BIRTHFIT Podcast 57: Ana Paula Markel of Bini Birth
BIRTHFIT Podcast Episode 57: Ana Paula Markel
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What’s up, BIRTHFIT community? This is Dr. Lindsey Mathews, your BIRTHFIT founder. I finally, finally, finally got the one and only Ana Paula Markel to do an interview with me. I was trying so hard to make this happen in person, but she’s a busy lady, you will hear, and we could not get our schedules to link up, so I got this interview via Skype. And I will say a thousand times that she is a legend. She is a breath of fresh air and she’s done so much for the birth community not only in Los Angeles, but I would say just indirectly affecting and influencing the people that have come through her classes that go back to their cities, their communities, their states and just to change the birth world one person at a time.
A few announcements, we are taking a pause on the BIRTHFIT coach seminars. We have done all the BIRTHFIT coach seminars for the spring that we will do and we will start them back up in August, so we’re taking a pause for things like PaleoFX and MommyCon. MommyCon, you will find BIRTHFIT speakers at Austin and Chicago and maybe a few others or you can come find us at PaleoFX in Austin in May.
And then we will have the BIRTHFIT Summit here in July where all of our regional directors will get together and we will discuss just new research, new case studies, and this information we’ll bring back to our communities. So don’t hesitate to sign up for Childbirth Education Class via the BIRTHFIT Prenatal Series and don’t hesitate to jump in the next BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series to recalibrate your breath, connect with your body, and learn to move again through universal movement patterns.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do. And if you’re thinking about doula training or childbirth educator training, I would without a doubt, no matter where you are located in the country, check out binibirth.com and don’t hesitate to sign up for one of Ana Paula Markel’s trainings. Like she said, she hasn’t had a refund yet, so her courses are amazing and you will get everything out of them, so enjoy this interview.
I’m sitting here with a very special guest, Ana Paula Markel of Bini Birth, so welcome her and I want to get Ana Paula to tell a little bit about what Bini Birth is and what your role is today in this birth world and then we’ll dive deep into who you are.
Ana Paula: Sounds great, Lindsey. Thank you so much for having me. So Bini Birth is a center in Los Angeles for mostly education and community support for families that are about to have a baby or with a new baby, so we provide all sorts of different classes and community events to encourage people to know what their options are. People never know what they don’t know, so that’s usually what we’re there for.
Lindsey: So how long has Bini Birth been around?
Ana Paula: I started teaching these classes — and I started very organically. There was never really a business plan with fundraising or anything like that. It was really a passion that begun in my living room. I would just teach childbirth education classes to people and the classes kept growing organically. And after doing events and meetings and classes in my house for about seven years, my husband was about done having all these pregnant people in the house. Bini Birth was actually founded in 2008, so we’ve been around for like — I don’t know, like almost ten years, I guess.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. Okay. How did you start this path of childbirth education? I know you’ve shared it with me like there’s some of the doula and childbirth educator trainings, but for those out there that maybe haven’t had the privilege of meeting you, maybe give them a little insight as to how you chose this career path.
Ana Paula: Sure. Absolutely. It’s a great joy to share the story. Like most birth professionals, the desire to work on this field came through my personal experiences in becoming a mother. I am from Brazil originally and Brazil has the second highest C-section rate in the world, so even though I did want or desire to have unmedicated vaginal birth, I ended up having a cesarean birth with my first baby.
And then when I moved to the United States — for Brazilians, the United States is like the land of vaginal birth. We feel like here everybody is super progressive in relations to birth in comparison to Brazil and yes, it is better, but it’s not perfect. So I came here and had a doctor that was okay to attempt for VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean, and was preparing for that. And then 35 weeks into pregnancy, I was told that my baby wasn’t growing as expected and that I should have a second cesarean.
I had the second cesarean and learned that the baby was not too small for her size. It was an ultrasound mistake. This was almost 17 years ago, so ultrasounds were not what they are today. I don’t want to blame anyone. Obviously everybody thought that was the best thing for me and the baby, but it wasn’t.
