Tag Archives: natural birth

Join us as we Renew Rebirth & Retreat

A couple of years ago, while hosting a meeting of black birth workers and birth advocates in New Orleans we decided we should create a campaign to educate our community about the benefits and value of doulas and normal birth.  As the conversation continued, and as we outlined a plan, it dawned on me… it will be great to get our sisters motivated and informed about natural birth and doulas but when they ask “Where can I find a doula?”  what will our answer be?

You see in 2012, when we had this meeting, I could literally count the number of working doulas in New Orleans and the black doulas working in New Orleans… I could count with my fingers.  In a city that has a population that is nearly 70% black… that was a problem! To make it even worse, there were NO local doula trainers.  Not ONE. Every so often a trainer would visit from afar and unfortunately, I have heard most left lots to be desired.

The way I saw it, we definitely had a problem and I set my mind to do something about it. Fast forward to today, and I am preparing to do my third official Sista Midwife Productions’ Birth Sister Training in New Orleans starting May 16.  This is the first of three I am planning this year.  The beautiful thing about my training is that while it is certainly not exclusively for black women, the black women in my community who are drawn to this work are also drawn to my training.  I am proud that my first two classes combined included a total of 16 students, 13 of whom identify as black and more than half of them attended on scholarship.

I am proud that my training is endorsed by individual birth advocates, as well as local doula and community groups. I am proud that I am making a difference by expanding the reach of birth work in my community.  Recently all over web there have been articles and questions about where are the birth workers of color? Where are the trainers of color? *Raises hand* We are here. We are learning and growing. We are working hard to do our part.

“Nicole’s passion for birth work and women’s health rights is infectious! During her training I couldn’t help but be engaged, and afterwards I left feeling like I, and all other women, could shake and move the world.” ~ Shayla B. – Mississippi

Since I conducted my first training, I have been asked… Are you going to take your training on the road? What can I do to get you to Texas, California, Florida, Georgia? And my answer has been, I don’t really know but build it and I will come.  Most recently, I have been asked about conducting a training in Tennessee. AND… when I said “build it and I will come” my sister Angelique “Sobande” Greer, herbalist and founder of Natural Choice Botanica School of Herbalism and Holistic Health took me at my word.

With that said, I am very pleased, proud, and excited to announce that my first “on the road” doula/birth sister training will be taking place June 17-June 22, 2014.  This VERY special event will be far more than a doula training as women come together from various parts of the country to RENEW – REBIRTH & RETREAT.  We will come together to learn, relax, bond, and grow within a serene  retreat center.

Now… not only is my sister Sobande the reason I am travelling to TN, she is also a spiritual teacher, healer, and herbalist who will share her wisdom with us during the phenomenal event.  I had the pleasure to learn from her during the last Wise Women’s Herbal Conference in Ashville NC and she is bout it! Throughout this retreat she will share with us her wisdom, her passion for healing, and her love of nature.

This event gives YOU a unique opportunity to receive my full 36 hour Birth Sister/Doula Training and training and guidance from Sobande all while we sit at the feet of mother nature.  Throughout the training we will incorporate time for self guided meditation and facilitated retreat activities. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey into birth work and you are looking for a foundation, OR you are an experienced doula/birth sister and you want to increase your knowledge base and re-ignite your fire, this training is for YOU!  The back drop for this retreat is the serene Penuel Ridge Retreat Center which sits on 135 acres in Middle Tennessee a short drive outside of Nashville.

I promise you this is an event that you do NOT want to miss.  In order to make sure this is an enjoyable experience for everyone, registration is VERY limited.  The registration for this event is only $850 and this includes EVERYTHING… your training, your lodging, your meals, and your serenity.  Registration is currently open and today you can reserve your spot for $100.  As the training dates approach, the registration rate for this event will increase so reserve your space today!  I look forward to seeing you there and experiencing growth, love, knowledge, joy and laughter with you!  Let’s come together and #BirthSomethingBeautiful!

“My Doula training experience was great! Nicole is a wonderful trainer and I would recommend Sista Midwife Doula Training to anyone!”
~ Queen Hope Parker  - New Orleans

Undistrubed Birth… A Quote

I read this in the June issue of the Midwifery Today e-newsletter and I wanted to share. I LOVED the visual… Its calming, radiant, strong, rhythmic, primal. #BirthSomethingBeautiful

“If undisturbed and able to stay instinctual—moving about and pacing her breath—[the mother] will work her baby out as if she were on an island by herself. Confidently, she will twist and turn, bellow or moan, breathe deeply, squat or lie, drink or seek a corner. The most important thing for the midwife during the pushing phase of labor is to refrain from engaging the mother’s thinking brain. Stay sensual with her. If you feel she needs to slow her breathing down or to breathe more deeply, sit nearby and do that. Breathe the way you want her to breathe. She will do exactly what you do.

