A doula is a compassionate, constant companion who provides emotional, physical, and informational support throughout an embodied experience.
Usually, doulas are associated with birth. The role formally emerged in the 1970's with the natural birth movement, and took the United States by storm in 2008 when the documentary The Business of Being Born came out. But in the past decade, doulas have begun to expand their scope beyond the birth world.
"Full-spectrum doulas" support pregnant people regardless of outcome--abortion, miscarriage, still birth, or healthy live birth. "Death doulas" support individuals through their last stages of life, across the threshold into death. "Illness doulas" accompany and empower patients navigating the healthcare system. All doulas share the mission to offer consistent, open-hearted empathy to their client's feelings, thoughts, and choices.
I was drawn to this role in 2008 when I met a birth doula in a class called "The Philosophy of Medicine." Immediately, I resonated with the principles she described at the heart of doula work: providing compassionate, continuous care for women experiencing pregnancy, labor, birth, the postpartum period, and parenthood. As someone who was adopted, raised as a feminist, drawn to service work, and a scholar of gender and health studies, it was a clear fit.
I decided to be trained and certified as a doula through DONA, and then apprenticed with a midwife and childbirth educator in Ghana. In 2012, I learned about full-spectrum doulas, and eagerly joined the movement's founding body in New York City, The Doula Project. Serving individuals who often were grappling with the nuances of loss felt like a compelling and critical role I was well-suited to take on, as someone who has experienced extensive losses in life. I served as a core leader of the organization for four years, facilitated full-spectrum doula trainings, and have written numerous articles, essays, and chapters about doula work.
Types of support
I believe that everyone deserves and benefits from compassionate, consistent companionship through all human experiences, including but not limited to:
mental health challenges
In the more traditional doula realm of reproductive health, I support individuals navigating the spectrum of experiences:
labor and birth
grief over pregnancy loss
ovarian cyst treatment