Thanks to a powerful recent blog by a doula in England about her experience in a Birthing from Within workshop, I have found myself reflecting on my own path as a doula and childbirth educator. Over the years I’ve done ICEA training, DONA Birth Doula Certification, and Birthing from Within Mentor Certification, along with apprenticing as a midwife and a Masters of Science in Parent-Child Nursing - more than my fair share of learning. Through the past twenty + years of practice I can identify the 7 core experiences that have shaped who I am as a birth professional.
#1 The first birth I ever attended - my first experience of conservative obstetric culture and violation of informed consent. My eyes were opened and my heart was broken. I was 22 years old, and they were just 19.
#2 Volunteering at the Washington Free Clinic in D.C. in the early 90s. I was blessed to work with immigrant women from very traditional birth cultures in a powerful collaboration of midwifery and obstetric care. This experience gave me a taste of what is possible when we lay aside the birth politics and learn from one another as practitioners.
#3 Training as a midwife at Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, TX. Six months of hands-on learning in a birth center on the US - Mexico border replaced the romance of midwifery with the reality of what it means to be the care provider for mothers and babies - both the depth of responsibility and the heart of giving to families in this way. I also had a Lot of fun 🙂
#4 My first Birthing from Within training in 2001 with Pam England, author of Birthing from Within. I didn't know it when I walked in the door, but that weekend workshop would lead me to leave behind my career in Nursing, release my dream of becoming a midwife, and lead me full circle back to the heart of why I first began this work.
#5 Meeting the wise and wonderful Lanell Coultas, Birth Doula and Birthing from Within mentor, in Austin, Texas. Although at that time (2003) I had been supporting birthing families for over ten years, she was the very first full-time professional doula I ever met. She inspired me to step into my new role as a birth business owner and develop the skills that have led me to now supporting all of you as the The Website Doula.
#6 Loss. The heartbreaking year when five families in my care had stillborn babies, and we lost our 3rd child at 18 weeks. It was hard to not feel as though I was in some kind of vortex of loss. Their stories, and my own loss, transformed my understanding of what it means to Fully step into and embrace the unknown of birth, and strengthened my trust in myself, in birth & the families I serve.
#7 The women of Dancing Star Birth. In 2004 I founded Dancing Star Birth in my new hometown of Vancouver, BC, providing Birthing from Within prenatal classes and doula care. This past spring of 2013 I sold the business to two of the women who worked with me - the fabulous Judy McLaren & Arwen Brenneman. Over the years I had the privilege of working alongside some incredibly gifted women - Jennifer-Lee, Monique, Patricia, Jocelyn, Erin, Jenny, Robin, Lucy, Arwen, Judy, & Marta. Along with deepening my skills and compassion in birth work, they have shown me the beauty of how this work shapes our lives, helping me to birth myself into new ways of being with my family, in my work, and myself as a woman.
This is by no means a comprehensive map of my path as a doula and childbirth educator, but they are certainly some of the key moments that stand out in my two decades + of birth work. Now I have the honor of supporting all of you in growing your birth practices with The Website Doula, and in doing so hearing about each of your paths into this blessed work.