Locals we love: midwife Debbie Wong

One of my first friends in Charlottesville, a professional mentor, a remarkable craftsperson, adventurer, scientist, world traveler and exemplary midwife: Debbie Wong (of Nine Moons Midwifery) supported me in personal transformation, healing and creating my family.

If that sounds heroic it's because that's how I think of Debbie. She keeps a notable poker face when it's serving to do so, and when I ask for advice she offers it with love and no bullshit. My partner said a while ago, "I really like how Debbie can tell you things I wish I could but with her you never get defensive." For me she was the perfect care provider, holding space for my fears to surface and then sublimate.

Debbie has a tastefully appointed, sunny office that's a pleasure to visit, and she makes some client visits at home. My daughter was excited every time we saw Debbie for care during my second pregnancy and she was sweetly integrated into the team listening to the baby's heart, measuring my fundal height and massaging my belly. It felt like such a perfect circle to watch my nearly three year old help Debbie with the newborn exam after my son was born at home.

A tremendous gift Debbie offers to childbearing people in Charlottesville is meeting us where we are. She consults with other practitioners in town who may be simultaneously caring for clients; she works as a birth and postpartum doula in addition to her home birth midwifery practice. Debbie teams with wonderful assistants and collaborates seamlessly. In our case what that looked like was a planned home birth with our first, a transfer to UVA for the birth, which she attended; then, all of our care through my second pregnancy including home birth and first rate postpartum care for the baby and me. I trust Debbie deeply and will live my life in gratitude for the encouragement and authentic empowerment she instilled in my process of becoming a mother.

Locals we love: photographer and doula Zoe Krylova

I met Zoe at a housewarming potluck with a bonfire soon after we moved from the Bay Area, where she'd also once lived. As I settled into Charlottesville and the birth community here I got to know Zoe as a poet, a mother who shares her stories openly and richly, an artist, and someone whose presence always shines golden light. It was an honor to have her with us for both Matilde's and Gideon's births and after she visited us this week I just had to break my blog hiatus to share some praise.

Zoe Krylova (Windflower Doula) was quite literally the doula of my dreams. When I was pregnant with my first child I got up the nerve to let her know that I’d thought for years about her as my ideal doula and it was a pleasure to go through the other side of the doula-client relationship (prenatal appointments getting to know one another on a deeper level; practicing birth support positions with my partner guided by Zoe; checking in when things were difficult along the way) with someone I had long admired. She was with us for the epic weekend when my daughter was born and she took photos we will always treasure.

In March I had my second baby and I sent a message to Zoe in the middle of the night, after my labor had begun. This time she was going to join us to take photos in a less formal role than that of doula, and I knew the time commitment would be significantly less since honestly I’d been reading about unassisted birth and wanted to wait until pretty well into labor before having even our midwife join us. Zoe saw my message when she woke up in the morning, called my partner and zoomed to our place as I was pushing. When she came into the room I absolutely lit up - her energy is warm, balancing, peaceful, confident and so strong. She set up her tripod and took incredible photos. I could not more highly recommend her as a doula and/or photographer!

Response to Birth is Natural

Several days ago, I read an article in my Facebook feed-”Ten Things I Always Tell Pregnant Women” by Joanna Goddard.  For the most part, I wholeheartedly agreed with much of what was expressed.  She interviewed Erica Cohen, clearly a seasoned doula, who deeply understands the art and science of birthwork.  However, there was one thing Erica said that really stuck with me.  “All birth is natural.”  I read and reread the paragraph in which she expounded on this idea.  I thought about it for days.  I attempted to try on that concept, as if I agreed, to see how that would feel and just could not get there.  Nope.  I very strongly disagree for so many reasons.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw it pop up on the Bright Birthing Facebook page with Gwen’s comments “Love this!”.  

Henna design by Hannah Bukowski

Henna design by Hannah Bukowski

I found myself distracted for a couple days.  I love and cherish the Bright Birthing team members and always hope to demonstrate the value I place on their perspectives.  Yesterday morning, I finally decided to send a bit of a rant to Sara, Gwen and Stephanie via email to share my conflicting views and open up a conversation amongst our team members.  One of my favorite things about working with these amazing women is that we often have differing perspectives.  We’re not always on the same page about everything.  But we care enough about each other to talk through our disagreements.  That is golden!

The group consensus was that we should share my thoughts  in a blog post.  I’ve edited a little, just to make it more of a blog and less of a rant, but content is completely intact!  Here ya go!....

Here's a link to the article for those who may or may not have read it...


Here's the excerpt I'm referring to...

Natural birth. We need to stop using the term “natural birth.” The concept of natural birth is divisive and inherently competitive. All birth is natural. It’s as simple as that. If you want to have the intense sensations of labor and you’re coping well, go for it! If you have a hard time with pain or you have bad associations from trauma, that’s totally okay. You have the inherent right to choose how you want to navigate your birth experience, and those choices should be free of judgment. You should be celebrated for moving through the process of pregnancy and birth, however it unfolds, unmedicated, medicated or cesarean. THERE IS NO UNNATURAL BIRTH. It’s not Westworld. It’s all natural.

