Every birth usually ends with tears. I’m crying, mom is crying, dad is crying. Tears of gratitude because we’re all incredibly appreciative of this moment and for each other. Yesterday, I attended my thirteenth birth and this family conceived through IVF. Their journey to conception was long, hard, expensive and at times heartbreaking. I previously learned pieces of their experience during our initial and prenatal meetings but it was while we labored together for 18 hours on the upper east side of Manhattan, that I learned the details. So much had gone towards the bringing to life of this little baby boy, who we were all waiting to welcome.
Because the conception story is different for IVF families, the experience of pregnancy, labor, and birth can also be different. Sometimes families feel a distrust of their bodies because they were not able to experience conception without medical intervention. When I work with IVF families, part of my job responsibilities is to remind my client of their strength, of their abilities, and if they are planning a hospital birth, of the options that are available to assist them if they want or need them.
Yesterday, this incredibly loved and yearned for baby was placed on the chest of his mother after long and hard laboring and she just broke down. Some families wait nine months for their bundle but in this case, years of ups and downs, disappointments and miracles had to happen to bring us to where we were.
Witnessing this moment was the catalyst of my own emotional release. I began to think about the love that I already have for my next child and how the work that I do as a birth and postpartum doula keeps me in a constant mental space surrounding my next pregnancy and baby. In the past, Rick, friends and I refer to the future baby as baby Ricky. More recently, I’ve started calling him by his name and sometimes I get glimpses of his face. I don’t know what conception will be like for Rick and I in the coming months when we begin to try, but the love for our baby boy has already begun to grow. The love is real even though, as of yet, he is not.
When I worked in Brooklyn, I had a direct supervisor and his name was Jerry Negron. Jerry was an older Puerto Rican man with thick jet black hair and a furry mustache to match. Every day he would ride in to work on his Harley Davidson Motorcycle and every afternoon he would ride back out. Jerry was a simple man whose main pleasures in life included long rides on his bike, hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. The fast-paced, ever-emergency-ridden atmosphere of the Day habilitation center where we served adults with developmental disabilities was too demanding for Jerry. He longed for retirement and ease and spoke of them often, with a smile.
Jerry saw potential in me as a younger and newer member of the agency and he treated me with favor. He would spend extra time explaining policies and made sure that all of my order requests for supplies were approved. He encouraged me to think about my own retirement and helped me to plan for it financially. Although Jerry, through his actions was encouraging of promotion and mobility, his words strongly urged against it. “The higher you climb, the more stress you will endure and this job is never worth the stress” he explained. In any difficult job, when you find someone who gets you, you hold on close. Jerry got me and together we sighed under our breaths and rolled our eyes expressing the same disconcertment towards the growing disorganization of the place we called work. More than a friendship, I looked up to Jerry as a father figure. He looked out for my professional well being and was concerned about my future.
After working together for several years, Jerry finally announced his retirement and as his sidekick, I was invited to be in charge of his farewell celebration. I ordered the largest greeting card Amazon could deliver, with the hope that he would recognize the size of the gift to represent the size of my admiration for him, although I never took the opportunity to state it explicitly.
We had a wonderfully bittersweet party for Jerry where we eagerly listened to his plans of future nature exploration and family reunions. Later that day, Jerry walked out of the building and I haven’t seen him since. I let him leave without a single way of contacting him. No phone number, no email address and certainly no social media.
What I do know is that Jerry loves his bike and so whenever I see a rider on the streets or on a highway I am enthusiastically checking to see if it’s him, but it never is. All I will tell him is that I’m well, I left the agency and am working towards living a stress-free life. I will thank him because his financial advice has given an extra cushion to my retirement plans that I would not have if it were not for him. I will ask him if he’s done the things he was most looking forward to and I truly hope he has.
You never know the impressions you can leave in someone’s heart even years after an encounter. I wonder if I’ve left a mark on his and if he ever thinks of me. For now, all I can do is keep looking for Jerry on the open roads, even though it’s never him.
When I quit my full-time job to freelance as a doula and blogger I knew that as any new career would have it, the growth of income would be slow and unsteady at first.
