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a note from the editor

Whoever you are, wherever you are, welcome. I’m so grateful you are here.

This third issue of Everyday Birth is dedicated to my great Uncle Carl, who was a pediatrician for many many years. Not only was he an excellent doctor, he was an incredible and kind human being who’d say, “Who me? No, you’re the great one,” if you told him so.

Choosing a pediatrician doesn’t get as much attention as choosing a care provider during pregnancy, the same way postpartum often doesn’t get the same attention as birth — but it’s just as important of a decision. Having a pediatrician like my Uncle Carl could shape so much of what you and your child experience in your lives.

Since my Uncle Carl passed away in late 2018, his patients have shared memories of him online, and I share a few now in dedication to him...

From a patient’s parent: “He cared for my boys from day 1 and we all loved him. He was not just our doctor, but he was family. They always wanted to go visit Dr. Whetsell and appreciated the time he took with them. He always jumped up on the exam table right beside them even when Noah was about as tall as him. There were scary times when they were so sick and he always worked quickly to get them in to see a specialist or an admission to the hospital. He cared for them as if they were his own. He always had a special chant or nickname as he walked in the room and always a handshake and hug for mom. He laughed with us and he cried with us.”

From a young patient: “I will miss those many fist bumps and jokes you used to play. I will miss the way you drew pictures of me and I drew pictures of you... You were my doctor since I was a baby!”

From another patient’s parent: “I loved how he made my boys feel at ease, when he would come in the room and just hop up on the exam table like he was kid... and say ‘Hey man, what’s going on?’ Loving to cut up with them. They loved it!”

From another patient’s parent: “[He always came] in the room with a big smile and a big ‘Brentley my man how are ya?’ and a fist bump or a handshake then one for mom and dad too.. He made it a point to ask Tracey and I both every time we went how we were doing and how we felt about what was discussed at each and every visit... He knew how to make this anxious mama feel better about everything I felt I was doing wrong [and] never left the room without his sweet words of encouragement that we were doing a great job...”

It is a privilege for any care provider to share in joys of your visits, the responsibility of your care, and the weight of hard medical decisions we sometimes face. I hope every medical professional you meet meets you with warmth, skill, and kindness. And I hope to provide to those in my life even a fraction of the radiating, loving support my Uncle Carl gave to all of us in his.

Cheyenne Varner
Executive Editor

heather gallagher


Click the title to go to that section
The Story of Seasoned Urban Midwife Claudia Booker
Experienced D.C. midwife Claudia Booker shares her story and more.
Talking Birth Choices
Keia and Jon share how they made theirs.
Home, Birth Center, and Hospital Birth
An intro to what option fits you and stories from three parents.
A Labor Playlist
Made for you.
The Birth of an Artist
Whose art is the birth world.
Working Parenthood
Reflections from real parents.
Meals for Postpartum
Nourishing the body that nourishes the baby.
Hablando Mi Lenguaje
Tres cosas que deberías saber sobre la justicia de Lenguaje.
Speaking My Language
Three thoughts about language justice.
Infant Feeding Q&A
Common questions answered by a parent and peer counselor.
Sexuality After Baby
One parent’s reflection on the journey of sexuality in parenthood.

the story of seasoned urban midwife Claudia Booker

How did you get into birth work?
My father was a pediatrician in Washington D.C. and when he was in school my mother left college to work to help support the family. We didn’t always have money for a babysitter or daycare, so I often accompanied my dad to school. He went to Howard University Medical School. After he graduated sometimes I joined him when he was interning at Freedmen’s Hospital too. I used to come and have lunch and hang out with him when he was doing long shifts. So I’ve been around babies all my life.

My mother had a very traumatic birth with me. She was 20 years old, barely out of being a teenager, a sophomore in college, over 500 miles from her family... She was the first person in her girlfriends circle to get pregnant and to have a baby, so she had no mentors, no one for emotional support, no one to be with her when she was in labor.

It was before childbirth class, preparation and all that came into existence. She also had me at Freedman’s Hospital at a time in history where black women had their babies in a ward. There were six to nine people in beds separated by a curtain.
The lights in the ward were in the middle
of the floor, one huge light in the middle. So you were laying in a room in the semi-dark with a curtain between you listening to other women labor. You labored by yourself in a room listening to other women that you could not see laboring at the same time.

And due to racism and the social constructs, Freedman’s hospital at that point in time did not have any kind of pain management available. There was no epidural, they did not do Stadol, they did not do Twilight, they did not do any of that stuff that became more popular in the 60s.
My father was a pediatrician in Washington D.C. and when he was in school my mother left college to work to help support the family. We didn’t always have money for a babysitter or daycare, so I often accompanied my dad to school. He went to Howard University Medical School. After he graduated sometimes I joined him when he was interning at Freedmen’s Hospital too. I used to come and have lunch and hang out with him when he was doing long shifts. So I’ve been around babies all my life.

My mother had a very traumatic birth with me. She was 20 years old, barely out of being a teenager, a sophomore in college, over 500 miles from her family... She was the first person in her girlfriends circle to get pregnant and to have a baby, so she had no mentors, no one for emotional support, no one to be with her when she was in labor.

