Categories
interviews

Moss Froom

Moss Froom. They/them. @mossthedoula, www.mossthedoula.com, All Genders Birth Class, Trans Birth Worker Meet Up, Red Emma’s Cooperative Book Store

Katie: Alright hi!

Moss: Hi! 

Katie: It’s so good to see you, so good to have you with us, and to just dive into it – could you just start telling us a little bit about who you are and your work?

Moss: Yeah, absolutely! I’m Moss, I use they and them pronouns. I am a queer/trans centered, full-spectrum doula. So I work with folks at all points on their family building and reproductive journeys. I mainly focus on, or just by virtue of who’s coming to me now, I’m mostly working through folks through their gestations and labors and births. And through their fertility processes. I’m also trained as an abortion doula. I have worked with families in the postpartum period, and I’m here for all the things, basically. Oh, also! I’m a childbirth educator – of course. I offer a class called All Genders Birth Class that walks you through kind of the big pieces that you need to know (or that you might want to know) as you are looking forward to a birth experience. Including what to expect from labor and birth, what are some common comfort measures and coping techniques. I also like to walk folks through the common interventions that they might face in a hospital setting. 

Katie: Yay, all the things! 

Moss: Yeah! 

Kaite: What are you queering right now?

Moss: I guess the thing that’s on my mind the most because I just taught my birth worker workshops that I do to try to get other birth workers up to speed on gender-affirming practice. I’ve been thinking a lot about queering language around birth and around care in general. I think it’s interesting because most of what I’m saying when I’m talking to people about queering language for birth, or about neutralizing language for birth is that it’s mostly all about just asking people what words they use to talk about themselves. It’s like, actually, not necessarily exclusive to queerness or transness. Really, this is helpful for everybody. Ultimately that person-centered approach to language ends up working better for everybody involved, cause everybody gets to feel affirmed in whatever their life experiences. Their experiences with their body, and their experience with growing a baby inside of them. I guess language is my answer. 

Katie: So important. It feels like both so basic and also can’t really be overstated – how important it is to use the words that people use. 

Moss: Yeah – I think it’s a cultural thing, or in terms of specific birth culture or birthwork culture. We get used to using certain words to describing certain things. Even just speech patterns and stuff. Just because of the way you’re taught, and training, and the way other birth workers are taught. We’re all just getting into the habit of using certain words or doing things in certain ways. They’re not necessarily person-centered or client-centered, but it is really easy to fall into the pattern of doing them. 

Katie: Yeah. As you said, they’re habits of speech. 

Moss: I feel like that says a lot about how….. There’s so much “mommy talk” in birth world, obviously, but especially with birth workers and clinicians just calling people “mom” and “mommy” all the time, instead of calling them their name. It’s like – I don’t know that any.. Probably not most… Most people probably don’t love that, even if they do identify as moms – I think most people probably don’t love other fellow adults calling them mom all the time. It is a pattern thing that you just sort of pick up when you’re in the normative, regular birth world. So it just gets reiterated over and over again with new workers. That’s one of those places where it’s like – no one really wants this to be happening. Let’s just stop doing it! It’s not necessary. (laughs) But it’s easy to fall into, I get it. 

Katie: What inspired you to do the work you do, what got you into birth work?

Moss: I was totally called into this work by my community. Initially, I got inspired to learn about birth and birth work on my own when I was… I got a women’s studies degree in college in Florida. This was before most things were rebranded as “women and gender studies” this was just a “women’s studies degree” (laughs). I learned a lot about birth when I was studying that stuff, I learned about the existence of doulas. I never was exposed to anything about birth growing up. It wasn’t until academic studies that I even learned that doulas existed. I originally was just immediately drawn to the world of it and drawn to birth and drawn to doula work because I’ve always been a person that’s really plugged into the very animal pieces of being a human being. There’s not many places in society where you get to really experience that, and birth is just one of those places where we’re all able to get deep into our animal selves. I was really drawn to it for that reason. I’ve always been a person who, for better or worse, grew up focused on supporting other people (as a person), so the idea of doulas just immediately called to me. It wasn’t until later in my life when the people around me (my close friends) started getting pregnant and are trans and I was just really called into becoming a doula when I was seeing how little resources were available to my friends who needed them. In particular, the first birth that I attended was that of one of my best friends and I was so excited when they told me that they were pregnant. I was like, “I’m gonna get in there and find you all the resources that are for you!” and I was just really coming up short, and there was not a lot out there that I could find for them that was affirming, or just even really spoke to their experience. For them, basically, I was like, alright, I’m gonna become a doula and I’m gonna be your doula. I’m gonna just start making resources and start adapting resources so you can get the information that you need without being totally thrown into a dysphoric experience or just not being able to take in the information because it’s so obnoxiously gendered. I was really called to become a doula by my friends, and now, that’s kind of my favorite thing about it. Just getting to work with people, and getting to just be with my sweet fellow queer and trans folks as we make our way through birth journeys. 

