Birth Work as Care Work: Stories from Activist Birth Communities

Alana Apfel et al.

Birth Work as Care Work presents a vibrant collection of stories and insights from the front lines of birth activist communities. The personal has once more become political, and birth workers, supporters, and doulas now find themselves at the fore of collective struggles for freedom and dignity.

The author, herself a scholar and birth justice organizer, provides a unique platform to explore the political dynamics of birth work, drawing connections between birth, reproductive labor, and the struggles of caregiving communities today. Articulating a politics of care work in and through the reproductive process, the book brings diverse voices into conversation to explore multiple possibilities and avenues for change.

At a moment when agency over our childbirth experiences is increasingly centralized in the hands of professional elites, Birth Work as Care Work presents creative new ways to reimagine the trajectory of our reproductive processes. Most importantly, the contributors present new ways of thinking about the entire life cycle, providing a unique and creative entry point into the essence of all human struggle—the struggle over the reproduction of life itself.


“I love this book, all of it. The polished essays and the interviews with birth workers dare to take on the deepest questions of human existence.”
—Carol Downer, cofounder of the Feminist Women’s Heath Centers of California and author of A Woman’s Book of Choices

“This volume provides theoretically rich, practical tools for birth workers and other care workers to collectively and effectively fight capitalism and the many intersecting processes of oppression that accompany it. Birth Work as Care Work forcefully and joyfully reminds us that the personal is political, a lesson we need now more than ever.”
—Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras

“All we are doing in this world is living and dying, creating and destroying. We generate new life in our children and in our ideas. Becoming a birth supporter, getting to be an attendant to the miracle of childbirth, has transformed my social justice work. Our visions for justice are what we are birthing in this world. Learning to listen, learning to trust the body and the people, and learning to breathe will transform our movement work. Birth Work as Care Work demonstrates these lessons through showing us ways we can learn together to support the birth of new worlds.”
—Adrienne Brown, coeditor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

“This book places the doula—as a caring birth activist—at the heart of reproductive care work in our modern society. Doula, a new name for an ancient traditional role, reappears today as women daring to reclaim their power through birthing and caring for their children.”
—Valérie Dupin cofounder and cochair of the Association Doulas de France

“Alana Apfel is an artist and a robust one. Weaving the logic behind birth, care, and reproduction together, Birth Work as Care Work documents how caregivers and communities are marginalized in society on a daily basis whilst working to sustain themselves and ironically, to sustain life itself. Her thesis seeks to put the human back into being.”
—Chitra Subramaniam, editor in chief of The News Minute

About the Authors:

Alana Apfel was born in the United States and raised in the UK. She holds graduate degrees in anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies and the University of Edinburgh. Her writing engages the politics of care work with a focus on birth and activist birth communities. Alana teaches on ways to radicalize birth work and continues to support people through birth in Bristol, UK.

Loretta J. Ross was a cofounder and National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. She is one of the creators of the term “Reproductive Justice,” coined by African American women following the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.

Victoria Law is a mother, photographer, and writer. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and coeditor of Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities.

Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, writer, and teacher. In 1972 she was one of the cofounders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the international campaign for Wages for Housework. In the 1990s, after a period of teaching and research in Nigeria, she was active in the anti-globalization movement and the U.S. anti–death penalty movement. She is the author of Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle.

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