Kaadia Montgomery Olivia Scobie Mental Health Award Winner Spring 2020

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My name is Kaadia Montgomery. I’ve primarily lived in Tennessee for majority of my life. My journey to doula-ing has been underlying for at least a decade at this point and is actually still growing with the amount of learning I’m completing. It all started during my sophomore year of high school while taking a family life course. My first cousin gave birth and I felt compelled to be there for mom and baby as often as I could. It was crazy how the things I learned in class were so relatable in those moments. It felt empowering to help her whenever I could, but I just wrote it off as me just loving babies, no “viable career path” there. While attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I joined a “feminist troop” called the Women’s Coordinating Council, or as we affectionately called ourselves, ‘WCC’. I was interwoven with an eclectic mix of women whose main goal and focus was equality and women’s rights.  I poured hours of effort into events like Take Back the Night, the Stiletto Stampede, and weekly events during Women’s HERstory month for 3.5 years.  Upon graduating with Bachelor’s of science in health and human sciences, I moved home to support my mother in caring for my grandfather in his last days, which was very draining to say the least. As a form of self-care, I wanted to find something like WCC but for adults. I allowed my self-diagnosed social anxiety to get the best of me, didn’t search for anything and instead went to graduate school for counseling (learning has always been my thing. I love it). 

 

It was while in grad school, my interest was sparked. A classmate of mine silently suffered a miscarriage and shared that fact with me one day outside of class. Frustrated and confused, I sat with her as we privately processed her feelings. Fun fact: in counseling programs, you often “role-play” different scenarios and sometimes they can get very real. My classmate and I used this time to practice in a safe space before she could accidentally reveal it during someone else’s recorded coursework. Of course, I suggested that she seek outside counsel and she obliged, we were both learning, but she also showed immense gratitude towards me for being there at such a delicate time. Pleased with the work I’d done, I sought to find my niche. This was during the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election and the start of people (read MEN) without uteruses, basically placing regulations uteruses. I found reproductive health clinic that offered a variety of services from STD testing, miscarriage management, abortions and even midwife services. Reproductive health became my refuge; it was all about feminism just like WCC, but it also had my love for babies floating around in the mix. Instantly, I signed up to be a volunteer. 

 

There I learned about abortion doulas, they basically support people going through abortions (for any reason), and due to my school schedule, I couldn’t commit to the time commitment to become an abortion doula, but instead I was able to complete tasks that would contribute to the day to day functioning of the clinic. The volunteer coordinator introduced me to birth doulas. She held a master’s degree in public health and was beginning her own business as a doula. I spoke with her at length about my options and her words impacted me. She shared that if I was serious about this work, I would have to find a balance between my passion and my interests. 

 

Needless to say, I shied away from birth work and focused my efforts on finishing my counseling program. After that, I received a job, I was pretty impressed with myself because I’d received two offers before even being done with all my coursework. And here’s when I figured out: I shouldn’t run from my calling anymore. A coworker shared her experiences with TTC. Just out of the blue, unprovoked, she felt comfortable enough to share her struggles. A close friend of mine was going through the same type of struggle. One of these women was able to get pregnant, but struggled to carry full term and the other couldn’t even get pregnant. Even as recently as me discovering Bebo Mia this year, I encountered a woman that suffered a miscarriage and became pregnant again, but full of fear as she did not understand the cause of her first miscarriage that was literally weeks prior. I don’t take it as a coincidence that these things were happening around me and being shared with me. I just could not figure out how to align my passion (birth work) and my interest (counseling). 

 

Well, DUH! It struck me out of nowhere one day, I could help women and families in the fragile 4th trimester. TRIGGER WARNING: INFANT DEATH. While I was in undergrad, a classmate of mine from middle school murdered her 9month baby. I’m sure she was at her wits end, frustrated and alone and I often wondered what would have happened if she got the mental health assistance in addition to the support with carrying for a new life. Though now, I must say, in writing my story, I wonder if fertility is up my alley as well. Nevertheless, I just want to be of service to women and keep my passion and interest aligned. 

 

Bebo Mia is the best place for training because of yall’s authenticity, perseverance, and determination. Quite like the start of Bebo mia, I have wondered what would happen next after I complete a certification course: where would I get clients? How would I have support in this? How could I balance the start of a business and continuing my day job to fund said business? Seeing issues and questions I have and that have discouraged me from starting at any other time and with any other company be mentioned in the “about us” section made me feel like the stars aligned and brought me exactly where I was supposed to be. Then there’s the online component; I wouldn’t have to drive to a town 4 hours away to complete the program. I could do it in the comfort of my home, in a less social anxiety inducing environment. Also, being part of a group that I could lean on and learn from. That’s got to be the biggest thing to me right now, having that support. 

 

Receiving the Olivia Scobie Perinatal Mental Health Award has literally awarded me confirmation that I’m living in my purpose (if anyone would like to discuss their purpose in life, I’m your girl. I’ve literally run away from discovering mine for at least 10 years). I honestly could not attend this program without it. I believe in signs and being intentional about what you put out into the world.  This opportunity will allow me to pour into women and families. I currently support my sister and myself on an educator’s salary, which you could easily look up, and see that we don’t make the money to have significant amounts of expenditures. 

 

I actually want to find a way to utilize my skills as a Nationally Certified Counselor to provide general and mental health support to families, primarily during the postpartum period. I’ve given great consideration to becoming what I’m affectionately calling a “full service” doula, meaning caring for families from conception through the fourth trimester. This will foster greater and deeper connections with clients. I especially want to work with black women. More times than not, I’ve seen mental health being swept under the rug and black mamas literally providing for their entire homes (spouse, parents, pets, other children) within weeks of giving birth all while never taking a bleeping break for themselves.  Women are out here running on fumes and “not feeling like myself since the baby” (BeyHive member checking in!), and they never take the time to get it checked out. Then when tragedy strikes (as was the case with the classmate of mine from middle school), everyone points the finger, yet there was no one willing to offer a hand during the struggle. That has to stop. As a child, what initially drew me to counseling was my dream of being a pioneer in the war against child neglect/abuse (I told yall I’ve been running away from my calling this entire time under the guise of just loving babies lol). Being a certified doula puts me directly on the frontlines of caring for the people that could resort to such measures if left unattended. If I can prevent just one child from bearing the brunt of postpartum blues, then my mission has been accomplished.  

 

Breaking into this field, and starting a business for myself terrifies me, honestly, but I’ve run away from what’s in my heart for far too long. It’s time that I use my gifts to be of service to others.

– Kaadia Montgomery 

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