Katie: Absolutely, so it sounds like you’ve been in support roles in many parts of your life – both before, now, always… How do you talk to people about your support philosophy? 

Moss: My support philosophy… I feel like so much of it is just really, taking the time to get to know people, so you can fully understand what people need in terms of support on a deeper level. There’s so much that you can offer off the bat like, “I know how to do this thing, and I know how to do hip squeezes, and I know how to suggest labor positions” and stuff like that, but if you don’t really understand somebody and where they’re coming from… it’s so much harder to support them in the right way, basically. One of my main focuses in working with folks, in terms of any service on people’s reproductive path, a lot of it is taking a lot of time to just talk and just hang out and get to know each other. Having that background of experience with somebody can first of all, make them so much more comfortable with having you around when they’re in these deeply vulnerable moments. Also can just make it so much easier to figure out.. Anticipate needs, anticipate how someone might need you to plug in at any given moment. 

Katie: Absolutely, that relationship work is so fundamental. Any body in the room can do — most bodies in a room can do a hip squeeze. Not any random person who happens to show up in your birth space can hold the knowledge of a relationship that you’ve been building together and the parts of you that may or may not actually show up in labor, or may show up in unexpected ways. So important. 

Moss: I think so much of feeling supported in a birth space, or in any sort of vulnerable space, is the sensation of feeling seen is so much of what feels supportive. The better you know someone, the better you can be fully present to see them for who they are and have them understand that you see them for who they are. 

Katie: So, I’ve asked you a little bit about your natal work and now I wanna know about your natal chart. What’s your sun, moon, rising. 

Moss: I’m a Leo sun, and a Leo rising and I’m a Gemini moon. 

Katie: Wowowow. Bringing the Fi-yerrr!

Moss: For sure. Which – it was confusing growing up as a not very confident child cause all the horoscopes are like, “YOU are so confident! And you know what you’re doing!” I was like, “I don’t know.” but I feel like in my adult life I’ve figured out my Leo-ness, I’ve figured out what it means. 


Katie: It’s a thing to grow into. 

Moss: Exactly, I had a whole journey about it (laughs). 

Katie: What’s your favorite thing about bring a queer support person or working with queer and trans famlies? 

Moss: I think my favorite pieces is the “getting to know people” piece. It’s so joyful for me to get to meet a family, and really getting to know them, and seeing their family grow. Or support them through whatever intense emotional pieces are their puzzle and really get to maintain that relationship over time and see their babies grow up or see them have whatever journey their families go on. It’s super rewarding. I think it’s an experience of community-building. It’s like getting to know people, and also getting to connect people to each other, wether that’s clients here in Baltimore that I get to be like, “Ooh, here are these other queer families that have just recently gone through this thing that you’re going through.” I love getting to connect people to each other. And stay connected to people. 

Katie: [cat obscures Katie] I love that community-building pieces, that’s such an important resource that you offer the folks that you’re supporting.

Moss: Yeah! And it’s been fascinating in the virtual world, because it’s simultaneously super isolating for people but also the way that we can have community has really expanded throughout space so much. I have been running this “Trans and Gestating” support group on Zoom and so, I’ve gotten to connect with and meet all of these trans folks who are building their families all over the place, beyond the United States. Even folks in Canada and Australia, so far… Really seeing them build relationships with each other has been so cool, so I think that is some weird silver lining about living in quarantine world right now. [cat still obscuring Katie] I’m loving this guest appearance. 

