Work, Motherhood, and My Calling
Before my first daughter was born I spent a lot of time exploring.
On a fluke I discovered that I could go abroad. I attended an international conference in Latin America when I was 18 and was blown away about what else was out there. This bug was pulling me to keep finding myself thrown in new places. My parents still don’t have passports and are perfectly fine exploring their local region. This was my own bug.
Soon I went from the Sea Islands, to Trinidad & Tobago, then India, then Japan, then London, then Mexico. Japan again to work, back to the US. Needless to say, each one of these changed me. Humbled me. I was sometimes present, sometimes lost.
I began an art practice, side-jobbing with my sewing machine, while working in research institutions (to learn something I thought I might put to use in some undefined future). I learned Argentine tango. Fell in and out of love a couple of times. Lived on a boat. Lived in a tree house. Felt happy everyday. Went in search of something new.
Went back to London for grad school in Anthropology. A new media enthusiast. Was the poorest I’ve ever felt. Curled up in beds wondering what would come next. Then resumed side-jobbing with my trusted sewing machine (and my ideas). Sat for months as a live knitting installation. Got worn out. Pushed. Pushed. Pushed.
Costume designed. Sat for an epic meditation (this time without knitting or being observed). Spoke on a Pecha Kucha stage to a packed audience about expectation, vision, and consistently being impressed by what things really look like once we meet them face to face.
Launched a major academic research group of 30 women. Project managed and curated some contemporary art events. Got disillusioned by corporate culture (even in the Arts). Worked hard. Felt broke. Pow-wowed with my guy Karsten and my close circle. Felt capable. Still disciplined, but gradually lost the drive to fulfill other people and institutions’ missions. Regardless of how grand or noble.
I had my own. We all do.
Our own medicine.
I became pregnant.
My needs and desires started speaking louder than ever.
That long love for packed London city streets turned to Pacific Ocean air. A few pre-natal appointments and I started casting out my net, in search of a full view of my options. Social media wasn’t big, but the internet was like the yellow pages. I found a birthing center in San Francisco and was willing to figure things out on the go. Karsten and I checked in with one another, put in our notices and headed for the US. That great NHS coverage wasn’t around in the US. Bureaucratic Acrobatics were in order. Became a research machine. Reinstated my anthropologist hat to get my head around childbirth practices of the day. Had no idea at the time, but THIS was the beginning of my next thing.
Every conversation, book, video, research paper, ethnography on childbirth I stumbled upon fascinated me. Opened a new door. With no expectation I was open to learning. The logistics of my own birth plan were falling in and out of place. My desires and needs were clear. I needed good communication. Reliable information. I needed a listener. I needed trust.
Insurance companies considered pregnancy a “pre-existing condition.” Coverage for a homebirth midwife was not looking good. My confidence in job interviewing was falling by the wayside. After 2 rounds of interviewing, mentioning my pending pregnancy was a big no-no.
Red tape and regulations meant no work, no insurance, no planned home birth. The vision was still there. We hustled to get the next best thing (for us). A busy birthing center with payment plans, birthing pools, a loaded library archive and knowledgeable nurse-midwife (with a penchant for gangster rap).
The desire remained. As did the vision of a birth in my own space.
About 7 years ago Gigi, my first child, was spontaneously born. With unexpected speed. At home in the bathtub, with Karsten as the unintended mid-husband.
The story spread. It was uncommon. Not too familiar in our collective childbirth lore. To preserve the details for my daughter (and others) I wrote the story and shared it. It turned into these treasured invitations to accompany other new mothers in birth. Sometimes in person. Sharing care, resources, research, tools. Sometimes as they prepared. Sometimes as they recovered from difficult or traumatic birth. Some miraculous against all assumed odds. All humbling. All different. All connected me to my medicine. It turned into a film festival and fund to sponsor other people’s birth choices.
My head wasn’t getting where this all was taking me.
That wondrous period of solitude with new little family was filled with questions? All the big unknowns. Projections. Judgments.
From my new cocoon I could only see the shooting stars. Friends hitting career heights. But my own career trajectory was taking a detour. Directing me elsewhere.
My freak out moments happened. (Some of us have those, right?)
Where was this new momentum leading?
A dear friend, my first pen pal, wrote me “It’s amazing to see us both in the same field”. She was a doula, healer, poet, big thinker, and doer.
My wanderlust was in full effect. It was a good enough distraction from a certain calling until I ended up in another country with another homebirth. Without spelling out the detail of new bureaucracies on top of a foreign language, something was pointing me in the direction of that medicine.
I learned and grappled with new pregnancy and childbirth protocols. Took copious notes. This time around my siren came out. I sang through the contractions. That was unexpected. And brought out another story, more learning, more invitations to accompany births, more understanding of the spectrum of birth experiences. Of birth environments. Picked up a foreign language. Still some thing needed to be fulfilled. A big desire and need to converse. Publicly. A platform to build meaningful community. To serve us in these transitions. Childbirth being a big one. And becoming mothers (and, yes, fathers too) is part of that. An extension. And gradually I accepted it. A calling. A thing I think about, I read about, I worry about, I study, I provide, I do, I speak about, I teach about, I cared about (even before it was certified).
I immersed myself in an online community of other (mostly women) entrepreneurs who are making their callings their new work. The fuel is in the conversations that complement this stage of my life.
I made bold intentions and a practical map to start writing, to hone and declare my craft as a birth consultant, to talk about belonging in foreign places, and dared to take the entrepreneurial route to invent my profession from all these various life experiences and expertise.