You can always count on a doula to remind a mother that her child’s birthday is her birth day too! Every year around my daughter’s birthday my doula friends remind me that as inspiring as it is to witness our little ones blossom, we need to acknowledge our own growth. Today is my birth day. It’s not the day I was born, but the day I brought two new lives into this world: my daughter’s and my own.
My journey as a mother began long before pregnancy. As an 18 year old who got diagnosed with bipolar, my first thought was that I would be a terrible mother. I struggled to understand my reality for many years until pregnancy initiated me into a profound knowing, not only of my body, but of my mind.
As I journeyed through the altered states of an unmedicated pregnancy, I tapped into my inner knowing and psychic abilities deeper than ever before. However, I also came to terms with both the risks and rewards of having what Sascha Altman Dubrul calls a “dangerous gift.” Upon becoming a mother, I committed to healing and integrating in a way that I never had before.
During my postpartum recovery I studied myself to figure out the spectrum of where Nadia (my “stable” self) ended and Naomi (my psychic self) begun. I attended mental health support groups religiously to learn from other people’s experiences. And I took an online certificate course with the Academy of Peer Services in New York to learn about the history of the mental health system, Mad Liberation, and the Peer Support Movement.
As someone who had not yet achieved financial independence, I was on a steep learning curve and becoming a mother during a global pandemic didn’t make things any easier. Digging myself out of the debt of manic spending and being scammed out of thousands of dollars, I had to face my fears of money head on. Initially without health insurance, I managed my dread one medical bill at time. Outside of prenatal visits and the hospital birth, during my pregnancy I endured retinal detachment surgery, ER visits, and pysch ward stays.
Housing insecurity was also an issue. But despite the overwhelm, I found support. I figured out how to navigate the welfare system and found hope through the kindness of strangers. When sharing my fears about housing affordability during a support group, one member insisted on helping and sent me a check to cover my rent for the upcoming month!
Becoming a mother I learned that I am more adept than others allowed me to believe. I am capable of understanding the intricacies of my mind and finding solutions to ensure my safety and that of my child. I am resourceful and able to find the right support to navigate a crisis. I am capable of handling work, finances, and providing a stable environment for my family.
Not only has becoming a mother made me understand who I am, but it has forever impacted what I do. The initiation into motherhood set the entire trajectory of my life’s work. The progress with my PhD is as old as my daughter. Today marks three years of tireless research to understand the relationship between perinatal mental health and Black maternal mortality. My desire to educate, doula, and hold space all stem from my experiences becoming a mother.
Founder of Ancient Song Doula Services, Chanel Portia-Albert says
Postpartum is forever.
I couldn’t agree more. Three years later, I am still adapting to my new body. I am still figuring out how to move through and take up space in the world. This new version of me is in its toddlerhood and I’m excited to see how it evolves and matures.
Image Description: Against a blue background, six cupcakes are lined up in a row each in a different color of the rainbow.