Katie: Truffle is now also conducting this interview. Truffle would like to know, if you could improve one thing (or one of the things on what I’m sure is a very long list of things) about the experience of conception, pregnancy, birth, postpartum for queer and trans families, what would it be?

Moss: I think it’s just access to quality care, for me. It’s so hard to find medical providers who are, for one thing, queer and trans-affirming, but another thing – not super bogged down into the implicit bias and racism. It’s so hard to build our provider recommendation lists because providers are so few and far between who are trans-aware, even. Let alone trans-affirming. So many of us are trying to chip away at that problem by training people, and by building relationships with providers, but it’s very slow and hard work. That would be the piece that I would hope will change over time and more quickly than it’s currently changing. I guess that’s the thing. 

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

Moss: I think that, honestly, based on my own personal experience – working with your friends and sort of being called into the work by the people who are in your community and around you is the best way to get started, in my experience. I trained as a doula many years before I actually started practicing, so I have that experience of like, “OK I did my training! Who wants me to be their doula? I don’t really know why you want me to be your doula, but I’m here… to try..” and so, I had that and I didn’t end up working with any clients out of that feeling of, y’know, not being plugged into any kind of community or birth scene, not feeling totally prepared to start, but trying to start. I think a lot of people have that sensation when they’re getting going. The difference between that experience that I had, and the experience of like, “OK, my good friend needs somebody and I wanna rise to the occasion and be kind of that person” is huge. I know that’s a very lucky, special position to be in, to be like, “Oh, I magically have a great friend who wanted me to be their doula.” I think it really speaks to, more than anything else, being plugged into the queer and trans community around you. Just making sure that the people.. that you’re building community intergenerationally, making sure that people know that you are there for them when they need somebody. I guess that’s a convoluted piece of advice, but I think building community is the tl;dr on that. 

Katie: That’s so important, so often we talk about building community within “birth world” but being fully in all of the communities that you’re in, is I think, so essential and yeah – making sure that the people who might need you know you are there is really important and I think often gets overlooked, especially in cis-het birth world. 

Moss: It’s a super different set of challenges. And a different approach (laughs). 

Katie: And are there any projects that you’re working on that you want help cross-pollinating with others in the community?

Moss: One thing that I’m really excited about is this trans birth worker hangout that we’ve done two months in a row so far, and we’re about to do our third one. This doesn’t take much work, because it’s really just like – we set up a call and whoever wants to hangout who is trans and a birth worker comes and hangs out. I just want folks to know that that is in existence and available, so. I should get an easier link to sign up, so I’ll work on that, but maybe we can post the link to it. 

Katie: We will post the link to that. 

Moss: Hell yeah. 

Katie: Ab. so. lute. ly. 5/5 stars, would recommend, can confirm. It’s fucking great. 

Moss: It’s so nice to get to talk to other trans birth workers.. There’s so many not trans birth workers out there! It’s wild to actually get to be in a virtual room just full of only trans birth workers. Other than that, I guess I’m always open to collaborating with other queer and trans birth workers on… I mean, the childbirth class that I’m running now, I love doing it and I would love to be referred to if folks are looking for a trans-centered childbirth ed course, but I’m also so here for collaboration – to create resources with other birth workers, so. If anyone out there is trying to work on creating resources, whether that’s videos or PDFs or any kind of helpful resource, I am so here to collaborate on stuff like that. 

Katie: Amazing, make all the resources. 

Moss: Yeah, we just have a lot of gaps to fill. And I wanna work together to do that. 

Katie: For. Sure! Yes. And what’s something not-natal/reproductive-related about you and your life that you wanna share?

Moss: Well, I guess this is a good way to talk about my other work, which is I’m a worker-owner with Red Emma’s. We’re a cooperative bookstore and vegan restaurant and we’re trying to figure out what all of that means in Covid world, cause we’re owned by the workers, we’re not gonna make ourselves work super close to the public when we have our own families and selves and everything else to consider. We’re not currently open for people to come inside, but we are selling books online, which is one of the things that I love to do the most, is do the book-selling work. RedEmmas.org is our website, and you can buy lots of books, related to birth work there, because I’m one of the book sellers, so I’m always trying to make sure that we have the good things available. For instance, we just got in ten copies of “Why did no one tell me this? (the doula’s honest guide to birth and labor for expectant parents)” or some sort of subtitle like that. 

