re a part of that, that’s amazing. I feel so happy to see birth workers online creating these dialogues about all the things, and I’m like – oh I’ve mentioned this to like, my clients that I know are queer and kinky and poly, and that’s it… (laughs)

Chaney: I think a thing I struggled with for a while is thinking that people would see me as “unprofessional” for talking about that kind of stuff. But my big thing is if it impacts people’s care, I think it’s something that should be talked about from a very… there’s a way to be appropriate and about it. I’m not gonna be like, “This is my experience!” but providing that information I think is really important. And bringing up that conversation. 

Emma: Yeah, and when it’s your calling, I’m not saying don’t be professional – but it’s so much more than just professional, too. So, that’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. So I think that totally hit, yeah, that is what you’re queering right now. I’m down (laughs).

Chaney: Yeah, that’s what I’m queering right now. I’m really diving into research around that. Connecting with people who also have interests in making it more widely available for people to find out that kind of research. 

Emma: Amazing, anyone who’s into that- come find Chaney, that’s amazing. So, originally, I know that you said that this is a calling for you, but how did that come about? Did you just have dreams about birth? What originally inspired this?

Chaney: From a young age, I’ve always been really interested in birth. My mom, I grew up hearing a lot about our birth stories. My older sister, she was born at 26 weeks in like 1984 and she was really, really premature. So I always grew up knowing her birth story and my mom’s experience with it. I think that started cause they also really documented our births, really well and told us about it. My mom still has the nature sound tape she listened to while laboring with me and it’s on my altar. 

Emma: That’s the sweetest thing!

Chaney: She found it a couple years ago, I was like, “Oh, what is this?” and she was just like “Oh! That’s what I listened to while laboring with you” and I was like, “You still have it?!” That’s so incredible!

Emma: Yeah, do you even have a cassette player, like, can we listen..

Chaney: We have a cassette, like a CD/cassette player. 

Emma: Amazing. Don’t ever get rid of it!


Chaney: Yeah, I’m never gonna get rid of it! And she also had this book from when she was pregnant with my sister, it was in 1983 and it’s all about labor and pregnancy. The pictures are just so cool and I was really into it when I was like 3-5. I would show people who were visiting our house like, “Have you seen this?? Did you know this was a thing?” That kind of view about it – it was just so magical and mesmerizing to me if that makes sense. So I think it started from there, and then it just built upon that. 

Emma: So cool, I love that. The kid who brings the science textbooks to preschool. 

Chaney: Yeah!! The pictures are just really, they’re just amazing – really unedited, they’re very clear, they’re just all the different things you just wanna know but you wouldn’t see in a book nowadays. Because.. probably now, but not the late 90s, early 2000s.

Emma: Yeah, you have to go a certain length back in childbirth education to find better content. I know you’ve touched on this in all your answers, but do you have a particular philosophy that you bring when you’re doing birth work or postpartum care?

Chaney: So, I guess my big philosophy is coming from my care in a not judgmental place, totally unbiased, trauma-informed. It’s really important to me to think about people’s experiences and the experiences I know and I don’t know of. And bringing all those intersections together to be the best provider I can be for them. A big thing that I’ve been working with – it goes back to me being more open about being poly or stuff like that – is one of my mentors, and my therapist also said this, it’s something I’ve brought up with her… There are the right birth workers for everyone, and just because I’m not the right birth worker for someone doesn’t mean there’s not someone else who they are. It’s not a thing where… I was in a place where I didn’t want to be as open about some things, cause I didn’t want to be ostracised. But it’s really important to live my life in an authentic way, because if I don’t do that, it makes me really anxious. It’s important for people to know that people are human, and we’re all human beings, and we all have different experiences. Bringing that to the table and using that when I’m giving care to someone, and being like – I don’t know all of their experiences. There could be things here that I don’t know about, or different sections of their identity that could affect that care, remembering those things. Keeping it in my brain. Cause that’s how I would want to be treated. 

Emma: Totally, beautifully put. So, we know about your natal work and we wanna know your natal chart. So tell us your sun/moon and rising!

Chaney: I really like astrology, and tarot and stuff like that, so excited to talk about this. So my sun is Cancer, my rising is Leo and my moon is in Libra. 

Emma: Fun! I like a Libra moon, I’m a Libra. 

Chaney: You are? Cool. Is it your sun or..

Emma: It’s my sun, yeah, but my sister and my dad are both Cancers, so I’m into a Cancer..

Chaney: Love that, love that. I feel like whenever I tell people I’m a Cancer, they’re like, “That makes sense with the line of work that you’re in.”

Emma: Definitely, do you wanna expound on that a little bit. I really love hearing birth workers theorize about their star charts and their callings…

Chaney: Cancers, especially suns are known as being nurturers. I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. I’ve always loved babies and if we have a family Christmas party, I was the one that was like 6 years old, holding a baby, or playing with the littler kids and reading to them or stuff like that. A lot of my work I’ve done during college and after – I did work at a Montessori school, at a forest school. I just love working with kids. That’s one of my favorite things. I think that comes in a lot with my nurturing side, if that makes sense. With the Leo rising, I dunno (laughs) that one, I feel like there’s a part of me that’s very much an introvert, but when I’m around people and meeting them for the first time, I’ll turn my personality on. That’s what I call it. I’ll bring my personality out more in a way that I wouldn’t be…. I just do. This is what I need to do right now, and that makes sense. I’m very sassy, which, that’s just a thing. 

Emma: I love it. I can tell, I love a little sassy Leo. Thanks for going there with me. So what is one of your favorite things about doing birth work with queer families or being a queer poly kinky birth worker?

Chaney: I guess my favorite thing is, so much is changing about care in a way that makes me really hopeful and happy. I didn’t go into this, but when I first heard about doula work, I was 14. I read a zine that I just happened to order and it was supposed to be there, I was supposed to order it. It was 2006 or 2005 and they were certifying with DONA in like Portland Oregon or something like that. This seems like something I want to do, and I just felt really called to it, but I never heard about abortion doulas or any other kind of fertility doulas or anything like that. I feel like the birth world is making so many strides and I’m really excited about that. It’s becoming more not a more safer, comfortable place, I feel like, but it’s becoming more inclusive, and that’s so important to me. Because everyone deserves care in a way that is comprehensive and evidence-based and a space that’s not where they feel like they’re judged. I’m most excited about all the changes that have happened in the birth world since I first found out about it. 

Emma: Yeah, that’s amazing. Even just thinking about that, 2006 or 7 to now. Just the last 13, 14, 15 years. So much. 

Chaney: When I think about the first things that I read, compared to the things that are available now, it’s just incredible. Everything was very “mom centric,” which is not for everyone, and not everyone who gives birth identifies as a mom. That was something that really, I struggled with for a while. There’s books I haven’t finished because of that perspective. And now there’s actually really great resources I can recommend to people that are not just from one point of view. I love that, that makes me so excited. 

Emma: Yeah, and I think that you point to a really important thing for other folks who wanna do birth work. It is, for queer people, especially for trans and gender non conforming and non binary people.. Fuck reading most midwifery textbooks, truly. It’s rough.