However, I am a planner and at times a true type A personality. There is no way I could tolerate a completely unpredictable income. Since last summer, when I first began to plan my transition from full-time employment to freelancing, I reached out to a friend of mine who I knew was teaching English online to students in China with a company called VIPKID. We met for drinks in November, where she outlined how the business worked and how she applied and got started. By the end of December, I began teaching and earning $10-$12 per 30-minute class. I love the flexibility of this job. I work as many hours as I want and all from the comfort of my home!
Although VIPKID income alone isn’t enough to be financially sustainable, it was a nice supplement to my income during the 6 months that I worked three jobs (as Case Manager, Doula, and online Teacher). The plan is for it to continue to be a supplement to my income now, as just a doula.
I wanted to write about this because I’ve been paying more attention to the fact that so many people seem to be unhappy with their work but feel stuck and limited by their options. There are ways to build a life for yourself that you love from top to bottom. It usually involves talking to and learning from other people, a bit of creativity and an open mind. I took my time and planned my escape from traditional employment because I didn’t want to wing it and possibly suffer financially and I recognize that my way is just one way to do it.
It is said that time is the most precious commodity we have. It is something that you can never get back, once it’s gone. True as that is, time is also all we have. Whether it is written in the stars that I will live for one more year or for one hundred more years, it is up to me to make the time I have, the best time of my life. We can spend our lives grumbling Monday through Friday, or we can work towards making every day worthy of weekend celebration! VIPKID is just one step in my path, and maybe one step in your path too. Click here for a referral codeand please contact me if you have specific questions or would like more information. I am happy to share!
If you have other ideas for part-time gigs/online employment, comment below and potentially help a fellow reader in their journey!
I began my journey in the Fall of 2015 when I stopped perming my hair. This was my second time attempting to go natural but this time I was more determined than before because I realized there was more on the line than I initially thought. I had become conscious about the images of beauty that I was portraying for my daughter. I was asking her to embrace her afro and natural curls while I was taming and stripping my own. She was the catalyst for a monumental change.
On my first attempt at going natural, I gave up a few months into the process because dealing with my roots was “too hard”. This time around, I believe that posting my hair intentions on Facebook in addition to Jayda as a motivator, were the factors that contributed to my sticktoitiveness. Not that anyone was keeping track or anything but it filled me with a sense of accountability.
I finally cut off the permed ends, Fall 2016 and since I am now approaching the three-year mark of having natural hair growth, I’ve compiled some before, in between and current pictures to celebrate the milestone. Enjoy!
Hooked on that creamy crack
Lots of braids, Bantu knots, and puffy roots
I didn’t go the big chop route which at the time felt like I was cheating myself from a full experience but the end result is the same: volume, health, and length.
I’m still learning my hair and figuring out what products, oils, and regimes work for it best. I am currently leaning towards Shea Moisture’s Low Porosity line and Argon Oil. I am mostly low maintenance. I have wash hour, not wash day and I do my best to deep condition when I remember. I’ve tried making my own hair masks with fruits and vegetables but the effort didn’t seem to match the results I was getting. I often find that doing less with my hair works just as well as doing the most in terms of helping me to achieve my goals.
Italy was everything I expected, wanted and needed! Going into the experience I knew that I was desperate for nature and the idea of a retreat was ideal. Visiting Italy had always been on my bucket list as far as I could remember. Before my brother or I were born, my mother spent years living in Italy and that is where she got the nickname: Baci, which everyone called her, friends and family alike. Her nieces and nephews called her Titi Baci and my daughter currently calls her Grandma Baci. I even have that name tattooed on my body, twice. In Italian, Baci means “kisses”. She was given the name by someone who I would later know as Big Judi.
I was excited to interview Big Judi for the interview project I’ve been working on and I knew I wanted to do so before visiting Italy. Big Judi came to my house the day before my flight. After noticing her marijuana socks, I asked her if she wanted to partake in any cannabis activities and with socks like those I was not surprised with her response. We lit up and began talking about how and where she first met my mom. Shortly after getting started, Big Judi asked if it would be ok for her to lay down and a bit later Rick drove her home. The interview itself wasn’t as concentrated with information as I would have hoped but we promised to get together again so that she could share more. Before she left, she gifted me with a small white pillow that was used at my parent’s wedding. I am thrilled to have received this just before my own wedding and plan to use it as well.
