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Resilience in Community

I’m thinking of all the families that I have journeyed with this year in their transition into becoming parents, all of the beautiful moments and times of great care. In holding darkness within the light, my heart also hurts for the state of our country’s administration, our planet and the climatic warnings that mother earth has offered us this year. I think of the resilience of herbs such as nettles and dandelions, planting their roots in the poorest of soils, transforming that energy into medicine for many beings, and sometimes even sprouting straight up through the concrete. Can we weave this level of resilience into our lives through the strength of our communities?

When I imagine bringing children into the world during these times, I can’t help but dream of returning to the hub of family and community that I was brought up in. The past 4 years of westward migration by bicycle tour, cross-country roadtrips and a handful of flights and west coast living was essential to me becoming who I am, but I feel called to return to the east coast.

This disconnection from one’s family and overall lack of community support is what inspired me to become a doula in the first place. In college and on a whim, I adopted the Anthropology department as a second home. The evolutionary disconnect of how parents were traditionally held and supported by their communities compared to the very nuclear families that have become commonplace today in many American households hooked me. How can humans, children, families, and communities feel nourished when they are so isolated and separated from the world of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum?

This fascination and eventual passion for healing these community ties led me to officially becoming a doula with Cornerstone Doula Trainings at the end of 2017. Ironically, doula work itself can be very solitary, but Cornerstone, prioritizes their community connections. There are forums where you can soundboard questions, ideas, contracts, etc. to hundreds of doulas. They also prioritize relationship building within trainings. I cannot tell you how valuable my doula friends are, a few of which came from that very class, in processing difficult births, referrals to clients, back up support, and learning opportunities. Ultimately, it was this community that empowered me to step into my role as a birth doula.

Despite my eagerness to jump into the world of childbirth, last year around this time, I had yet to take on my own clients. I felt comfortable entering the postpartum world, working with babies of all ages and families of various needs, but I was still craving to support families through that ultimate transition of birth. I was volunteering at SF General Hospital with their truly amazing volunteer program, but somehow shift after shift the stars were not aligning for me.

I decided to attend a Cornerstone mentoring circle. It had been one year since my training, but I had yet to attend a birth without the mentorship of another doula. Juli Tilsner and Jazz-Ylaine Baptise led the circle with grace and wisdom through struggles, insecurities, and questions about our roles as doulas. This opportunity to deeply connect with other doulas was healing for me beyond belief.

Whether or not you believe in the powers of the universe, be it god, mother nature, serendipity, etc, I felt like something in me was unblocked in that circle. Well, the following day, I was volunteering at SFGH as a postpartum doula. I was getting ready to finish up my shift when an email popped up on my phone. A birth doula volunteer was assisting a patient and her shift was ending, she asked if anyone could come to relieve her. I was already in the hospital, beyond ready to serve in my role as a doula! I buzzed right on over to l&d and attended my first birth as a doula.

Afterwards, I excitedly reached out to my mentors that facilitated that circle. Somehow, I was perfectly in the right place at the right time. I was able to offer support for an intense, challenging, but of course beautiful birth. I felt overwhelmed by the cascade of interventions, humbled by the role we can play amidst it all, and very proud to be a Cornerstone doula. To top it all off with further affirmation, Juli responded, “There are no accidents in the birth world, you became 100% available and ready in your heart, mind and spirit, and there it was, the universe had been waiting!” Thank you Cornerstone for continuing to hold space for me on the continuously, unfolding journey of becoming a doula.

Looking back on the year, it is hard for me to believe all of the entrances into the world of little beings that I was able attend, the lessons learned, the realization of how learning will never cease, and the families that I have been welcomed into since then. Just the other day, in my role as a caregiver at Yogalayam’s postnatal yoga class, a mother entered with her brand new baby. My interest piqued as she walked up the stairs. I had attended her birth a few weeks ago! We caught up about her postpartum experience and I cared for her sweet little one as she practiced yoga. Watching her sleep silently in the sacredness of the sleeping baby room, feeling so deeply and inexplicably connected to this being, my heart was full and face dampened by tears. Maybe we are not so disconnected from the village after all.

Dandelion Mandala Credit: Kristina Rose Baker

Yogalayam - Berkeley, CA