For the Spring 2019 Doula Maternal Support Practitioner Program Scholarship at bebo mia inc we had some amazing applicants and are thrilled to present our winners’ submissions. With the help of some incredible sponsors like Olivia Scobie & community partners, we were able to offer 8 full Scholarships and 8 partial Scholarships to our combined fertility, birth and postpartum doula training – all hand-selected by our very own Scholarship Committee!
Congratulations to the Spring 2019 winner, Rhube (nutmeg) Knox! The Fertility Companioning Award recognizes an applicant whose project idea or business plan establishes an avenue through which to bear witness and support people experiencing struggles with fertility and loss. The recipient will offer their companionship to those trying to conceive through solidarity and personal emotional support during the hardships and the pain of the in/fertility journey, while also sharing information and resources to strengthen resilience, health and mental and emotional wellness during a very difficult and taxing time of life.
“I got the scholarship!!” I shouted as I rolled off my husband’s back. Just moments before my phone chimed with the email notification, I had been giving him a back massage after a stressful day of apartment hunting. I’ve spent the last few years learning soothing strategies for times of stress. My husband and I, as well as many members of our family and community, have suffered trauma and mental illness, which can make stress particularly challenging to cope with. Trauma can leave people in a near-constant fight-or-flight state, which can lead to adrenal fatigue and worsening symptoms. So even when things feel insurmountable, my first reaction is often to employ some sort of somatic mechanism to first tend to the body, the sensations that come with stress. This way we can tackle the challenges with a clearer mind, feeling empowered, and resilient. So rather than focus on the challenges of finding a home as a disabled, low-income family, I occupied my mind by tending to his, and we moved through it together.
My experience coping with mental and physical illness informs much of my desire to become a doula. Years ago, I recognized that I found the most fulfillment and purpose in caring for others. In the time since, I’ve learned a lot about caring for myself first, and exactly how I can care for others in a way that empowers them, and centres interdependence rather than codependence. I’ve been blessed enough to have completed a birth companion training with a local organization that provides birth support to low-income, young, at-risk, or newcomer families, and have now attended a birth. Through this, I discovered that my approach to birth support is rooted in my own understanding of how to manage the pain and fear that I’ve gained through coping with chronic pain, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. If the absolute magic of witnessing birth didn’t pull me right into birth work – the glowing commendations of the family and midwives certainly did. What could have been a very frightening and painful birth was instead a calm, purposeful experience, and I immediately wanted to bring that to others.
My name is Rhube Knox, and I’m a writer, spoken word poet, sex worker, and sex educator. My mother used to be a doula, and I’d roll my eyes when she’d go on about birth at parties, or suggest that I attend a birth with her. I spent much of my childhood and formative years avoiding things associated with womanhood. Like many, I had trouble connecting to a concept of womanhood that was rigidly defined for me, and I felt disconnected from my body. Truthfully, I’d always wanted to be pregnant, have a baby, and breastfeed. It just seemed like so much of our cultural narrative around birth was built around these concepts of “divine femininity”, which made the womb the defining characteristic of women. Thus alienating those women who don’t have wombs, as well as non-women who do. Whether in the traditional medical system or in more holistic birthing practices, it just seemed like me and my people were not seen or served.
In my adulthood, I’ve found a rewarding career in sex work, which has brought whole new challenges in regards to birth; as sex workers, we’re told we shouldn’t have children. That our career means we’re unfit parents, and that working while pregnant is irresponsible and disgusting. We face systemic barriers, as our profession is so stigmatized that we could easily have our children taken away if it’s known what we do for a living. As I watch my peers navigate these rough waters, I’m left wondering who’s supposed to care for us? Who can we go to to make our family-building experiences less traumatizing and alienating?
LGBTQ+ people and sex workers have higher rates of trauma and mental illness simply due to the stigma we must navigate because of our identities. We need to be able to feel that our bodies belong to us, and I think empowered conception, birth, and parenthood is a huge contribution to that. To build resilient, thriving communities, we must look at our foundations.
I set out with this goal in mind, thinking that I’d have to build my own education based on guidance from my mother, community members, and independent research. Then I found bebo mia! I was blown away by what I saw, from the inclusiveness and centering of marginalized voices, to the in-depth courses they offered. I knew this was where I wanted to do my training, but after calculating the total price of all the courses I wanted to do, I felt a bit discouraged. I want to build a depth of knowledge that can support any member of my communities in building their families, though, so I was determined to save up or fundraise somehow. Then I found out about the scholarship program! It felt meant-to-be. Almost every single one of the scholarships spoke to my goals and intentions, and that alone made me feel so empowered. Not only was it possible, but bebo mia seemed to want people like me. It’s not often that I feel wanted, as a poor, mad, queer, sex worker who has never been able to conform to what schools and other institutions want from me. This felt like a place meant for me to learn and grow.
The MSP program will kickstart my practice that aims to serve LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, and survivors of trauma in navigating every aspect of family-building and womb-wielding. I want to tackle the challenges we face with menstruation by employing many of the support strategies used in birth, on top of self-exploration, somatic education, and traditional medicinal practices. I want to hold space for those choosing abortion, or coping with miscarriage. I want to guide and hold families through the process of conception, whichever way they choose to do it, and through the many challenges that can come up. I want to expand that to support through adoption, fostering, and other family-building practices.
I want to support my people through the unique challenges that come up in pregnancy, whether that’s medical negligence, reclaiming autonomy, or navigating social stigma. I want to make birth an empowering, brave, and beautiful experience for people who’ve so often not had that opportunity. I want to embrace the concepts of ecstatic, orgasmic birth, and acknowledge, without shame or judgment, the sexual energy that can be present in birth. To top it all off, I want to support families in the healing, learning, and growing that comes with welcoming a new little family member, because this time of stress, sleeplessness, and physical healing is so risky for those of us with mental health challenges, and we deserve to feel valued, and seen in these challenging times.
A lot of my work will be low- or no-cost for those who need it, and I’m fortunate to have the community support, and income from sex work to facilitate that. I hope to build a sustainable, ethical, and empowering practice to serve myself, my family, and my many communities in defining identity, and family.
I’m so, so thankful for this opportunity, and so excited to see what the bebo mia community brings.
DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR THE FALL SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS
AUGUST 25TH, 2019 AT 11:59 PM PST.
Find an application guide HERE
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