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Anti-racist, gender-inclusive doula training expands the dreams of all birthing bodies

Nadine Ashby is the founder of The Birth Revolution, which offers anti-racist, gender inclusive doula training. (Courtesy of Nadine Ashby)

The Birth Revolution is a Black, Trans, and Queer led organization that offers doula training and consulting to equip birth workers with evidence based information, ancestral knowledge, and justice advocacy to transform lingering disparities in birthing outcomes.

After three years of mobilizing, the Birth Revolution just rolled out its first doula certification training to a cohort of aspiring birth workers committed to the better births of all parents and children, no matter their race or gender identity.

The Birth Revolution was founded by Nadine Ashby, who is a full spectrum doula, meaning they support birthers and families through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Ashby says they were inspired by their own birthing experience as a Black, trans parent.

“When I was in my birth time, I wanted a doula and struggled to find one, and to afford one. I started care with an OBGYN, and my gender and sexuality were not held well at all. The provider was very uncomfortable with who I was, and I felt like my care team was not equipped to take care of me very well. Or to hold the fullness of who I was. I switched care to an out of hospital midwife team because of that.”

Ashby says that in both their hospital and doula work experiences, home births seemed to result in more positive experiences for Black birthers.

“I think that it's possible for Black people to have beautiful hospital births. But I think that it takes a lot more intention and work, and just consideration in order to make that happen.”

Ashby began training to become a doula, only to find more disparities. Ashby says their doula training was centered in CIS-hetero, religious, and white-favoring foundations, which they say failed to honor all people.

“I saw a gap where there were families who were looking for support, but couldn't find it. Folks were coming to me and saying things like, oh, I didn't think I'd be able to find a queer doula. Especially a queer doula of color. And a Black doula at that.”

Ashby says those disparities affect clients, who are conditioned to accept less than their full birthing potential. Ashby says when they ask their clients what their dream is for their birthing experience, the answers differ racially.

“Especially for Black birthing people. When I sit down with them, and ask them what is your dream for this baby? What is your dream for this birth? What is your dream for your family? A lot of times, the answer that I get is, I just want to survive. I want to be healthy, and I want a healthy baby, “ said Ashby. “That just kind of lit a fire under me and the birth revolution came to fruition.”

Aspiring birth workers are now able to apply to join the Birth Revolution’s doula certification cohort, which allows graduates to join the Minnesota doula registry and bill insurance companies.

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