Chaney: That’s the thing I love about the school I’m at right now, and why I chose them. They are really doing the work, I feel like, that needs to be done for midwifery to be at the place it should be, and they want it to be. It’s really important to them. Even in our classes, we use inclusive language. We did a history of midwifery thing, but usually history of midwifery would be about history starting in the 1800s, cause that’s when home birth started.

Emma: Yeah, or like the 1960s.

Chaney: The 1960s! But it had all different backgrounds, different cultures and time periods. One of the big things was: home birth and midwifery has been here since the beginning of time. And that’s so important! There’s not one person who “made home birth popular.”

Emma: Absolutely, and on that note, if there’s something that you could improve about the experience for queer and trans families, LGBTQ+ folks who are concieving, birthing.. What would that be? What do you wanna improve?

Chaney: I feel like I have a lot of answers for this, so I feel like I’m just gonna go with one perspective. It’s a really big question. Having more access to the providers and care they deserve. I even know, my own experience and I’m not trying to conceive right now or anything like that, not pregnant, but going to the doctor can be scary because you don’t know… I also live in a fat body, and that’s a whole other layer of it. I want people to have the access and care they need and want and desire, because so much … a good example is, people, if they don’t feel comfortable just getting a checkup, so many things can happen between that time before it’s an urgent thing. I want people to feel welcome and like they’re getting the care they deserve and need. 

Emma: Of course, let’s start there. 

Chaney: Let’s just start with the basics, just having (sigh) not providers that are just accepting, because I think that’s just a skin, like a little layer of it. People who actually understand and care and get things. There needs to be more trainings, and stuff like that. Everywhere. Everyone needs to have that kind of training when they go to school, so they can understand more.

Emma: Definitely, and especially for folks who don’t specifically seek out programs that are already doing that. For everyone else that’s just in any program. 

Chaney: Yeah! Yeah. They should just.. Worldwide, that should be the baseline, and it’s not. And that makes me sad. 

Emma: I hear that. Well, things that can make us happy are new and aspiring queer and trans birth workers cause there’s a bunch of em. 

Chaney: I know, makes me so excited!

Emma: So what advice do you have for folks who wanna do what you do?

Chaney: I guess figuring out why they’re in it. Why they want to do this kind of work. What their philosophy or perspective is. And finding people who you can connect with, whether it be on instagram, social media or in person. Who have similar values to you, philosophies, I guess you could say. It can be really isolating. If you just live somewhere where there’s not a lot of people who have this point of view as you do, when it comes to birth work. Because when I first started getting into it, it was a lot of, I keep on using this word, but “mom centric” stuff, and very… I didn’t feel like I fit in there, but I found people in my own community and online who get my point of view. I think it’s really important having that kind of support. And finding an organization or school that mimics your values that you feel comfortable with. 

Emma: Excellent, well, I know you have a lot going on right now with midwifery school, but are there any projects you’re working on that you want to cross pollinate in the community of queer birth workers? Or do you need support for anything you’re working on? 

Chaney: I’m really, I really wanted to make a support group for poly or kinky families and stuff like that. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for like….. It’s been gestating for a couple years. There aren’t a lot of resources for that, I guess you’d say. And that’s something that’s really important to me. That’s just something I’m brainstorming, gesting right now and trying to figure it out. I think it’s something that’s needed. 

Emma: It’s absolutely needed, I love that. And I love the idea, again, we said earlier.. There’s discussions about pregnancy in the kink world in that context and then we have everything else. We need like, kinky pregnant people just going to the grocery store, having playdates with their kiddos (laughs), navigating lactation. 

Chaney: That should be the norm! That’s what’s going on, but people don’t have that perspective, I think. They think it’s for, like, 50 shades of grey. Which. (Laughs). 

Emma: Unfortunately, that exists. Well, I love that you’re doing that, and hopefully other folks can help you bring that into existence. I will definitely keep that in mind for my clients.


Chaney: Thank you!

Emma: Well, what’s something about you that you want to share that’s not pregnancy/midwifery related? What’s something extra about your life that you want to share with us?

Chaney: I kind of got into this, but I really love witchy tarot stuff. Tarot’s my thing. That’s one of my favorite things. Creating little rituals where I can set intentions for myself and another thing, I guess, that not a lot of people know, that I have an MFA in creative writing. 

Emma: Okay, cool! (laughs)

Chaney: I went to school and got my BFA in creative writing poetry, so I do a lot of… I’ve done more publishing my personal essays because that’s something that’s interesting to me. Yeah, that’s just something I do. It’s kind of a way to process things. Most of writing is a way to process stuff that’s gone on in my life.

Emma: Absolutely, well, if you write a poetry book about being a kinky, poly midwife, I’m definitely gonna read it! 

Chaney: I want to write a memoir eventually. That’s been my goal since I was like, 15. 

Emma: I can see the experiences amassing as time goes on, amazing. Well, where can folks find you and support you and follow you online?

Chaney: Okay! So, I’m mostly on Instagram, I do not have a Facebook page. That’s just something I’ve never done. That’s just not my thing. I’m on Instagram as The Intersectional Doula. That’s where you can find my stuff, I also have a website and it’s linked on to my Instagram. That’s where all my stuff is!

Emma: Beautiful, we’ll make sure people can find you! Thank you so much for chatting with us!

Chaney: Thank you for giving your time and space in this interview, I enjoyed it! 

Categories
interviews

Amber Matteson

Amber Matteson. She/her. Intimate Connections Doula Services.

Katie: Alright, well thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Let’s just start by telling us a little bit about yourself, about your practice. Where are you, what do you do?

Amber: So, I completed my birth doula training just over two years ago. I did it with DONA, but I did not certify with them. So, right after my training I jumped in and started working with Birthing Gently Maternal Health Program, which is at MGH and Brigham. They’re a volunteer doula service that pretty much offers service for anyone asking for it that otherwise probably wouldn’t have access. Usually they’re linked up by their OB or through Brigham & Women’s childbirth education classes that they offer. That’s kind of how I got my first few births under my belt, which was really cool. It was a really incredible experience to get to serve people from marginalized communities and get to serve people who otherwise, I didn’t even realize needed a doula. I worked with a 16 year old client who didn’t have any support or any family and I was the only one there. It was an incredible experience, obviously, and I think that just drew me more into the work than I already was. I realized how much I really needed to do this. And then, about a year ago, I launched my own website and did my own thing, which was scary and I did it. My website is still not done, but it’s a work in progress. So I am now working on starting consulting for other birth workers who are just looking to be more inclusive, whether or not that’s through their marketing, their branding, or they just want help being more inclusive with the language terms on their website, or if they’re looking specifically to start marketing to the LGBTQ community – if they want help with it.

Katie: Awesome, and where in the world geographically are you, where do you serve? 

Amber: I am just south of Boston, so I serve pretty much the entire Boston area anywhere. I also frequent Women and Infants in Rhode Island cause it’s only like 45 minutes from me, so. But now I can’t go there, cause of covid…

Katie: Yeah!

