From the Heart: My Journey To Midwifery
I often get asked why I want to be a midwife, and how I got from talking about the AfroLatina identity to childbirth. I suppose I would have to start from the very beginning. When I was a little girl, I would always say that I wanted to be a doctor, mother and teacher. Those were my favorite role-playing games and they came so naturally to me. Life started to happen to me, and I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough to do any of those. I remember in high school, not being particularly good at math or science and as a result, gave up the dream of being a doctor. I thought it would be too hard for me. It was also the first time that I felt myself be envious of others who were going to go to medical school.
I decided to major in television and radio productions after doing a radio story for WNYC in my junior year. I enjoyed the production part of it and thought it was something I could do with my life. I certainly don’t regret what I majored in college; along with television and radio, I took up Black Studies. This is one of the single most important things I’ve done with my life. Becoming a Black Studies major was a quest to know more about everything that was kept from me for the first 18 years of my life. I became interested in my womanhood as it relates to my African roots when I took the Black Woman course. Black Woman in Antiquity by Ivan Van Sertima was one of the required books. This opened my eyes to the legacy of greatness that Afro-descendant women stem from. It was reading The Black Women’s Health Book: Speaking For Ourselves by Evelyn White that reignited my interest in health and wellness.
At the same time, I began to realize that I was still struggling with depression. I had not properly addressed my mental health and decided to look into meditation and yoga. This snowballed into changing my diet and tapping into my inner knowing that we are psychosomatic beings. Psychosomatic meaning that our thoughts and emotions have a direct impact on our bodies. During this shift in spiritual dedication and eating habits, I wanted to share this knowledge with others. I began to also become more interested in my reproductive health as a result of becoming sexually active. I struggled with shame around my yoni and menstrual cycle; these were things that I gained the ability to talk about towards the end of my college career. I began to own that I served as a healing presence for friends around me. It was at this time that I realized that I was naturally a teacher and healer. What woke me up completely was a question my sister friend, Caroline, asked me in my last semester of school. She asked me what I wanted to be when I was little. I told her I had wanted to be a doctor, teacher and mother. She shared with me that it is when we are children that we know what we want to do with ourselves. Reconnecting with that childhood dream, I decided to pursue it.
After college, I went on to write my book, Hija De Mi Madre, in which I wrote about my experiences as an AfroLatina struggling to liberate herself of internalized oppression. I also dedicated myself to learning more about my yoga practice and briefly studied to be a holistic health counselor. From this short time of studying, I learned a lot about how food contributes to health. I also came across a book that radically changed my life, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrup. After I read this book, I was filled with the desire to not only speak about internalize oppression but also women’s health. I decide at this point to pursue becoming a doula.
I began my training as a doula in 2010. I knew from the start that I wanted to eventually be a midwife but wanted to test the waters. I was afraid to take the leap still. My first birth as a doula made me realize immediately that I definitely wanted to pursue midwifery. My interest became in learning about how Afro-descendant women were experiencing birth and health, and was alarmed at the neglect my sisters were experiencing. My decision to be a midwife then was a calling to serve my community at large. It was realizing that layers of internalized oppression also led to shame of our bodies and consequently handing over our power to doctors who don’t always have our best interest in mind.
I knew immediately that I wanted to concentrate specifically on supporting Latina and African-American women, as well as low-income families. Because of my own person work with my anxiety and depression, I knew that our mother’s emotional and mental health has a profound impact on us as well. Last year after my trip to Ayiti, I began to actively pursue my midwifery education. To be honest, I always wanted to be trained in the traditional direct-entry model but went for the certified nurse-midwife track because I could get student loans to pay for it. It was more of a mental choice than a heart one. I thought I could just bit the bullet and go against my real desire to train in a more holistic approach. In short, I didn’t have the money to pay out of pocket for the program I truly wanted to go through.
Last fall, I believe the Universe made it so that I had no choice but to be true to myself, not just in midwifery training but in my life. In the fifth week of my nursing program, I had a panic attack/nervous breakdown. All the years of not getting help for my depression and anxiety caught up to me. I was holding myself up barely, was recovering from strife with family and friends and constantly worried about my basic necessities. I withdrew from school and began an intensive 6 month therapy program, as well as work with my spiritual mentors. For those 6 months, I focused on getting my mental health back to stable. It was a hard 6 months. I wondered often if I would ever be well enough to continue to pursue my dreams. I was angry that the Universe had stopped my path so abruptly.
I realized that I needed to experienced this for a couple of reasons. First, I needed to release all the trauma I’d been carrying for 27 years. I knew my old self was dying; it is what spurred my transition to a new name. Secondly, I had to learn how to listen and truly take care of myself if I was to be a competent health care provider in the future. Lastly, my interest in maternal health leans heavily towards psychosomatic wellness. My personal journey with mental health would only be an asset when I begin to serve women who have suffered in their lives as well.
This fall I start again. I will be embarking on a year long program at Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, Texas. I will be reaching out for financial support in the coming days. I will admit, it is nerve wracking to start this journey unsure of what is going to happen and how I’m going to pull it off. I guess that’s what birth is like. You have to trust yourself to know that you will make it to the other side. That somehow you will get what you need and pull it off. I look forward to serving women as a certified professional midwife. This time, from the heart and with trust.