It was before childbirth class, preparation and all that came into existence. She also had me at Freedman’s Hospital at a time in history where black women had their babies in a ward. There were six to nine people in beds separated by a curtain.
The lights in the ward were in the middle
of the floor, one huge light in the middle. So you were laying in a room in the semi-dark with a curtain between you listening to other women labor. You labored by yourself in a room listening to other women that you could not see laboring at the same time.

And due to racism and the social constructs, Freedman’s hospital at that point in time did not have any kind of pain management available. There was no epidural, they did not do Stadol, they did not do Twilight, they did not do any of that stuff that became more popular in the 60s.
That had to be terrifying.
Terrifying, scary, and my mother was two weeks out of her teens. My mother’s birthday is October 27 and mine is November 5. So my mother had what she would describe as a traumatic birth experience with me. A traumatic day in her life. And we know now that can dramatically impact the bonding process between mother and child.

So that’s one of the reasons I decided to be a birthworker, after hearing her story — but to be one that’s concerned about policy and social justice and not just the physiological act of getting the baby out — the issues of bonding, of safety, of respect, of trauma and its long term impact on the way we feel about our children and our children feel about us and we feel about ourselves.

Then the third reason is I was a lawyer and I had just stopped being a judge and I really wasn’t crazy happy with continuing to be a lawyer and my gynecologist, who was a white man said to me, “You should be a doula!” He said it on May 30, 2004. He said, “You need to stop doing what you’re doing and go be a doula.” I was like, “Go be a doula?!”
ashley + claudia
“Why would you think I should stop being a lawyer and go do that?” He reminded me that a few years earlier my god-daughter, who had just turned 17 — she had a baby and she had one of those terrible labors — and I basically got the godmother call, “Can you help her? We’re tired, we need some help.” I remember I got there and she was drinking soda and eating frickin almond joys.
ashley + claudia
And so I went to the hospital cause that’s what you do for your god-daughter. The teenagers didn’t know what to do except to be together and talk and giggle and laugh, but they were scared and overwhelmed. So I spent a day and a half with her, we ended up with — and this of course is representative of what happens in America — we ended up with a c-section on a 17-year-old. Because of failure to progress.

And I didn’t know anything about anything. I’m just there being the godmother you know trying to keep her calm and positive. I went to the c-section and saw Simone Malaysia get born, and I dont know how I didn’t remember it — that my gynecologist was one of the attendees in the operating room at the time of birth.
And he remembered you.
He said, “I saw you that day in the OR and I’ve never seen you so happy in the 15 years I’ve known you. And whatever made you that happy that day, is something you should figure out how to do all the time.”

I’m crying now right. And he got on the phone and got me doula training with DONA, childbirth education with CAPPA, breastfeeding and peer counseling with La Leche League, and a mentor at CW Hospital, and he did it within about 20 minutes on the phone.

And so only a fool would say no when God and the universe opens doors like that. So two weeks later I was in my car driving down to take my DONA doula training. And then a year or so later I took the ICTC course with Shafia Monroe, culturally competent, culturally appropriate full circle prenatal and postpartum doula training so I’m certified in both.
That's amazing!
When I finished training I went to the Family Health and Birth Center and said I wanted to volunteer for them. And honestly, they weren’t interested in me. I was not 20 at the time and driving a nice car, and they were convinced that the women from the projects who came there to have babies would never be interested in having someone like me because I didn’t look like their girlfriends from around the way.

And it’s exactly why they did identify with me. Because they got enough girlfriends — that’s like my goddaughter — got lots and lots of girlfriends but don’t necessarily have people who are older, you know. So I ended up attracting the younger, 17, 18, 19-year-old women because I gave them a chance to reconstruct how to be with older women and in some ways feel or better understand what their parents and their grandparents were going through. And because we didn’t have a history of not getting along and fighting over this and fighting over that our ability to relate to each other wasn’t do as I say, don’t do as I do, you know.
So what do you think about how to engage more with older generations?
My dad used to say the man who knows everything can learn from the man who knows one thing, okay?
I think the culture tells us, you know — we know all this new stuff that you didn’t know, therefore you can’t teach us anything when there’s really ancient knowledge we’ve already known...
So, when I became a mother, I was learning from my grandmother. My grandmother was one of them crunchy, strict ladies. When my daughter was born I had my grandmother come and spend the first week with me, okay. And she was one of those people that at that point in time, we put the rice cereal in the baby’s bottle so they’d sleep all night — that’s the stuff she taught me — well hell now we would never do that. Baby could choke, sudden infant death, allergies to rice — we now know better. So my grandmother and my mother and all of us did the best we did with what we knew then. Now we know more and can do more, and in five years we’ll look back on some of the stuff we did now and we’ll say that was stupid because we’re doing the best with what we have now...
So how did you become a midwife?
I decided I wanted to learn about homebirth. And I went back to The Farm (a community with homebirth midwives in Summertown, TN) and took some more classes and then I started looking for somebody to precept me. It took me five and a half years. I got turned down 20 times, not all separate midwives because I went to the same midwives two and three times… finally three of them changed their mind and said yes… I was given the explanation that their client base would not be comfortable with a Black person and — one of the people who turned me down, I did some prenatals with her and the people were not interested in having me touch their bellies, so she was right. When she got a more millennial, mixed-race, middle-class client base then it was okay to have a Black person… It was a very, very, very difficult process.