Amber: Can’t cross state lines right now.. But normally, I would go there. 

Katie: What are you queering right now?

Amber: Oh god, I– everything??? Technically?? I’m feel like my existence is a bunch of queer. In all seriousness, to call out all of my labels – I am queer, I identify as fat, I identify as femme, I am polyamorous, I am kinky. Pretty much everything about me is pretty queer (laughs). It’s pretty different and so, I bring queer in my every day life. In terms of my birth work, the process is ever-evolving of queering my business. I think it’s so important to both market yourself to families who just want to be inclusive and want to work with somebody who is queer or to queer families, cause I want queer families to feel safe while they’re giving birth or in the birth process in any kind of way and to feel safe with me. 

Katie: Absolutely. And what inspired you to do the work that you do? What initially got you into birth work?

Amber: Man… so, the story goes: that I was a doula at nine years old. 

Katie: YESS.

Amber: I attended my brother’s birth, when he was born. Him and I have a nine year age gap and we’re the closest of close. But I attended my mom’s birth and it was beautiful, wonderful, and the nurses that day were just like – is she gonna be a nurse when she grows up, because has she ever done this before? I had my mom walking the halls and she had preeclampsia so she was pretty much bed bound when she was in active labor because she was so swollen and she had blew up like a balloon. I freaking love birth work and that’s kind of where it started, was when I was nine. I went to school and thought I wanted to be a teacher, and in my undergrad had finished school and then kind of floated around in the job world and my friend out of nowhere was like, “Oh yeah, I think I’m gonna become a doula!” and my friend started talking to me about it I was like, “This is really cool..” not four months later I was doing a training and starting my own business, cause I was like, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense. That’s probably where I should go and that’s how I ended up here.”

Katie: Incredible, incredible. I want more baby queer doula children running around. 

Amber: Right? 

Katie: Wowowow, the dream. I am changing everything that I could ever envision if I were to ever give birth, wow- amazing. 

Amber: Right? Just wanna give birth to so many little queerlings. Little queer doulas everywhere. 

Katie: Little queerlings around – ohhh!!

Amber: Yeah, so I was a nine year old little munchkin running around the hospital helping people. 

Katie: So good. And how would you describe your support philosophy? 

Amber: I think the baseline that all births, bodies and choices around birth are completely valid. That’s kind of the baseline – no matter how somebody chooses to identify, or identifies and chooses to give birth is completely valid and I’m there to support their choices. But… I use trauma-informed care in my support, my work is Health at Every Size centered. I’ve done a ton of work around HAES and kind of intuitive eating and those things and that’s so important to my work. As a queer fat femme, I want other fat femmes to feel good giving birth in their bodies and know that their bodies are not bad cause they’re big. So, that’s really important to me and obviously — not obvious, but I feel like it should be — that all of my care is evidence-based. It’s kind of cheesy but this is how I named my business, my business name is Intimate Connections Doula Services and I think that the connection between a doula and a birthing person is just so incredible and so so important and it’s important that we build off of those connections too. That’s kind of where I ended up naming my business, was around my own philosophy of that care and that level of connection that you have to have with the person that you’re working with. 

Katie: Absolutely. And, so… I asked you about your natal work, and so I also need to know about your natal chart. What’s your sun/moon/rising?

Amber: So, my sun is in Capricorn. My moon is Saggitarious and my rising is Scorpio. 

Katie: I’m also a Capricorn sun, so – always excited to find another one. 

Amber: More Capricorns. I’m an almost New Year’s Eve baby, December 30th. I’ve been told that my business self is the Capricorn cause I’m very type-a when I’m at work but everything else in my life is not so type-a. Like, my Sagittarius is all my feelings. My Scorpio is my mama bear side, cause I’m a fierce protector of my family. It’s funny, my friends all call me the mama bear and they’re not wrong. They’re really not. So that’s a little bit about me (laughs). They’re all very accurate, they all fit me very well. 

Katie: I also feel like so much of birth work sits in that intersection of like “spreadsheets and feelings.”

Amber: Spreadsheets and feelings. Like, how many feelings can I have about my spreadsheets?

Katie: Limit does not exist. 

Amber: Does not exist (laughs)

Katie: What would you say your favorite thing is about being a queer support person or working with LGBTQ+ families?

Amber: My heart. That’s my favorite thing. 

Katie: The feelings! Moreso than the spreadsheets..

Amber: Feelings is the big things. Working with queer famlies in particular just warms my heart to have my community feel supported and if someone’s coming to me and is birthing with me, as in: One, it’s such an honor to be there for those moments. And it creates this beautiful community. The more that we grow within our own queer community, it’s even more beautiful and if we’re having this tiny queerling baby: hey, welcome! Welcome to this big beautiful community that we created for you. I think that that’s.. The queer community for me is family. I don’t have kind of blood family, I guess. I have a lot of baggage with family, and that is my family. So for me, queer communtiy for me is that. It’s family. Watching your family literally grow is incredible. 

Katie: I’m just so into the idea of these little queerlings being born into this queer family and surround… ugh. Yes. 

Amber: Surrounded by good queer energy. It doesn’t get better!!

Katie: Doesn’t get better. And if you could improve one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth for queer and trans families, what would it be? 

Amber: I want to make it all better… but if it was one thing it would be for providers that they’re working for that are not educated or not trained that at the very least to treat the family with respect. I think it’s faded away in OB care and hospital care that there’s a person in front of you. Like, it’s not just a person in a room taking up a bed. It’s this person and this family and these people and they deserve to be respected and they deserve your respect at baseline. Even if you’re not trained, even if you’re not educated. You don’t understand, and if you don’t understand someone’s identity, at least respect. At least show up to have the conversation and be willing to be educated. Because, I think that would make a huge difference. That alone, just showing up to say “OK, I’ll listen” is enormous. I think that would make a huge shift and change within OB care. 

Katie: Yeah, for sure. There’s so much about the process of obstetric care that is so objectifying. 

Amber: Yeah! Absolutely. And I just feel like there’s so much that I would change but I feel like that one thing. If we could get every single provider who comes in contact with this family to just respect them. That would be enough – for a little while. 

Katie: Wouldn’t get you everything, but if you had to start. 

Amber: Right. If you had to start somewhere, with one thing, that’s what it would be. 

Katie: And what’s a piece of advice that you have for new or aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

Amber: One, trust yourself. Trust yourself getting into this work is important and good, and if you want to do this you should. Even if it feels like no one out in the universe is listening and you have like three followers on instagram – keep going. Keep going, cause you will find your community and you will find your birth partners. It doesn’t matter where you are. There’s gonna be another queer. There is, I promise you. Just keep looking, and I think that would be the thing. From trusting yourself to get into this work, and then find your community. And find your people. This work is super hard and can be really draining. It’s important to have people you can lean on who can really understand it. Unless you’re part of birth work, I don’t think you can fully “get it”… It’s funny, cause I have a friend of many, many years who is also a doula and sometimes we’ll just text each other randomly, out of the blue – we’re not friends that talk to very often. But like, we’ll text each other randomly, out of the blue to be like “I NEED to tell you about this THING. This birthy thing that no one else is gonna get cause it’s a random birthy thing.” So I think it’s just so important to have those connections with people that are gonna understand you, and are gonna understand the viewpoint that you’re coming at it from, too. 

