Isis is one of our really amazing IBMS students, entering the Advanced Midwifery Program. She is smart, funny, precise, and a real asset to the birth community. You can find more at her website, on the podcast that she cohosts with Chae Pounds (an IBMS alumni!), and in this interview on the Evidence Based Birth podcast.
I became intentionally pregnant with my second child when I began my Indie Birth journey in July 2020. My first child was born at home in 2018 — sparking an enthusiasm for homebirth advocacy and restored faith in myself. My second child was born April 2021 at our local hospital. Being an Indie Birth student has allowed me to honor that both my births and my children are completely different. In the homebirth world, and mothering spaces in general, it can be polarizing. I’m often confronted with a lot of either/or thinking. You breastfeed OR you formula feed. You have a home birth OR you ‘face imminent death in the hospital.’ You put your baby’s needs first always OR else you’re a bad mother. It’s exhausting and not at all indicative of the way the world truly works or how humans actually function. Indie Birth has never created space for this kind of thinking. In fact, I believe that Indie Birth’s curriculum and vision are in alignment with how I see the world — a world where things are black, white, gray, AND exist across the rainbow spectrum of existence. A world of both/and. A world in which informed choice and holistic, woman-centered care are the priority. A world where sometimes your vision falls short but renders you no less worthy of celebration and the highest praise.
I usually tell people that I became a birth worker by doing doctoral research and kind of just landing on a topic. And while this is mostly true, I believe that I have been a birthworker-in-training my entire life. It’s as clear as day that my life experiences up until the last five years have been leading me to this profession, lifestyle, calling. When I was a child, as soon as I could write in complete sentences, I kept a diary. I would document conversations or events in order to make sense of them. I wrote in my diary when I was feeling critical — of ideas and people, mostly my siblings. I was a precocious kid who was privy to conversations and subject matter that many would deem inappropriate for someone my age. But these topics made me think. I used to wonder what my mother meant by “men only want one thing” or how she would imply that getting pregnant young was one of the worst things I could ever do. My mother’s first child was born when she was 19 — back in 1970. A poor, Black, single mother without support in general and likely no birth and postpartum support. I think about how she struggled. I think about how no one gave her “the talk.” I think about how she probably didn’t know much about conception or access to contraception. I think about the trauma of being alone with a sickly child. I think about if her pregnancy/birth experience and caring for a child with sickle cell anemia led to some undiagnosed mental illness(es). I think about how if she had more support, perhaps, our relationship would have been different. I think about how my life’s work will contribute to fewer women feeling neglected and uncared for and maybe that will contribute to me feeling whole, fulfilled.
I always end up talking about my mother when I’m tasked with reflecting on my own life — especially during pregnancy. Even at 31 years old, I recognize that our insecure attachment, our current estrangement, and the challenges I face as an adult and as a mother all go back to how my mother was not mothered. She had little to no family support and certainly few community resources if any. WIC was established in 1972 which was two years after my half brother was born. There were no “doulas” back then. There were no homebirth midwives near her. If there were, they likely weren’t interested in serving poor Black folks in Kansas City, Missouri. When my mother gave birth, she said, it was just her and her doctor. Her child’s father was nowhere to be found. Her mother was absent because she actually didn’t raise my mother. Who knows if her mother knew about the pregnancy at the time. If my mother and I were on speaking terms, I would ask her how she made the decision to leave her sons intact when that was not the cultural norm, who taught her about cloth diapering when her twins were born, and why in the 80’s and 90’s she was pro-breastfeeding when there was probably pressure from everywhere to formula feed. I think about how much my mother’s mothering, while wildly imperfect, laid the foundation for my own mothering.
I think my mother’s story has always been in the back of my mind. When I watched those TLC shows about pregnancy and birthing when I was a pre-teen. When I watched The Business of Being Born in college. My mother’s dreams for my life never came to fruition but her life story and the state of our relationship did haunt my pregnancy dreams. Several of my lucid pregnancy dreams were actually nightmares. With my first child, I wondered if I could even be a good mother. With my second child, I wondered if the good mother that I am is compatible with my career — to serve other mothers, birthing people, and their babies. My journey as a doula and student midwife with Indie Birth has taught me that I am fully in control of my life and experiences. Indie Birth has confirmed that pregnancy and birth are spiritual endeavors and we have an obligation to improve the experience of the childbearing year because humanity depends on it. I also learned on this journey that what I face in life is not as important as how I am prepared for and supported through the experience. Just like there is inherently nothing “wrong” with having a baby at 19 years old. It’s wrong that we are still failing to prepare, educate, and support mothers in our communities. We live in a pro-life country that is not pro-birther or pro-child. We’re not even pro-quality-of-life for all. Nevertheless, I am humbled to be a part of a community of fearless and powerful beings –birthers, non-birthers, and birthworkers. Becoming a birth professional has inspired me deeply and connected me with other people across the country who are humble, compassionate, confident, knowledgeable, warm and empathetic. We are a people who wish for change but find comfort in the present where sometimes bad things happen to good people, things do not always go according to plan, folks makes choices that may not align with our own personal beliefs, and we are forced to learn what we are truly made of.
My desire as a midwife and human is to continue to listen without judgment, take criticism without excuses, show up when called, and build community wherever I exist. I believe wisdom comes from both books and my own experiences. Pregnancy, birth assists, and doula work have honed my intuition and compassion and I hope to develop this skillset further as a second-year Indie Birth student.
This is so beautifully written. I’m humbled to be learning and evolving as a birth worker with such deep and compassionate souls. Isis, I’m so glad I got to meet you!