An Open Letter of Love and Gratitude… As I close the doors to Big Belly Services, sell off my belongings, and prepare to drive off into my new life, I am filled with so many memories and so much gratitude for the Seattle birth community. My midwives who started me off on this path, Suzy Myers and Marge Mansfield; my doula trainers, Sandy Szalay and Dana Blue; my local mentor and friend Penny Simkin; my old crew at Big Belly Services Alex Sarason, Angie Dobbins, Rebecca Shepherd, and Amity Kramer; my friends and colleagues at Seattle Midwifery School/Simkin Center Annie Kennedy, Sharon Muza, Kim James, Teri Schilling, Laurie Levy; my hardcore doula pals Alissa Wehrman and Debra Shelden; and so so so many other doulas, childbirth educators, midwives, nurses, physicians, lactation consultants, and all the massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists who kept me standing for so many years.
But the people I want to thank the most are the thousands of doula students who have graced me with their presence over the past 15 years. Without you, Big Belly Services would have been nothing. You showed that a small class size, sitting in circle, and a no-agenda course could produce the best doulas out there. You helped me manifest my vision of creating heart-centered doulas who were schooled in how to weave anti-racism and social justice into their birth work. You are the stars in the milky way to me – shining your lights in an otherwise gloomy world and making huge impacts to birthing families and humankind.
So who will continue the legacy that I started with Big Belly Services? I am passing the torch to my dear friend and colleague Amity Kramer, who nurtured the childbirth classes once offered at Big Belly Services and made them into a successful and continuing venture at Thresholds. Now, Amity will offer the 7-week and 4-day immersion enCircle birth doula trainings that I once offered. She will continue my focus of training birth doulas to be racial and social justice advocates in birth work. She will also offer in-person continuing education for local birth professionals. And she has many ideas for bringing in local experts on new topics of interest to birth professionals. Please check out her services and support her at www.thresholds.info.
And what will I be doing? During all my years as a doula and doula trainer, I have had people comment on the way I say things, the types of questions I ask, they way I phrase things. All that comes from my years of training with Birthing From Within, and the work of my mentor and dear friend, Pam England. This is the organization that changed my life and made me who I am as a birth professional, and as a person. I am now so proud to be co-owner of Birthing From Within (along with Erika Primozich and Nikki Shaheed), and one of its lead trainers around the country and internationally.
In February, I was asked by DONA to step down as one of its approved birth doula trainers since I was also training for Birthing From Within. That was a sad day, as I believe we can manage multiple roles and enrich them all through cross-fertilization. But it was a good day too I suppose, as it reaffirmed my focus and dedication to Birthing From Within.
I love Birthing From Within. It is the most relevant birth organization today, in my opinion. We offer online courses and inclusivity scholarships so it is accessible to all. We train not just childbirth educators and doulas, but also nurses and midwives and other perinatal professionals. Over and over again, we hear from seasoned (and often burned out) birth professionals that “this is what has been missing all my career!” We provide training on processes and skills that doulas and childbirth educators can use right away to actually prevent birth trauma. And our Birth Story Medicine training is the most effective way I have ever encountered to help folks process birth stories and trauma. Birthing From Within is truly ‘Changing the conversation about birth”. You can learn more about my work with Birthing From Within here.
I’ll be back in Seattle in November to lead Birthing From Within’s signature retreat, Crossing the Threshold, for aspiring and experienced birth professionals. Come see this new work that I am doing! The retreat will be followed by a 5-day birth doula training.
I have traveled around the country training doulas, meeting other birth professionals, and learning about regional birth practices. It is common knowledge that birth practices in the Seattle area are progressive compared to other parts of the country. But more impressive (to me) is how the Seattle birth community is such a rare treasure. Because of the way we were ‘brought up’ – to be collaborative and supportive, rather than competitive and back-stabbing – we have created an open and sharing community that truly GROWS more of the same. I see new doulas reach out for help daily and receive support. I see experienced doulas offer their wisdom. I see different types of care providers come together to share perspectives and skills to solve problems. Pat yourselves on the back and keep it up. Please don’t ever let that change.
With love and gratitude, Carrie