A few weeks ago, I got a spiritual download – What I’ve been called to do. I’ve known that I was meant to write since I was in elementary school As I’ve grown older, I recognized that my work goes beyond writing even though communication, language, words, and powerful storytelling are a part of who I am at the core.
Around 2015, I really became interested in birth work. I love children, have been fascinated by the birthing process for many, many moons, and thought it would be an empowering way to support Black women and Black birthing people. I was also inspired by women in my community including, Mama Kim Boyd and Mama Mayowa Reynolds who helped to bring forth my daughter. I don’t know what I would have done if she wasn’t in the room, setting the atmosphere. I loved the way they moved. I loved the impact they were having. I loved that their work, like the work of Black women who didn’t call themselves midwives, doulas, birth workers, was an act of resistance. I loved that their work was an act of culture and tradition keeping. I loved that their work was spiritual.
Even though I felt strongly about this work, recognized how poorly Black mothers were being treated and continue to be treated in the medical system, understood the statistics around the infant mortality rate in our communities, and knew that the work was sacred, I still sat on pursuing it for many years.
At the beginning of this shelter in place order, I told myself that I would not try to DO but to BE. I was already finishing my first semester of graduate school, looking for a new job, and of course taking care of my Little. I just wasn’t trying to add stress. I wasn’t trying to be hyper- productive. I wasn’t trying to trigger even more anxiety that what I was already managing.
Then one day, as a matter of fact it was April 14, my friend texted me about Black Maternal Health Week. She sent me some information and asked that I share it on social media and with my personal networks. In her follow up message she said, “I know you a birth worker so, sharing!” She doesn’t even know that in that moment, she drew me into one of my callings. She drew me in to purpose.
My immediate response to her was that I would share the information but that I had no doula certifications. I was reminded of all the Black women who delivered babies but had no documented certification. I was reminded of the women in Detroit who do this work and are led by spirit, tradition, ancestry, and their personal journeys in seeking out this knowledge. I thought about the women who still showed up, did the work, saved lives.
Before Miss Rona came to town (actually, the world!), I had planned to begin certification through a program in Ann Arbor but…divine order. In May, I learned about the Mama Glow Doula Homeschool. I knew that it was time, I knew that this was it.
At this point, I was working full time at home while also being mommy, a personal chef, counselor, playmate, teacher, interior designer, maid, and working on launching Raina Rising. But this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I knew I would be able to connect with women from all over the US, Canada, and the UK. I didn’t expect to expand my doula community virtually but if there’s anything we can say with gravitas about 2020, it’s that it’s not what we expected.
I was so affirmed when I learned that the course would center…US! Black women. The Level 1 Homeschool Training was grounded in :
- Activism + Advocacy
- Ancestral Tradition + Ancient wisdom
- Birth + Breastfeeding
- Evidence-Based Research + the Ethereal
- Mindfulness + Movement
- Rhythm + Ritual
- Sacred Anatomy + Sex
- Self-Care + Spirituality
Right up my alley. But, I wasn’t prepared for how transformative the experience would be. Sharing space with so many women, predominately Black women, who were deeply committed to this work and being led by Latham Thomas, a Black birth worker extraordinaire, was magical. Lots of things came up during the course – connection, love, rituals, autonomy, forgiveness, shame, healing, worth, discomfort, blockages, freedom, empowerment. In the early part of the training, Latham shared that each of us was brought to this work for a reason and that we were all healers. Heavy. Heavy.
I was empowered to learn more about my body, including the correct terminology and the power of reclamation through language. I felt rooted in self-determination and given permission to call my body parts by names that were more scientifically accurate but also names that I chose, not some white medical professional who didn’t even study the female body. I was at this point in the course that I recognized my path.
As a writer and storyteller, I deeply believe that language empowers community. I find great purpose and passion in my writing. I am equally purposeful and passionate about helping other people tell their stories, articulate their needs and experiences, name, identify, communicate. I wasn’t sure how to marry my love for writing and communication with birth work but, both paths come from the same place. That place is the place of creativity, the sacral chakra (also associated with emotional stability and sensual pleasure located around the lower abdomen).
I just want to birth beautiful things and to help others do the same – experiences, visions, ideas, programs, stories, poetry, art, traditions.