She was 35 weeks, 5 lbs 11 oz, which is pretty good for that gestational age. She ended up being in the NICU for a little bit and it was through breastfeeding that I really found my voice as a mother. I remember they wouldn’t let me breastfeed or touch her or even go see her. I spoke very strongly and firmly and said I could go and I could touch her and I could breastfeed, and everything worked out so great. I stayed with her. Basically my entire hospital stay, I was sitting down in a rocking chair next to her and with her on my chest. She nursed beautifully and she came home with me even though she was a little bit on the early side and I had no doubt that the reason she could come home with me was because of those three and a half days of intense skin to skin and colostrum.
That was a major lesson for me as a mother, feeling that when I trusted the system or a professional to tell me what to do, things really didn’t go in the best interest of my health or my baby’s health, but when I spoke up from what I really felt in my gut — at the time I didn’t have the knowledge that I have today, but I just knew in my bones that the baby had to be on my chest. When I spoke up, things did work out, so I did learn mostly that speaking up and asking questions was way more than my right. It is indeed the right of a mother, but it’s also a responsibility. We can’t just leave our healthcare and the care of our babies in the hands of somebody else or the system. It is our responsibility to understand risks, benefits, and alternatives, so it was a big moment in my life. And then when I was pregnant with my third baby, by then there was internet.
Lindsey: That’s awesome.
Ana Paula: So I did some research on my own even though it was like that AOL —
Ana Paula: These are not [0:12:41] [Indiscernible], but I could still start to look into vaginal birth after cesarean, more than one cesarean. And by the grace of God, I ended up with UCLA midwives who were instrumental in empowering me to read books, take childbirth education classes, and find a provider that could take somebody that had had more than one cesarean, and I did all that. I took my first childbirth education class. It was so weird because everybody’s there having their first baby and I’m like, “Hi! This is our third,” so it was with senior parents, but rookie birthers.
I fell in love with childbirth education. I fell in love with that class. I felt so empowered and educated. I had to travel around. I had gone to school, but I really did not understand my body. So I became very quickly the weird person that walks around telling random pregnant women that they’re amazing, that their bodies can do amazing things and that was it, and then I started and never stopped.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. So that was with your third. You have three kids or four?
Ana Paula: Four, four kids, so for that baby, I did have my vaginal birth. My pregnancy went to 42 weeks and 5 days.
Ana Paula: Definitely not a plan. It was really a day by day situation especially for my doctor. I think by the time we got to 42 weeks, he was probably more invested in that vaginal birth than I was. He was like, “We made it this far. You’re pushing this kid out,” and everything looked great. Especially for that last week, I would go see him on a daily basis for non-stress tests and ultrasounds and all of that and everything looked great, so it was always like let’s wait until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Labor was long. It was really more intense than we expected, but at the same time, it was awesome.
I did have an epidural after many, many hours and that was very humbling because I really thought that I was just going to rock this thing and I ended up being a total wimp. I just whined for half of my labor and then after a good 20 something hours, I just had to decide to stop whining and figure out a way to do it, and that was an extremely defining moment for me as a woman as well to reach that point of finding that strength within yourself that nobody else can give you and just to come from a place of do you want to do this or not. It’s a choice, but if you’re going to do it, you’re going to have to adjust your attitude. It sounds so cliché, but it did work out from then on. And then I had a fourth baby and that was also long. I went to 42 weeks and 3 days, but that one was unmedicated.
Lindsey: Wow! So you’ve definitely experienced a variety of birth experiences.
Ana Paula: Yeah, I did, and just like telling the story out loud, I’m exhausted. It’s such a saga, but I also feel like in a way, that does reflect sometimes how naïve new families are, and if you meet somebody that has good intentions but is really uneducated, how you can just fall into the statistics, and then to get out of it and break the mode, it’s a very upstream battle.
Lindsey: For sure. I like how you mentioned that you had a defining moment as a woman where you said you’ve made that choice. Melissa Hempel, I don’t know if you remember meeting her at the summit last year, she talks about that as well. With her third birth, she made a choice to do a home birth and that was her choice and there’s no looking back from that moment, but how do you prepare some of your moms and families that are taking your classes or that you’re working with to make that decision for themselves? Because it is a choice somebody has to make for themselves.
Ana Paula: Yes, absolutely. I think it is a combination of things. I have heard an anthropologist talk about this from an anthropological perspective and that has been helpful to me, so I tend to share that with expecting parents, is exactly that that in any labor, in any birth, when a woman is in the process of birthing her baby, she’s also birthing herself as a mother and that’s a very powerful experience. That experience also brings up many, many issues that a person may have from their past that they may be conscious of it or not and I think that does help to understand why to some people this is more like not necessarily easier, but they just go into it. They start labor already in a surrender place.