I ended up going down to The Farm and I went to Senegal — I did a bunch of my primary births in Senegal — it took me three tours at the Farm before they would let me come and see a baby get born.

The preceptor/apprentice relationship, in general, has been allowed to be one of indentured servitude, meaning come to my house and do prenatals but while you’re here you can help do some dishes for me and you know things that have absolutely nothing to do with midwifery — that’s not my job — second off, you don’t get paid. Apprentices do not get paid, so I’m driving from here to there and everywhere, I’m going to be there at lunch so I need money for food, I need to be available, I need to have some kind of flexibility in my job...

It was a long journey and I still have a hard time wanting to accept the reality that the same problems I had finding white people who would precept me — I have now finding white people who will back me up. And my mother’s like, um what’s wrong with you, if they didn’t want to help you become a midwife why do you think they’re going to help you now that you are?
Do you think they just don’t want to come because of your clientele?
I think for the same reason why they’re uncomfortable precepting Black people because — our view of what disrespect is is much broader than what theirs is and we are not going to take but so much — I’m not going to come and wash the dishes and do this and do that and you can’t just talk to me any old kind of way...

White people would call me and say you know I have this new Black client and — can you give me a class because I want to know how to handle these people? And now my reply is the way to handle these people is to give them to me... It’s that thing about being, as I like to say, cultural kleptomaniac, also known as cultural vampirism, and that’s how it is in the midwifery world...

After being a birth assistant for a while, okay — because I was working in environments with white midwives, and I didn’t think that the care they were giving Black people was the best care — the medical part was mostly good care but the social, psychological, emotional part of the care wasn’t what I thought it should be. And that was what I was like, oh I can do this part. I’m smart enough to be a midwife medically and I know what it is to be in the community, and communities I’m not familiar with I knew how to find out. I know how to do that. I serve a Cambodian community in Virginia and I’m not from Cambodia and nobody in my family is from Cambodia and you know, but I spend a lot of time getting to know the Cambodian community you know, and if we ever had a Cambodian midwife I’d gladly say to her take the folks you know.

Support midwives by having a collective, having a co-op to buy supplies together and things at a lower price and give fair stuff to newer midwives... and when they need back-up or mentoring do that. You train them, mentor them, support them in a way you can, but you surrender to them the community that’s been waiting for them.
Jazmine Waker said in a facilitation a little while ago, thinking about the work that we do now is also leaving an inheritance for people in the future. What do you think or feel is the inheritance you will leave behind?
I want to continue being politically active. I want to continue to listen. I want to continue to learn and I want to teach, I want to share. I want to give it away.
Thank you.
I’m gonna die one day just like anybody else. And there is no reason that there is anything in my mind that I haven’t shared with somebody else. It’s a waste. It’s a waste of what God gave me if nobody knows it but me. And we can’t afford that. We need every brain out here working because white supremacy and racism is all day every day. We can’t slack up.
No days off.
You say “damn are they thinking about this stuff when they are asleep at night?” They don’t have to.
It’s already built in.
It’s already built in. They good, they snoring. Because they already got it in place, its already rolling if they don’t do anything. Every day it’s gonna keep on getting up. But we gotta keep on changing our game. We need to be thinking about thriving, not just surviving.
Amen to that.
claudia booker

interviewed by ashley johnson
mallory jackson

talking birth choices

with Keia and Jon

Keia and Jon live in Richmond, VA with their dog Kingston. Their first child is expected to arrive in April this year. They’ve had a lot of conversations with each other and their doula about their birth choices and they let us listen in:

What I do like about having a doula and a midwife is that their job is to craft the birth process to your unique experience. To me that’s the big win. I was not the doula and the midwife guy. I was very traditional, let’s get into finding a hospital — but those experiences are very canned is the best way to describe it — it’s the difference between a homemade meal that your mama makes versus going to McDonalds and getting something that they’ve made 5000 of — there’s a little more love there.
We chose a birth center... from my perspective, I knew I didn’t want to go to the hospital. Once I got pregnant and I started hearing certain statistics about African-American women and birth and pregnancy — I don’t know that I’d say that I got scared, but I was concerned, and a lot of it revolved around traditional care with an OBGYN and a hospital birth. So I knew that I wanted to do whatever I could to protect both myself and my child, and that was a big reason why I wanted a doula, not just for the information that she gives us, but for the advocacy that she gives us... I thought about a home birth. Before I was really educated about it I thought it would be cheaper, one. Two —
[laughing] It’s not by the way.
[laughing] It isn’t. Two, I wanted the freedom to be able to labor how I wanted to in what was comfortable for me, and as you look into certain things with traditional birthing, hospitals and doctors like to monitor the fetus and sometimes they want to put an IV in for fluids and things like that, a lot of hospitals won’t let you consume anything when you’re in labor, even water or ice chips sometimes depending on the hospital, so I knew that I wanted more freedom in our birth... and I wanted the least amount of hands and bodies checking on me and the baby. I really felt like I wanted us to birth like we’re naturally supposed to birth and a lot of times with traditional birthing that doesn’t always happen with all the checking they have to do, for good reason, but it just wasn’t the thing that I wanted to do. And then talking to Jonathan, from his standpoint — he’ll talk about it — of believing the hospital birth at the time was the better option for us —
Can I talk about that for a minute?
“I wanted the freedom to be able to labor how I wanted to in what was comfortable for me...”

