Mother, Doula, & Artist Kira Birney shares how she navigates those three roles and how each one informs the other, while also helping her come to a deeper understanding of her identity as a black, biracial person. You can see Kira's practice on display on her Instagram feed and on the JustBirth Space, a virtual support space for pregnant and postpartum people.
Mother Doula Artist is my foundation, my center.
It has been an evolution in identity and healing to embody my truths. With the support of my community, I am growing into myself.
At 18 months postpartum with my second child, I hit a rock bottom. I felt lost in the everyday of parenthood, was questioning my calling as a doula, and felt really spiritually disconnected from art-making.
In my muck, I reconnected with my thirteen year old self and decided to make art for pleasure and play. Over a few weeks I created an art-as-meditation practice for myself, which became a time and space for me to dream, manifest, process, create and play. Since 2018 I have carved out time everyday, usually after my kiddos are asleep, to center myself and commune with source through art-making.
In addition to committing to my healing through art-making, I invested in my (postpartum) doula calling by enrolling in Birdsong Brooklyn’s 2018 mentorship offering.
Wow! The guidance from Laura Interlandi and Erica Livingston of Birdsong, and the community of people they brought together, opened a huge portal for me to identify and embody my truths. Mentorship taught me that I needed community support as I navigated becoming a postpartum doula.
After taking DONA’s postpartum doula training in 2014, I was left alone to figure out the logistics of starting my doula business; which left me similar to how I felt after giving birth to my first child in 2012 and the reason I was drawn to postpartum work. With support and a safe space to process my blocks and embody my truths, my doula career began to pick up momentum. Mentorship provided me the tools to create a personal framework of Mother Doula Artist, and these identities are in constant flow and inform how I show up as my authentic self.
During this time of up-leveling and connecting with my truths, old wounds concerning race and identity resurfaced. I am a Black biracial person raised in a white home and raising two white passing children. It has been a lifelong journey of learning, acknowledging and unpacking the duality of my personal relationship with being of both oppressed and oppressor ancestry. Parenthood has forced me to be more outward with my children and my community as I go deep to identify and deprogram my own racist and white supremacist teaching, which is painful and liberating.
As a birth worker, educating myself about inequities concerning Black maternal health has been my way to connect and learn more about the African American experience dating back to slavery and to begin to find my activist voice. For me this ancestral work, but also American history. I’ll be the first to admit that I had very little knowledge of the history of birth work in the United States, but as a birth worker and a birthing person it is essential and essential that we include Black, brown and Indigenous folks in the narrative because they are the foundation of this work.
Community leaders have been monumental to my commitment to advocacy and continued education. Chanel Porchia-Albert from Ancient Song Doula Services was my entry way to consciously listening and learning from a Black-centered perspective. I am also inspired by the work of Efe Osaren, future midwife, doula and reproductive and birth justice advocate. Efe has an amazing blog post, titled Top 25 Books Every Doula Should Read, that I am slowly making my way through.
Katy Cecen, a Brooklyn-based nurse has really opened my eyes to local political work to address maternal and infant health issues in NYC. Systemic racism is killing Black birthing folks in hospital settings and there is no future without Black birth. Being in community with local birth workers has been expansive in so many ways and I am thankful for their love, support, education and commitment to building an anti-racist framework.
Support and community are necessary in navigating our journeys. The doula in me wants to remind you it’s okay to ask for help. Please commit to listening, learning and supporting Black, brown and indigenous people.
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