Gaby Gonzalez at Expecting Justice: Doula Access Efforts, Lactation Education Efforts, and Community Outreach and Engagement

October 17, 2022

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Expecting Justice as their Race Equity Intern. Expecting Justice (EJ) is a San Francisco based program committed to addressing disproportionate rates of poor pregnancy and childbirth outcomes among Black and Pasifika (Pacific Islander) communities. Using a Racism as a Root Cause (RRC) approach, EJ’s efforts are shaped to address interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. These focus areas are the drivers putting Black and Pasifika mamas and birthing people in vulnerable positions during pregnancy and childbirth.

As the Race Equity Intern, I participated in doula access efforts, lactation education efforts, and community outreach and engagement. One of my deliverables was to develop, administer, and collect evaluation responses at the completion of the full-spectrum doula training. The aims of this project were to (1) hear what trainees enjoyed or did not enjoy about the training, (2) gain feedback to enhance future training curriculum, and (3) advocate for continued funding of training Black, Pasifika, and Latine identifying community members to become doulas. Evaluation responses were gathered at the completion of the lactation education training as well.

Another project I worked on was organizing a community focus group for Black, Pasifika, and Latine identifying mamas and doulas residing in San Francisco. The goals of the focus group were to gain an understanding of (1) what mamas need to have a healthy and positive pregnancy experience, (2) barriers to accessing doula services, (3) challenges doulas experience, and (4) what doulas need to be successful and thrive while serving their clients. Altogether, the feedback will aid EJ in improving the curriculum of future doula trainings. Eligibility criteria included: (1) be a current resident of San Francisco (or if you’re a doula, be providing services in SF), (2) be a practicing doula for at least 1 year AND/OR have given birth or are currently pregnant, and (3) identify as Black, Latine, and/or Pasefika. The focus group was held on Zoom and participants were randomly selected among Google Form submissions from eligible mamas and doulas who expressed interest in participating. After transcribing the session, I conducted analyses using a Rapid Assessment Process (RAP).

Starting from square one organizing the focus group was initially challenging. I had to get used to being comfortable delegating tasks, creating internal deadlines, and having the authority to make important decisions. Nothing in EJ is done alone though, and I had great support from our doula access team and Abundant Birth Project Researchers. As someone interested in increasing access to community doulas, it was great to learn more about what doulas do, how to support and elevate doulas, and barriers mamas face in accessing their services.

I grew professionally and personally during my short time with Expecting Justice. I continued to make progress in my journey of unlearning perfectionism, I strengthened my skills in leadership, qualitative research, and project management, and I became more confident in taking initiative rather than waiting for someone to hold my hand. I want to give a special thank you to Dr. Zea Malawa, for your listening ear and words of wisdom. Breezy Powell, thank you for your contagious energy and always providing me with support. Payshia Edwards-Smith, thank you for believing in me to carry these projects and serving as a role model – I aspire to be like you as I grow as a public health professional and reproductive justice advocate.