So I definitely came from the opposite side of the equation because I was a c-section baby, my brother was a c-section baby, my mom’s lost two babies and so we — because of that my biggest question was hey, if a medical emergency happens, what’s kind of the process —  obviously for her health, obviously the baby’s health, and then the second part is if we go with the birth center and something goes terribly wrong we have to pay the birth center and the hospital and that’s not an option I’m super excited for — and there’s also the view... the hospital is very geared toward dotting their “i”s and crossing their “t”s and it’s a system —
For reasons that are necessary for them, insurance and liability...
Yeah. They get sued and when they do it’s for millions of dollars because somebody’s lost something — so their insurance levels are high and all that stuff so I understand that, but in my head I was very okay with the idea — with walking in the room and having everyone afraid of something going wrong and that I would sue the pants off them. I was completely okay with that, and what I really began to discover was that starting from a fear-based view wasn’t the environment that I wanted our son to be birthed in and overall walking into that kind of environment  causes complications, because it adds — even if everything goes perfectly right, it adds stress, it adds issues — those are the things that create complications. Overall, it’s my personal opinion after seeing a lot of the studies and data and stuff like that and talking to Keia and our doula and to other people in the process — the more comfortable my wife is, the better I believe the birth process is going to go.

And then on the financial end the reality is it’s going to cost money either way, it just is. It’s all about how you pay for it and figuring it out, but it’s going to cost. Yeah, you want to be wise and save money and do what you got to do... I think for me the biggest question is what do I want this process to look like for us and what do I want this to feel like for her, what do I want this process to be like for him?
keia and jon alexis
@keiaalexis @jonalexis777

“What I really began to discover was that starting from a fear-based view wasn’t the environment that I wanted our son to be birthed in...”
mallory jackson

home, birth center,
and hospital birth

a brief intro to what fits you

Does this fit me?
Those who choose home birth often trust their knowledge of their body and health needs, and may even feel uncomfortable with the traditional medical system and hospitals due to histories of racist and unjust practices.
What do I need?
A home birth kit. This usually includes basic supplies like chux pads, gloves, gauze, lubricating gel, bulb syringe, cord clamps, peri bottle, cleansing solution, and alcohol prep pads, among other items suggested by the Midwife.

Can I afford it?
Home birth expenses are often paid out of pocket and provide for the Midwife, Midwife’s Assistant, and any necessary supplies as dictated by the Midwife. Costs range from $1,500-$3,000.*
birth center
Does this fit me?
Those who choose a birth center may be seeking a positive balance between birthing at home and birthing in a hospital. The birthing person likely wants a collaborative partnership and nurturing relationship with their Midwife, and is engaged in the decision-making process of their care.
What do I need?
An overnight bag with basic toiletries, and snacks or drinks, if desired.

Can I afford it?
Costs are different based on where you live and what’s available. On average, the cost ranges from $3,000-$6,800; some insurance companies may cover a portion of the expenses.**
Does this fit me?
Many people give birth in the hospital because they trust the traditional medical system as the authority on pregnancy and childbirth, have what’s considered a high-risk pregnancy, or want to go where their Midwife or OB always attends births.
What do I need?
Hospital pre-registration paperwork, your insurance card, your ID, and baby’s car seat installed. A hospital bag packed with basic 2-3 days of overnight toiletries, and other items to make the space comfortable.

Can I afford it?
The national median cost of a childbirth hospital stay was $13,524 in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but most expenses for the birthing person and newborn are covered by health insurance if in network.
*These are estimates based on national averages. Exact costs vary depending upon the care provider.
**These are estimates based on national averages. Exact costs vary depending upon the care provider and individual insurance coverage.
kenya fairley
WANT MORE? REAd the full breakdown


home birth


shanille’s story
“My husband passed in October of 2017. Shortly after, I discovered that I was pregnant with our 6th child. Given the circumstances, I wanted everyone near and dear to us to witness and experience his birth. I wanted my son to know just how special he was. I wanted him to know that despite his father’s absence, he was still surrounded in love. I wanted an empowering birth experience that allowed me to birth freely, just as so many before me had done. In the past, I had been traumatized in the hospital. I hadn’t felt heard, respected or valued, not only as a woman but a black woman. This time, I wanted to birth safely and comfortably in my own home.

Looking back over my pregnancy, I’m not sure how I made it. There were so many ups and downs, highs and lows and moments in-between. Going through pregnancy after the loss of a spouse is hard but laboring through grief was like being happy to finally see the sun but knowing you’d bask in it alone afterward.

Baby EJ arrived on a day that was supposed to be my maternity photo shoot. I got up at 11:15 am and searched a few fabric stores for kente cloth for a headwrap I wanted to wear and made a stop to Walgreens all while feeling a little uncomfortable but no pain. I figured I’d start timing contractions once I got home.

At 1:09 pm I told my midwife contractions were 7-8 mins apart. She arrived around 2:30 pm. After several failed attempts by others at sanitizing the jacuzzi correctly, water birth was not happening. I took a lukewarm shower and wrapped up in a towel. I asked the midwife to check me and to my surprise I was 8cm. The kids gathered around me as I sat on the couch to relax and after three more contractions and two pushes at 4:15 pm baby EJ made his grand arrival! He latched immediately and after wiping their tears, all the kids participated with his first examination.

