What Does Inclusive Really Mean?

As a doula, I’ve thought long and hard about this, because I am committed to making my services as inclusive and accessible as possible. I may not connect emotionally with every possible client I meet, but I want to make it clear that I believe that doula care and midwifery care should not exclude anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, etc.

This was a great article to wake up and read this morning…Sharon Muza, a doula and educator in Seattle, is guest blogger today on Science and Scnsibility, and shares the experiences of Cathy Busha.  Cathy is a MSW, and she and her partner are expecting their first baby in July.  As the non-carrying parent in a lesbian couple, she has experienced all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle hints that the childbirth ed world still hasn’t quite made the shift…and it hurts.

As I’ve explored books and blogs and birth websites, it seems the birth world, like the rest of the world, is hyper-heterosexist with rigid gender roles. Heterosexism assumes that everyone is straight: there are no pictures or stories of lesbian births on mainstream birth websites. At best, the word ‘partner’ is used, but all images, examples and stories are of straight couples.  I have grown weary of having to translate my role (non-biological mom) from mainstream books, videos and materials that assume all families are one man, one woman.

As for gender roles, on birth websites, women are portrayed with long hair, flowy white dresses, surrounded by flowers, brimming with nurturing instincts. Men, on the other hand, are described as bumbling, strong, masculine providers who may or may not know how to hold a baby or change a diaper, but patiently suffer through their wives’ crazy cravings and mood swings. I don’t identify with either of these paradigms and wondered how I would fit into the birth class we had chosen to take.

Language is important, and can make a world of difference in ways that those of us in positions of privilege would never notice. Imagine going through your entire pregnancy feeling invisible in your childbirth ed class because the language used never acknowledged, affirmed, and celebrated your presence. For any birth professional, this is a post well-worth taking five minutes to read and ponder…and then take some more time to consider simple ways that you can make your language more inclusive and affirming of families of all kinds.

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