Removing Rebozo Teachings from Doula Trainings

Removing Rebozo Teachings from Doula Trainings

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Montse Olmos lanzó esta petición dirigida para Doula Training Organizations & Individual Trainers


This letter is addressing white and non-Indigenous midwives, all organizations that train doulas, and all businesses and individuals whom profit and/or promote the use of the Rebozo for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum:

We are Angeles Mayte Noguez Acolt and Montserrat Olmos Lozano, Mexican Tutunaku Birth Workers, writing this petition with genuine concern for the practices currently being taught in the birth community at large. We are collaborating with many Black, Indigenous, and white allies in this effort to make impactful change in birth work. We are strongly requesting that all doula training organizations led by white and non-Indigenous people immediately stop implementing Rebozo teachings,  including educating on “Rebozo techniques” and selling non-authentic Rebozo-like fabrics as real Rebozos.The following will outline the reasons why we feel this is imperative. 

The Rebozo is a sacred textile that has been created and preserved by Indigenous communities across Mexico, Central and South America. It is a treasured part of our culture, and we feel that its current representation in birth work does not reflect that. Countless organizations, midwives, and individual doula trainers are introducing new, as well as experienced doulas to the Rebozo in a manner which does not address the complexities of its use. These "Rebozo trainings" are often very brief and only cover very basic aspects of the Rebozo. These trainings (whether in-person or virtual) are universally done without proper attention paid to anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. Brand new doulas are expected to go out into the world with this incredibly superficial understanding and practice these techniques on the bodies of pregnant people. This is deeply irresponsible.

The Rebozo is widely sold as a "tool" for birth, and a "must-have" for any doula. This practice is so ubiquitous that most pregnant people who work with doulas expect the Rebozo as part of their experience. The message repeatedly given by these training organizations is that you should "Rebozo your way through birth" - that using the Rebozo helps birthing people have faster and less painful birthing experiences. This false expectation, coupled with incomplete understanding of the mechanics of the Rebozo, creates space for higher risk of birth injury and trauma. Furthermore, the incorrect and unsafe use of the Rebozo which leads to injury or trauma contributes to the growing stigma of the Rebozo. Beyond that, it creates stigma for many Indigenous birth and body workers who regularly (and correctly) use the Rebozo in their practices. Some of these honored healers in our communities are known as Sobadoras, Parteras, Hueseras, Rebozeras, and Curanderas. It is essential to the protection and preservation of our culture that these practices continue to be valued and respected in the community and world at large. One way to positively contribute to that is to protect and preserve the traditional practices of the Rebozo.

While gathering information about this growing problem, we took the time to discuss these issues with doulas and other birth workers in the community. The majority of white doula trainers and white Rebozo "experts" that we spoke with expressed that they had learned the Rebozo techniques directly from a "Mexican midwife". When we asked these individuals whom specifically they learned these techniques from, they were unable to provide us with a name. Due to this, we were unable to follow through with our own exploration about these teachings with the Indigenous practitioners these birth workers claim to have learned from. Subsequently, we also do not know what techniques they were taught, what (if any) agreements there were between the midwife and the doula training organization, and the overall extent to which they were educated on the Rebozo. In the majority of cases we have seen, white birth workers "training" consisted of bearing witness to a traditional midwife sharing their wisdom at a conference in a single afternoon. In none of the cases had any of these birth workers completed any type of apprenticeship or further hands-on training, which is extremely important in this type of work. Overall, it is quite evident that the education being provided is in no way comprehensive and is, in fact, dangerous.

We have personally witnessed several instances of harm being caused by both doulas and American midwives who incorrectly and unsafely use the Rebozo on birthing people. We have included two specific examples to illustrate the manner in which harm can be caused by these unethical practices. For confidentiality purposes, we have not provided names of clients:

Birthing person was having a planned home birth. When they went into labor, the baby was asynclitic. The doula present at the birth began using the Rebozo to do "belly lifts". This doula had not been given proper training on anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. The midwife was doing fetal heart tone checks and began noticing that after each time the doula did a "belly lift", the baby's heart rate would significantly decelerate. The midwife immediately asked the doula to stop this intervention. The birthing person had to be transferred to the hospital and forfeit their home birth.

Birthing person had a subchorionic bleed in early pregnancy. They were having a planned home birth. During labor, their doula began "sifting the belly" to help relax the birthing person. Had the doula been properly educated, they would have known that this "technique" is not appropriate to be used with someone who has subchorionic bleeding. The birthing person began experiencing pain and bleeding soon after this intervention was used, which was quickly followed by a placental abruption. This home birth also became a hospital transfer.

As we have clearly illustrated, the Rebozo is an object with great meaning. It is an important part of traditional birth and body work, but is a practice that must be respected. The way to achieve this is to ensure that the only people utilizing the Rebozo in their healing practices are traditional birth and body workers - the Parteras, Sobadoras, Hueseras, Curanderas, Rebozeras, and Yerberas. Any person who has not apprenticed with a traditional healer should not be applying their Rebozo "education" on any bodies aside from their own. We are asking that all doula training organizations led by white and non-Indigenous people, and individuals who are white or non-Indigenous, honor our request to divest from harmful educational practices. 

In many Indigenous communities, knowledge is shared amongst community members in a reciprocal way. When dealing with traditional healing modalities such as the specialties listed above, this knowledge is typically passed down through generations. This important cultural tradition is deeply valued in our families and communities, and our healing practices require close guidance, mentorship, and extensive ongoing support. In our communities, we gather and learn over an extended period of time, practice hands-on with expert teachers, quietly observe, and participate when invited to. Many years can go before we are allowed to practice on other people, by ourselves. 

Weekend workshops and online trainings are not the way in which we traditionally learn within Indigenous communities. These are models that are born from capitalism and that thrive within urban settings because they offer a quick certification. In these spaces, it is usually white voices that are centered and the main currency is money. In our communities, we share our wisdoms with each other in daily life, celebrations, rituals and ceremonies. Our currency can be anything: mutual aid, seeds, labor and food. 

The apprenticeship piece in this work is key - this kind of mentorship relationship often lasts for several years before the student is granted permission to practice on other people. This kind of support and guidance is not achievable through the current standard of practice with Doula training organizations. This work cannot be learned in an intensive workshop, online class, or crash course.

We encourage people who want to connect with the Rebozo in an authentic way, to purchase a Rebozo directly from the weaver/artisan that made it, paying the price that the weaver asks for, and even more if possible and that they build an intimate relationship with their Rebozo through self-care and daily use. This also helps support Indigenous birth and body workers, as well as Indigenous artisans. We ask that people stop using synthetic fabrics, scarfs, pashminas and other industrially-made cloths as Rebozos. An additional important request that we have is for other traditional Mexican midwives and birth workers who are contracting with doula training organizations - we urge you to deeply reconsider the ways in which you are choosing to share your knowledge about the Rebozo.

We want to remind everyone that the Rebozo is an intervention, it is not a necessity during birth. 

We are conveying these concerns to you with genuine care. The Rebozo is sacred in our culture and warrants appropriate and comprehensive education if being used as a healing modality. If you support this important request, we are asking that you add your name and contact information to this petition form and share it widely. We ask that you share this petition everywhere, but particularly in spaces with white doulas and midwives who are practicing the Rebozo unethically and unsafely. This message needs to be heard. 

Paxkatzinil, Thank You Very Much


3,899 personas firmaron. ¡Ayuda a conseguir 5,000!
Al lograr la meta de 5,000 firmas, es más probable que la petición pueda ser publicada por los medios de comunicación locales.