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…
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.
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.
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?
Katie: Awesome. Thank you so much – it was so lovely chatting with you.
Amber: Thank you so much!