Katie: There’s the friends you can text weird stuff to, and then there’s the friends you can text weird placenta stuff to. And those are somehow, different…

Amber: Those are somehow, selectively different. Like, you can tell me all about your beautiful birth experience, but who can you send a picture of the placenta to?

Katie: That’s the crew you need. 

Amber: Right! Thats… that’s the crew you need. I have to say sorry, my cat is screaming in the background. I think he saw a bird? I don’t know. I have four of them. 

Katie: What are their names?

Amber: So, we have Finn who is the oldest, who usually just goes by Mr. Man, because he is Sir Proper Paws of the house. He is also the oldest, the grumpiest and the most arthritic. (laughs) We have Griffin who’s next in line, who is just a fat orange couch potato. He is 25 pounds of fluff. Then we have Gizmo, who is my middle rescue, and he … we rescued him from the MSPCA and he loves to be outside on a leash, but he doesn’t like to go outside alone. And then we have our baby, who is three, and that is Mr. Noodle, who is .. his real name is Oscar, but we call him Mr. Noodle, because he walks around like a noodle. We think he had some sort of brain injury as a kitten, and he has a lazy eye and he is a little wonky. He gets the zoomies a lot. He is the sweetest thing. I think he’s about somewhere… So those are my four! 

Katie: Love it. So good. Are there other not-birth related things about you or your life that you want to share?

Amber: Sure, well, my first fun fact is always that I have four cats and that my house is a zoo. My partner and I each had two when we moved in together and that’s how we ended up with all four, cause of course no one was leaving our nest. 

Katie: Absolutely not, no.

Amber: But… other good fun facts about me. I love to dance. Pre-covid, you could find me pretty much every single Tuesday at Bella Luna – they used to have a two-step and line dancing night there in JP and that was my favorite thing on the planet. It was just like a whole bunch of queers dancing and it was beautiful. I’ve professionally danced pretty much all of my life up until recently, and now I’m just like… I should do this for fun! I think dance is like a huge thing. I am recently engaged.

Katie: Oooh! Congratulations! 

Amber: Thank you. Very excited! We were going to get married, but then covid happened, and so we might have a backyard wedding someday. (laughs)

Katie: Queering the backyard wedding, another thing to add to your list. 

Amber: Queering the backyard wedding. And turning it into a covid-safe celebration (laughs). I guess!

Katie: And finally, where can people find you in internet land?

Amber: Yeah! I am on Facebook, Instagram or my own website and you can find me under Intimate Connections Doula Services on all of those! 

Katie: Awesome. Thank you so much – it was so lovely chatting with you.

Amber: Thank you so much! 

Categories
interviews

Lucia the Doula (& Future Midwife!)

Lucia the Doula. they/she, @LuciaTheDoula, Not All Pregnant People Are Women.

Katie: Alright, well thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Just to dive right in, can you tell us a little bit about you and your practice?

Lucia: Yeah, my name is Lucia. My pronouns right now, I just use my name, Lucia and Lucia’s. I am currently in nurse midwifery school but I come to the work through the lens of a doula. So, I’ve been a full-spectrum doula for three years this month, actually. Full-spectrum: I support people through abortion, loss, pregnancy and postpartum. I did a lot of work, mostly in New York and the New York-metro area. Supporting people in their homes, inside the medicalized industrial complex and birthing centers, in Planned Parenthoods, all over the place. I center, in my life, and in my practice, queer people, queer liberation, Black queer folks. I think that we are not an extracurricular, that inclusivity should just be the baseline, that it’s not hard to figure out pronouns. That it’s not weird to be like, “Ugh, I forget, I should just say ‘pregnant people’” – it’s just like no, just say it. So we can just all come to the table and we can all be included and all have resources. And I hope to imbue my future midwifery practices with that as well. My dream is to live in a town where everyone’s like, all the queers go to her. So everyone just comes to my big gay birthing center, and I give help to everyone who has internal genetalia, and that’s my dream. 

Katie: I want your big gay birthing center! 

Lucia: Just flags everywhere. All the flags. Every one of the flags, just waving in the wind (laughs).

Katie: So beautiful. And that might be the answer to this question but maybe you have another answer to: What are you queering right now?

Lucia: Right now, in this moment, it feels like I’m queering a very straight educational experience. I am blowing people’s minds with inclusive language – people are like, “whatttt?? Not everyone’s a woman that gives birth?” It’s not something people can wrap their heads around. So right now, it feels like I’m back to step one of basic queering language in and around reproductive health. I don’t think the major women’s health nurse practitioner should exist. I think it should be called something else, but that’s not my major so that’s someone else’s battle. Especially in nursing and just talking about… there’s a lot of things that we learn that are like, “Oh, well, in men it’s thi number, and in women it’s this number.” and I’m always like, “Srrrrkk. Hi, hello. What does that mean? Are we talking about testosterone or are we talking about body fat percentage to muscle….?” Cause we just can’t say that anymore. We gotta dig deeper, we can’t just be lazy and we have to be expansive. So right now, I feel like I’m queering my school. In the south. 

Katie: Necessary! And really hard work. Your line of “we are not extracurriculars” feels so central and is both about the structure of a curriculum and also the way knowledge is passed down in ways that are both perpetuating these power systems and are just not fully accurate. 

Lucia: Also that! It’s just not correct. I can call five people as, y’know, “people in a study that we could do.” I have examples – it’s not that hard. Y’know? It’s a lot easier than some folks think it is to just be kind and inclusive and expansive than what you were taught. Just this idea that what you learned 20 years ago might have evolved to present day really blows peoples’ minds as well. 

Katie: Yeah. And what inspired you to get into this work?

Lucia: Well birth, I moved to Brooklyn – well, to New York, with a musical theatre degree, with a BFA. So I was doing the grind, I was doing shows all over New York, I moved to Paris and all over the country. So my day job was babysitting, and I started really enjoying doing infants and newborns. I had a part-time job as a babysitter for a 1.5 year old, but his mom was about to have a baby, so she was like, “I just need an extra set of hands in this transition.” We basically had a month, the three of us together – I guess the four of us, cause the little babe was inside. Just getting to know the house, getting to know the flow of things. Then she went to her scheduled cesarean, three days later she came home, I was there, her husband like dropped the bag at the doors and was like, “Alright babe, I’m going back to work” left, and she just sort of just held herself and wobbled back to her bedroom with this baby and just sat there and stared at the wall. Her 2 year old was like, “Mommy, mommy, up up, can you pick me up?” I was like 24 or something, and was just like, “Something’s afoot. Something’s off. Why is she so sad?” We’re told that you have a baby and everything’s great and it’s not that hard and you just breastfeed and chestfeed and it’s easy! And everything happens! I just got a very real look into how unhealthy the lack of support around reproductive health is. That was the first nudge and then I met a doula and the chips sort of stumbled from there. I started to get into the work more full-time and it has taken over my life. 

