Devi (pronounced: day-vee) is a Sanskrit word meaning goddess. For thousands of years cultures around the world have venerated the power of laboring women and the sacredness of giving birth. Many cultures have embodied these ideas through myriad forms of birth and fertility goddesses that remind us of the profound and transformative action of giving birth. Having a baby is indeed a rite of passage; a time when all women exude the awesome energy of a birth devi as they welcome their new child, and transform into the role of a mother.
BirthDevi Maternity Services is grounded in the belief that all women are innately powerful and capable. This is particularly true during labor. The services offered by BirthDevi are intended to reconnect women with their innate body wisdom, deepen trust in the process of birth and provide support in celebration of the childbearing year.
I am a certified prenatal yoga teacher, birth doula, childbirth educator and lactation counselor with over a decade of experience working with pregnant women and couples in yoga studios and birthing rooms throughout the tri-state area.
Women who work in the area of childbirth are often drawn to this path as a result of their personal experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I am no exception. My experiences have been a powerful motivator in the work I do today.
I became a mother for the first time at the age of sixteen. During this pregnancy, there was no counseling or education on pregnancy, labor or baby care suggested. I suspect I was treated like any other fully mature woman having a baby at that time. However, I was far from mature, and I was completely unprepared for the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood on every level imaginable.
Knowing nothing about what was happening in my body, I was quite scared and unprepared when labor began. Numerous procedures and medications were administered for reasons that were not told to me. I felt trapped, panicked and alone. Given the circumstances, it is not surprising that this birth experience, at such a young age, was quite painful and traumatic for me. Nonetheless, after 12 hours of labor, I gave birth to a healthy 9 pound, 3 ounce baby boy.
At the age of twenty-five, I became a mother again. At this time I was living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Like all pregnant women on the reservation, I received my prenatal care through an under-funded government health program. While I did attend a class that covered breathing techniques for birth, the instructions included many steps that I simply could not remember during labor. These breath techniques did not feel natural to me so I did not use them. (This experience strongly influences the alternative approach to breath that I teach in my childbirth classes today!)
Needless to say, when labor began, I was once again woefully unprepared and under-informed to fully participate in my labor. I experienced labor as a rather involved series of procedures and medications necessary to get the baby out. I had no clue that there was anything I could possibly do in terms of movement or other techniques to facilitate matters, or that I even had a right to know what was being done to my body. I just thought this is how it’s done. Nonetheless, after 20 hours of labor, I had my second healthy son weighing in at 8 pounds, 3 ounces.
After this birth I underwent a rather long and uncomfortable recovery. I also had significant difficulties with breastfeeding. I definitely would have given up on breastfeeding had it not been for the support of Yolanda; a dedicated student nurse who had worked with me during my pregnancy. Yolanda went far above and beyond the call of duty making a 2:00 a.m. home visit after I frantically reached out to her in the wee hours of the morning. As a result of her support, I went on to breastfeed this son for over a year.
About eleven months later, I was expecting my third child. I still had no clue about my options during birth, but my general attitude was that I mostly knew everything I needed to know. What I knew was that labor is a long and painful process. I was just resigned to endure it for however long it would take.
During this pregnancy, I had a close friend, Edy, who was a labor and delivery nurse. She was very supportive during my pregnancy and checked in on me often. When I went into labor, she came over to the house at the crack of dawn, with a hot breakfast in hand, just to “keep me company,” as she put it. After breakfast, we went for a long walk, did some shopping and had lunch at a restaurant. The waitress asked when I was due and was shocked to learn that I was actually in labor at that very moment! She couldn't understand why I'd be eating lunch so calmly at her table rather than zooming off to the hospital.
By mid afternoon, Edy and I went back to the house. We talked and laughed until early evening. At one point, I was standing at the kitchen counter swaying my hips during a contraction (mostly because it just felt “right”). As I continued to do this for each contraction, Edy advised me that perhaps it was a good time to head to the hospital. I did not believe her (despite her experience as an L&D nurse). I knowingly told her that I had been in labor twice before and I was definitely not in “enough pain” to go to the hospital. I had been in labor for nearly 15 hours by this point, but due to the relative lack of pain I was experiencing (compared to my previous labors), I assumed I still had plenty of time.
Finally, Edy convinced me to go to the hospital. However I was quite certain I would be sent back home. In my mind, I couldn’t possibly be that far along in labor. However, to my great surprise, I had my third healthy son (8 pounds, 12 ounces) twenty minutes after arriving at the hospital. It was a completely natural birth. I had just enough time to walk into the Labor and Delivery Unit, break my water on the floor, and in short order deliver my son. My doctor could not arrive there in time, so an on-duty midwife did the catching.
