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).