Katie: What brought you to this shift from doula work to midwifery?

Lucia: I enjoy the time and the emotional connection of doula work. I think.. we’ll get into this later, but I’m a Pisces sun, so it’s very, y’know feelings. Walking into a room and being like, “Oh god, what happened?” before anyone even says anything. That serves me well in the doula space, but I wanted more of a hands-on interaction and also approach to truly having an impact on people’s healthcare. As a doula, there’s only so much I can do, so much I can control, so much I can shield people from – say, the hospital system, if that’s where they choose to give birth. Or if that’s where they choose to miscarry, or to abort. There’s only so much I could do as a doula. So much, legally, I was allowed to do. It just feels like I’ll have more of a positive impact on people’s full health. Not just talking about people getting pregnant and giving birth, but the full health of the whole family – well, not the whole family, some of the people in the family. But really being more of a holistic provider and having that power in the room to change birthing outcomes and health outcomes. 

Katie: Absolutely, and I think that answers a lot of the next question, but just to give you a chance to say it specifically – how do you describe your support philosophy? Your approach to the work that you’re doing in all of these roles?

Lucia: I think, in general, my support philosophy is that if you have to interact with the medical system in any way, you need a doula in the room. I don’t care if that’s for you to have your blood drawn or you’re just going for your routine checkup or if you just need to go get antibiotics for strep throat. You need someone in the room whose job it is to look after your emotional health and to check in with you and to just take a second – and the doula can be like Are you ok? Did you understand everything that was just said?” Because providers are given ten minutes, and that’s because of insurance companies, whoever they work for, blah di blah. My support philosophy is deep, emotionally connected support. Support in many ways – support in whatever people want for their bodies and what they want for their lives. Non-judgmental support is something that is a foundation of doula work or what I think all doula work should be, is some of the stuff that I’m gonna be bringing into my practice. If you choose to do this with your birth – that’s your choice, that has nothing to do with me, I will keep you safe and make sure you know all of the options around that choice and then I’m gonna honor you as you make that choice for your body and your family. I think that’s what comes to mind is deep support, I’m seeing this image of just roots growing. Just bring in the plants! 

Katie: We’re all about bringing the plants!

Lucia: Exactly, it’s just like deep roots that wrap around each other in some ways and just branch off from each other in other ways that like, I know and even just as a doula, I’m a part of many peoples’ lives for like the rest of their life. And then as a midwife, I hope to be the same way, just have some more branches and roots interacting. And feeding off of each other, taking care of each other. 

Katie: Some of those things where, there is the sense that even if …. I think we think of relationships in terms of how long they are, and we put the value of relationships in like, “Oh, you’ve been in a relationship with this person for so many years, and therefore it is a good strong relationship” But I know I’ve had experiences with doula clients for example where like, I support them through a pregnancy, a birth, y’know, maybe a few months postpartum. Maybe we don’t really stay in relationship and yet there is this sense of – I know I carry pieces of that relationship with me. I trust that they do, too – sometimes we run into each other at the farmers market like way down the line and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, hiiii.” There’s a sense, the depth of relationship is so meaningful and I think particularly in some of these heightened moments of a pregnancy or some of these big transitional times, those relationships can grow really deep really quickly. 

Lucia: I still have people that like, I spent 5 minutes inside of an exam room at Planned Parenthood, that I’m like, I don’t want to be creepy, but I’d really love to have their number just to check in on them! Just like, are you okay?

Katie: I think particularly in abortion work that deep immediate relationship building is really such a superpower. I think about in social work school, they gave us all these lectures about “how to build rapport with people” and “how to introduce yourself” and operationalized this way of being. And I’m like, “Oh… I’ve done shifts in abortion clinics…. We don’t need this.”

Lucia: Totally. Especially now, in the time of Covid, how, after meeting someone for a minute, I am like – holding their face, holding their hand, wiping away tears, and then they just get in an uber and I never see them again. But I do that like, ten times in a day. It’s just… that, for me, as a Pisces, that’s really where I thrived. Yeah, I haven’t thought of that in a while, cause they kicked doulas out of the clinics in New York because of Covid. Like, hard, fast, deep connections and support. Truly being like, “Hey, I’ve got your back. If you want me to stop the procedure.” Just really being empowered and “allowed” to just be support. No other tasks. Just make sure they’re okay. Make sure they get home okay. Just so quick, and so tender, necessary. 

Katie: So you previewed it for us a little bit.. I’ve asked you about your natal work, and now I want to know about more of your natal chart? So you’re a Pisces sun, what’s your moon and your rising?

Lucia: So I have a Leo moon, which is like my biggest shame and my rising is Taurus. So, just like, at home – feeling my feelings, but then every now and then I need to be the center of attention and go out, but then I need to come home…. (laughs)

Katie: Go out, do the thing, but like make sure there’s a bubble bath after. 

Lucia: Yeah. Absolutely!! Or like, making food before I go out – that was definitely my vibe back when going out was a thing. 

Katie: And what’s your favorite thing about being a queer person and becoming a queer provider or about working with queer and trans families? 

Lucia: I love being in a room with people, and supporting people where we can both relax. We can just be like, no one’s gonna say anything shady. No one’s gonna trip up. No one’s gonna be muscling their way through being inclusive or being expansive. It’s also, as someone who wants to have children eventually, it’s also like seeing the potential of what community and what having a family can look like. It’s also (and I hate this word) but I do love the resilience of people choosing and fighting for the life that sometimes, people as a child, never dream they could have. I love being able to support that and especially as a doula going to hospitals, being like, “I’m stopping everyone before they come in the door. We are going through pronouns. We are going through expansive language.” I enjoy being the padding around queer families and I am honored to do that. I really look forward to providing care that is welcoming for everyone and at a place where they can just come sit in the waiting room and look up and see pictures of pregnant people that look like them or look like their partner, or look like their sibling. That really excites me, to sort of build the community gathering place for folks who are like us. 

Katie: Ughh, the big gay birth center slash community gathering space!!!

Lucia: (laughs) This keeps getting bigger… Soon there’s gonna be some kind of like, sport gym, maybe some..

Katie: Like a good dance hall slash food bank probably (laughs)

Lucia: Yes, and!!

Katie: All of it. All of it. And if you could improve something about the experience of pregnancy and birth for queer and trans familiies what would it be? Or I guess another way of asking this question is, what is something that’s different in the future for queer and trans folks around pregnancy and birth? Aside from the big gay birth center / community event space / whatever / soccer field. 

Lucia: Yes, someone else will have to take care of the sports – that’s not my industry. What’s gonna be different in the future for queer folks and trans folks is… that care will not be so difficult to get. Good healthcare that isn’t “tolerant” but is deeply invested in who we are. Not in spite of, but celebrating IN. That the textbooks, the resources, the websites aren’t all like, “Momma, women” and like, “yoni” – we can all come to the table, we can all have this bounty and we can all be supported. I mean, that’s the future. It’s like, I want to get tattooed on my forehead, “Not all pregnant people are women” and just hopefully, slowly spread this gay agenda everywhere. I just hope that has more ease for people. Especially with some of the laws that have been passed – we can be refused care, just because of who we are now. In the future, that doesn’t exist. That wouldn’t even be a thought that people have. 

