Doulas are not medical professionals, but they provide parents with emotional and physical support, as well as advocacy and information, before, during and after birth. (Envato)
A group of queer doulas is meeting the needs of trans and non-binary expecting parents, helping them to feel supported, affirmed and seen.
Birth and parenthood are already scary journeys to undertake, but for LGBT+ pregnant people, entering a world that is so inundated with heteronormative and cisnormative language and expectations can be even more frightening.
Rainbow Doula DC was founded by Kelsey Carroll, and it is the only doula collective in the Washington, DC, area that caters specifically to the queer community.
Doulas are not medical professionals, but they provide parents with emotional and physical support, as well as advocacy and information, before, during and after birth.
According to its website, the staff at Rainbow Doula DC have “experience with expecting parents who are lesbian, gay, trans, non-binary, queer, and all folks”, and support “single, monogamous, and polyamorous people”.
They are trained to support survivors of trauma and abuse, and know how to navigate “hospital systems that may be unfriendly to folks outside the gender binary”.
Queer doula collective ‘respects the lived experience’ of expecting parents.
Carroll told The Lily that she was disappointed at the lack of inclusive language and acknowledgement of LGBT+ families in her own doula training, and decided to create an organisation for queer parents and queer doulas.
She said: “I learned that there are lots of queer providers and lots of queer doulas, but no sort of central space for all of that to be functioning from.
“I wanted to form a doula collective that would let queer expecting folks know that they can come to Rainbow Doula and any person they interact with is going to respect their pronouns, respect their lived experience, and, in some ways, share their lived experience.”
One doula who works at the collective, Sara Fatell, told The Lily: “It’s about being in a space where you feel seen, it’s about being in a space where you’re given a choice and being in a space where the way that you move through the world is respected.”
Although COVID-19 has changed how they work, the queer doulas are still supporting pregnant folk the best that they can.
Most hospitals currently have policies that only allow one birthing partner in the room during delivery, so the doulas have been supporting parents via video chat, phone call and text.
Bisexual sex and trauma therapist Katie Shepherd gave birth with her partner, and Carroll as her doula was on hand via an iPad.
She said: “It was really helpful having her there to suggest some things that wouldn’t have occurred to me.
“I think I was feeling self-conscious about making noise, [but Carroll] was really validating about like, ‘No, that feeling sucks, and it’s helpful to allow yourself to make noise.’”
One client has even opted to have Carroll attend their birth over their partner. Carroll said: “For this person in particular, they have a lot of trauma behind their connection to their body and their connection specifically to their reproductive organs.
“I think that they’re anticipating needing really trained and expert support for their birth.”
She added: “Having a person in the delivery room who’s confident, who feels a little bit more secure and like they’ve had some more preparation can be really, really important.
“That type of energy is palpable.”