Katie: This one. It’s this one!! [Katie holds up “Why Did No One Tell Me This? The doula’s honest guide for expectant parents”] (laughs)

Moss: (laughs) I love… cooperative work is some of the — what I’ve been dedicated my life to, in my adult life, that I feel is the most vital thing that I could be doing besides supporting people in their reproductive journeys. So, yeah, I love my cooperative and I love Baltimore. One of the things that is so special about Red Emma’s is that we’re able to be building space and building free education and building community … It’s harder in covid world, but before we couldn’t let people inside, so much of it was about building space to be accessible by our community and for organizing, for just friendship and radical joy and whatnot. Being able to do that work with a coop of other weirdos, we’re just such a group of… a rag tag group of weirdos. We’re at least 50% trans, and we’re just all over the place, and I love them. (laughs) That’s the thing. Red Emma’s. 

Katie: There’s just so much beautiful joy to be found, even in just watching you describe the experience of that community. 

Moss: Awwe, yeah. 

Katie: So, finally, where can people find you on the Internet?

Moss: Yeah! I have a website, at www.mossthedoula.com. I’m also on Instagram @mossthedoula. I am on Facebook, but I would say that’s like, I’m trying to be engaged on Facebook but I’m maybe not as engaged as I am on Instagram, but… I think you can also find me there, Facebook.com/MossTheDoula. I’m all over those places, but yeah my website has all the info about all of the services that I offer and all of the trainings I have coming up, and classes. Feel free to also DM me or email me, I’m moss.froom@gmail.com. Please, anyone, email me for pretty much any reason. 

Katie: (Laughs) Alright, everybody email Moss. 

Moss: If you feel like it (laughs)

Katie: Alright, thank you so much, it was such a joy getting to hear from you. 

Moss: Thank you. I so appreciate that y’all are doing this. It was great to talk to you, also!

Categories
interviews

Katie Byron

Katie Byron, they/them, https://www.birthwithkatie.com Katie’s Instagram

Emma: Hey Katie

Katie: Hi

Emma: How are you today? Nice to see you.

Katie: Nice to see you too, doing well!

Emma: Awesome, do you wanna tell us a little about you and your practice?

Absolutely. So my name’s Katie Byron, I use they/them pronouns. I provide full-spectrum reproductive support. So supporting folks through pregnancy, birth, postpartum, also abortion, miscarriage, other pregnancy losses. I am also a childbirth educator and a social worker

Emma: Awesome. That’s a lot, love it. What are you queering right now?

Katie: I am queering … one of the things I’m queering right now is perinatal mental health. It’s certainly a space in which there is certainly a lot of folks who are straight and cis who have a lot of experience working with queer and trans people and famlies. AND there are not as many folks who are queer/trans/nonbinary themselves in this work and it is certainly a place where I think there is deep need both for more education and for folks who are actually from queer and trans communities to be doing the work and to be in positions to be providing support to specifically queer and trans families.

Emma: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for that, that’s awesome. And such a good point, too, y’know, with all perinatal work, there’s plenty of straight and cis people who say they have experience working with queer families, and that’s great if people feel like they’re a good fit. And also, there’s so much more to it than that. So, thanks for bringing that to the table. What inspired you to do the work that you do?

