here comes a time in life where a woman makes a decision to change her birth experience. She may not know how, but she knows a change has to come and from that one thought..she goes on a search. They say “when the pupil is ready, the teacher shows up”, for her the teacher showed up over and over again throughout each birth. Gwendolyn Anne Mcknight gave birth to two daughters, first born deaf, second with spinal bifida, which died at the age of 1 ½. She felt as if God had cursed her womb and in the latter part of 1974 she found herself pregnant again and fearful. Fearful that she wasn’t meant to have a healthy baby, but Gwen made a conscious decision to change the course of her fate. First by reading and researching all the things a mother needs to nourish her body and the health of the baby. She instantly changed her diet and became vegetarian, preparing all organic meals from either her own or her parent’s garden. In the Summer of 1975 at Albany Medical Center, Gwen had a 6lb 10oz healthy baby girl. This baby girl came into the world so fast, that she began coming out before the doctor washed his hands and the nurse had to catch her. That baby girl was me.
That series of events kept Gwen on a path of holistic living. Starting with her diet, moving on to her pediatrician, researching at this point the importance or lack thereof of vaccinations. Gwen was constantly educating herself. By the time she gave birth to her 5th child (a boy) she decided on a homebirth, she nixed the idea of giving her son the cosmetic surgery of circumcision. Four boys later and she was on the same path, 4 homebirths under her belt and a complete career change.
Funny how as your life changes, so does your interest. Gwen was a pretty successful hairdresser for the first part of her life, after having her first son, she decided to be a stay at home mom. She wanted to make sure her children had all the best life could offer, or she could offer. Gwen’s choices had a huge impact on me in every way imaginable. Choices that changed the course of my life, although not early on, but definitely as time progressed.
The Birth Story, my youngest brother born in March of 1990 was super intense. I was 14, and our midwife allowed me to help her with my mom Gwen as she labored. Gwen labored for 49 hours, the entire weekend basically. I walked around with her, I made her “green” drinks. I massaged her feet, her back, I drew a tub for her and turned down the lights. Because I love to sing, I’d sing her favorite Gospel songs while she labored in the tub. Our incredible midwife, let me into her world, while she did her job. I guess even then I was destined to Doula. My mother Gwen gave birth on all fours to a little 8lb 10oz boy, who wasn’t breathing, and the cord was wrapped around his neck. Our midwife kind of smacked him around until he took his first breath, his first cough. She was like a Goddess to me. In that moment, on a Sunday, I said to my mother “I’m going to be a midwife”. Life has so many twists and turns and at 14 a girl constantly changes her mind, I decided upon entering college that Communications & Media Arts was more my speed.
40 is a major turning point in any person’s life. My mother Gwen again switched paths. This was a major year for us both. In 1994 I gave birth to my first child and my mother became a Doula. I wish I knew what brought her to that decision. Maybe the catalyst was that my youngest brother was now in preschool and she was ready for a new start, maybe it was a smooth transition from her being the PTA president at the school of her children, one being the infamous ‘Boys Choir of Harlem’. It could be that even before becoming a Doula she was a huge advocate for natural birth, home birth and anti-caesarean. She made sure that when any of my aunts, or cousins were giving birth, she was on-hand either physically or via phone, to make sure the doctors were not cutting them unnecessarily. She pushed breastfeeding (with no weaning age). Of course we all breastfeed our children, it was just something we did. There wasn’t even a choice. For the next generation (mine) my mother encouraged us to all keep that tradition. She was successful.
Gwen partnered up with her midwife in Harlem, NY trained and became a Doula. All we ever heard about was birth, breastfeeding etc. She had 7 living children and we (boys included) knew more about birthing and breastfeeding than the average person.
And when I had my daughter, my mother was my Doula. She was there for me, like I was there for her with my baby brother. She also made me the “green” drink. I labored at home, I walked through Harlem, I took showers, labored on the toilet and at times just laid on her bosom until it was time to go. I spent literally 2 hours in the hospital before giving birth to my daughter.
Still I stayed true to my studies in college in Communications.
Over the years I watched her dedication to birthing mothers in Harlem, I watched her become a major player in the Breastfeeding Alliance. She mentored teen mothers at the Baby College in Harlem as well. She wasn’t only a fantastic Doula, she was a CLC and breastfeeding advocate, she taught Childbirth classes. For Gwen it wasn’t just about how much money she could make, but how much of a difference she could make in her community, where no one was talking/teaching about natural birth and breastfeeding. I went to so many seminars with her. As she got sick, I remember her telling her post-partum client that I would be her back-up. My first post-partum visit was because of her. Still I didn’t yet decide to become a Doula.
In 2009 my mother, my first love, transitioned her soul to meet in a heavenly place with her Creator. And I took on the role as the matriarch of my family. Every birth to follow of friends and loved ones, I was right there with them. Everyone had questions along the way, that I would answer or help with. Many of them knew what a Doula was and had hoped that my mother would be around when they began giving birth, I guess I was the next best thing.
My decision came when my sister got close to her due date in May 2014. She had begun interviewing Doulas in Central New Jersey. While interviewing she called me up, to remind me of a conversation where I promised that when she had her first child, I’d be there front and center to give her the support my mother gave me with both my daughters. I held to that promise, she went into labor, I left my corporate job, headed straight to NJ and there I was with her husband getting my sister through her 19 hour labor. I took my vacation days so I could give her 24/7 post-partum support. My sister said to me, just become a Doula, you’re good at it. People will pay you to do something that is innate in you. Thus my journey began.
There’s more to this story, my search for a program to train with, if I could even fit being a Doula into my schedule of being a full time corporate sector working mother. I don’t push, I do however work my faith. I started my search and said to myself, if it all falls into place then I’ll become a Doula, if it’s a hassle, then it’s not for me.
Aimee Brill was that push I needed to follow this path, to follow in the footsteps of the woman who birthed me and I am nowa Doula who also works in Corporate America. There is no greater love than to watch a woman play God for 40+ weeks and create life, then birth life. I still shed a tear at every birth. I’ve never loved a career so much. Much like my birth into this earthly realm in the summer of 1975, the summer of 2015 I became a certified Doula. One of my best decisions yet!
I am a second generation Doula.