With the Born Into This conference right around the corner (July 12-13 in Austin, and yes, tickets are still available), DTI is collaborating with Heather Gallagher Photography to ask folks, “What were you born into?” As we each ponder this question through our own lens emotions stir and our stories unfold.
”This is my mother. In many ways, her story is so specific. A Chinese woman who was born hearing but contracted tuberculosis at the age of 4 while fleeing her war torn country and seeking refuge in Taiwan in the 40’s, rendering her profoundly deaf. Denied an education until the age of 12 and then sent away to an all deaf school, she worked factory jobs until she saved up enough money to immigrate to the US in her thirties to pursue a relationship with a hearing, American man she met while he was stationed in Taipei years prior. They married and had two children, me and my brother. She was forty when she had me, her youngest, in 1985.
“Her story becomes more universal with each pregnancy, however. As her petite frame (4’10, 100 lbs soaking wet) grew with my brother and then me, both of us almost 10 lbs at birth, she and my father were warned that we were too big for her to deliver vaginally. A vaginal birth was something that she wanted but was told that she could not have despite her requests to try. My mother, not able to communicate in written English or ASL well enough at the time, was unable to properly advocate for herself and my father, having lost his mother during his birth to a heart attack while unattended to during labor, was terrified to put my mother or us at risk. He was 12 lbs at birth. My mother had two c-sections.
“So why am I telling you all this? For pity? For likes? No.
“I was recently faced with the question, “what were you born into?” by my dear friend, @ginamgiordano , a doula & the co-founder of @doulatrainingsint .This question is at the core of DTI’s upcoming conference for birth workers, @bornintothis.co , which seeks to have open, honest conversations about social justice & intersectionality within the birth community. This question and my answer to it has been so illuminating, opening my eyes to the ripple effect that both of my parents birth trauma has had on my life & continues to have.
“I’ve witnessed both my parents hate their bodies, feel incapable, feel not enough- or too much. My mothers scars cause her so much emotional pain; my father is terrified of abandonment. They both, despite the events in their lives, trust western medical practices more than they trust themselves. My relationship with both of them is complicated. When I hit the rewind button in my mind, it all goes back to birth. What if there had been an interpreter at the hospital for my mom? What if my grandmother had lived? What if?”
“I was born into the hands of my mother.
“She was searching for her own definition of a family. One that she could truly belong to. So she built it herself. Made out of a combination of her own hard work and traditions from our family before us. She taught us how to love and nurture unconditionally while being bold and brave.
“I’m the oldest of five children. This is very much apart of my identity and why I am who I am. We are each others people. We hold each other up, talk every day and love each other through and through (even if we are miles apart).
“My sister and I, being the two oldest, learned to nurture at a very young age. Changing diapers at 7 and always with a baby on our hip, we helped our mom care for the family. And I loved every single minute of it. She taught me patience and compassion. She taught me the normalcy of pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. She taught me to trust life.
“So 15 years ago when someone told me I should be a doula, I never looked beyond the idea. It was what I already knew. I had been doing it my whole life. Every time I work with a family, my mother’s guidance is there…just love and nurture them unconditionally. And I watch the ripple it creates.
“That ripple grew bigger when my husband and I started our own family. Two wild girls were born into my hands. Everyday we practice love, compassion and patience. We are building our family on the foundation my mother created. I see my story in their eyes. I see two hearts embracing life and learning what it’s like to walk through it. I see two people learning to love and nurture unconditionally. Two people discovering what they were born into.”
“I was born into a home where I was the first grandchild, into a culture where my light skin was admired. “Stay out of the sun!” my paternal grandmother would tell me. I was the prized grandchild, as my sister’s skin was darker than mine. All of that would change in a drastic way when my parents, sister, and I would move from colorful, chaotic, loud Mumbai to suburban New Jersey.
“I went from being like everyone else to being a little unusual. My dark hair, permanent tan, and dark eyes made me stand out in a see of light skin and blue eyes. I was always jealous of my classmates who could wear bright red lipstick – I had never seen it on anyone that looked like me before, only icy blondes. I can vividly recall being 6 or 7 and having a conversation with a friend’s mom about wanting to wear bright red lipstick. She frowned and said, “well, maybe you can find another color when you’re older.” Puberty hit like a ton of bricks and I started to cover my maturing body in oversized clothes. Men’s jeans and oversized band t-shirts took me through early high school, and I became immensely self-conscious of my dark body hair. Tweezers, wax, and razors helped me achieve the perceived hairlessness of my suddenly feminine peers. I seemed to be curvier than my friends, and unfortunately it was the boys that noticed first.
“Decades after birth, I have come to terms with my dark hair, brown skin, and curves. I look back at the awkward girl in old photos and want nothing more than to tell her she is beautiful, and to give her a hug. While I will never have a daughter to instill body positivity into, I plan to teach my sons that there is more to a woman than hips and curves. I go out into the sun as much as possible (with proper SPF, of course), have learned to dress my soft postpartum body, and even found the perfect shade of red lipstick.”
– Naya Weber of @itsmorethanmilk[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Heather will be speaking at the Born into This conference and will share more of her learnings and photography from this campaign. You can also find her on Instagram @heathergallagher.photography.
For more stories join us in Austin, TX at Born into This.
Tickets: General Admission $299