Katie: A couple, a few spaces – the most, well, one of which being my personal experience particularly as a fat femme person and living in a world where a lot of people have a lot of opinions about my body and what my body does in space and the size of my body and the shape of it has me feeling particularly attuned to the way that bodies get the amount… the amount that our society puts on bodies during reproductive changes, and so there’s something that’s both personally very liberating and healing for me in doing this work of helping and accompanying people as they are finding new ways to claim their bodies as their bodies change. On sort of a more practical note – I like got to college as a young white feminist and was like, “Oh yeah! The way to express my politics is to become a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood.” So, that was work that I did for a couple of years in college and was a space where I saw those micro-interactions mattered to people. That having someone who is going to smile as they walk you from your car, or who is going to ask about where you got your shoes to drown out the sounds of protesters meant something. I certainly think that’s work where I built a lot of my skills around establishing rapport with people and shaped how I approach people understanding that I might be approaching people who are about to step into who knows what kind of shaming/judgmental landscape. It was in that work that I started to learn about other forms of abortion support work and actually found out that there were people who did support work around abortion. After I finished college, I moved down to DC, I did a training with the DC Doulas for Choice Collective and started working in clinics providing support to folks around abortion experiences. That for me was really a transformative space of realizing, this is in fact not about my politics. That was a wild presumptive mindset. And that really the thing that was so moving to me about the work was not because it was some expression of my politics in any kind of way, but it was about the experience of being with people and of sitting with just the messiness of what an abortion meant to someone or what any kind of reproductive experience might mean for someone. Whether it’s the thing that means you get to go on your vacation and have margaritas without any sense of guilt or if it’s like a really complicated thing that is tied into feelings about a relationship or whatever else. Often, when I think about what inspired me to get into a lot of the work that I do, I think back to some of those initial clinic experiences and the people who I had the honor of getting to sit with and and be with and got to really fall in love with that way of being with people. 

Emma: Yeah, that’s really awesome. So drawn in via maybe college politics and then stuck around for the actual human element of it. That’s awesome. I think a lot of people are gonna go through that similar transformation, so it’s where a lot of people have their starting point. Thanks for sharing. What’s your support philosophy? 

Katie: Yeah, I fundamentally will tell people that I think… I approach this with an understanding that reproductive support work is fundamentally about justice work. My support philosophy comes from a place of acknowledging that we live in a society that has privatized all kinds of care in ways that are not aligned with how humans have at any point in history done care for each other. My support philosophy is rooted in the fact that I don’t really think that any of the hats I wear “should” exist as professions. And, nonetheless, we live in a society that has told us that your community’s not gonna show up for you in hard times or when you’re going through big life transitions. So the way to get support is to bring in some private individual who has “specialized training.” My support philosophy, acknowledging the fact that, it’s messed up that we have to have this at all, comes from a place of really trying to empower people to make real choices about what they want their experience to be like, what tools they already have to deal with hard or big things, and about what kind of story do you want to be able to tell about this experience? This is not – at times, it might feel like something that is happening TO you, and that’s super real, and what kind of sense can we make out of that? What are the ways that this can be integrated into the story of your life? How do you want to understand this experience? So that’s a lot of how I approach my support work.

Emma: Amazing, I love it. To acknowledge sort of the history of any kind of support work, being not a “professional” role that you do training to do. It’s because of the system that we have these roles, because the system doesn’t have these roles in it. So, uh – amazing! Thank you so much for bringing that up. OK! So we’ve talked about your natal work, what’s in your natal chart! Tell me your sun, moon, rising. 

Katie: I am a Capricorn sun, virgo moon, libra rising. 

Emma: Nice, alright alright. Libras!

Katie: I feel like there’s a lot of libra energy in birth work.

Emma: That’s awesome. I’ve never had anyone say that to me, but I have clients ask me my chart sometimes, and I’m like, “Libras get along with everyone, so it’s cool.”

Katie: I’ve definitely seen threads of birth workers talking about their charts, and I feel like I’ve seen a lot of libra energy.

Emma: Right on, libras, hit us up! Amazing. So what’s your fabroite thing about being a queer support perosn or working with LGBTQ families?

Katie: Yeah, one of my favorite things about queering support work is about the ways that we’re able to acknowledge relationships. I think that particularly in medical systems, and y’know I’ve worked in hospitals as a social worker as part of my social work training, I also wear another hat in a spiritual care realm – I’ve served as a chaplain in hospitals. Something I consistently see is the way that there are real hierarchies of relationships in medical settings. In part, cause there are “next of kin” hierarchies about who gets to make medical decisions for you in an emergency. So, you know, married legal spouses win all the time. I think something that’s really special about queer folks doing support work is that we know that that’s not always and possibly not most of the time true. To be able to acknowledge: who are the most important people in your life around this experience? Maybe the answer is a monogamous partner. Maybe the answer is an aunt who you know had a similar reproductive experience, or a close friend who has been with you for all of the hard times. Or it is a space where actually the person who is best equipped to support you is your metamour who you don’t get along with and actually don’t talk about all that much with… but, this is something that you have a shared experience around and they’re gonna be your… really gonna be your person. Or they’re really organized in a way that’s gonna be helpful. I think that being able to not have… walking in without assumptions about who is going to be most important to you or which relationships are going to be the thing to hold you in this is something that I think is one of my favorite things. To just see all the way that people build community and family. 

