Naima Beckles is the co-founder (with childbirth educator Michele Arrieta)
For Your Birth, a company dedicated to provide labor support for all births and all people. But this former secondary classroom teacher hadn’t considered getting into the childbirth field until after she gave birth for the first time in 2008. Today, Beckles is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, DONA certified birth doula and lactation counselor.
“I didn’t know enough about how my body worked during birth, breastfeeding and the months after a baby is born. I also had no idea that I would need so much support and that there were people who I could hire. At that time, I was a young professional with an advanced college degree and I thought that if I didn’t understand the full landscape of birth and early parenting then perhaps many other women just like me didn’t either. It felt like a natural next step for me to become a childbirth educator and doula,” Beckles shares.
Beckles educated herself about the field. “When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t know the word doula. It wasn’t until a prenatal yoga teacher described herself as being one and invited me to talk to her after class. Back then the idea was foreign but so sensible,” she says. “Today, I think that our awareness around health and wellness is stronger and having support during and after birth is a concept that more people understand.”
Now, Beckles is dedicated to support women during their birthing process and beyond. And one way to do that is to educate others. Among the questions she often gets is: What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife? She answers: “Doulas provide physical and educational support. Midwives are healthcare providers to women and they deliver babies.”
Women also wonder if hospitals/doctors will allow a doula in the delivery room? “Who you bring to support you in labor is your choice. Really great doctors and midwives fully understand the benefits of having a doula attend a birth and fully support it,” Beckles responds.
Since the near tragedy Serena Williams had during childbirth, women seen to be paying more attention to Black women and the dangers of childbirth. “I advise Black women who are pregnant to prepare for birth and the postpartum weeks which are often the most demanding. Preparation can look like sharing your medical history with your support team, taking a birth prep class or hiring a doula to walk you through the process and to be there with you,” she says. “‘The Essential Guide to Postpartum Support’ is an e-book that we wrote that gives new and expectant parents a blueprint for how to plan for the healing and care giving that comes after the baby is born. Our e-book is a quick read that can be given as a gift to any new parent in your life.”
She also says to trust your instinct and your own body. “Most importantly, if something doesn’t feel right in your body–speak up! That’s ultimately what saved Serena’s life,” Beckles stresses.
Still, the the doula process is still foreign to many women and they have concerns “Women are concerned about how their doctors will feel about a doula being present at a birth and that their spouse or partner may feel left out. The best doctors know that doula support has been proven to benefit women during childbirth,” Beckles points out. “The doula isn’t there to replace a doctor or your partner. When searching for a doula make sure that you trust her professionalism and that you feel confident that she’s there to join your support team.”
But, says Beckles, more and more women are becoming interested in and are using doulas. “When we started it was just my business partner Michele and me. We attended births and I taught childbirth classes in that first year. By year two, we brought on another doula and expanded our offerings to include breastfeeding support and in-home postpartum help. Today we have a team of nine diverse doulas, childbirth educators and breastfeeding counselors. We’ve contracted our childbirth classes with several different agencies in both the private and public sectors and we’ve attended over 300 births,” she says.
Beckles has plans on reaching out to more women this year, especially to Black women. “In 2018, we want to raise the profile of doulas and childbirth resources within the Black community. We want Black women to know that they can enter birth with confidence while having all the support they desire,” she explains.
Beckles says she truly loves what she does. She adds: “I get the most joy from educating expectant parents, supporting people along their birth journeys, mentoring new doulas and building a company that’s impacting the lives of many people during a momentous life event. It’s pretty special and I’m truly grateful.”