You never forget moments in life that are “trajectory changers”. They are crucial and specific. They happen when you think life is just trucking along at a normal pace, when suddenly you’re thrown in a total opposite direction, almost as if you’re in a car crash, and spun around several times at an alarmingly fast pace. In those moments, I feel like you have two choices: You can either realize that what’s just happened is fate and continue on in the new direction; or you can choose to go back to doing whatever it was you were doing and never know what could have been. For me, that moment was the birth of my first daughter.
Before the birth of my first daughter, I had NO direction. I thought that the best I would get out of life was being a wife and mother, and though it has been amazing and rewarding, I figured my job/career was going to be something incidental. My pregnancy was pretty text book. I went to all my doctors’ appointments and got every test he offered. He was adamant I’d go into labour early, and when I didn’t go into labour as early as he’d expected he booked me for an induction two days before my EDD. Thankfully, the day before my induction I went into labour on my own. My labour was also textbook/routine. Got to the hospital with contractions 4-5 mins apart, assessed and checked in, put on the EFM, told to order my epidural immediately and did so with ignorance, strapped into a bed for 12 hours, pushed for 3 hours, gave birth to the most amazing little human I’d ever laid eyes on, and then BAM, in an instant, trajectory change. I had my uterus ripped out of me by said impatient doctor.
My story doesn’t end at that moment, though while it was happening I was certain that it would. It has been several years, and I’ve given birth to 3 beautiful babies, but I credit THAT moment as my “trajectory change”. Before this shift, I was completely oblivious to how important advocacy and informed consent were and I was blissfully ignorant to the way great deals of women are treated in labour. After it, I would make it my mission to ensure that women in my community had their voices heard and their choices supported during pregnancy, labour, and as a parent. I wanted authentic communication and respect between care providers and the women they were supposed to be caring for. I knew it was a long, up-hill battle for little old me, and I knew that I would need to rally together with other like-minded folks in order to get our voices heard. With a fire in my heart and direction in my feet, it was still a few years before I figured out how I would make it all come together and be able to turn my passion into a career.
When I was pregnant with my 3rd baby, and had REALLY started advocating for myself in terms of birth, I started giving the idea of becoming a doula some thought. I researched and looked into different training organizations, and couldn’t find one that I could totally get on board with. It was a lot of humming and hawing, going back and forth as to what to do, when I came upon an ad on my Facebook page about a training organization called bebo mia. I clicked the link, signed up for the webinar, took notes and 30 minutes into the call I knew it was where I wanted to train and build my business around. The practical and business portion of my training was beyond what any other organization could have offered me. More importantly, it struck a chord with my core values, those being authentic relationships and community.
When I finished my training, the most important aspect to my business was not making my “brand” known immediately, it wasn’t getting my business card out to every pregnant lady that I walked by, and it wasn’t spending loads of money on advertising and marketing. The most important things for me were 3 key matters:
COMMUNITY & RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER DOULAS/BUSINESSES
I wanted to get out into my community and start building relationships, so I went and formed relationships with other doulas and birth workers in my area. I truly believe there is power in numbers, and that by rallying together we can make doula work more prevalent and respected. I also became friends with a mommy and me fitness group called Mum And Bubs (which I have gained some AMAZING friends from), and met with dozens of other like-minded business owners whose passion were moms and babies. I hustled. I went OUT into the world to find people who I resonated with and wanted to work alongside, I didn’t wait for people to come to me, although some did, but instead went out and sought them out. It wasn’t about being a one man army; I wanted to see where I could join in and be part of something that was already happening.
COMMUNITY & RELATIONSHIPS WITH MOMS/MOMS-TO-BE
As humans we want authentic connections. We don’t want to be sold something without there being a relationship built first. In doula work, it is vital to build a relationship with a woman first. Birth is one of the most intimate moments in life, and there needs to be a connection formed first. I hosted free meet-ups for pregnant women, moms and their partners, moms and their babies, and started online community forums to form “village mentalities” amongst the women in my area. I also host several “mommy meetups” a year. Again, community and relationships are foremost to me. All these things didn’t get me money in my pocket immediately, and to be honest, that wasn’t my goal. When I see a pregnant mom my eyes don’t flash dollar signs, but instead my soul wants to connect with that person and hear how she is feeling, if she is being supported, and what she imagines her future has in store. Thankfully, I have seen the ripple effects from this entire culture spill over into my business.
EDUCATION FOR WOMEN AND THEIR PARTNERS
If I wanted to make sure no one else had to experience what I went through, I knew that education was vital. I didn’t want to be a doula or childbirth educator that told parents what their births needed in order to be positive or go a certain way, but instead I wanted to present them with information and evidence based research/tools so they could make their own well informed decisions about birth and parenting, and fully support their choices. That is why I chose to become a GentleBirth instructor. I teach parents about the value of them getting to decide what a positive birth looks like, even if someone else wouldn’t choose the same thing, and also teach them how to build emotional resilience for birth and parenting.
I am now in my second year of my doula business. I’ve continued to work on building relationships in my community, I’ve added childbirth education to my certifications, and I’ve started focusing more on marketing, branding, and expanding. I have hired 2 new doulas, will be re-structuring my brand, website, and services that we provide, and pay more attention to my online business presence. All things have fallen into place at the appropriate times. I’m not sure what would have happened had I decided to go full out on the business side of things first off and left out the community aspect that I hold so dear to my heart, but I know that it wouldn’t have felt right. I don’t want to feel like a sham doing something I am so passionate about. As the year pulls into its final quarter, I am excited for what is in store and what the future holds. The adventure continues and I embrace every turn and change that comes with it.
I hope that whatever your trajectory change is, and whenever it happens, you seize it and follow that new course, wherever it takes you.
Toni Botas is a bebo mia certified doula and GentleBirth instructor. She lives in Barrie, ON with her partner and 3 children. She started her doula business Bien Aime in 2015 while pregnant with her third. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram and make sure you check out Mountain Momma Collective, a doula services agency that Toni co-founded in 2017. Her passions include evidence-based education for parents, community relationships, and supporting parents as they choose to focus on achieving a positive birth and parenting mindset.
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