I can tell my clients that have no kinks, that have worked out through their stuff — not that they don’t have stuff. We all have stuff, but they have worked through it, they’re good, so they just throw themselves at that labor kind of like head first and go to it. And then I have clients or I’ve seen women that at some point of the labor make [0:19:08] [Indiscernible] of stuff. One of the things that I always tell people is my first labor was about 38 hours and I needed every minute of it because I made use of it. Every minute of it, I was working out stuff on different ways either in my body or in my head or in my heart or in my soul, but there was work being done, almost chains being broken through this whole process of labor.
So I don’t necessarily think that 38 hours of labor was a bad thing. It was what I need. It was what this baby needed. It was our story, our process. So I think that also helps to break the stereotypes that good labors are the ones that are short. Good labors are the one that you make the best of it regardless of the cards you’re dealt. You just use them.
I also think that’s a great parallel to life, how you face life and adversities. So I tend to talk to people — to answer your question — giving examples like this, but also I like to think of birth as a big picture experience, so that way they’re not so tied up as, “Did you go natural?” It’s really not about that. It’s really about, “What did you learn from it? Tell me your experience from multiple levels” because if it doesn’t go the way that they planned, there is always growth.
So I feel like to me, that’s always drawing the parallel in between being a parent, life experiences, and then birth in that whole context. I think that makes a lot more sense for people than just let me give you the ABCs of labor. That’s not as fun.
Lindsey: No, and it’s very hard to relate to especially if it’s a first time mom, I think.
Ana Paula: Yeah.
Lindsey: So you also mentioned responsibility. That’s a big thing. Is this something you talk about with your clients directly or does this just come up?
Ana Paula: Oh, no. I think one of the two, so either it comes up and I prefer that just like, “Oh, here’s an opportunity for us to talk about responsibility” or I can’t make that decision for you because a lot of times, I think with doulas and particularly not so much of childbirth education, but a lot of times when I’m working with someone as a doula, there’s those moments that they look at me with puppy eyes and they’re like, “What do you think I should do?” or “What would you do?” and it’s really important for them to understand that is not up to me to make those decisions not only because it’s outside of my scope of practice, but also the reason it’s outside of my scope of practice is that it would completely be antagonistic to the purpose of having a doula.
The purpose of having a doula is, one, empowerment, and to foster self-advocacy in the woman. And if I am speaking for her, taking all the responsibilities for her, there is no empowerment on their part. Now, a lot of times, they may need handholding for that or “How do I do that?” or things like they may not just know how to speak for themselves, but a doula will help them to do that. So most of the time, the opportunity comes up either sooner or later, but a lot of times even on interviews, I have said that to people. I recently met a woman who was potentially going for a feedback and she wanted to know how I could help her as a doula. I said, “You know, it’s really up to you how much I’m going to help you and in what ways. I’m not going to be begging to meet with you or to go deep. If you want me to come here a couple of times and just talk about in early labor we can do this and then we go to the house and this is going to happen and what medications you want and don’t want for your baby, we can do that, but if you want to go deep and talk about your first cesarean and discover things, there may be moments that it hurts and there may be moments but are unpleasant, but you may discover some things.”
“Now, you decide how. The fee is the same. I won’t charge more or less,” and she hired me. I was a little surprised with that because sometimes I can go in tangents and I don’t even know if that was well received or not, but apparently it was.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. I love that you’ve mentioned responsibility because we talk a lot about it with our moms and I think so much of our society — and it’s probably even the way we were brought up. The responsibility was taken away from us or the power was taken away from us whether it was by choice or just by accident. I think part of it is grabbing the responsibility back and grabbing the power back for women and that’s going to change I guess the whole birth scene, but what do you see, and it can be similar as some issues or things, that women can do now to take the responsibility back or the power back into their control whether they’re doing a hospital birth or a home birth or a birth center birth?
Ana Paula: Yeah, I love that question. I think it always starts with education. When you know better, you do better like understanding the physiology of labor, what their bodies are capable of doing, what their babies are capable of doing. I find when I teach classes to them, just going through the anatomy with them, some people cry. Some people get emotional when they realize how amazing their bodies are, so I think that’s definitely step number one, is really making them fall in love with the process of labor and birth and the beauty of their perfect system, so perfectly wired for this.
