We are grateful to our supporters! As we prepare for our virtual event in June where we will recognize all of our Birth Equity Leadership Academy faculty and leaders, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has invested in our work in recent weeks.
One of the first to contribute this past week was Esperanza Dodge, who was last year’s Sen. Richard J. Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year awardee. You can read all about it and her work as a Co-Founder of the New Mexico Doula Association and Operations Director of Bold Futures – formerly known as Young Women United here. Here are her comments on why she supports this work and how she is coping in the present moment.
1. Thank you again for giving. Can you share what motivated you to give to HealthConnect One last week?
I wanted to give back because HealthConnect One has given so much to not only myself and other BELA leaders and faculty, but to mamas, parents, families, babies. So many of the birth workers I have gotten to know since doing this work have a connection to HealthConnect One. That is showing the wide reach they have which can have a great impact on our communities. I see BELA as a big network of supporting one another and as a resource for one another. I chose to give because I believe in BELA.
2. How are you handling the COVID-19 pandemic in your birth work? What has been most successful for you in dealing with the pandemic?
The funny thing is, I don’t do any direct birth work. What I do love, however, is birth justice advocacy. I’m still involved in the New Mexico Doula Association and it brings me joy to see doulas connect across the state, including indigenous doulas. There are issues all the doulas and birthing families are experiencing that are unique to their area. It feels like a support system has emerged as a result of COVID.
I’m an Operations Director at my organization, Bold Futures, formerly known as Young Women United. I take pride in the fact that those of us doing mostly internal, behind the scenes work can make sure our operations and internal policies accurately reflect our reproductive justice values. It’s one thing to be on the front lines with policymakers demanding the right for our families to have decent childbirth and family leave, and it’s another actually “walking the walk” so to speak and implement those within your own organization. Take care of your people and you strengthen to be the best version of themselves to go out there and make women and people of color proud!
3. Where do you see community-based doula work heading? Will it continue to grow?
I think COVID has brought about two types of responses by doulas to the pandemic. One being a greater “fire in the belly” to fight hard and make sure birth work is valued and doulas and families have the support and resources they need, and coming together to make action happen, The other is sometimes that it is nearly impossible to continue work as a doula and some are having to put aside their birth work for the time being.
Both are OK! People are making the choices we need to make to survive right now. Knowing what you, your family, your community need and are capable in the moment are what we should be listening to. It’s great to take action, but it’s also wonderful to find peace in some pause time or a change of pace. Doulas had a hard enough time getting the pay they deserved before the pandemic. Now, it has only made things more difficult.
4. What else is on your mind right now with regard to birth work and what should we be doing or thinking about?
One of the most emotional things I’m witnessing is the exponentially increasing positive COVID-19 diagnoses within the Navajo Nation. While I am not Diné, I have loved ones and colleagues who are from and/or live there and are experiencing heartache like you couldn’t even imagine, losing more family members to the pandemic than most of us have. This is where I would love to see more resources and love going- to support families experiencing tragedy in the Navajo Nation.