In 2021, we’re profiling DTI doulas who are shaping the world through birth work, doula work and reproductive health advocacy.
What does it mean to live and work as a doula day-in and day-out?
Today, we’re featuring Cristina Leoni Osion (she/her/they/them)—a DTI-trained, full-spectrum doula based in Richmond, Virginia.
Cristina Leoni Osion (she/they) is a white, femme, Mediterranean descendant, lover of the sea, and avid home gardener born and currently based on the ancestral lands of the Powhatan and Monacan people, also known as Richmond, Virginia.
After having lived and worked in NYC, Berlin, and Tel Aviv as a young dancer they received their B.F.A. in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University and have continued to refine their skills in movement, facilitation, and support techniques working as a somatic artist, community circle facilitator and full-spectrum doula.
Cristina is currently exploring ancestral plant medicine, digital design, and ways in which to continue to advocate and create more space for care-givers and creatives. They are very proud to have co-created on a dance-on-camera work uplifting the lives of women labor activists in Virginia and Puerto Rico, the piece, “Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance Shall Not Be Moved.”
With pleasure and gratitude, Cristina has been in community with the Richmond Doula Project since 2017 and continues to support pregnant people through all pregnancy outcomes and experiences with advocacy, deep listening, sarcasm, and embodied practices.
1.) What brought you to doula work?
As a young person my partner and I got pregnant by mistake. I (we) felt alone, ashamed, confused, unsupported and disempowered to make an informed and authentic decision about how to move forward. I reached out to a few trusted elders desperate to find someone to connect with that had also decided to have an abortion and could not find the support and perspectives I needed.
Years later, I found out an amazing collective in Richmond that funded folks abortions and advocated for abortion access, the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, was funding a cohort of full-spectrum doulas to be trained by Ancient Song Doula Services.
I realized that my skills as a facilitator, mover, and child-carer were well suited for pregnancy, abortion, and birth support and that I could be that person that I had needed way back then for someone else in my community now. I have identified as a full-spectrum doula ever since and am grateful to have the continued support of my fellow Richmond Doula Project doulas.
2.) What are you working on within your doula practice right now?
Currently I am working on integrating my own somatic and embodied practices that I’ve cultivated from my dance training into my work supporting pregnant people. Movement study has taught me so much about trusting and listening to my body and I am working to crystalize that and make it accessible to pregnant folks with busy, full lives.
I am also always working on being a supportive and active member of the Richmond Doula Project as we continue to build and grow into our vision to provide sliding scale, BIPOC- and queer-centered, pregnancy support to our Richmond community.
3.) What’s in your doula support bag?
Essential oil diffuser, battery operated tea lights, affirmation cards, I love EBB flash card packs for quick referencing, warm clothes for hospitals, knitting and books for when I am supporting abortion clients in the waiting room, rice sock, pre-packaged honey sticks or packs for sugar boosts, playlists for every vibe, I get chronic migraines so all of my weird tricks and supplies for if/when those pop up, also thermoses for hours of hot tea/coffee have gotten me through many a birth, and a co-doula I work with recently put me on to a crock pot with soothing herbs for a perineum steam for birth clients just before transition phase, and all the snacks!
4.) What’s your favorite doula book?
Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger
5.) Describe your doula journey in three words.
Intuitive, supported, collective.
6.) What’s one thing you’d like to say to new doulas?
Build a trustful, community filled with various identities but with shared values. Invest in relationships with other doulas/care-givers who you can be in deep, loving, and accountable relationships with. Care-giving is messy, unpredictable, and often summons us over and over again to our growing edge.
The most important tool I have as a (still) growing doula, particularly as a white, femme presenting one, is having people to be completely vulnerable with, to be honest about my biases and shortcomings, to be able to refuel and move forward more enriched.
7.) Any words you live by when providing doula support?
Check in, hold space and move through; with yourself, your client and folks in the room.
8.) What’s one interesting thing you’ve learned about the human body, thanks to doula work?
More of a fun fact about plant/human relationships, but I really loved learning that even with all of our modern medicine a lot of hospitals still use this amazing species of seaweed called Laminaria that supports the softening of the cervix for second-trimester or Dilation and Evacuation abortion.
As an aspiring strega, I love the affirmation of the power of plants and the idea that pregnancy, abortion, birth practices etc. were folk practices long before they were medicalized.
9.) Your favorite tip for new parents?
Accept support where it is offered and if you are struggling with that let folks know and specifically ask for someone else (postpartum doula, wink wink) to coordinate the support for you, we are not supposed to raise babies/children alone!
Also, I truly believe that we come out of the womb full of personality, preferences, and quirks, so I offer acceptance and grace that your new human is their own autonomous person and not always a reflection on our parenting or ourselves.
10.) Your one wish for the birth world / reproductive health world at-large?
Free and accessible abortions, on demand, no questions asked, and with doula support if wanted. And while we are working towards that, I wish for more folks to donate, volunteer and support abortion funds, providers, and doulas. If you are able, please consider supporting the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and the Richmond Doula Project, the local abortion fund and full-spectrum doulas that funded my first full-spectrum doula training and with whom I am honored to volunteer and be in community with.