Then I think the next step would be the responsibility of who they hire to be their medical provider, so either a midwife for home birth or a midwife for hospital or a physician for the hospital, they need to know that that person is in alignment with their vision, whatever it is. They may want an epidural. They may not even care if they have a natural birth or not, but whatever it is that they believe is important for them for that experience, they need to find a provider that is in alignment with that. So I often tell people, “I don’t care what you choose. If you’re happy, I’m happy. My bias is from my own births, but it has to match.” A lot of times, the big disappointments that people have is they want certain things or they have an idea in their head of how it’s going to go and then when they get there, it’s not like that at all and it’s a little too late to decide that they have options.
And then also the facility, there is so much from institution to institution of their protocols of mobility or eating in labor or using water or intermittent auscultation. It changes so much, so they have to know not only what’s available in the hospital that they are considering, but in the local hospitals because they may discover that the hospital two neighborhoods down has a lot more options. Maybe it’s not as fancy, maybe it’s not as decorated, but they may have more options for them, and then the responsibility of asking questions. I tell people ask questions until you completely understand what’s being said to you. Don’t be afraid to seem stupid. You’re not supposed to know those things. They are medical terms. They are labor and delivery terms because sometimes things are said too quick or in shortened versions. It sounds cute like Cytotec or misoprostol, a lot of times they’ll say “miso” and it’s like oh yeah, yummy Japanese soup. No, it’s a very controversial medication, so things like that.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. So I’m going to shift gears here a little bit because I want to talk about the work you do with doulas. You train a lot of doulas and I tell anybody that’s thinking about being a doula to come take your training. Do you still offer these trainings and what are some of the biggest tips you can give women or men that are aspiring to be doulas?
Ana Paula: Oh yeah, awesome. I just trained this past week my fourth guy becoming a doula and that’s really cool. Well, I would say take the training because the training is really a very good experience to understand what is it to be a doula, and I feel like even for people that don’t know exactly if they’re going to take these as a full on career, I’ve never been asked for a refund. People always feel like they’d get something out of it even if it’s just for personal knowledge of “I’m going to be having babies in the future” or “I’m going to be with my friends having babies” or “I just want to understand a little bit more about the medical system.”
I’ve had so many people take the training for different reasons. A lot of times, they are an acupuncturist or a prenatal yoga instructor or chiropractor that works with pregnant women and they just want to understand the terminologies or know ways to have different conversations with their clients.
It can be a nice way for that, but other ways would be make friends with your local doulas. Find doulas and ask them questions about their lifestyle and best thing about being a doula, worst thing about being a doula. Then there’s also a lot of internet research. There are countless doula groups online. You can only do that with your time. Just go on Facebook doula groups. I have no idea when those people work because they’re always online. So I think they can find one of those groups and even just post questions there. Doulas are very, very friendly, so I think that would be one way to explore a little bit about the lifestyle of doulas. Also, The Business of Being Born, they did more The Business of Being Born and one of them is about doulas, so it’s a really nice piece about what doulas do and don’t do.
Lindsey: Oh, that’s awesome. What about your ICEA Childbirth Education classes? You teach a lot of people to become childbirth educators, correct?
Ana Paula: Correct. I feel like in the doula training, also because it is three days, we do talk a lot more about the spiritual and emotional aspects of childbirth. The childbirth education training assumes that people already know birth and understand everything about birth. They just want to teach people that, so it doesn’t go through like “Here are the stages of labor. This is what happens with the body,” but it’s more about this is how you talk to people about those things and here are a couple of different ways that you could present this information. So if you’re teaching metropolitan people or if you’re teaching people in other areas or if you’re teaching younger people, it really helps people to think about the strategies of sharing this information in a way that people could retain, empower them, cause change, but also be fun.
