This Black Male Doula Is Shattering Stereotypes While Advocating For Pregnant Women
"I just really want to change things," Dustin Young said. "I actually want to solve and heal."
July 01, 2021 at 10:35 pm
Dustin Young, a recently certified male doula, is encouraging men to educate themselves on childbirth and is advocating for women before, during and post-labor.
The California native shared that he began his journey to becoming a doula after aiding his younger sister, Alexis Pitts, during her pregnancy and childbirth.
"It was a safe birth but it still wasn't a great experience," Young told
Good Morning America of his sister giving birth to his nephew, Kassius Harris, in 2019. "She wasn't listened to at the hospital."
Young emphasized the importance of hospital staff’s attentiveness to both a mother and child during labor.
“What I would like more is for nurses to have a little more empathy and just be receptive and open to listening. Just ask some questions like, ‘How do you feel? How do you feel today? What can I do for you right now?’ It does a lot,” Young added.
The 37-year-old said that he wants to provide a safe birthing experience for mothers because, according to the CDC, about 25,000 women develop severe pregnancy complications each year, and Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die during labor than other racial groups.
Young also pointed out that there was a palpable difference between his sister’s delivery experience at the hospital and the environment they created at home, especially for the onset of her contractions.
"I had lavender oils burning, no television was on, all cellphones were off, we were just relaxing," Young said. "Every time she'd contract, I'd massage her lower back, we'd get on the ball, we'd do all these things to make sure she could labor as long as possible at home. It was extremely relaxing for her.”
For as long as he can remember, Young explained that he was always intrigued by the birthing process and was an inquisitive child who consistently asked questions.
“I was one of those ‘why’ kids,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Where do babies come from? Where do humans come from? How do we keep recreating ourselves? How does the world exist?’ As I got a little bit older, I’m like, ‘OK let me dive in more into this anatomy. What goes on internally within the male body and a woman’s body.'”
Young became a certified doula in 2020 through the Los Angeles birthing center Kindred Space where he met one of the cofounders, Kimberly Durdin. Durdin allowed him to shadow her during births for hands-on experience after he shared that he wanted to become a doula himself.
"I try not to normalize extraordinary and the birth experience is something that's extraordinary,” he said. “I love the doula approach because you feel like you get a more individualized practice and service. You relate, build and grow over the nine months.”
Young said that he wants men to be able to engage in the birth experience to create a happy and healthy bond with both their child and spouse.
"It's more about providing confidence for the man to show up in a way that makes sense for their partner," he said. "I think if more men were more educated on the birthing experience, we can support more."
Aside from shattering stereotypes as a Black male doula, Young also founded Our Own, a nonprofit organization for "untapped communities." The organization aims to dismantle systemic barriers in nutrition, education, entrepreneurship, mental health and physical fitness to eliminate economic gaps, according to its website.
"I just really want to change things," he said. "I like solving problems. I don't want to put Band-Aids on anything, I actually want to solve and heal."
Our Own currently has three programs: Seed and Soil, which focuses on AgriTech solutions by providing nutritious meals to those who lack access to healthy food in Los Angeles; Be Right Back, a mentorship program that allows participants the chance to explore different industries, cultivate their skills and practice self-care; and Self, which focuses on fitness through yoga, meditation and cycling.
“With a strong focus on community, culture and economics, empowering everyone no matter who you are, where you come from or your circumstances, we’ll create a better present and a promising future for generations to come,” Young said in a video posted to his Instagram. “Working and building with each other will allow us to reach infinite heights and make the impossible possible.”