Long-Distance Doulas and Radical Self-Care: An Interview with The Doula Project’s Mick Moran

 

I’ve known Mick Moran for about a decade, starting back in the early 2000s when they volunteered with  me over at VaginaPagina.  Since then, Mick started working with The Doula Project in NYC. Most recently, they’ve been putting together a sort of “doula skillshare,” spreading community and radical self-care through their zine project, DIY DOULA: Self-Care for Before, During & After Your Abortion. I interviewed Mick today to find out more about the zine and The Doula Project.

Tasha Walston:  Hey, Mick.  Thanks for doing this interview.  Can you tell Hellish Rebuke readers a little bit about The Doula Project?

Mick Moran:  Sure.  The Doula Project is a volunteer-run, New York City-based 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides free compassionate care and emotional, physical, and informational support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy. Since its founding in 2007, The Doula Project doulas have supported hundreds of birth clients and over ten thousand people through abortion and fetal loss.

TW:  How long have you been involved?

MM:  I trained with the Project in January of 2014. I’d learned about the Project when I was attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, and I went to a workshop called something like, “Increasing Healthcare Access for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People Using Midwives and Doulas.” I wanted to write it up for VaginaPagina, who I was volunteering for at the time.

A few months later, I heard through a queer networking group that The Doula Project was recruiting new volunteers, so I started thinking about applying. When I started to talk to my friends about it, they were like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I never thought of this for you before, you would be so good at that.”

BEFOREthingstoprepproof

An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After your Abortion.  Art by Mick Moran.

 

TW:  What about the project really spoke to you? Was there a moment or a thing that really made you go, “Oh, I have to do this!”

MM:  It wasn’t a role I ever imagined myself doing, and I don’t think I would have ever gotten involved if it wasn’t with an organization like The Doula Project that does full-spectrum work — it’s very important to me that we support people having abortions, and that we support people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to doula care.

I’m trained as a birth doula as well, but most of my work is supporting people in clinics having first-trimester abortions. I’m also trained to support people through second-tri procedures and fetal loss, which are both things that I’d like to be more involved in.
TW:  So it was the full-spectrum, inclusive aspect of the work that really drew you?

MM:  Definitely. That and the fact that we offer support to low-income people. Most people who have access to doula support are are wealthy people who have a lot of privilege in other ways, like they’re white or they have a masters degree or whatever.

Those folks also often have better support for an event like a birth — not because low-income folks don’t have good support network, but because they may not have the money to fly family members out, or their partner may not have the kind of job that you can take off from very suddenly (or they might not be able to afford the lost wages), or they might not have childcare for their other kids. Sometimes the doula support is the only support they have available.

TW:  Does that have to do with why you decided to make a zine? Whose idea was it to create a zine, and what made you choose that format and not a website or something else

MM:  We collectively (our Leadership Circle and Board of Directors) applied for a grant with the Abortion Conversation Project for a grant with the intention of making a booklet about self-care for before, during, and after your abortion. ACP’s focus is to break down stigma surrounding abortion, so that was one of our goals.

We also wanted to talk about full-spectrum doula care, and we wanted to give our doulas an opportunity to work collectively on a project like this. The idea was to distribute printed material that folks could take home with them from the clinic, either after they’ve had doula support or if they didn’t have access to a doula, and the idea completely blew up from there.

As we explained in our IndieGoGo, it was an intentional decision: “Keeping in tradition with The Doula Project’s own radical grassroots approach, we intentionally created this guide as a zine. Zines have been a popular way to cheaply and effectively reproduce knowledge among marginalized populations and help educate and inspire without the influence of those in power. Zines are a way to create your own media when your needs are not served by mass media.”

The other reason it went in this direction, and how I came to head up the project, is because I had recently had a comic about being an abortion doula selected for publication in the 1 in 3 Campaign’s upcoming graphic novel about first-hand abortion experiences, “Our Stories Will Not Be Erased” — so that got everyone excited about how things could potentially look.

 

 

 

DURINGbest advocate

An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After Your Abortion.  By Alex Pitre.

TW:  Zines have a long history in punk and political movements as a way to build community. Is that something you’re interested in doing, too–I mean, aside from getting info to individuals, which is also important?

