Boston Birth Doula Jessie Ornstein

Rebozos and Whiteness.

Whiteness and cultural appropriation have been weighing heavy in my mind and heart. Specifically here, I’m thinking about my professional life as a birth and postpartum Doula and the use of rebozos. 

As a Doula, much of my comfort and nurturing practices are rooted in indigenous culture, history of black granny midwives, and has basically been stolen and co-opted by mostly white Doula’s all over the world. 

Recently there has been a call to action regarding rebozos by indigenous birth workers.

White birth workers are asked to halt use of Rebozos, specifically if we were taught by white teachers. 

Rebozo is a hand-woven shawl used in the Mesoamerican traditions for many purposes, and it’s a vital companion of the woman during her whole life. The journey together with the rebozo starts in Mexico as early as in the womb, as the mother uses it e.g. to cover herself, to tie the belly and to receive some manteadas, rebozo massages.

We are asked to make a deeper investment into the community and into the heritage of the Rebozo, as well as asked to understand the cultural significance and honor that via extensive training, not just learning how to utilize the Rebozo in a weekend training.

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.

Angeles Mayte Noguez Acolt and Montserrat Olmos Lozano

At this time, I am retiring my Rebozo from my birth bag. I will still use hands and sheets from the hospital or home for jiggling and release in the lower back and the pelvis, but I no longer want to perpetuate the harm that was created when I learned from a white Doula this indigenous practice and proceeded to utilize it in my doula business. 

Although I know the Rebozo to be a deeply useful tool in pregnancy and labor, I cannot in good faith continue to utilize it until / if I am able to properly apprentice with a traditional indigenous healer. 

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