In our ongoing Meet the Mentor series, you’ll get a chance to meet some of our amazing Birthing From Within Childbirth Educators and Doulas. You’ll learn a little bit about their Birthing From Within work – and, just for fun, get a glimpse into their personal lives and opinions! Today, let’s meet…
Christy is a Birthing From Within mentor, doula, and facilitator based in Pittsburgh, PA, where she is also the Director of Programming at MAYA Organization, a nonprofit that supports expecting and new parents. Before answering the call to BFW, she studied art, anthropology, and Spanish, and she taught college Spanish for 15 years. Her love of art and storytelling brings great depth and meaning to her mentorship of birthing people and birth professionals, and her wisdom and generosity are a true gift to everyone lucky enough to work with her.
Tell us a little about your current work.
I have been working as a mentor and doula in a unique setting. MAYA Organizations’s mission is to provide education and promote the healing process in order to enable women and families to break the cycle of generational trauma and to foster the optimal physical and mental development of their children. This includes reducing the unacceptable maternal and infant mortality rate in Pittsburgh, which is much higher — and exhibits even greater racial disparities — than the national average.
My work with MAYA Organization has allowed me to apply Birthing From Within approaches to a wide variety of situations, beyond what might come up in a typical class series.Parents come to us because they hear that we have free support and free diapers, car seats, etc. They don’t know that they are getting Birthing From Within!
How does your previous career relate to your work now?
I used to be a Spanish teacher, and I think that my work as a childbirth mentor is directly related to those days. Ever since I was a kid watching Sesame Street, I was fascinated by the idea of different languages — that there were different ways to express things, and to think about things! As a teacher, I was always looking for that magic technique that would lead students to internalize the language, and that magic moment when a student becomes the language. Those of you that have learned a second language will remember when you first dreamed in that language. Magic! This is just like Birthing From Within, where we also help parents learn a new language – to hear with a new ear, to process information in a new way. In my last years of teaching Spanish I was training to be a Birthing From Within mentor and I started incorporating art and storytelling into my lessons. Those were the best classes! But I came to realize that I had learned all I was going to learn as a Spanish teacher, and that Birthing From Within was where the next level of learning would take place. So here I am, still learning!
What’s your favorite thing to do in your down time?
I love to paint. I combine Process Painting, as taught by Michele Cassou, with Intentional Creativity, as taught by Shiloh Sophia. Painting brings inquiries, stories, and intentions into the physical world. It is an act of prayer, learning, and creation.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite author might be Juliet Marillier. Her first book, Daughter of the Forest, will always have a special place in my heart. It’s an epic heroic journey/fantasy/romance based on the folktale “The Six Swans.” I also love Angeles Mastretta, Nicola Griffith, Ana Castillo, Louise Erdrich, and Madeleine L’Engle. A promising new author that I am excited about is Signe Pike.
What song could you listen to over and over again without ever getting sick of it?
I never get tired of “Inevitable” by Shakira and “Fotografía” by Juanes featuring Nelly Furtado. (I like the late-90’s Latin pop!) You just might catch me belting these out while driving.
What’s your fantasy vacation?
In October, I realized a longtime dream of visiting Scotland. I can’t say exactly why, but I just needed to know what it would feel like to be there, in the glens, moors, and remote beaches. I went in search of selkies, stones, and stories. I was not disappointed. They say that once you visit the Isle of Skye, it has a hold on you forever, calling you back. My soul is already making plans to go back and this time spend even more time out on the land.
What drew you to BFW, and what keeps you there?
My first pregnancy was a massive research project. I could often be found at the library checking out armfuls of books. I had so many questions, but they mostly boiled down to one: How do I get this right? During my second pregnancy, I wasn’t as worried about getting it right, and a new layer of questions started bubbling up. This was when I came across a copy of Birthing From Within. As I began to read, waves of relief and grief came over me. I grieved the lack of mentors and elders in the modern birth experience, and at the same time felt relief that I had finally found one in Pam England. I now knew that there was at least one person that believed that birth was a significant rite of passage and could guide me through it. What keeps me here is the desire to become that elder that I longed for when I was pregnant, the camaraderie of other mentors doing the same work, and that look on an expectant parent’s face when they realize something new about themselves.