DIY Doula: Self-Care Before, During, & After Your Abortion

During an election season that has centered on issues of reproductive health, the Doula Project’s forthcoming Zine, DIY Doula: Self-Care Before, During, & After Your Abortion (November), couldn’t be more timely and necessary. For however many times a political pundit says something derogatory about abortion, this comprehensive and expertly crafted Zine follows up with ten times as many affirmations. You know yourself best. You are making the right choice. You are strong. You are brave. You are loved.

The Doula Project’s mission is to provide care and support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy, including abortion. The NYC-based organization has trained dozens of abortion doulas that work across the boroughs and have provided support to over 10,000 patients. Yet there are thousands more people across the country who are unable to access a doula during an abortion, and DIY Doula was conceived as a “long-distance resource” that would provide the care and information that an abortion doula would typically provide in-person.

To this end, the Zine is divided into three segments to offer information and advice about the abortion process — before, during, and after. Some of the most enlightening and practical parts of the Zine can be found within the first few pages in which ideas for self-care, possible reactions and experiences, and common myths about abortion are listed and explained alongside looping text and beautiful, hand-drawn graphics.

The “Before” section is similarly filled with helpful advice on how to adequately prepare for an abortion, both physically and mentally. For anyone who is experiencing abortion for the first time, this section is jam-packed with useful tips that are often delivered with a laidback yet trustworthy voice, which lends each entry the feeling that it was written by your best friend. DIY Doula shines for how valuable and accessible its information is, written in unpretentious, everyday language (“certain laws make providers give scary misinformation”), and conveniently compiled into a few pages. It would be difficult to find this kind of stuff elsewhere, without being loaded by sterile, medical jargon, and without first scouring multiple sources. 

Another highlight of DIY Doula is its near endless — and wonderful — list of self-care techniques. From taking baths to blasting Beyonce to identifying the right tea or tincture, the suggestions cover a broad range of self-healing practices for a range of interests and personalities. At the same time, the Zine takes care not to trivialize by suggesting that healing can be achieved through a foot soak: “sometimes no amount of deep breathing can do a damn thing for us.” As iterated multiple times throughout the Zine, everyone’s experience with abortion is different, and the self-care techniques are mere suggestions for prioritizing one’s own needs.

The biggest drawback of the Zine is its lack of diversity among its contributors, with multiple entries appearing from the same contributors. Within its first few pages, the Zine acknowledges that the experiences represented are largely pooled from individuals who identify as white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and living in New York City. 

The Zine also includes instructions on how to be your best advocate while at your appointment, acknowledging that many people are treated unjustly in medical contexts because of factors including race, ability, language, gender expression, and more. While instructions on how to be your own advocate may be well-intentioned, knowing exactly what you will need during any medical procedure you’ve never had before seems like an impossible feat, especially when you may not even be aware of the prejudices that a provider might have.

However, DIY Doula does include an extensive and varied resources list, which includes organizations that serve Queer and Trans individuals like Harriet’s Apothecary, an abortion storytelling initiative on Tumblr, and Zines from La Frontera Fund and Texas Freedom Network Education Fund as well as Catholics for Choice. For those seeking further information, this list can help readers access resources that speak to the full range of abortion experiences as they vary among different locations and identities.

The Doula Project is dedicated to supporting people with whatever they may need in the abortion process. For some, self-care may not be as important as it is to others, and some may shrink from the long list of affirmations sprinkled throughout DIY Doula. But the Zine says that’s okay. As stated in the very first pages: “This Zine is for anyone and everyone getting an abortion, whether the experience is easy or hard. We trust you.” It’s that trust that illuminates the pages of DIY Doula, and makes it such a rare and invaluable resource.

The Doula Project’s Official Launch Party will take place on November 2 at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC. Purchase tickets here.

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