Katie: And what’s a piece of advice that you have for new and aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

Lucia: I would say, to protect the most tender parts of yourself. Not syphon them off, don’t put them behind like a metal door, but maybe… someone told me this at the Decolonizing Birth Conference last year: Put a screen over your heart, so that it can filter the good stuff and then everything else that you don’t need doesn’t come in. Because you’re going to bump into people who think that being inclusive is erasing their womanhood, or erasing this stronghold of “birth is for women and that’s it and that’s all.. This is our ONE thing that we have, please don’t’ take it away from me.” You’re gonna run into that. You’re gonna run into that, and there are gonna be incredible providers that you thought were really cool and then they’ll like, hit you with some sort of really homophobic transphobic jargon and it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. But I’m hoping if you have this little screen around your tender parts that it won’t devastate you as much. Also, if you want to go into the educational industrialized complex, not everyone is a QTBIPOC person. Barely anyone is. So it’s tough to go to class and to not have your experience reflected back to you, especially because, as queer people, we create our environment so meticulously and with such care and with such intention that to then have to go to a school, like, I went to school when I was 30, so I had spent all these years creating my queer little bubble in Brooklyn and then I went to the South and I went to higher education. So just knowing that your experience won’t be reflected back to you, but you matter, you are valid, and once you get those really expensive pieces of paper that says you can do the thing that you want to do, you can then get back to what we do best, which is creating family and community where we are and finding each other and deeply supporting each other. And then, once you do graduate, that you have to do that for younger people. You have to look back and put your hand out and bring people with you.

Katie: So beautiful! The idea of one of the things that queer folks do best and all the time and have really honed it as a survival strategy is to so meticulously and intentionally create space and community. I just really resonate with the heartbreak of going into systems that don’t give a shit. 

Lucia: Yeah, like all we do is talk about our feelings at bars and then you have to go to this school and no one cares what you’re feeling! It’s hard! (laughs)

Katie: Yeah! And that there are people who have their hands out, waiting to help pull folks along and I think that that’s such a beautiful … what a beautiful gift that queer community has to offer – those holdfasts in the swirl of institutional bullshit. I could listen to you talk about all of your reproductive work all day forever, but what’s something not natal about you and your life that you want to share?

Lucia: This question is hard. There are two things that stand out, I’m gonna embarrass myself. I really love K-pop. Because of the way that gender is verrrry ..non-existent in this weird way. And I also really love graveyards. Greenwood cemetery up in Brooklyn: would highly recommend 10/10. We’ve got some cool decatur cemeteries down here, so I like to spend my time around dead folks.. listening to K-pop. 

Katie: As a fellow cemetery-wanderer, I really support that so hard! And, finally, if people aren’t gonna wander around cemeteries with you, where can they find you on the internet?

Lucia: The Instagram! I am LuciaTheDoula on Instagram. Usually calling out TERFS and SWERFS, y’know, really all about bumping up Black queer folks and yeah, just the usual shenanegans on there. You can connect with me via that, and we can sort of bump over to email or text or something like that. I provide sliding-scale services for queer and Black folks and right now, as a student, I’m really just happy to support people in any way that I can. So, if money’s an issue, shoot me a message. 


Katie: Amazing. Thank you so much, it was such a gift getting to talk with you!

Lucia: Thank you – this is such a lovely way to spend a weekday rather than on a Zoom class about something random (laughs). 

Categories
interviews

Luar Wolf

Luar Adonis Wolf, they/she, ella/elle, Little Moonlight Doula

Katie: Alright, thank you so much. It’s so exciting to talk to you. To just get right into it, could you tell us a little bit about you and your practice?

Luar: Sure. So, my name is Luar Adonis Wolf, my pronouns are they/them, she/hers, and in Spanish I also go by ella and elle – the feminine and gender neutral pronouns in Spanish. I’m 29 years old, and I live in New York City on occupied Lenape Haki-nk land, and I’m also intersex, queer, nonbinary. Also identify as trans, and I am a non-Black person of color, specifically Dominican and Puerto Rican. Wooh! A multitude of identities that are just part of my every day my lived experience.

In terms of my practice, my practice/my business, whatever I’m gonna call it – is called Little Moonlight Doula and the reason why it’s called Little Moonlight Doula, is because it’s actually named after my first name. My first name means Luar, which is Portuguese for moonlight. So, in Portuguese, little moonlight would be luarzinho – it was a nickname given to me by some of my Brazilian friends. And my first birth is actually a moon-named baby, after Jupiter’s moon Isle. SO, putting those one and one together, I have Little Moonlight Doula, so a moon helping bring a moon earthside (laughs). What also makes the name unique is that my first birth was a Black nonbinary person, giving birth to a moon-named baby. So, that is where the name of my practice comes from, and I think I’m just gonna keep it forever cause it literally marks who I am.

My practice is basically a full-spectrum reproductive service. I do birth and postpartum, I also do the full-spectrum of doula services. I’m also a reproductive care worker, aka “essential healthcare worker.” I work with Planned Parenthood currently, and I also am part of other full-spectrum doula collectives. And my practice is very rooted in being gender inclusive and queer/trans, gender non-conforming and nonbinary affirming, especially for queer/trans BIPOC people. It’s also rooted in reproductive justice, in decolonization, and so many different types of frameworks that I try to continue striving, not only in my work, but in myself and in my communities. I think that can sum the logistics of my practice. Oh- and I’m also a Certified Bodyfeeding Counselor and a Certified Childbirth Educator. That’s it! (laughs) It’s really hard to name every specific of what you do, because you’re like, “Oh, I gotta throw this, I gotta throw this…” so, I’m just a multitude of things that I can actually use to give back to my community and uplift my community and give my community access to specific things that they don’t generally get access to. 

Katie: Yeah, absolutely, I totally hear how tricky it is to try to put all of the things you do into boxes, when you are someone who is serving your community in ways that may not actually fit into any those roles, or exclusively into any of those roles. 

Luar: Yes, I’d rather put it on paper rather than speaking about it because I’m like, “Oh! I forgot about pointing out that specific thing and that identity” so I try to put it all out there. But yeah, that’s what my practice does. My practice is just me, myself and I, so it’s just very solo work, and doing everything (laughs)

Katie: The little moon helping other moons!!!

Luar: Yes!

Katie: I love it so much. It’s also one of the queerest things I’ve ever heard. 

Luar: I had to. I had to do it. I had to make it queer as fuck. 

Katie: You did, and it is! Ughhh, and on that note, what are you queering right now? Or what are some of the things you’re queering right now?

