Meet the Mentor: Kathie Neff

Kathie Neff Doula

In our ongoing Meet the Mentor series, you’ll get a chance to meet some of our amazing Birthing From Within Certified 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…

Kathie Neff

Kathie, a member of the Birthing From Within Board of Dreamers and of this blog’s editorial team, is a BFW certified mentor and DONA certified doula in Riverside, CA. She supported her first birth – of her own grandson – in 1995, and she entered the birth field formally in 2009, when she trained with both DONA and BFW. Her birthing experience was pretty deep before all of that, though – she has seven children of her own! She doesn’t attend a lot of births anymore these days, because she has such a heavy teaching schedule. She teaches BFW-infused childbirth and breastfeeding classes for Kaiser, averaging around 300 couples per year! Additionally, she teaches BFW classes in her home every other month or so, and sees private clients for childbirth preparation and Birth Story Listening – and sometime Life Story Listening, which she doesn’t advertise, but sometimes gets requests for. (And who doesn’t need a little Life Story Listening?! We have to confess that we have on occasion inadvertently made use of Kathie’s Life Story Listening skills; she is such a good listener that it’s sometimes impossible to not unburden ourselves when we were supposed to have been having business/administrative/pedagogical/editorial conversations. -Eds.) Kathie is one of the semi-secret backbones of BFW: for many years, she has offered invaluable emotional and practical support to countless BFW practitioners and programs.

Kathie is a true treasure of BFW: her unstinting warmth, wisdom, and honesty are a great gift to everyone with whom she works, and to our organization as a whole.

What are you binge-watching right now?

I just finished binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Just before that, Anne with an E.

What’s your favorite book?

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird – but there are so many others and so many more!

Who’s your favorite musician?

Right now, my favorite artist is the multi-talented Sara Bareilles and her amazing voice (mezzo-soprano is my fave). Additionally, as a self-taught musician, she wrote, recorded, and performed most of her popular songs (beginning at age 18), wrote and starred in the Broadway musical, The Waitress, wrote and performed an amazing song for President Obama, and wrote a book! I admire Sara’s courage and the content of her songs that reach deep and speak about life, love and loss.

What is the best show you’ve ever been to?

HAMILTON!!  I am a Hamilton fan to the max. When the show was in LA, I told myself, “I have three jobs and each of my paychecks can contribute $100 to a ticket to Hamilton!” Driving to LA, I attended the play by myself, sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time and getting autographs after the show. Take two at Hamilton was a gift from my daughter at the Segerstrom Theater in OC where we were an unbelievable EIGHT ROWS FROM THE STAGE!!! Taking in the ensemble from that near was thrilling – I have no words!Kathie Neff Hamilton

What are your hobbies?

Writing and reading are my first and constant loves, although I am not disciplined with either. I am a new drumming fan – not trained, but enthusiastic! I used to play the guitar and long for it to be an active hobby again. I created a wild bird sanctuary in my backyard and that is a daily hobby….feeding, watering, and witnessing the beauty of birds. Collage has long been a hobby that I sometimes use when I host retreats in my home.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your down time?

Being by myself either reading, writing, or watching films. I am an avid cinema fan, and as a “learned extrovert” I renew my spirit in solitude.

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

Some might not know that I just celebrated 49 years of marriage and am a proud mother of seven amazing kiddos.Kathie Neff family

What drew you to BFW, and what keeps you there?

The Birthing From Within experience was recommended to me by a midwife who I had reached out to after experiencing a traumatic first birth as a DONA-trained doula. When I entered the DONA training I had a number of births under my belt, but without having experienced anything negative or challenging. When a nurse’s cruel and inappropriate words left me frozen at that first DONA birth, I thought, “If this is what birth is like now, then I am not going to continue.” I was on the hook with a situation that made no sense to me, a situation for which I could not get any answers about how to respond in the future. I only had the DONA trainer’s mandate of “don’t be a rogue doula – it hurts all of us.” Going to BFW normalized the human aspect of birth for me, and with two nurses at that BFW training, I was able to see how they, too, get frustrated when coworkers respond without compassion or caring. I was also offered the medicine of seeing the many “unknowns” behind the scenes that we don’t see….things that cause humans not to be our best in the moment. “Cross the Great River — No Blame” was just the healing phrase I needed. I found this healing in Birthing From Within.

I stay because the tenets of this work make me a better person, since all that I offer to others I must embody first. As a professional, I believe that BFW is offering something in the childbirth world that is one-of-a-kind in philosophy and practice. Our model is organic and continually growing and changing as birth practices evolve. The practices are sound, yet flexible to the unique circumstances of an eclectic community of uninitiated parents. I personally believe that it is the best birth preparation available.

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About the Birthing from Within Team

Birthing From Within is blessed to have a team of bloggers that includes childbirth educators, doulas, and birth story listeners who, in addition to being deep thinkers and skilled writers, are dedicated to the amplification of the BFW mission and philosophy. Birthing From Within is a collective creation, always evolving to reflect the new layers of understanding and unique approaches to the childbirth experience. Our goal is to change the conversation about birth in our culture, and to uphold the possibility of growth and transformation for birth professionals and birthing people.

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