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Oct 29, 2009
I’m a morning person, which means that my bedtime is usually by 11pm. For this reason I almost always miss out on watching late night shows. Last week my homegirl Sparkle sent me a link to clip of the Jimmy Kimmel show that aired the night before with guest actor Taye Diggs. Sparkle’s note stated that “don’t let the privileged have all the resources to themselves. a doula for every family, y’all…”
You see Sparkle and I are doulas. Sparkle is a birth doula in another city on the east coast and I am an abortion doula in a public hospital in NYC. Sparkle is one of my doula mentors who encouraged me to apply to become trained in being an abortion doula. When I read about the need for abortion doula’s in NYC in the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Network Newsletter I looked into The Doula Project and spoke with Sparkle.
It is rare to hear about doula’s in mainstream media. The first time I heard about midwives and doulas was when Ricki Lake was promoting her documentary The Business of Being Born. When Taye Diggs spent half of his conversation on the Jimmy Kimmel show discussing his family’s experience with their birth doula during the birth of their son Walker, I was impressed! It’s a very powerful and intimate story to share. Not only does he discuss their experience with a doula, but he discusses placenta encapsulation. Watch the video below:
Growing up with hippie parents I knew what midwives were and with my background in reproductive health and my time living abroad, I came to understand the role of birth doulas. Even though I had been a part of the National Abortion Federation and counseled women for several years on all their options for their unplanned pregnancy, I never knew there were abortion doulas.
Today, I’m happy to say that I am an abortion doula. So what do abortion doulas do? Similar to the support and pain management techniques birth doulas provide, abortion doulas do the same. We are trained in relaxation techniques, the various abortion procedures, the hospital protocol, some birth control options and counseling. We provide all of these services, in addition to any after care that a person may need.
If you have ever had someone in your life that has needed an abortion then you may know that it is not often that an individual seeking to terminate can bring someone into the procedure room with them. Often the client is in the procedure room with a doctor and a few nurses, but nobody that they actually know or have communicated with prior to the procedure. That’s where the support I provide comes in.
At the hospital I work at clients usually arrive by 8am for morning procedures. I work with people who need first trimester procedures, but other doulas work with clients who need second or third trimester procedures and may have more than one visit to the hospital. The clients all wait together in a waiting room as the first trimester procedures take about 10-15 minutes to complete. It is at this time in the waiting room that we can meet the clients, offer support, massages, blankets, answer any questions they may have, and just keep them comfortable and relaxed.
There are many reasons why someone seeks to have an abortion and why my support is needed. First of all not everyone who becomes pregnant identifies as a woman even if their sex assigned at birth was female. There have been some clients who experienced sexual assault and rape because of their gender identity and expression and chose to terminate. There are other clients who choose to voluntarily terminate their pregnancy for various reasons and this is our constitutional right. Then there are some clients who wanted to carry their pregnancy to term but something somehow went wrong.
For example, sometimes a client may have a miscarriage. Based on a clients discussion with their doctor after their miscarriage, the doctor may decided that the client must have what is called a D&C (dialation and curretage) which will ensure that all of the contents in the uterus are removed and will not cause an infection. A D&C is extremely similar to some early abortion procedures and it is common for clients at my hospital to have experienced this scenario. Clients in this circumstance often wanted to carry their pregnancy to term and are not only saddened by the loss of their fetus, but also are in mourning.
There are other circumstances that can also arise such as a molar pregnancy which is when tissue from a fertilization does not turn into fetal tissue but rather placental tissue and causes cysts. These situations are also ones that must be removed from a clients uterus thorough a D&C.
As an abortion doula I am allowed to enter into the procedure room and accompany the client. I am there to support the client and all that the client needs. Sometimes clients are nervous, anxious, sad, and in pain, and others they are relaxed, focused, or sleepy. My job is to help the client relax which in turn assists the medical staff to ensure they can quickly and efficiently perform the procedure. For many clients this means holding their hand, massaging their neck or shoulders, talking to them about their family and interests, informing them how far along in the procedure they are, helping them breath, and manage any pain they may experience.
After the procedure is over, I help the patient and nurse move to a recovery room where the patient stays for as long as they need to and I help them as needed as well. Sometimes this means giving the client a foot massage, making sure they are warm, when they are ready to leave making sure the person who is waiting for them in the hospital waiting room comes to receive them, and giving them my contact information if they want to talk with me again or ask me questions.
I know that being an abortion doula is an important service for many people in various situations. It saddens me to know that many people do not know of the services as I once did, nor are abortion doulas always available for people who need them. The Doula Project which is located in NYC and now
Which brings me back to Sparkle’s original comment about the privileged having doulas. In case you did not know, having a midwife and doula at a pregnancy is extremely less expensive than having a child in a hospital. Doulas and midwives help a person have their child in the most comfortable position for them (which is often any position other than laying down on the back like in a hospital). Midwives and doulas have been used for generations all over the world. Sparkle and I both believe that doulas are not only for people with money or access to resources. It is for this reason that I volunteer as a doula. We all deserve to have quality care when we are most in need. We all deserve to have support that is without judgment when we are making difficult decisions. We all deserve to have doulas because that’s what doulas do.
If you would like to become a doula please visit The Doula Project. We are also in the process of achieving our non-profit status and are accepting donations. If you wish to make a donation visit the fundraising page.