Photo credit: Vanessa Simmons Photography
Genuinely caring for others is the foundation of Sabia Wade’s work as The Black Doula. As an educator, advocate, and partner in clients’ birthing experiences, Sabia is committed to teaching and providing inclusive, liberated care, particularly for marginalized communities. She talked with Squarespace about why she became a doula, how her work has changed during the pandemic, and why her own lived experience is critical to offering her clients truly safe care.
SQUARESPACE: What inspired you to become a doula?
Sabia Wade: Funny enough, I wanted to be either a doctor or nurse practitioner until I became a doula in 2015. On my way on that path, I worked in direct care in hospitals systems for several years. I loved it at first, then I realized the gaps in the medical systems, such as not providing true patient-centered, holistic, non-biased and inclusive care. Around the time of those realizations, I was introduced to community doulas and their ability to care for people in such a necessary and admirable way. In 2015, I became a volunteer full spectrum doula and I’ve been doing this work since!
SQSP: You mentor other doulas on creating sustainable business models. What advice do you wish you’d had when you were getting started?
SW: Phew! I would say having a beautiful website and a solid social media presence is great, but making your presence known by being a part of your community will be a greater benefit than anything else. Be present, volunteer when you can and attend events (virtually for now!). I also wish I’d known my doula business is my own and doesn’t have to fall in line with a “traditional” doula business. Be creative and make it your own!
SQSP: How has your work shifted during the pandemic?
SW: Virtual services are the new way of the doula world. Prior to the pandemic, virtual services were available but now they are crucial. Advocacy for birthing people is also changing. Before doulas could guarantee their attendance at births but nothing is guaranteed currently. There’s an increase in childbirth education courses, as well as prenatal education visits, especially for marginalized populations, such as Black birthing people who are dying at 3 to 4 times the rate of white birthing people. I was planning to attend the birth of a friend and second-time client near Philadelphia, but instead I supported virtually—such a beautiful experience, but definitely different from the usual way of supporting a birthing person.
SQSP: Part of your platform is devoted to inclusive education about bodies and giving birth. How does activism inform your work as an educator?
SW: Activism, specifically anti-racism and inclusion, has always been the foundation of my career as a full spectrum doula and educator. I’ve been able to learn from birth workers that have drilled in the importance of every human experience, every reproductive experience and every body. In my doula training organization, Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, I educate my students on topics such as birth and postpartum, as well as queer and trans birth, food insecurity, Black maternal health disparities, etc. Without inclusive education, we are erasing the experiences of those who matter and I will never accept or allow that to happen.
SQSP: What role does your online presence play in maintaining your business and building community?
SW: My online presence is crucial to my business and building community! I’ve been blessed to work with students all over the world from Scotland to South Africa and even Australia. My website is crucial to building leads and sharing my services with the world. I also use social media to build community and continue engaging with my community in a fun, more personal and efficient way.
SQSP: In your line of work, business is inherently personal. How does your identity shape your approach to your work, if at all?
SW: I’m a Black queer non-binary woman with fibromyalgia and a host of other pain conditions. When I teach about full-spectrum doula work with a reproductive lens, I’m not just speaking about the community, I’m also speaking about myself. I am a member of several marginalized communities. I am a Black birthing person, meaning my risk of dying is 3 to 4 times that of white birthing people. I am a person who has advocated for my health repeatedly and could have died if a doctor of color didn’t listen. I am the experiences that I teach about. I offer the services and education I provide because I want true liberation and safety for all in reproductive experiences and settings, no matter what identities they hold.