In high school I was fairly certain that I was going to be the next Dr. Ruth, an authority on reproductive and sexual health. The desire to have conversations that helped normalize and explore the diverse sexual and reproductive experiences that people can have was so strong, still is. It became clear to me that while humans have similar experiences, the desire to classify and organize them can be overwhelming. This can so often turn against us in terms of what we classify as “normal”, and I hoped to help open up “normal” into something so much larger than what it appears to be.
As my friends and I navigated our burgeoning bodies and sexualities, I became passionate about educating my peers about the process of puberty, how babies are made, and definitely how to keep from making a baby. I came to understand that empowerment is when people make educated choices about their bodies and sexuality. Friends used to say I was too blunt or honest about these things, but I knew it was right when my girlfriends started asking about contraception and how to get it. Having open, honest, and informed conversations was the best way to be of service to my peers.
The first time I saw a live birth was in college, and it was hamster birth (hey, birth is birth). The best part of that hamster birth is that it happened 6 times in a row! Not long after this experience I was in a women’s health class talking with another student. I asked her where she was going to do her 6-month off campus field study. She said she was going to Guatemala to work with native midwives and that after she graduated from college she was going to study to become a midwife herself. You could do that?! Face palm. Immediately after graduating from college myself I completed the DONA (Doulas of North America) training and become a certified Birth Doula. The small seed that had been planted as a child had become a full on sapling!
Being someone who was truly mesmerized and in love with birth I imbibed as much information as I could about the process and its place in our society. It became clear to me that I fell into the category of out of hospital, midwife assisted, birth advocate. Witnessing only a few hospital births attended by old school doctors, in my teensy tiny town, I knew I wasn’t a fan of a patriarchal system of birth care. I met a few seriously impassioned elder lay midwives, and sought out all knowledge about how harmful hospital birth could be, especially for the babies. I stopped attending hospital births altogether, it was too much for my own psyche to handle. Looking back now, I see that I was naïve and arrogant.
It wasn’t until the birth of my own child and becoming a new mom that I began to see from a new mother’s perspective. No longer was pregnancy and birth only about gestating and birthing a baby. It became clear to me that pregnancy and birth is so much more about how a mother becomes herself, anew. That the cumulative experiences she has during the birthing year have a profound effect on the baby she grows and nurtures. Regardless of where or how she births. Personally, I was humbled by this life experience.
As it turns out, all the practical knowledge about pregnancy and birth is just that, practical. What moms-to-be and new moms also need are tools and practices that empower them to make confident choices (much like my friends in high school), but also help them roll with the punches of motherhood. To help families understand that every step they’ve taken has led them to the present moment, and that’s right where they need to be. I’ll be the first to admit that this is easier said than done. Mindfulness and consciousness takes practice.
My schedule keeps me from doula work now, but I’ve found my way to becoming a Birthing From Within mentor. This type of birth work is the next evolution, the next branch, on my journey to mentor women by helping them honor and normalize whichever path they’re on that leads them to becoming the matriarch of their own families. I’ve come to learn that being a mentor no longer means having all the answers, that’s just being presumptuous. Thich Nhat Hanh says it best, “When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?”