I’ve suffered from sacral charka blockages for quite some time. Signs of blockages and imbalances include, addictive/compulsive behaviors, sexual dysfunction, fear of change, emotional instability. In the body, the sacral chakra connects with reproductive issues –infertility, impotence, or menstrual issues – and lower back, kidney, or stomach disorders.
How ironic that this is the center from which all my work comes. This. is. God-ordained. Irony – in order to do the work of community, I quite literally must do my own work. I must heal, I must be clear, I must be open so that I can help those preparing to be their strongest and most vulnerable.
I know that God, my Ancestors, and guides on this plain ushered me into this work because it affirms that as I heal, I heal.
This is my work and it is revolutionary.
Doulas do not provide clinical advice or medical support. We are not OBs or midwives. But the work we do is still profound. We give birthing people permission and space to reclaim their bodies and voices, to incorporate tradition into their birth experiences, to move more freely and as the body says, we provide comfort and support, and we set the atmosphere because…
We deserve beautiful birth experiences.
We deserve safety.
We deserve to carry on the traditions of our ancestors.
I look forward to helping to bring forth more beautiful life. look forward to expanding my birth worker community. I look forward to helping to set and even shift the atmosphere for mothers – this includes supporting birthing people in prisons. No person should be chained to the bed while giving birth. No person should have their babies ripped from their arms. No person should feel like a criminal when giving birth. Though I plan to advocate for different and am a prison abolitionist, so long as prisons exist, I believe doulas will continue to create healthier, more beautiful, more sacred, and yes, more safe birthing experiences.
My current work involves bringing forth life. Eventually, my work will also include supporting families through death and ushering their loved ones to the light. Eventually, my work will be full circle and I will also be a death/end of life doula. Thank you, Patrece, for giving me that language. Thank you, Mommy, for your examples of compassion and bereavement that connected me to supporting people at the end of life even when I was a child.
Black. Women. Been. Doing. This.
I am so excited about this work. I’m exciting to marry my gifts as a writer with birth work. I’m excited to not only help those preparing to give birth but entire families, non-traditional, blended, etc.
For now, my credentials are ‘Doula Trainee.’ I have only completed the first level of the program. Although I am able to begin accepting clients, I look forward to completing Level 2 of the Mama Glow Doula Homeschool and then achieving full certification within a year.
My current standard package includes consultation and agreement for support, a Zawadi gift exchange – I provide prepared by an herbalist, an affirmations page, and The Four Agreements. The birthing person provides the declaration that they will do their best to remain open to the process – and a home visit. I will meet with client and supporting people to develop an “ideal” birthing plan understanding that the baby runs the show, check in monthly either virtually or in-person, provide labor and birth support as well as two post partum visits and on-going phone support. Due to the state of our world, most work is done virutally. We can still be in community even if virtually. We can establish a schedule or routine for check ins, text, and use various mediums to stay in contact.
Allow me to support you in helping to usher in ancestors return, babies from the spirit world to this side of the Earth, and create the sacred atmosphere you want for your birth and delivery.
I will be a support person, coach, and advocate showing up however you need me.
For the purposes of equity, I offer sliding scale payments. I had no intention of charging for services as some of the birth workers I am most connected to do not. They simply consider this to be a part of their ministry. However, it was strongly encouraged throughout the course to charge as it affirms the work of other doulas, especially those who do this work full time. It is a labor of love but labor, no less. I am open to discussions of bartering.
If you would like to contribute funds to support me in certification, with the purchasing of books, and/or supplies, feel free to send a blessing to $RaiEl2017 via Cash App.
I am generally uncomfortable with asking for and even leaning in to support but, we’re all about building community, right? If I tell encourage my clients to surrender to the process and allow themselves to be supported, I must also allow myself to be supported.
Thank you to the women and healers who’ve come before me, to the Granny midwives called “unheralded women who saved mothers’ lives before modern medicine”, to the birth workers in my lineage whose names I don’t know, to my Mommy for supporting me in my work, to my daughter for always making me rise, to my first client who happens to be my oldest niece, to the clients and community to come, and to you for reading and contributing.
Thank you to my friend, Yemisi, for calling me out and forth without even knowing it. I hope to partner in this work for her and that she might also help support me in the laboring processes to come (not in 2020 or 2021 because whew, Chile).
This is my work but it is also village work. Thank you, Village.
I can’t wait to give birth to more stories. Thank you, God, for using and choosing me.