Luar: So, in general I queer everything that I touch, and step on. Whether it was the spaces that were designed for me, I’m going to queer it and (trans)cend it. Putting the parentheses around (trans) around transcending, with a little wordplay there. I touch everything and my intention is to make sure that queer people and trans people and trans people and everyone with a gender expansive identity can exist in spaces safely. And specifically now, I am queering what doula means, in terms of the full-spectrum to include and re-define the doula role to do gender affirming support. Specifically, gender affirming surgeries and hormone care and how we can be a doula for that. Especially for a community that goes through these things alone and have no support and no care and very isolated. And the support that they technically do get is literally the closest other trans friends and chosen family. I think those types of surgeries, especially in the recovery period, they need a lot of support. They need support that is intimate, they need support that comes from loved ones and chosen family, and they also need support that comes from a professional role. In terms of like, “What can I do for you? How can I help in your recovery? How can I show up for you to make sure you’re being advocated for and taken care of in the hospital, during the surgery and after surgery?” How do we turn this role to show up for members of our community that literally go through these things the majority of the time alone?

Katie: Fuck yeah, oh that’s so important. What inspired you to get into reproductive support work?

Luar: So before I even knew the word existed, it’s always been there in my heart and in my waves and in my mind. I can trace it all the way back to when I was a little adolescent. I was spending a week with my aunt and she was actually going through a divorce and she also had gotten pregnant at that time. It was a very complicated situation without going into much detail. And for some reason, my aunt was going into the hospital really late at night, trying to evade the family from knowing so she was just making sure that me, my brother, my little cousins were all in bed and we were taken care of, so that she could sneak out and go to the hospital. But I was up, and I was hyper-aware, I was like a little adult. I was like, “Where are you going?” and she was like, “I’m going to the hospital” and I was like, “Nobody should go to the hospital by themselves!” So even as a little kid, I was already speaking from a doula intentions and doula heart. I was like, “you shouldn’t go to the hospital by yourself, let me come with you” she said, no, and I said, “Nobody should have to go to the hospital by themselves, you need someone to be with you.” I was very adamant that she ended up taking me. And the memories that I have are very vivid and clear, which was just me being there with her, when we got called into the OR she was just lying in this weird examination room and we were literally in there for hours. Hours. And it was overnight, so I told my aunt, “I’m going to turn off the light and you just get some sleep that you can,” and I just stayed vigil(?) over her until the doctors came so she could get some rest. And then there was a part where I couldn’t go with her. Then, hours later, by myself I was in the waiting room, she finally comes back and she had her own room and they had put a bed for me. And years later, when I have a conversation with her about that, especially getting into this role, and learning about miscarriages and abortions, I have a conversation with her, I’m like, “Did I support… did I help you? Did I give you support through something no one else knew at the time?” and she said, “Yes, I was having a miscarriage, I had to do a D&C.” and that just blew my mind, I was like, “oh my god I’ve been an abortion doula all my life.” So, when I look back at that memory, everything just touches, like, oh my gosh, she was going through an abortion and she was going to do that with the intention of doing that by herself. I was just like, “No, you shouldn’t go by yourself, you need help, you need support, let me go with you.” So that was my first memory of getting into this work and beyond that, I was present for many of my cousins’ births or postpartum. Watching bodyfeeding and pumping and all this stuff, so I’ve been around all this, especially in a family that’s majority single mothers and just women, women of colors, so I was very raised around that matriarch energy. And witnessing the matriarch give birth to the next generation of me and my cousins and witnessing that as an older person compared to the other cousins. Then, fast forwarding, just specifically the actions brought me to work is.. I got into doula work in an “nontraditional” “nontypical” way which is through abortion. Most of the doulas I meet usually do birth and postpartum certifications first, and that’s usually what you hear the doula role for. I actually started as an abortion doula, leading into the rest. I remember my first day of being accepted into The Doula Project, and being trained and I was like, “This is amazing, this is so needed” and also in collaboration with actually starting to work for Planned Parenthood. Just exposing myself to the reproductive healthcare space and how important it is to have access to abrotions. Making sure that everybody, and not just ciswomen, but everybody across the gender expansive identities have that same access to these services. So that’s what brought me to my journey today!

Kaite: I love little baby Luar as an abortion support person, this is – ohh its so beautiful! I also got my start in doing support work in abortion support…

Luar: Yes. You did the backward route.

Katie: I feel like, I honestly forget that’s not how a lot of people do it. (laughs) It just made a lot of sense to me at the time. And maybe you’ve already answered this question in your story of like no one should have to go to the hospital alone, but um – How do you describe your support philosophy?

Luar: It’s weird, because I don’t ascribe to forming core values, or missions and stuff like that because I see that a lot with nonprofits and a lot with capitalist spaces where they just make these philosophies and missions and values and it’s just for marketing and branding and there’s not acutely heart to it. My support philosophy is simple, everybody needs support. Everybody across the gender spectrum needs support. Everybody in a violent oppressive marginalized system needs support. So, just give it. Give it freely, openly, and make sure everyone has access to support. So that’s why a lot of my work, as much as I want to create something that’s “profitable” or sustainable – that’s the better way, sustainable. I was raised in and come from a background and a culture that is very community centered, and if I go back into that: we were not really concerned about “how much money I can make by supporting you as a community member?” Yes, be sustainable for yourself, but at the end of the day: one of the ways we dismantle white supremacy is by returning back to our communities and uplifting and centering our communities and giving them access to things that they typically don’t get, which is support. So that is literally my philosophy if you want to call it that, but it’s just like.. Give support. Don’t try to commercialize support. Don’t try to commodify support. Don’t try to capitalize support. Support is something that we as human beings should be doing for other human beings, and showing up for other human beings. And that is the way we are allies, essentially to other community members.

Katie: Yeah, ugh! The privatization of care just feels like one of the biggest scams to communities from the settler colonial state.

Luar: Exactly! Honestly, like, in a better and more perfect world we wouldn’t need doulas. If medical racism didn’t exist, or the violation of so many peoples’ bodies and consent and bodily autonomy didn’t exist, doulas wouldn’t be here. Because of what they have done to support and what they have done to care. 

Katie: Yeah, oh, preach it, oh! So, I’ve asked you about your natal work, I also need to know about your natal chart. What’s your sun/moon/rising, and whatever else I need to know? 

Luar: The number one queer question, it’s like the first date question when you date other queers and trans folks, right? My sun is in Aries, I was born on April 7th. My rising is Leo, and my moon is in Capricorn. I (laughs), so everybody’s always asking me, “Oh my god” because of me being a doula, “I need to know your chart so I can know what made you a doula!” It’s more like the fiery, passionate, impulsive nature of showing up for people from my Aries and my Leo. There’s a reason why I became a doula, and that’s my activism energy which pours down into my doula. I think, what maybe essentially touches my doula in my chart is my Venus is in Taurus cause a lot of people that I have in my life that are Taurus, they are very caregiving, loving, showing up for everyone around them (besides themselves). So I would give credit to the Venus in Taurus for being the reason why I’m a doula. 

Katie: Oh, love, I love that. And, not to turn this into an astrology interview, but I feel like that Venus/Taurus energy’s so beautiful, when I think about both that very giving, very caring but like, it’s an earth sign, it’s a very grounded, – it’s not just a like “I’m just giving of myself without knowing who I am or what I’m doing” It’s not that savior complex mindset, there is that real groundedness of “this is coming from who I am.” 

