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