Emma: Yeah, that’s awesome. And it really is in these times that those kinds of relationships get tested and called on and it’s like, who’s name do you write on your paperwork and all your medical stuff? That’s a really, really good point! If you could improve one thing about the experience about queer and trans birthing families, what would it be?

Katie: I would do so many things. But if I could change one thing, it would be for providers of all kinds to actually take seriously the words that people use to talk about what’s happening to them and their bodies. Which, I think about both in particular with queer and trans families – the family names that people want used. It’s not…. in every other part of clinical training, people are taught to use the words that your patient or your client uses. And yet, somehow, when it comes to queer and trans families, somehow all of that knowledge just falls out of people’s heads. Or about reproductive experiences in general – I’ve certainly seen, I’ve heard plenty of really horrific stories of medical providers who suddenly don’t have any helpful words to say around abortion, around pregnancy loss. And I think certainly, also, the experiences of all kinds of marginalized people who are telling people about things they’re experienced in their bodies and are being dismissed, or written off, or not taken seriously. I think if I could change one thing, it would be for providers to actually hear the words that people use, take them seriously, and then reflect those words back at people. 

Emma: Amazing. I think that would make lots of subsequent changes! So… good answer, amazing. Do you have any advice for new and aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

Katie: If there’s one piece of advice I would give… you get to, this can be a “choose your own adventure” style path. I think there are a lot of setup in birth world that is like, “You have to do your training, and then you follow the step by step guide to get certified in whatever it is that you trained in, and then you somehow find clients, you probably undersell yourself for the sake of climbing up this… I just think that so many people get stuck and so many people don’t stay in birth work. People who we need in our communities and who the families in our community need as birth workers and as support people because they get lots in the bureaucracy or in the what they think is the step by step thing, and I think the reality is: there are very few rules and if the organization you trained with has a certification process that is trash, you don’t have to do it.

Emma: Yes!


Katie: Right? Like, if the reading list for your training organization is a bunch of heterocis-centered nonsense, like, you don’t have to do it! And if you feel like some step in the process has made it so you’re being asked to do something that’s not aligned with your values, or not how you want to practice, or makes you feel like you need some sort of extra specialized training to know how to do the stuff that you intuitively have been doing your entire life, you don’t have to do it. 

Emma: Amazing, I love it. As someone who, y’know, has been an uncertified birth attendant for ten years – I’m all about it. There’s very little benefit to that depending on the states you live in and the legislation and all that. I like the choose your own adventure advice. That’s good.

Katie: And I think there’s so much that’s like, there are a lot of particularly white cis straight birth workers who have really commodified specific types of training that you dont’ actually have to pay hundreds of dollars to learn how to do that. And I think there’s a lot, I see this a lot in the mental health field. Right? That there are all kinds of very expensive trainings you can do about like, “How to support LGBTQ clients” that are taught by straight people who have all thix “experience “ in part to train queer and trans people who don’t have the “right certifications” to do the thing that they do for their community and all of their clients all of the time. Right?

Emma: And it’s like, who is the money going to? Where are these resources being given? …So what’s something not natal about your life that you want to share with people?

Katie: Something not natal about my life is that I am — yeah, sure! I am trying to think through things that I do. A not natal thing about my life is as I mentioned earlier, I also wear some spiritual care hats. I’m also getting a masters in divinity, which is in part related to natal stuff, it’s certainly in this realm of holistic spiritual and emotional care for folks. But also means that I’m a little bit of a theology nerd. Also always down to talk theologies of liberation. 

Emma: Right on! Liberation theology folks, hit us up! Amazing, Katie, so where can people find you on the internet?

Katie: You can find me at LGBTQBirth.com, my personal birth support website is BirthWithKatie.com you can also find me on instagram @birthwithkatie. 

Emma: Amazing, thank you!