For many years I chalked up this “easeful” birth experience to it being my third child. But as I began to educate myself about pregnancy and birth; first as a prenatal yoga teacher and then as a doula, it dawned on me that this experience was not solely the result of the number of babies I had. The potential for this birth experience was within me all along!
I realized that it was actually the relaxation: talking, laughing, sharing a meal with my friend that had helped facilitate the process. It was the movements that I did all afternoon just because they felt “right” and reduced the pain. In a nutshell, it was the upright positions, the freedom to move and the overall physical and emotional support I received from Edy that made a tremendous difference in my experience. Now, years later, I realize that Edy filled the role of a doula in her support of me. It made all the difference in the world!
These days, I look back on my three experiences of pregnancy and birth with a sense of awe mixed with a strong helping of sadness for what I did not know until after the fact. My experiences had run the full gamut from traumatic to ecstatic. While my first two birth experiences were quite difficult, I am nonetheless, grateful for what I learned as a result. Each of my experiences brought me to the work I do today.
My Children: (left to right - sons: Tony, Lance, Robert, and niece: Kathryn)
It is my passion to help women and their partners to connect with the profound beauty, power and sacredness of birth. By developing deeper awareness and trust of the body, birth becomes a much fuller and richer experience. Regardless of the path birth takes: natural, medicated or surgical, it is a major transformational life event. Finding a sense of connection and comfort in the body and mind, knowing the process that lies ahead and understanding the importance of actively participating in this miraculous event is an invaluable gift to oneself and new family.
I am first and foremost a proud mom of three awesome sons. They have taught me many things about life and about myself. So, it is to them that I owe my strong dedication and passion to this work.
I also have a beautiful niece. She too helped bring me more fully into this work. It was a transformational experience to support my younger sister and brother-in-law during their labor and to actually catch my niece upon her entry into the world.
I am a certified prenatal yoga teacher, birth doula, childbirth educator and lactation counselor with over a decade of experience working with pregnant women and couples in yoga studios and birthing rooms throughout the tri-state area. I am ever grateful to the powerful women, teachers and mentors who guided and instructed me along this path. I also feel a deep appreciation and love for all my hundreds of prenatal yoga students and couples who have invited me to be a part of their journey into parenthood. This is truly a grand honor and privilege!
I love my role as a birth doula, a mother's companion. Sometimes I view myself as an artist's assistant. I simply bring the tools: from yoga poses, to breathing techniques, and simply remind the laboring mom how to use them.
In 2011, I received my kids yoga certification from Kaia Yoga, quickly followed by my 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2012 from Yoga Haven. In 2013, I left my full-time art teaching position after eight years to teach yoga full time. I knew right away that I wanted to teach prenatal, but at the time, the certification opportunity did not line up with my life. So, I asked Kelly if I could simply sit in the back of her prenatal yoga class to watch, learn, and be in the presence of pregnant women. I observed such a magical energy that surrounds pregnant women, and I noticed that the "glow" people always talk about is real!
Coincidentally, around this same time, my cousin was pregnant with her first baby and she was attending Kelly's prenatal yoga class. One day, after class, my cousin said, "You know Jacqui, I think you would make a very good doula." I thought, "What's a doula?" Little did I realize that a seed was planted.
When Kelly offered a Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training, I jumped on the opportunity. I certified as a prenatal yoga teacher in 2014. Soon after this training, Kelly pulled me aside and said, "You're going to be my back up doula." "Your what?" There was that word again, but this time I had to dive deeper into it. Kelly and I discussed at length what my new role was, and how to support a woman in labor. I've been working hand in hand with Kelly and apprenticed with her, co-supporting births since January 2015. In February 2016, I attended the DONA doula training which reinforced all the amazing things Kelly has shared in practice with me.
Being an artist, I view the human body as a work of art, and body movements as an art form. The same holds true for a woman in labor. The trust in her own body, to create movements, gestures, sounds that are natural and feel right, just as a paintbrush moves over a canvas uninhibited. The beautiful natural spiral the baby creates as s/he descends.
I love my role as a birth doula, a mother's companion. Sometimes I view myself as an artist's assistant. I simply bring the tools: from yoga poses, to breathing techniques, and simply remind the laboring mom how to use them. Birth is a beautiful process that creates a masterpiece, a newborn child. How magical is that?