Having a home birth is a birth experience like no other. Nina Simone once said, “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear.” Feeling safe was absolute freedom. No monitor, no swiftly removing the baby from me, no vigorous rub down, no bright lights, no screams down the hall, no demands for me to push, no unfamiliar faces in and out. Just me surrendering to my body. Afterward sliding into my own bed with my own sheets, I cuddled my perfect parting gift in the same spot his daddy once cuddled me. I never felt safer. I would definitely do it all over again.”
Shanille, 35
Memphis, TN
photographer: jackie blanch


birth center


marissa's story
“I knew I wanted to have a natural birth after our honeymoon trip to Caye Caulker, a small island off the coast of Belize. We watched the locals live off the land, play with their infants in the ocean, and talked about their natural birthing experiences. Not even a month later we found out we were expecting. I called and did homework on several birthing centers. Personally knowing several moms that had given birth with Origins Birth and Wellness Dallas, I chose them.

My first appointment included a tour and medical history and as it went on I knew this was going to be the experience I hoped for. This was my third pregnancy but my first natural birth. With my first two I experienced extreme depression during pregnancy and tons of weight gain. With the education and care at Origins, I was able to maintain a healthy weight (under 20lb weight gain) and I was the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been pregnant or not. Every trimester they had a plan for me and my baby boy that involved healing and naturally helping my body and baby.

At 1 am on March 1st labor started. I slept until 9 am, then told my husband we should head to the birthing center since we lived 45 mins away. Upon arrival I was in so much pain and in tears but I was only dilated 2-3cm. My midwives suggested that my husband, doula and I go walk. It was a cool 48 degrees that morning but we managed to take two laps around the block. Once back inside I got in the tub, but my back labor was too much to handle. My doula Courtney became my very own superhero putting counter pressure on my hips. To help baby descend I labored on the toilet and boy does that work. That was so intense that after four contractions I rushed to the bed and got on all fours. After about an hour my midwife Megan could feel my son’s head just about crowning. I was told to try to push with the next contraction. I was scared the pushing would hurt more so I was reluctant. Much to my surprise pushing was a relief and eased my discomfort tremendously. I listened to my body and did not force my pushing and after about 45 mins to an hour my 10 lb, 21.5 inches long, super healthy and happy baby boy Devin Ray was here. My husband got to catch his son and hand him to me as I sat up on my knees to hold my baby boy for the first time. I didn’t tear and was able to connect with my baby on a level I wish I had with all of my children. After experiencing that level of pain you would think that I wouldn’t want to again but it’s just the opposite. It was so worth it.”
Marissa, 32
Dallas, TX
photographer: stephanie cabrera


hospital birth


kelsey's story
“My wife and I knew we wanted a hospital birth because it’s where we felt safest. My goal was to give birth unmedicated, and we felt better about striving for that there.

At my 40 week appointment, my doctor told me I was thinned and effaced but not dilated at all. He ordered a stress test and ultrasound, which both came back perfect. He told me that if I made it through the weekend, I’d come back on Monday and we’d talk induction. He knew of my unmedicated goal and was very supportive which is why he hadn’t pushed induction before.

January 7th I was 40 weeks and 6 days and I started having contractions. I labored at home, overnight, from 8:45pm - 7am, using my breathing techniques and positions. At 7am, the doctor advised us to finally go to the hospital.

By the time we packed up, got there and checked in, it was around 8am. In triage, the nurse surprisingly informed us that I was 6cm dilated. I got to my room, walked around for a bit, leaned on my wife and rocked my hips to get through contractions.

Around 9am the nurse checked my cervix and said I was 9.5 cm, so they were going to call the doctor and get things ready. I couldn’t stand so I stayed lying in bed on my right side, continuing to work through contractions.

Around 9:30am my body just started pushing on its own, I honestly didn’t even know what was happening.  The nurse checked my cervix, I was at 10cm, and she told the doctor that I was fully dilated and already pushing so things kicked into high gear pretty quickly.

I remembered from the birthing class to keep breathing and work with my body. I pushed with the contractions and curled over my body. We were really making progress until the doctor told me that my son was getting stuck and she was afraid he’d cause a tear. She told me she was going to do an episiotomy, which was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced — I actually screamed out. However, it worked like a charm. He continued to progress smoothly and after only 45 minutes of pushing our baby boy was in my arms.

I was so incredibly proud of myself for achieving my goal of giving birth unmedicated. It was the most empowering, difficult, exhausting, beautiful, strongest thing I’ve ever done. Looking down at Thatcher, I was over the moon in love, he was just perfect.”
Kelsey, 26
Cincinnati, OH
photographer: stacey reid
stephanie cabrera

A Labor Playlist

made for you

We hear a rhythm or melody and our bodies instinctually react...

a head bop, a hip sway, or even a finger tap. A song comes on the radio that we haven’t heard since childhood or high school, yet we recite the lyrics word for word. You’ve had a crappy day but you come home and put on your favorite Sade record, or blast Santana, and the angst you felt earlier in the day begins to melt away. THAT is the healing power of music, the ability to transform, relieve, and communicate with our bodies via sound.

Studies have shown that music stimulates parts of the central nervous system responsible for memory and emotions. Listening to music during labor that you’re familiar with and/or enjoy triggers positive, favorable memories and emotions, and thus, works to combat pain and discomfort.

