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Meet Stevie Merino of Sol and Roots Doula

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stevie Merino.

Stevie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I want to start with saying that I was never interested in anything related to pregnancy or birth before being pregnant with my now 2 1/2-year-old.

When I became pregnant, I knew I wanted support during labor and delivery, especially since I was going to be giving birth in a hospital. My search for a doula who I felt could understand my previous interactions and experiences in medical establishments, who I connected to, and who I could afford was extremely limited and frustrating. I researched as much as I possible could about pregnancy, birth, newborns. Eventually I was able to find a doula and I appreciate her presence during that experience. Even with all of the research, having a supportive partner, and a doula I did still have negative experiences and felt varying levels of patronizing or plain mistreatment from hospital staff. That experience truly made me think about those who didn’t have the knowledge about their rights or have enough support, or any support at all. what are their birthing experiences like? At one point while pushing I had to kick out a nurse who was being extremely condescending! After my baby was born I knew I wanted to help address birth disparities, equip those having babies with knowledge surrounding their rights, and to just act as extra support. I stumbled across a full spectrum doula training for people of color in Oakland and it felt like my calling was knocking on the door. I attended the training with an almost 3-month-old in tow. It sounds cliché but my life completely changed that year, not only with the birth of my child but with this new medicine that I felt called to provide for pregnant people. Soon after I started my doula journey I decided that I also wanted to contribute more than on an individual level through my clients but on a larger scale through my academic abilities and research, so I also decided to pursue my Master’s degree.

I am currently writing my thesis on birth disparities and birth traditions in the United States. I also have conducted research on the experiences of birth workers in Los Angeles County and have presented at multiple academic conferences with more approaching over the next few months. I also was a volunteer with a local volunteer doula organization and helped co-facilitate childbirth educationals at a local high school to pregnant teens. This past June myself and another doula, Mama Maiz, co-organized one of the first Doula of Color training and knowledge shares in Long Beach. It was overwhelmingly successful and transformative from that we evolved into a doula collective and will be having future trainings in the upcoming year. My entire life is pretty much pregnancy and birth related at this point and I love it!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Like most things, there have definitely been some struggles. In the very beginning balancing a new baby with finding clients and being away from home during births was extremely difficult. Now with all of the additional hats that I am wearing balancing has taken on a whole new meaning.

Being in graduate school, working on our doula collective and future trainings, as well as taking on clients, and finding time for self-care has been exhausting to say the least but so worth it! Pregnancy is dynamic, it can be a beautiful experience for some and traumatic for others, holding space for every client in the way that THEY need and want has been such a learning experience. When we were planning our doula training we were concerned that we’d be met with skepticism because we were not a part of the mainstream certified doula organizations/trainings like DONA. We ended up being so held up and supported by the elders in our community that we had reached out to share space with us. It was extremely beautiful and reflected the community we want to be a part of and continue to build up, one of cooperation and not competition. I have had people contact me inquiring about my doula services and when we have a face to face meeting it’s apparent we aren’t the right fit. That’s always a challenge, sometimes as people who are self-employed and supporting ourselves or a family we want (or need) to follow every opportunity to make money but through my own draining experiences I have definitely learned that in this work our ego needs to be set aside and we need to protect our energy. I am not the right doula for everyone and that is okay.

Please tell us about Sol and Roots Doula.
Sol and Roots provides full spectrum doula services this includes any and all pregnancy outcomes from abortion, birth, miscarriage, loss, and beyond. I support all types of pregnant bodies including women and those who are trans, gender non-binary, and beyond. I strive to be inclusive. I love supporting the diversity of the community that I live in.

We are such complicated and intersectional individuals and my practice reflects that. I unapologetically support those who are teens, undocumented, LGBTQI+. I offer nonjudgmental support for everyone that I work with. I also provide placenta encapsulation and have different packages for those interested. This can look like a placenta smoothie, placenta capsules, placenta salves, the list goes on! Some people request extremely interesting things from their placenta! I value the work that I do and my fee for my doula services reflects that but I also make sure that I am accessible to the community and have sliding scale/trade options available for those who cannot afford it. This work has been passed down from my ancestors and I carry it with all of the love and respect possible.

I believe this work is political and when I am holding space for my clients I know that it is an act of resistance.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory is spending time at my grandfather’s house on Sundays with my cousins.

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