Luar: So many of my – one of my best friends is a Taurus. Even a lot of Taurus like a call, so they’re like “What do you need, Luar? You want something? What can I do for you?” Like, y’all just live for caring! 

Katie: And what’s your favorite thing about being a queer support person or about working with queer and trans folks and families?

Luar: There’s so many things. The one thing I can really touch upon is being in space with  people like me, or people that belong in the same spectrum of gender expansive identities like me. We don’t get that. When you talk to a lot of queer/trans or gender non-conforming and nonbinary people, we’re very isolated. Or we’re in very small communities that for me is not enough. Ideally, I want a community in terms of- arms distance, the way we can touch things. But one of my favorite things about doing this work, in terms of me being a queer, nonbinary femme, is showing up for others that are like me. It’s such a different feeling because we can actually take a lot of burden off our shoulders. We can take down that thick skin that we put up to protect ourselves in a lot of cis spaces. Seeing that easy breath, that fresh air that goes into our lungs when we’re in good space and community with others like ourselves is one of those things that just brings me joy. Even outside of reproductive spaces, when I show up in very sacred safe space with my trans besties or other trans kin, it’s just amazing, being in community. Actual, authentic community. Not just a community that is just built on trauma bonding– yes, cause it’s a lot of that! As a community, I don’t want that. I don’t want our community to be built on trauma bonding or oppression olympics and titles and this and that. When we get together and find others like ourselves, it’s just the authentic and unconditional love and support that we give to each other is just amazing. That is just one of my favorite things, seeing, when I as a full-spectrum worker show up with somebody or a client that has those same identities, they’re like “Oh my god, I don’t have to educate you. I don’t have to explain what a pronoun is. I don’t have to do this free labor. I can just exist and be me and I don’t have to explain myself.” That’s just one of the most beautiful things to see, because I can take that off your shoulder and do that for you. I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going – just the amount of queer/trans, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary people that exist that are giving birth, that are just getting surgeries, or doing hormone support just need community members to show up for them for care. It’s just beautiful to witness and experience and be able to offer that so that is one of my favorite things –  among so many reasons.

Katie: That good queer and trans magic. 

Luar: Yes. Hella. Queer. Trans magic.

Katie: If you could improve one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth for queer and trans folks, what’s one thing that you would want to see?

Luar: Sigh. Everything, everything! I just want to see us enter medical spaces or healthcare spaces and not having to experience transphobia from its individual to its systemic levels. Seeing that, for our communities – for them to just enter healthcare and not worry about being misgendered or using the wrong pronouns or being dead-named. Actually just giving them care that they have a right to and deserve and is centered in their identities is something that I wish to see. If that answers the question. 

Katie: Oh, yeah, it sure does. Yeah.

Luar: Because it’s really hard to pinpoint one exact thing, when the future that most of us see for ourselves and for our community is EVERYTHING. Everything. If I have to do one specific thing: end all corrective surgeries for intersex children and babies. That its not the first thought for a medical doctor or MD to be like, “We need to correct this.” That would be one thing, as a start – end corrective surgeries for intersex babies.

Katie: Yes! And on the flip side of that, what’s a pice of advice you have for aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

Luar: I think you’ve heard this before, and a lot of others who know me have heard me say: Fuck imposter syndrome. Besdies dysphoria for those of us who expreiene dysphoria, the other next thing would be fuck imposter syndrome. Don’t doubt. Don’t question. It’s hard – but the moment we allow confidence to take hold of us in this specific work, in this specific space, by just repeating that mantra and having others who instill confidence into you and support and just inject that into you. That’s gonna be my mantra for new folks: fuck imposter syndrome. We can do this work, we have a right to do this work, we have the right to stand up for ourselves and others who are like us so we can show up for those people, too. Don’t question your ability. A certification or a training does not give you the doula title – that’s always been inside of us. As human beings, as people that have come from a community centered background and cultures and traditions (laughs) Nothing can give you the doula heart, nothing can give you the doula role. No training or certification is gonna give you that.  Because that’s not something they can instill, that’s something that’s always existed. It’s just being awakened through a training. And you can exist totally outside of that, but don’t expect that a training or certification is gonna give you what you’re looking for. It’s just going to give you the tools and the resources and the foundations for doing the work. The role and the work itself has always existed inside of you because it’s essentially and fundamentally: You as a human being showing up for another human being. 

Katie: Oh! So good. So good. I also, I want a classic looking cross stitch that I can frame somewhere that says, “Fuck imposter syndrome”

Luar: I need something like that, or I need a t-shirt. (laughs) With a big ole trans flag on it. 

Katie: Ahhh, I love, I love. Wow. Aside from making that t shirt, are there any projects that you want help cross pollinating with others in the community: stuff you’re thinking about stuff youre building?

Luar: Yes, so: one of the main things I haven’t announced yet… I’m working quietly behind the scenes on creating something, a support circle, called The Lavender Tent. It’s basically sacred safe space for queer, trans, gender nonconfirming, gender nonbinary people to come together to do sacred story telling. Basically share our lived experiences, like through different parts of our transition. Whether it’s just medically or non-medically. An example like that would be having one of those spaces, one of the modules or coming together or getting onto the Zoom call virtual space will be talking about metaphorical death. That’s an example, coming together as queer/trans people to talk about metaphorical death and the multiple metaphorical deaths we go through. What does honoring and grieving and mourning, individually and collectively, over our past self- our former selves, our former selves, our former dead names, look like? How do we give a personal eulogy for that? How do we just go through the process of grieving and mourning, that so we can make space for the new and affirming identities in order to root ourselves within ourselves? Honoring the decay. So that’s an example of one of the support circles – it’s going to be called The Lavender Tent and I’m going to announce, hopefully soon, in terms of getting sacred safe space for us as a community to come together as a community to talk about stuff like that, through sacred storytelling. 

Katie: Ohh, so amazing. So important. So needed. Ohh, I love that so much. And what’s something that’s not reproductive related about you and your life that you want to share?

Luar: One of the things about me is my practices in Afro-caribbean traditions that I’m a part of. I’m also a witch, I practice witchcraft so those are very fundamental in terms of medicine for being medicine for me, its also cultural and ancestral for me. Keeps me together and sane. Outside of that, I also do spoken word and I do a lot of writings and poems. I’m also an artist but I keep my artwork to myself because I’m very weird and sensitive with showing my artwork. Outside of reproductive healthcare spaces, those are a lot of the big parts of me that others might not know about. 

Katie: Finally, where can people find you on the internet?

Luar: Everywhere! (laughs) I’m on Facebook as Little Moonlight Doula, I’m also on Instagram as Little Moonlight Doula. I also have a website: Little Moonlight Doula dot com! I made sure that name was grabbed across the spectrum of social media platforms – so facebook, instagram and my website is literally just Little Moonlight Doula! 

Katie: Awesome, thank you so much, this has been a treat! 

Luar: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, I appreciate it!