Since I took the ICTC doula training at the end of 2012 I’ve worked to complete the list that you see, in order to work towards certification. I’ve been able to check off several items, but in the past number of months (or more) it has not changed. As you’d probably imagine being a full-time graduate student (and TA) I’ve had next to no time at all to think about accompanying someone to the delivery room — or to their bedroom — or to wherever they are having a baby — if and when I found a pregnant woman. And even though I have been in touch with someone around here who has been wanting to reinstate a volunteer doula program in the area, but she is even a nursing student and super busy and so it takes time. And my time for completing the requirements is running out. ICTC gives two years to complete these requirements before you must retake and repay for the training and everything else and start all over — and I’ve put a lot of effort and money into pursuing this endeavor up to now — paying for childbirth education classes, getting a food handler’s permit, books etc — though that is something that I take into consideration it is not necessarily the main reason why I’m thinking about the timeframe. But as of now the time limit means I only have until December — and that’s just over six months from now.
What else I’ve been thinking about over the past while is that even though I really believe in the power of a doula, am I just helping to contribute to the ‘medicalization’ of birth and the list of complications that come with it by obtaining a certificate? Would it mean that I am helping to continue to keep birth an institution — and birth attendants a commodity? I really think the training at ICTC was unlike any other I could have ever imagined, and I am so happy I went and got to be in an environment that not only paid attention to Black women, but it placed our issues directly at the center. Even though I signed up to learn more about breatfeeding it radically changed the way I see things and my understanding about why having emotional support during this critical time is so important for Black women. Even though I really hate making comparisons to white people, in this case I will because the reality is that BLACK WOMEN ARE FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY TO DIE IN CHILDBIRTH THAN WHITE WOMEN!!!! Racism and sexism ‘is a fundamental element in health disparities’ and causes our babies to be born prematurely and that contributes to the high amount of infant mortality. We also have a legacy of our bodies being cut into and used in experiments and as test subjects, and there is such inequity in breastfeeding. For me, a doula means confronting this legacy — it directly provides a hands-on avenue to challenge this — with less c-sections, greater breastfeeding success and so much more. But lately I’ve started to wonder if I would really need to become certified in order to participate in this way. Would doing so mean I would be more ‘official’?
I know that there are definite benefits to obtaining that gold sticker on an official document — such as being able to bill insurance companies and the state, or Medicaid or whoever. But at this point I am not really sure if I’d even have time to make it and meet those requirements. Plus, I haven’t even had a chance to gather my thoughts and think about my politics around the idea of the ‘institution,’ and to really sort any of my feeling about that out.