Sister MorningStar Excerpted from “Midwifing Second Stage,” Second Stage: The Pushing Phase of Labor, a Midwifery Today e-book. How to order

What words/images come to mind when you read this?

The Marathon/Childbirth Discussion: Why Don’t We Celebrate Both??

One of my favorite cousins is a runner.  She ran in high school.  She ran in college.  She runs now.  I admire people who run.  Their determination and focus.  Their endless goal setting for a faster time or a further distance.  Their passion for running only truly shared by other runners.  It is to be admired.  

I on the other hand am no runner.  I will walk a few miles in the name of exercise and personal fitness, but running has never been me. I remember vividly when I was a little girl, I ran a race in the middle of the street, as I tried out for the track team at the neighborhood park.  I fell.  HARD.  I scrapped my hands, my knees, and my ego. I was so embarrassed.  I don’t think I ever ran another street race, and I certainly never grew to like the sport/activity.  Regarless of my lack of interest in running, when I hear someone is training for or interested in running a marathon;  I am happy for them and admire their fortitude. I will admit however, running a marathon is NOT on my personal bucket list.  

What IS on my “bucket list?” Experiencing a successful full term pregnancy and home birth.  I do want the experience of birthing in a way that leaves me exhilarated, empowered, and full of pride.

Its well documented that “The sense of personal empowerment, accomplishment and achievement that comes with it is simply amazing.”

Yes, its hard work:  “You have points where you want to sit… and cry.  Points where you don’t think you’re going to make it any further…  But when… you’re able to say ‘I got through it and I’m OK,’ there’s no feeling of accomplishment like it in the world.” 

I recently read someone say:  “I haven’t found any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives”

But wait a minute…  What exactly am I writing about here?  Is this about birth or about running a marathon?  Well BOTH actually.  You see, the quotes above, each came from a recent article I read about running a MARATHON!!  As I read the article I was reminded that I promised my cousin, the one mentioned above, that I would write a quick post re: the comparison between running a marathon and giving birth without the aid of medication.

I mentioned to her during a previous conversation that posts and articles about this topic were plentiful. In fact, I just googled “Natural Birth Marathon” and got over 20,000,000 results and the first page is full of great articles. Unfortunately, while the preparation, the attitude, the mental capacity, the final feelings of accomplishment and elation have long been compared, the disparity of responses to each continues.

When individuals announce “I am going to run a marathon.” They are greeted with hugs, cheers and congratulations.  At the same time, women who say “I am going to have an un-medicated birth” are often laughed at, discounted and some are even shamed as they are asked “WHY on earth would you do that?!?!”

What’s most interesting to me are the women who run marathons themselves yet simultaneously think that an un-medicated birth is a crazy idea. I met such a woman a number of years ago in California.  The woman was being admitted for an induction.  She let me know she was DEFINITELY planning to have an epidural.  She told me about her friend who had a natural birth and she could not understand why her friend would put herself through so much pain.  I had recently read an article comparing natural child birth to a marathon and I mention this article to her. She then admitted that she had run not one, but TWO (maybe 3) marathons!! I was like REALLY!!?? In my opinion I told her jokingly… YOU are the crazy one.

I won’t go into detail about the endorphins that are experienced and used by both marathon runners and women in labor alike to endure pain and experience a life changing experience. 

I will not go into detail describing the physical and mental preparation, the need for focus, determination, and a support system and a plan.  I won’t discuss the way mind over matter makes them both a reality.  I will not go into detail about the potential for pain, injury and disappointment that comes if the desired outcome is not realized.  i.e. the marathon is not finished  or the birth ends in cesarean. 

Instead, I will refer back to the quotes above. The ones that came from an article on running a marathon and at the same time can be used easily to describe natural birth.  My favorite:  “I haven’t found any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives”    REALLY??!!  Obviously that person has never experienced or witnessed natural child birth which I would argue can do all of that and MORE!

What I really want to do is challenge you to change your opinion of women who desire “natural” child birth.  Celebrate them as you do the marathon runner. Embrace their goals like you do the marathon runner. Support their efforts like you do the marathon runner.  Tell them you are proud like you do the marathon runner.  

Women who choose un-medicated birth are no more “crazy” than the individual who chooses to run a marathon.  Just as I can appreciate the hard work, dedication and preparation that goes in to running a marathon, it’s time we celebrate the hard work and effort that goes with an un-medicated birth.

