Jamaa Birth Village means family in the African language of Swahili. Come and go with me, on the humble beginnings and birthing of a village.
I was raised in a village of love.
Growing up in a small town, with all of my family living within doors and blocks of each other, I always felt safe, loved and free to explore my life as a child. Running up and down dirt yards barefoot, playing tag with cousins, and being raised by my entire family, my mama, Granny, Aunts, Uncles, all shaped my humble beginnings of what village, love and community truly felt like.
My siblings were my world, and life was so good.
Moving to the big city
My family moved to Germany for 3-years where I witnessed the power of a woman for the first time as my mom became pregnant and raised my baby brother. I spent everyday with my mother, caring for her, and being her baby Doula. After giving birth to my brother, we took off to the big city, St. Louis. Although Germany was a long way home from my humble beginnings, I still felt close to my sisters and family, and intertwined with a feeling of village, St. Louis was different.
Struggling to find my roots growing up in St. Louis, I began to drift as a teen and became pregnant at the age of 13.
A Traumatic Birth
My providers convinced me that my baby was too small for gestation at 37-weeks, pulled me out of school, induced me with roaring levels of pitocin in an overnight induction, and by 11am the next day, both me and my baby were losing oxygen with deceling heart tones. Nurses came in yelling, “We’re taking her to OR! We’re taking her to OR!” Managing somehow to take off my oxygen mask, I looked at my mom and said, “What is OR?” She told me, “you have to go to surgery honey, they have to cut you”. I cried out, “I don’t want to be cut, mama.”
The first time a nurse looked me in my eye and spoke to me during the entire induction was with the words, “Do you want your baby to die? If you don’t let me take you to the OR, you and your baby will die.” I put my oxygen mask back on, and was taken to OR, put to sleep, and woke up with a baby next to me.
Experiencing major postpartum depression, I pressed on attending high-school, working part-time and raising my son Kylan, suffering from domestic violence and sometimes homelessness. My senior year in high school I became pregnant again, and was determined to not have the experience I had the first time. Finding a different OB, and not knowing the proper terms such as VBAC, TOLAC etc., I simply told her, “I want to have my baby normal.”
Within the first 90-seconds of meeting her she says, “No. My insurance won’t cover me if I let you have a “normal birth”. I’m scheduling your c-section for September 15th.” That pregnancy was the hardest and depression started early. Just as she declared ownership of my body and birthing journey, she cut me again, without a chance that September 15th.
Falling Down, To Get Back Up
This time postpartum depression almost took my life. In despair, I ran to the Saint Louis Public Library, my refuge, and checked out self-help books and found a Yoga Book and a Black Woman’s Self Help book that changed my life. I began to meditate, I studied the philosophy of Yoga, not the postures, I practiced daily self-care, soaking in warm bath water by candlelight after my sons were asleep, I found myself and also found my calling, birth work.
I knew deep down inside that my traumatic births were not in vain, and that I had a story to tell and women to help.
Working as a preschool teacher of the two’s room at that time, I met many women who were depressed, just hanging on to motherhood and who would confide in me for support.
After studying Yoga at home for 1-year, I began practicing postures and taking classes locally. I was encouraged by 2- Yoga teachers to become a Yoga Instructor, and after a transformational vision experience on a Yoga Retreat in Canada, the healer-teacher in me was born, and I began training as a Yoga teacher.
I began hosting Yoga healing circles around the city of St. Louis, starting with the Saint Louis County Library, Spanish Lake Park and at my apartment complex. I began journeying deeper into my spirituality and hosted Moon Circles to assist women in healing their traumas. I began training as a Reiki Healer, Aromatherapist & Herbalist at a community herb shop.
I created my first business in 2007, making my own body products, decorative candles, jewelry and oils for healing. Then, I found Ina May Gaskin’s book called Spiritual Midwifery, and the biggest light bulb went off when I laid eyes on Black Midwife UmmSalaamah Sondra Abdullah-zaimah in her book, providing prenatal care.
I felt surges all over my body, and immediately saw visions of me being a Midwife, and knew I was called to not only help women heal, but to help women to have empowered births from the start. But First, I had to have my own empowered birth experience.
The Home Birth from Heaven
In 2012, I was a vegan yogini librarian, raising my 2-sons alone, and pregnant with my 3rd son. Determined to have my “normal birth”, and armed with the power of being a Midwife myself one day, I hired a Midwife for a VBA2C. After being turned down by every Midwife in St. Louis but 1, I began my prenatal care in my South St. Louis apartment, and garnered the attention of my entire community who helped me raise money to pay my Midwife.
This time, everything was different, I was empowered, I knew my choices and my rights, I ate well, moved my body through Yoga, hired a Doula and decided to birth on my own, not in the public health system. And, on a full moon hot August night, my 3rd son was born with ease, love and comfort, surrounded by my family and birthworker team, and by the power of my ancestors and spirit family.
The Birthing of a Midwife
I shared with my Midwife that I too wanted to become a Midwife, she told me to let her know when I was ready, but Africa called me first. I was invited to Dutch Komenda, Ghana West Africa in Spring 2013 to assist UmmSalaamah Sondra Abdullah-zaimah, the same Midwife I was inspired by years before, with teaching village Midwives how to handle birth complications to lower infant and maternal mortality. I voyaged back to Africa, with my 7 month old on my back, and learned with traditional midwives and got to meet and assist a woman who was influential in waking up the Midwife in me. I lived in Ghana through the Fall of 2013 and then prepared to reluctantly return back to the states, with a deeper vision; to build a birth and women’s village for holistic and modern care during the childbearing years.
As I said my prayers and songs to the sea, preparing to leave Elmina, Ghana, the place of no return, where my ancestors were kidnapped, stolen and sold and carried to America, I regained one piece of what was lost in that horrible passage to this country, the vision and the gift to go back home, become a Midwife and build a birthing village, just like we had in my ancestral homeland. On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, in Africa, a Fulani-American Midwife was born.