This is part of a long series of posts which will be known as Feminist Fridays. Because individuality is at the heart of feminism, I’m going to open up this space to different people each week to share with us a little portion of their unique journey.
Laura is another one of my friends that I’ve only known online. She’s also BFF with Jessica–who we met last week. Laura is a passionate, insightful, smart woman who I turn to any time that I need to be pumped up or educated. There is so much that I would love to tell you about Laura but we’ll just have to interview her again and again and again.
Laura was born and raised in Ohio, fell in love with a sailor, has nearly 3 children and currently lives in Washington, home of all things mossy and enchanted. She loves knitting, rolling her eyes at the patriarchy and talking about placentas.
What does Feminism mean to you?
At its core, feminism is about freedom. Freedom to be who you want to be without the approval or permission of others. If you want to be a SAHM (stay at home mom) and care for your family then you should have the freedom to do so. If you don’t want children and want to spend your years working, traveling then you should have the freedom to choose that without ridicule. We are often forced to make choices in an environment where it feels no matter your choice you are going to be judged, compared, and found left wanting. It is damaging to women, and I believe feminism fights the notion that you have to fit into a certain box to be a person of value.
How does feminism play out in your day-to-day life?
As a SAHM I feel like I have a great, direct impact on my children’s lives and have the ability to teach them about equality in all forms. In our home, we try to show the kids examples of people doing good or amazing things that are uplifting, rather than entertainment based on ridicule. We also talk a lot about consent, knowing that if I teach my children to respect their friend’s physical and emotional boundaries now, they will be able to carry these lessons into their teenage and young adult years. The other day I wanted to take a picture of my son, and he gave me his new closed-mouth smile. He is insecure about his new adult teeth in his still-small face, and out of habit I asked him to give me a real smile. He replied “No mom, this is my own mouth. I want to smile like this.” I can’t tell you how joyful this made me. Not only did my son demonstrate autonomy and consent, but felt secure enough in our relationship to correct me. I know this isn’t feminism as people traditionally see it, but to me, teaching my children to respect each other as people and to see people as individuals that don’t need the criticism of others is the best way that I can put equality in their hearts and actions for years to come.
Oh, that is feminism to me! I’m cheering for him over here!
My daughter has taught me a lot about feminism. Having this amazing girl in my life who is her own person taught me that feminism is not anti-anything but pro-individual. She is so into fashion and looking “fabulous” and all things rainbow, hearts, sparkles, kitties, and dolls. I had to break down my prejudices against the traditional “girly-girl” (Hi, ingrained misogyny) and realize that as long as she is experiencing this world as a good and positive thing that it is OK. She saw cheer-leaders the other day and was fascinated and expressed an interest in being a cheerleader and I had to smile and say “Oh, that would be fun!” instead of letting my prejudices take root.
Let’s talk about birth, though, because I have heard you say that learning about it had a really profound impact on you. What prompted you to start to explore that topic in the first place?
I have always had a complicated relationship with my body. I have never been thin (or really, of average weight) or athletic, particularly graceful or strong. I was a child prone to fear, playing it safe, not engaging for fear of failing and my inadequate body being on display, shaming me. So when I labored for so long and delivered my baby without medications or interventions I felt like I was able to break the curse that I put on my body. The first coherent words I spoke after I delivered my son was “I can’t believe I did that.” It changed something in me, knowing I was capable and had the strength to grow and deliver a child.
After my second child was born, I was fully obsessed with birth. I had many friends who talked of the dehumanizing things that happened to them during labor. Even in my own natural, doula attended births, I experienced a lot of resistance and skepticism, like I was not capable to make choices for my own body and child. I want to be a person who helps change the language and relationship our country has for birth, because a woman who feels safe and empowered in her choices is an unstoppable force.
And so that’s when you decided that you wanted to become a doula? Or did that happen before? Also for people who don’t know (I didn’t until very recently), can you fill us in on what a doula is, exactly?
I think I had the idea to become a doula in my heart and mind just after Jacob was born, but I knew the timing was wrong. But after Nora was born both my husband and my doula said I would make a great doula.
There are actually lots of types of doulas, including birth, postpartum and even death. They are an experienced and compassionate person to walk along side of you. So in my case, as a birth doula I would be there for advice, education and commiseration before birth, physical and emotional support during labor and then back to the advisory and educational role after the baby is born. I think this fills a role that is missing for us culturally. Not everyone has trusted people in their lives to come along side them like a mother or sister.
What hospitals and medicalized birth has given us in advancements in safety, it has also removed the community relationship to birth. Often the only talk a woman will get before her own birth will be in the form of horror stories or advice that may not be in their best interest or desires. A doula is there to help channel the mother’s thoughts and energy and focus on the task of birth, before during and after labor.
I know you said you’re not doing too much right now but as far as your service goes but even still, what do you do to make sure that the women that you work with feel safe and empowered in her choices?
Though I am not actively in service right now, I try to provide that same safe space for my friends who are expecting. I hope they can find in me a person who listens, provides education or helps them prepare for their birth, no matter the route they choose. I’m not against any type of birth, except if the woman feels coerced or manipulated into their choice. Education turns decisions making from fear-based into a confident choice. Consent extends to all areas of our lives, and in times of extreme change, like birth, it is my hope that all women can walk forward informed and giving full consent.
Moving forward, I want to continue to educate myself. As I have become more aware of my privilege and intersectional feminism, I have opened my eyes to the different experience African American woman have during their pregnancies and births. They have a maternal mortality rate twice that of white women, and we need to explore why. Wow! I had no idea about that!
It is very easy to immerse yourself into a very white washed world where women embrace their bodies and birth their children in safety and love and strength, but for many women this is out of reach. Doulas, independent childbirth classes (those not held by a hospital), and home births are most often not covered by Medicaid, and lower income women are faced with either settling for what is covered or financially sacrificing things to afford more personal care. There is work to get doulas covered by Medicaid, but in the current political environment it is not a priority to do something that is pro-woman, even though doula attended births have statistically less labor time, less interventions, lower c-section rates and therefore lower cost.
My big dream is to become a midwife so I can better care for all women and bring choice and dignity to a woman’s birth experience. I hope for a day where women’s health and the care we give women during the perinatal period is as important and male impotence and “saving the ta-tas” from breast cancer. But that is a discussion for another day.
I love your big dream and I love the way you claim it and say it out loud for the world to see. I’m confident that your big dreams will come true—and I love the way that you’re accomplishing all these other little dreams in the meantime.
Thank you so much, Laura!
I love her heart and I know so little about this subject. I could talk to her for days and days about this topic!
Also, after we finished our interview, Laura told me that this week was World Doula Week! We didn’t time it that way but I’m glad that it happened that way!
Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Laura or any experiences to share? We’ll keep the conversation going here in the comments section or on the Facebook page.