This is your birth. Your experience. Your journey. Play your soundtrack and let the rhythm, melodies, and lyrics connect with you.

by tekara gainey

Birth and Postpartum

stories and advice from birth workers

birth doula
Bold Doula, Denise Bolds
“You’re having a baby. Build a team to support you in your pregnancy, birth and postpartum — and your partner’s childbirth, newborn care and safety education. Select someone who matches your beliefs and goals; if they’re out of your budget - do a family fundraiser, it’s worth it! Take a tour of where you are giving birth and speak with the L&D staff.
Your prenatal care provider should support your goals with affirmation and education, not scare tactics, patriarchy, or avoidance.
By 36 weeks you should have a pediatrician selected. The pediatrician is the second most important member of your team; interview them, tour their office, and understand their policies and procedures. This team will support you to have the most empowering birth experience possible!"

postpartum doula
Qi To Wellness, Aqiylah Collins
“New mamas are often told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. But that advice doesn’t take into account that mamas often have other children, a work deadline, or are simply overwhelmed by all that needs doing. One mother I worked with was never able to close her eyes for more than 10 minutes because their 3-year-old needed supervision.
Having a doula in her home for a few hours every day to prepare meals, pick up toys, and feed and entertain her toddler allowed her to sleep well when baby was sleeping.
After just one week her mind was sharper, she was less anxious, and her physical recovery was enhanced."

certified lactation counselor
The Mindful Birth, Hunter Rolfe Moore
“Breastfeeding can take a lot of work! I’ve found parents are most successful with breastfeeding when they go into it with realistic expectations and understand how hormonal influences and the basic physiology work. Take a class while you’re pregnant, it’s worth it! After baby is here, follow those instincts, listen to your nipples, and reach out when anything feels off. I visited a client at home recently, and it really helped that we assessed in her normal everyday setting.
After watching two feedings and talking about the challenges she was facing we formulated a clear and concise plan
together that felt achievable. There are so many ways feeding your baby can look, having support through it will always feel good!"


who can you have on your

support team?

a birth and/or postpartum doula
A birth doula is a non-medical professional trained to provide emotional, physical, and educational support to someone before, during and after childbirth.

A postpartum doula is a non-medical professional trained to support parents in the first days, weeks and months after childbirth.
a lactation consultant
Lactation consultants are trained and have a professional certification to work with breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents. Lactation counselors are also trained and have certification to answer common questions and concerns and may refer parents to a consultant when situations are outside of their scope.
a pediatrician
A pediatrician is a medical professional who specializes in treating children. Like choosing an OBGYN and midwife, look for a pediatrician you and your family trust and feel comfortable with.

april davidson bly

The birth of an artist

whose art is the birth world

“During my postpartum period with my daughter, I began to look into birth art.”

While sitting behind an empty canvas, I can see little feet running across the living room floor. Small toy cars are being smashed together while my paintbrush swiftly creates simple shapes. Suddenly I hear screams of little ones arguing. I feel the strong urge to stop. But, something inside of me is telling me to keep going.

During my journey into motherhood, I made the decision to birth at home twice. I became passionate about birth and breastfeeding. I found myself visiting local breastfeeding groups just for the love of it! I felt connected to mothers who were able to breastfeed past one and decided to do the same for my daughter. This led me to create my first breastfeeding coloring book.

My second birth journey led me to become a doula. I support families during their birth experience. Being apart of “Empowering Your Birth” has given me the opportunity to support and be supported by like-minded birth workers. We support families by offering services around birth.

Collaborating with other birthworkers has given me the ability to concentrate on art while still supporting families. I love being able to hold space. That means that families are able to incorporate art into their birth space by getting a belly cast or even purchase a set of birth cards from my website.

Belly casting, in particular, is a unique way to capture mom’s pregnant form. It creates a sculpture that is used to celebrate her pregnancy and can be painted on to last for years to come. Belly casting can be done anywhere and anytime she feels comfortable — during her baby shower/ blessing way and/or in the comfort of their own home.

My first official birth painting was of a friend. I was her doula, and she had her beautiful son at our local birth center. She had an amazing husband who supported her throughout her unique journey. I felt so connected to their story and decided to create a painting I called, “Birth with a supportive partner/Dadla.”

If I become overwhelmed by a painting, I stop and enjoy the laughter of my little ones. Being a mother and birthworker can be challenging sometimes but the passion is to hard to quit. I urge you to keep going and make your dreams into a reality.
lauren j turner



How do we balance the work that pays the bills, the education that helps us grow, and caring for ourselves and the babies into our lives? Real parents share their stories...

