Atlanta doulas are here, queer, and birthing your babies

More and more potential parents are enlisting the help of doulas for childbirth. Meet one practitioner who says some local ones add further comfort for queer moms by being LGBTQ themselves. 

Atlanta is both a very queer and child-friendly city, but there are a lot of soon-to-be parents out there having a hard time finding queer birth workers. We all know that things like sexuality don’t determine the quality of care one person can give to another person, but it can definitely be nice to have someone around with whom you share certain experiences.

Let me assure you, we are here.

I’m a doula myself, so that’s who this article focuses on, but I also know or know of queer midwives, OBs, and lactation consultants in the metro area.

My initial plan was to write this for a parenting magazine, but I decided to go with Q magazine, because if you want to reach queer parents, you don’t go to where the parents are and hope some are queer; you go to where the queers are and hope some are, or know of or are thinking of becoming, parents.

But this isn’t about me. I don't want to make this article an advertisement for me, because that would be tacky. This is to draw your attention to all of us, your local queer doulas, and explain the option we offer for birthing, as well as why choosing an LGBTQ practitioner is the way to go.

Doulas hold a weird place modern American culture. Versions of role have been around for as long as any other birth worker.

It hadn’t really been a job for which someone is paid, so much as something some people just do, until about 30 years ago. As a result, there aren’t clear expectations regarding what we do or do not do, which can be both beneficial and detrimental in that it gives us the freedom to help our clients in any mutually agreed upon way, but prevents people from having a clear idea as to what to expect.

Sometimes it’s hard for people to take us seriously as professionals. To many, a doula is a pushy woman named Flute (played by Amy Poehler) whose business card is a leaf and who doesn’t believe in medicine.

I get it because I spend a surprising amount of time discussing the best way to explain what a doula does without making it sound gratuitous. I tend to go with, “I provide emotional support for people who are in labor or have just had babies." People either smile, nod and walk away, or they begin a list of questions.

Inevitably the first one is, "Isn't that why their partner is there?" The problem with this frame of mind is that the birth partner is generally in a love-based relationship with the person in labor. If they aren’t a romantic partner they tend to be family. This is definitely ideal, but honestly can become problematic when someone is in an incredible amount of pain and both emotions and adrenaline are running high.

It's hard to say that without sounding like a jerk, so I try to steer the conversation with this: "Imagine if you are in labor, and there is a person there whose job – emphasis on the word job because it sounds more legitimate – is to help you relax and basically do whatever you need. That’s what I do."

That's usually when, if they are expecting or considering having a child, their eyes get wide and they smile.

Something that surprised me at one of my early births was that part of my job was hanging out in the waiting room with family members who nobody wanted to feel left out but for various reasons couldn’t be in the delivery room.

That's another thing about having a doula, you have a built in fall-guy. If you want to kick out the annoying family member who can’t remember the right pronouns, titles, or relationships but you or your partner can't do it because there will be hell to pay come Christmas, have the doula do it. I don't care if your family hates me.

We’re here, we’re queer, how can we help?

Jacob Engelsman works as a Doula in Atlanta. His QTP Doula company stands for Queer, Trans & Poly. Find QTP on Facebook, e-mail [email protected], or visit AtlantaBirthGeek.com.

A version of this column first appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition of Q magazine, which you can read below.