Somehow I believe if men could birth babies and chose natural birth, it would be looked upon differently.  I believe like the marathon, the triathlon, the decathlon, and the iron man it would be celebrated and not made into a societal joke.  That’s really sad, because the reality is, with no disrespect to Marathon runners:

“I haven’t [witnessed] any other experience in life that bestows the blending of mind, body and spirit in as positive and powerful a way… It changes people’s lives.”  And I am talking about childbirth!!!

Did you have an un-medicated birth? Have you ever run a marathon? Which one was more difficult? Share your story!!


Lets connect on Twitter I’m @SistaMidwife

Should I consider Natural Child Birth?

Should you consider natural childbirth? In a simple word YES!!!

Yes you should consider Natural Childbirth. Does this mean that I believe everyone is, or everyone should have natural child birth. No… natural birth is not for everyone; however I do believe EVERY woman should learn about,  understand, investigate, and consider natural child birth. This week I had the opportunity to write a guest post on the blog Naturally Free RD, and I wrote about this very topic.  As I wrote, I thought to myself…. “How many women really want a “natural Birth?” so I decided to do a quick poll to ask you all that very question.  Please take a moment to answer! :D


If you have 15 minutes, I recommend you take a look at this “Home Birth Documentary Project” Like natural childbirth… while home birth is not for everyone learning about home birth can help you make better decisions about your birth in general. Be open to learning about birth in all its settings and you may find that what you thought you knew and what THEY told you about birth is far from the truth of things.  Get the facts.  Learn about your options and allow your new knowledge to move you to Birth Something Beautiful™.

In Birth and Love,


In hospital settings, women who choose unmedicated births are often misunderstood, under supported, and greeted with disbelief, and “hidden” sarcasm.  Hospital nurses are often ill equipped to provide the support needed to help a woman having a normal, unmedicated, non-interventionist birth.  They often don’t understand birth, have a fear of birth and have been indoctrinated into the medical model of care.

Hospitals hinder normal labor and birth with many of its routines like IV fluids, electronic fetal monitoring, and restrictions on movement, eating and drinking.  Aggressive protocols that include Pitocin and artificially breaking a woman’s water bag abound creating a VERY difficult environment for a natural, normal birth.  In spite of all of this, an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting IS possible.  Yes it can be a mountain to climb but you CAN do it with the right preparation and the right support.

As you prepare for your labor and birth experience, there are a number of things you can do to make your chances of an unmedicated birth in a hospital more likely.  Among them are choosing the right birth team.  It is IMPERATIVE, if you are planning an unmedicated birth in the hospital that you bring along with you a friend, family member, or doula. More than anyone else, for a woman who desires an unmedicated birth in a hospital, I believe the presence of a labor doula can have the most profound impact on her birthing experience.   (NOTE:  All women should have loved ones with them during labor and any one can benefit from having a doula on her birth team.  I am just focusing on hospital birth here.)

Although DONA International, the largest association of Doula’s worldwide, has a membership of 6,000 individuals here in the United States alone, many women still have never heard of doulas.  Even when a woman does know what a doula is, somehow the benefits of hiring a doula are not realized.  I am frequently surprised when I ask a pregnant woman, especially first time mothers, if they have hired a doula and they answer:   “No, I don’t think I will need one, my mother, (sister, girlfriend, husband) … will be there.”  Or “No I really didn’t want any strangers in my birth room.”

That one always makes me chuckle…  Believe ME!!!….. There will be PLENTY of strangers in and out of your room during your hospital birth experience:  various nurses, secretaries, lab technicians, OB technicians, students of various specialties, and more.  The one person who can remain constant during this time would be your doula!

While it is GREAT to have your mother,(sister, girlfriend) present for your labor and birth; and while it is fantastic if you have a partner/husband who is interested in playing an active role in your labor and delivery experience,  I cannot begin to express how important and irreplaceable a doula is, ESPECIALLY if you are planning an unmedicated birth in a hospital.  A doula, who has been hired by YOU, who is NOT an employee of the hospital, and who is committed to YOU, YOUR birth, and YOUR experience is invaluable!

I am not just talking about any doula. I am talking about a GREAT doula! One that you have met with, spoken to, and made a decision to hire based on her experience, and the energy you have between the two of you.   While a doula can be effective even if your first encounter is at the hospital in labor, she will be more effective if you have met during your prenatal period. Just as it’s important to do your research when choosing a prenatal provider/birth attendant, it is equally important that you do your research when choosing a doula.  You want to make sure that the philosophy and style of your doula match YOU and your needs.

The great thing about a doula (and this is not always the case with friends and family members) she is specially TRAINED to help you AND your spouse with the work of labor and birth. She can be your advocate and a liaison between you and your care providers.  A great doula knows how to be vocal and strong on your behalf while being gentle and mindful of your needs.