what do you do for a living?
I am a professional licensed hairstylist.
How did parental leave look for you?
Since I am a hairstylist, I get paid per client and if I’m not working I don’t get paid. I saved up as much money as I could to take at least 2 months off to cover my end of the bills. I’m also very fortunate to have a great, supportive, loving husband who is financially stable and can hold the house by himself if needed to.
What was your postpartum recovery like?
Since having my baby (March 9, 2019) I’ve been taking daily life easy and learning how to take care of a baby! I have gotten sad a few time but I understand that’s due to my hormones. My postpartum isn’t as difficult as what others said it was going to be but then again I believe it’s the individual’s outlook on life.
What tips would you give other working parents?
Give yourself time in between clients and listen to when your body says it’s enough. Start slow and build it up a little at a time.
what do you do for a living?
I go to school at VCU and am studying for my MPH. I also have 4 jobs. I work as a CNA at a temp agency and as a research assistant at the state health department and also as a janitor and bus driver for a childcare facility.  My other job is a national guardsman for the DC National Guard.
How did parental leave look for you?
I worked all the way up to the end of my pregnancy. I stopped working when I went into labor. That enabled me and my husband to save up as much as we could for my maternity leave. I took about 6-8 weeks.
What was your postpartum recovery like?
My postpartum was great. I did get cabin fever though and wanted to get out the house after a while. I healed excellently though.
What tips would you give other working parents?
Try to have a great support team if possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get as much rest as possible. When you go back to work have a routine and stick to it.
what do you do for a living?
I’m a banker. I open new accounts, loans and service existing accounts.  
How did parental leave look for you?
I had just started a new job at a small credit union when I realized I was pregnant, literally week one on the job. They have zero maternity leave, no short term disability until you’ve been there a year, and by the time I had my son... I had a little over a week vacation. After an emergency c-section, I had to go back at 7 weeks due to finances.
What was your postpartum recovery like?
The c-section was easy for me. But Derek was in the NICU for 5 days, and the experience there was terrible due to one nurse who wouldn’t let me breastfeed. I barely had any time with my son before going back to work.
What tips would you give other working parents?
It gets easier after a year. If you’re in a toxic job that is not family friendly... get out. And advocate for yourself at the hospital... I regret not reporting that nurse who rolled her eyes at the doctor saying “skin to skin” and interfered with breastfeeding. Finally... it’s ok to struggle — hate that you have to work and can’t get sleep, and are running on fumes.
what do you do for a living?
At the time, I was a regional manager overseeing eight community homes for adults with intellectual disabilities.
How did parental leave look for you?
Because they categorized my birth as short term disability I received 8 weeks off after a c-section and received half my paycheck after using all of my PTO. I returned to work with zero time off for the next year.
What was your postpartum recovery like?
I quickly realized I had developed PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder where I was now adding managing my moods and new medications on top of being a new mom.
What tips would you give other working parents?
Build your village of sitters, of people who listen to you vent, who will sit with you in silence, and try as best as you can to develop good communication with employer/ school. Build resources that take care of mommy, not just baby and family.

balancing parenting

and work

make a plan that fits you
Talk to your head of human resources, your accountant, your school advisor, or some combination to help form reasonable expectations and develop creative solutions to maximizing rest while still meeting your goals/needs. That might look like taking some unpaid time off, or rolling slowly into work/school part-time, or discussing spaces you can pump and work, or more!
engage your support team
Family, friends, a partner, a postpartum doula, a lactation consultant, a pediatrician, a mental health therapist — whoever you have on your team, talk ahead of time about the best ways they can support you — maybe with meals, laundry, dishes, overnight support, the options are out there!
listen to and be kind to yourself.
Like birth, postpartum can be unpredictable and uncomfortable and amazing. Be honest about how you feel, give yourself grace when the tough times are tough, lean on your support people, and take it one day at a time.

Infant Feeding Q&A

with parent and peer counselor Simone

what if it's taking too long for my milk to come in?
Many people are under the impression that your milk “coming in” is a magical moment the days after birth that lets us know, “Oh now baby is eating.” Colostrum, the first milk, also known as liquid gold, is in the pregnant body from the second trimester. If you’re experiencing issues with latching or baby’s weight, seek the support of a lactation consultant to help set a good foundation for stimulating milk production and removal. Get help from day one. Within 24 hours after birth, breastfeeding parents should be producing for eight feedings a day.

What should I do if a doctor tells me my baby needs formula but I want to exclusively feed them my milk?
Make sure you know why. There are different reasons supplementation may be needed. After getting an explanation, ask about a hospital grade pump or hand expression so baby gets the nursing parent’s milk. Ask for the IBCLC on staff to help walk you through how to use it. If that isn’t offered at your hospital, advocate for access another way. Your milk should always be the first choice and donor milk might be accessible, too.

What is hand expressing and when should I do that?
Hand expression is the process of manually removing milk from oneself. It can be done as early as in the third trimester to collect colostrum. It can be used within the first six hours postpartum if baby is not latching. It can also be used in place of a pump. Some people respond better to hand expression than a machine because of the skin-on-skin contact and oxytocin release.
Is there such a thing as too much pumping?
Yes! If you are nursing on demand, baby is latching and gaining well, pumping more can drive the body into an oversupply. This can lead to clogged ducts, leaking at inconvenient times and general discomfort.

How do I know if I’m not producing enough milk? What do I do?
Milk production is mainly supply and demand. The more one feeds their baby the more milk that will be made for that baby, given the latch is deep and the nursing parent is feeding on demand. Low milk supply usually results in inadequate weight gain for babies, which can require supplementation. In this case, pumping on top of nursing baby often can sometimes help. There are also some common herbal supplements an herbalist or naturopath can recommend. Always consult with a skilled practitioner.