I love the spirit of her comments.  I agree that much about birth has become divisive and competitive and find that to be a sad reality of our society.  I agree that NATURAL is an inaccurate term that may mean different things to different people.  We know with certainty that many products labelled "natural"  are full of harmful additives, for example.  When I think of NATURAL in relation to pretty much anything, I reach out to connect with the essence of the human experience spanning millions of years on this beautiful earth.  I think of the time we've spent with our bare feet in the mud;  the time we've spent huddling next to fires, made with our own energy and intelligence;  our reliance on the stars, our animal brothers and sisters, and each other.  My vision of a NATURAL human is  someone who knows how to live in harmony with the earth;  some who not only survives, but THRIVES in the natural world, with no need for modern entrapments.  Perhaps because my definition of NATURAL is already so far from the picture that is painted by corporations, the media, etc..., I am especially sensitive to this particular application of the term?

The crisis of women being disempowered and devalued by our society is something I care deeply about and hope to address throughout my life as a birth worker.  I absolutely agree that each birthing person has the right and responsibility to choose how they want to navigate the experience of giving birth.  I hope that someday every person who gives birth will be celebrated for that beautiful act of strength, grit, love, and vulnerability-regardless of method, medication, or location.  I hope that every single thing I ever say or do throughout my life and career will contribute positively, whether directly or indirectly, to the mission of creating true equity for women in all facets of life (i mean, world domination , really...but, I'll take equity I guess for now!).  

However, I think by applying the term NATURAL BIRTH to ALL birth, we undermine the importance of speaking accurately about what happens in hospitals, homes, and birth centers.  I don't see any way to possibly address the many, many problems with the modern maternity care system if we allow ourselves to placate women by generically applying the word "NATURAL" to all births.  I find it incredibly condescending to birthing people.  I don't believe that much of what happens in doctors' offices and hospitals surrounding birth (and many other "medical conditions") is anything like NATURAL.  I don't think the interactions feel natural.  I don't think the environment is natural.  And it seems like it should go without saying that being hooked up to monitors and medications, while someone looks at a screen to make decisions about your well-being is not natural.  I just can't get there.  I don't want to get there.  I think without speaking clearly about augmentations and interventions, we miss an important opportunity to truly empower women.  I don't agree that women will be more empowered if we all lie to ourselves and each other about the realities of modern maternity care.

I believe women will be empowered when they are educated healthcare consumers.  

I believe women will be empowered when they are informed decision makers.

I believe everyone will be better off when we address the unfathomable inequities and inconsistencies in maternity care.

I believe there is an enormous amount of work to be done, so that, eventually, the FACT that birthing people are being duped, dismissed, and steamrolled by the system becomes so evident that they just won't fucking tolerate that shit anymore.

I hope that I live long enough to BE the change and SEE the change when educated, informed, empowered women are DRIVERS and DETERMINERS of what maternity care looks and feels like in the this country.  

Lastly, I hope that our fears of judgement will not prevent us from having the hard conversations that will be required if we ever want to put a dent in this mess.


Collaborative care: doula teams

I am so excited to be working with the amazing women of Bright Birthing! We have supported one another through so many of life’s sweetest moments from belly blessing ceremonies to attending one another’s births to helping to care for one another’s children. We have laughed together and cried together and drunk a few margaritas together. We have created a beautiful village for ourselves and our precious families. We work hard to share our village and shine our love on the community around us. We accomplish this through our work with expectant parents during prenatal education classes, belly blessings, abdominal massage and prenatal care; through our limitless love and energy during the birthing process; and through the tenderness we feel for and show to new parents during postpartum visits, birth story sharing and village circles.

 With all this love and support we already give one another and the community, it only makes sense that we would add another layer of support by providing care to our families with doula teams. Working as a doula team will allow us to provide the best possible care to expectant families while allowing us to do the very important work of caring for ourselves and our own families.  

You know we've got your back because we have each other's all the time!

You know we've got your back because we have each other's all the time!

What does having a Doula Team look like? Well, families will have TWO doulas and will benefit from the wide variety of skills each doula possesses. Families will have ample opportunity to get to know both of their doulas during prenatal visits and, together, we will develop a unique plan for each family. During labor and birth one or both doulas will be present depending on the length of the labor and needs of each family. Also, as we become more and more aware of the importance of and need for postpartum care, we are excited to include two postpartum visits as part of our Doula Team package.

 I am thrilled to continue to work with Gwen, Hannah and Sara integrating the concept of doula teams into our options for care. These doula teams will allow us to provide even more love, support and exceptional care to our community, our clients, each other and ourselves. Could it get any better?! I don’t know but we continue to look for ways to enhance the services provided by Bright Birthing. We look forward to sharing these services with our entire birthing community.