After the birth of your baby you may be amazed at how EVERYONE’s attention (including that well meaning friend and your mother) goes to your newborn.  Your  needs quickly fade into the background.  Even in some of the most “baby-friendly” hospitals, your baby may be quickly brought away to the nursery and often your husband/partner will leave you to go with the baby. Your mother/sister/friend is exhausted and often all they can think about is getting home.

In the midst of all of this, it is your doula who will stay there with you steadfast during your immediate post partum transition.  It is your doula who will visit the next day not just to “see the baby ” or to “say hello” but to help you process your birth experiences helping you have a more peaceful transition to motherhood.  A great doula knows when to stay and what to say.

Now you may still be thinking… “Nicole, I hear what you are saying HOWEVER, I still don’t want to hire a doula.  My sister, girlfriend, mother etc will be there to support me.” That is definitely YOUR choice.  However, before you make THAT your final answer, I want to encourage you to ask yourself a few questions.

Has she had an unmedicated birth? Has she ever witnessed a normal unmedicated birth? Is she supportive of unmedicated birth? Will she be able to support you physically, mentally, and emotionally? Will she be able to help you make sense of the medical jargon thrown at you during labor?  Will she be FULLY supportive of your choices?  Will she do things to undermine you?

I have witnessed it multiple times:  Supportive friends/family members either knowingly or unknowingly talk you into pain meds, or an epidural.  It often happens because THEY are uncomfortable with you being uncomfortable. They don’t understand the work of labor and as a result want to move in to “help you” or “fix you” and all they know is…  “When I (my sister, friend …) had my baby I got an epidural and everything was great after that… are you SURE you don’t want an epidural?”

I have had family members pull me aside to quietly say to me… “I know she doesn’t want an epidural but can’t she get SOMETHING … I remember getting something in my IV for pain.”  Mothers in particular, often struggle watching their daughters experience the pain of birth.  Even a mother who has experienced an unmedicated birth herself feels trepidation and fear when her daughter, cries out in labor pain.  Family members and friends quite honestly don’t usually know HOW to support a woman in labor.  A great doula, knows how.

And what about your husband/partner:  Will he be equipped to support you, or will he need support of his own?  I have seen men be both remarkably supportive as well as irritatingly disruptive during a labor and birth.  What is the relationship like between you and your husband during a normal day?  Where do the two of you struggle? How will this affect your labor?  What does he think about normal birth?  Will he truly be able to “let go and let birth?”  While being present is one thing, being your primary support is another.  A great doula knows how to be supportive to you, your partner, and the two of you as a dyad.

How COMMITTED are you to having an unmedicated birth? If the answer is VERY committed; if you can’t envision your birth any other way; then quite frankly in my opinion you HAVE to have a doula.

Now there is an exception to every rule… If you are a part of a community of friends and women who support, understand, and have experienced normal birth…. Be happy and know that one of them can likely be the support you need.  If this is NOT your normal sister circle, you should SERIOUSLY consider hiring a doula.

In the moment when you are working well with your contractions, in a good rhythm, and your provider wants to “speed things up with a little Pitocin” you need someone there who can help you understand your options, your choices and what is normal.  A great doula can.

In your moment of wavering faith, when your body is working hard and your mind questions if you can go forward;  You want to cry out that you can’t go on and your nurse is repeatedly asking  “Are you sure you don’t want an epidural?”

You don’t need someone whispering in the corner… “why doesn’t she just get an epidural?”  You need someone to tell you it is going to be fine, you are strong, and you can go on.  You need someone who will encourage you and help you refocus while simultaneously communicating your wishes to the staff.  A great doula will.

A great doula can do all these things and more.  If you desire an unmedicated hospital birth, hire a doula!!  Make the investment.  Wondering about the actual cost/investment to hire a doula… here are a few words from Lisa… a reader:

“I often seen women say that doulas are “too expensive.” A couple of points about that:

1) I see it as a one-time cost for a once-in-a-lifetime event. To put it in perspective, my doula cost about as much as my wedding dress — in both cases, the memories I got in return were MORE than worth the cost.

2) There is a huge range of prices for doulas. For my current pregnancy, we interviewed doulas ranging from $200 to $750, and you can even find doulas-in-training who will work for free! And more expensive does NOT necessarily mean better; the one we ended up picking was right in the middle of the price range.

3) If the cost of a doula really is a hardship for you, most doulas I’ve seen are willing to work with you on price. So ask about it! Don’t let money be the ONLY reason you choose not to use a doula”

Thanks Lisa for that great insight… I definitely say Hire a Doula… You will be glad you did.

In Birth and Love
Nicole ~ Follow me on Twitter @SistaMidwife