How do I know if I’m over-producing milk? What do I do then?
Overproduction is rather common, despite popular belief. Some may notice getting engorged or full before baby is ready to eat or the ability to still pump a few ounces after nursing. It takes 6 weeks for supply to regulate with baby’s demand, so before then I don’t recommend anything if oversupply is suspected. However if weight gain is good and one is finding themselves uncomfortable between feeds there is a great thing called blocked feeding. This is nursing consecutively on the same side for 2-3 times so the other gets engorged and starts to slow down production. This tends to work within 24-48 hours.

When should I see a lactation consultant?
See a lactation consultant whenever! Prenatal education is vital for initiating breastfeeding and support is important for reaching your goals postpartum. There is never a wrong time to seek advice and support. Many insurances cover lactation support and there are volunteer groups such as Chocolate Milk Cafe and La Leche League where a parent can get one-on-one support if finances are a concern.
simone toomer

Sexuality After Baby

one parent's reflection, story, journey

One of the wonders of the world has to be how your partner can see your beauty when you cannot. Even when your light is low and flickering, somehow someone who loves you can still feel your warmth.

Our marriage before children is a blur of movie dates and sex. We spent as much quality time together as we could. We were able to build a foundation of love and friendship before we expanded our family.

We spent two years child-free and we are now coming up on three years of being parents. Parenting is constant and unnegotiable but dating your spouse is where effort and intention intersect.

I requested a spiritual reading from a knowledgeable woman with insight. I told her I felt lost and needed a little guidance. In my mind, I was looking for guidance on my business, travel or maybe even my career path… that was not the message I received.

Some of what I was told was I needed to switch from being a mother first to a woman first. That I needed to get to know Taylor, The Lover again. That I needed to stop being cold to my partner and remember that our connection transcends the body.

A very eloquent read, but a read none the less. It hits different when you know it is all true.

Stop being a mother first? But, I had given my mind, body and spirit to motherhood. I had breastfed my infants, changed diapers and worn my comfy pregnancy panties for almost three years. I lived in leggings and stained t-shirts and didn’t even own make-up. Mothering was life. In regards to the woman I was before children, this was unlike that Taylor – formally known as “The Blast.”

I mourned that confident party girl after I became a mother but never thought of what type of woman I could birth, what type of Lover-Warrior-Mothering goddess I could be. Somehow my partner was able to always see this magical woman and would remind me constantly of this power but this was something I had to realize on my own. Something that WE, as Lover-Warrior-Mothering goddesses have to invoke on our own.

After the reading, I went straight to my partner and told him we needed to have a serious conversation. We sat together on the couch and all I could do was cry. In his confusion and nervousness he comforted me, waiting for me to break whatever news I had to share.
I became a mother but never thought of what type of woman I could birth, what type of Lover-Warrior-Mothering goddess I could be.
I kept apologizing and promising him that what I had to share was not bad news but my tears told him otherwise. I understood my partner’s confusion because I have never struggled to tell him how I felt, but those feelings weren’t usually vulnerable or apologetic feelings.

I fought through the tears and confessed my undying love for him. Reminded him that I saw him and appreciated all of his attempts to keep my fire burning. Thanked him for all of the booty caresses and neck kisses that annoyed me because I was lost in motherhood. Promised him that he could have his lover back but that I just needed time to figure out what I wanted.

I also challenged him to do the same.

It was not on him to build my fire back up. I had to do that for myself. I had to get grounded and secure within myself. I had to figure out how I wanted to live my life and how it would work with our family and most importantly our marriage. I have given myself permission to be a woman first, to take the time and space to take care of myself because in return I am a patient mother and a loving partner.

Give yourself the permission you are waiting for. Spend time getting to know yourself again, learn what pleases you so you can better communicate those things. This is an ongoing conversation in our relationship – we are dedicated to working towards a more divine relationship with frequent toe-curling sex. The magic is in patience and communication. This is a journey for your partner and you and it can be fun exploring together. Be honest about your feelings and your desires and be open to your partners’. Think outside the box, pleasure is a spectrum, baby.
taylor huntley

spring summer 2019 sponsors

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Cheyenne Varner
Founder & Executive Editor

Porsha Eden
Associate Editor

Founding Team
Sarah Choi, Marketing consultant | Virginia Strobach, illustrator | DeAudrea Rich, photography consultant | Maria Oya X, inclusivity consultant


So Many Powerful Voices
Jasmine Lee

Pregnancy Reflections
Rupa Singh

Home, Birth Center, and Hospital Birth: Intro
Kenya Fairley

Home, Birth Center, and Hospital Birth Stories
Shauntay Shipp; Evie Singletary; Josh and Fan Hatt

Check Yourself
Doula Trainings Intl

Care Provider Q+A
Dr. Nicole Rankins; Thamarah Crevecoeur, CNM

Get Ready to Start Planning Your Postpartum Shower
Diamond Redden

Four Books for When You...
Porsha & Cheyenne

The Basics of Eating Well
The Educated Birth
Reflections on Breastfeeding from Indigenous Parents
Elicia Munro

Black MotHERhood
The HER Collective

Elicia Munro
print Pages cover, 32, 33, 35

Samia Minnicks
print Page 3

Arren Mills
print Page 34

Mallory Jackson
print Pages 5, 12

Stephanie Cabrera
print Pages 14-15

Saleta Lawrence
print Pages 16-17

Emily Lamb
print Pages 18-19

Stephanie Beverly
print Pages 21, 25

Camille Camacho
print Pages 34-35

DeAudrea Rich
print Pages 36-39

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