Big Judi may not have shared much yet but she got my mind ready in a voicemail she left, just as I was boarding my plane. Take a listen…
I was traveling with my friend Patria. In addition to wanting this trip for very personal and self-involved reasons, I was also happy to have time to spend with Patria, outside of wedding planning which is currently running my life and is the topic of most conversations I have with people. I considered this trip, among many other things to be a pre-wedding-friend-honeymoon.
The flight was smooth, as I slept nearly the entire eight-hour direct flight to Rome. After landing, Patria and I met with the retreat coordinator‘s husband and daughter who we would then share the 3-hour drive with to the tiny town of Piobicco.
As we more closely approached our destination, I began noticing the hiking trails off the side of the road that led into the forest. My eyes swelled up, this was exactly it! I got excited that this was going to be my life for the next 10 days. There would be no other responsibilities of wedding planning, or picking up and dropping off my daughter: just me, nature, yoga, meditation and my best friend.
The way Tanya leads yoga is different than anyone else. She gives writing exercises, visualizations, breathing and stretching along with traditional yoga poses. When you work with Tanya you will get a full body, mind, and soul work out and I am stronger for it now. The things I worked on have led me to be gentler to myself and more supportive as a mother and soon to be wife.
I am so happy that my path, which was always leading to Italy, crossed with Tanya’s and that I was invited to participate in this fantastic voyage!
Patria and I shared spacious accommodations with seven other ladies all from different walks of life. Each taught me something and lead to my overall experience. We spent a lot of our downtime discussing our childhoods, trauma and all the variables that shaped the women we are today. I have to admit I was taken back by the fact that many of these women who are somewhat older than I am still felt very impacted by their childhood. This brought me a sense of calm because it was then that I realized even if I don’t remember much of my mom, she raised me for eight crucial years, at a time when I was being shaped into the person I am today. This meant that I am effected by her whether I knew it, remembered it or not. I am comforted by this realization.
One of the most transformative parts was during a yoga session when I was reflecting on the things I’ve learned about my mom over the past year. So far I’ve interviewed my dad, who had a lover‘s perspective. My godmother, who had the perspective of a childhood friend. A woman who became close to my mom in the last years of her life and Big Judi who knew her somewhere in the middle and gave her the name Baci, which was a huge part of her identity. Here I was in Italy, where she lived for years and for the very first time I felt like I knew her and I missed her. Does it sound crazy that I never missed her before? I didn’t know her and I didn’t think I remembered her so how could I have missed a stranger? For years I was too afraid to engage in conversation about my mom because I was saving myself from deep sadness. That served and protected me then and now I am ready to feel.
As of today I have received my doula certification and have attended 5 births. I’ve had some clients deliver with an epidural and others who did not. I’ve been in attendance during vaginal deliveries as well as cesarean sections. Some clients were medically induced while others experienced spontaneous labor at home. After some births, my body has been physically drained and sore. After other births, I feel energized and ready to take on the rest of my day. The support I’ve provided has been as diverse as each of the women receiving the support.
Since I have begun my doula training, I vowed to myself to be dedicated to learning about research and evidence-based information. My dedication was due to apprehension that I would find an overwhelming amount of misinformation based on fear, old wives tales, and anecdotes. I have been pleasantly surprised by the volume of research that is available and the dedication of other birth workers in obtaining and sharing information based on research, data, and statistics.
The majority of my interest lies in helping my clients manage their pain and discomfort during labor and delivery. Three themes keep showing up: support, placebo effects, and perception of pain. These themes are a reminder of the power of the mind.
People feel and perform better when they perceive themselves to be in supportive environments. Support is relative and varies by individual and preferences. If my clients get what they want, they will feel supported and have a more satisfying birthing experience.
A client who gets an epidural after wanting a completely natural birth will feel dissatisfied. A client who gets an epidural after expecting, wanting and requesting it, will feel satisfied. It isn’t the epidural it’self that is causing these feelings, however, it is the expectations around the birthing experience. When our expectations are met, we feel content and fulfilled.
Since coming to this realization I have shifted the conversations that I have with my clients from spewing information and tricks of the trade to me listening to their hopes, wishes, and fears. I don’t have a magical doula wand or pixie dust that eliminates pain but I do have some experience, an ear to listen, a heart filled with good intention and a bag with some tools to help my clients customize a birthing experience that they won’t want to forget.