MM:  Yes, absolutely — and I think that’s part of the way that this zine can really help break down stigma. People might be more willing to talk about their experiences with each other, or ask for support from people (we try to model how to do this in the zine), or maybe even get together to do some of these self-care practices together.

And it has definitely been community-building for our doulas, who are all volunteers who lead super busy lives — we don’t get to see each other all together as often as we’d like, so it’s been really lovely to get together to work on this project and talk about our values and what messaging we want to give to people.

It’s also been almost like a doula skillshare because we all have such different styles that we all have probably picked up different things to try as we’ve had these conversations and built this toolkit.

TW:  What is your personal history with zines? What did you bring to the project?

MM:  I have some history with zines — I’ve attended NYC’s zine fest in the past and I grew up in the Jersey punk scene — but my inspiration was more related to grassroots media. When I was in high school, I was part of a non-hierarchical youth grassroots activist organization, and there was a lot of the same handmade, DIY, cut-and-paste technique used to make flyers for protests or other events. I actually wrote my thesis on that kind of DIY media activism — using what is accessible to you, whether that’s drawing comics or collaging pictures and making four-to-a-page photocopies because that’s cheap.

The Doula Project’s media coordinator and several people on the zine committee also brought some zine background. We took a field trip to the zine fest at Barnard College for inspiration.

TW:  Did you take away any ideas from Zine Fest?

MM:  I think the biggest takeaway was that people were excited for our zine. We had some conversations about it and people were already asking if we had a flyer or something about it. It’ll be great to go back next year and be able to distribute them there.

TW:  Awesome! Who do you most hope you’ll reach with the zine? What do you hope to achieve with the project?

MM:  We really hope to reach people who don’t have access to a doula in their communities. When we first stated working on the project, we were thinking a lot about practical stuff, like the DIY heat pack. But as we talked more, we realized we wanted to try to give people doula care even if we couldn’t be there. And that meant that we needed to give them the messaging that we give people. We trust you. You know your body best. You know how to make good decisions for yourself. You are strong and you can handle this. All of that stuff.

We know that some people aren’t getting that from their partners or families or providers for whatever reason. Being a doula isn’t about *giving* someone strength, it’s about helping them find their own strength — that’s easier to do in person, but we hope that we can do that at least a little, long-distance.

TW:  I was going to ask you what is the most important thing you wanted folks to take away from the project, but it sounds like you’re already hitting on it when you talk about helping folks find their own strength. Is there anything else?

MM:  Not just strength, but comfort, and that they can trust themselves. We want people to know that there are so many different ways that people feel before, during, and after an abortion, and that it’s normal.

It’s normal to feel relief, it’s normal to feel sad, it’s normal to feel numb. It’s ok to be scared, it’s ok to make jokes. It’s ok to have so much hard stuff happening in your life that you think that being told to drink a cup of tea and take a deep breath is bullshit. We meet people where they’re at, and we’ve tried to do that on paper, too.

AFTERyogaprooffinal

An excerpt from DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, and After Your Abortion.  By Annelise Stabeneau.


TW:
 How can people get involved and/or help support The Doula Project and the zine?

MM:  We’re selling pre-orders of the zine on Generosity (part of IndieGoGo).

People have the option to buy one for themselves and donate one for us to give away. They can also use #DIYDoulaZine and share the campaign so we can make sure folks know about it, and if they have a relationship with any pro-choice groups, make sure they know this new resource is out there.

You can also support our work by donating directly to The Doula Project or by setting up your Amazon Smile account to donate to us.

We have a newsletter and a Facebook page if you want to keep up with our work.

TW:  Is there anything else you want folks to know?

MM:  The more pre-orders we get, the more free zines we’ll be able to give away! We’re really excited to see where we can take this.

This project received a Seed Support grant from the Abortion Conversation Project to reduce abortion stigma.  If you want to know more about the zine project, you can contact Mick at zine@doulaproject.org.  
MICK MORAN trained with The Doula Project in January of 2014 and joined the Leadership Circle as a Site Coordinator later that year. Mick has spoken at institutions such as Hunter College and NYU about topics such as media activism and reproductive justice for transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex people. 
THE DOULA PROJECT‘s founders, Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell, have a book coming out later this year detailing their commitment to supporting a pregnancy no matter the outcome—whether it results in birth, abortion, miscarriage, or adoption.  Check it out/preorder on Amazon:  The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People.  
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