I think there is this stereotype of childbirth education classes to be like these boring classes that are just like learning theory and in reality, childbirth education classes is really a wonderful community experience because couples meet other people that are going through very similar life transitions and they have so much in common. They are desperate to talk about strollers to buy and if you’ve taken the hospital tour or whatever topics that is relevant and they find many other people alike, but it’s also an incredibly empowering experience. I was just going through a lot of these new studies that are coming up about reducing cesarean rates, so the ACOG Guidelines that came out in 2014 and 2016, and then there’s a consensus that came out February of this year, and hands down on what ACOG is saying and all bodies of decision-making in healthcare. What they’re saying is that the solution for reducing C-section rates is to labor more, labor longer. Stay home more. Delay epidurals. Delay pharmacological pain relief and explore more non-pharmacological pain relief.
If people don’t take childbirth education classes, they don’t know how to labor. They run to the hospital with the first symptoms that they have of labor. So I believe that with this whole effort to reduce C-section rate, there is going to be a huge revival of childbirth education class. It already has. I feel like when I started teaching couples, it was really not a popular thing. It was more like, “You’re a what? That’s so outdated,” but I think now it’s a more relevant thing to do.
Lindsey: Yeah. I remember you saying that whenever I took the Childbirth Educator course a few years ago and it just made so much sense to me that you hired a doula and they’re there to be your support, but it’s your responsibility to educate yourself.
So that’s what these courses, the weekend courses or the seminars or whatever series, that’s why you sign up for those courses because you don’t get any childbirth education 101 anywhere else. You have to get that on your own time.
Ana Paula: Yeah. It’s not necessarily fair with the doulas that you expect them to be your educator because they’re not, and if they are, if they are also trained or certified as childbirth educators, that’s a different service. So they can’t hire a doula and then just think, “Well, I have a doula. I don’t need a class.” No. You do need a class. Again, they don’t know what they don’t know. I cannot tell you how many times I hear this especially from the partners. I think I hear this at least once every class that I teach. “Well, to be frank with you, I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to come. I came because she wanted to come, but oh my gosh, I had no idea of all this stuff. I had no idea of all the things I needed to know.” Also, that takes anxiety away. If you’re educated then we can relax and enjoy the process.
Lindsey: Totally. Yeah, childbirth education just makes so much sense to me, so it’s brilliant. I know recently, or at least since I’ve known you, you’ve done some work with Cedars and that’s a large hospital here in Los Angeles and it’s by far one of my favorite hospitals to attend a birth at, but I know it wasn’t always that friendly, I guess. I know you probably had a lot to do with a lot of the changes in the continuous — I want to say progress that goes on there. Is there anything you can share about that?
Ana Paula: Absolutely. I think that there are so many people doing incredible work in many other hospitals around the country. I was just reading some paperwork recently that I found out that in the US alone as of 2014, there were 50 hospital-based doula programs, so that’s amazing. That really blows my mind and it also blows my mind that we don’t have one in Los Angeles yet. So I really cannot take the credit for the hospital transformation or come to the light change. I think it was a combination of the right people being in the right place at the right time.
Cedars, when I started working as a doula, we used to call it “Cedars Cesarean Sinai”. It was like the nickname of it and I think any place can be like that depending on who the provider is, but little by little, what happened was they started to hire nurse midwives, so the changes really started to happen from inside out and the nurse midwives with a lot of experience that would really have the confidence to go to physicians and show them different ways of doing things or to nurses, and not only teach it, but also make them understand why and appreciate a woman that is on unmedicated labor, not just like, “Oh my gosh, she’s being so loud,” but like “Oh my gosh, she’s amazing,” so that did start to happen.
It really was a very slow process. I think that the first time that I went there to teach nurses was 2011 and it was really just a basic conversation about comfort measures and the role of the doula, but at some point, I was invited to be part of a task force that they have that is called Customization of Care and it was really awesome because it’s a very powerful task force because they are the ones that implement a lot of changes in obstetrics in the hospital.
I was the only person that was not only not an employee of the hospital, but not a medical person. There’s a doula. They have all these physicians and nurses and midwives, but I was very well received and I think part of it is the fact that as doulas, we sit with so many pregnant people that we really know what they’re looking for. And the hospital was very smart to listen because they are there every day and I’m not. I’m in the field talking to people, so I would be able to say no, people don’t care about this thing. What they really want is this. This is what women really say. This is what I hear all the time.
So then it became a really fruitful relationship. We were able to implement some great changes, but also because there are absolutely incredible nurses in this task force that really believe in all of this, and not only believe, but they dig and they find the research and the evidence that is going to help us to prove our point to bring this forward. And this task force was able to create a very, very decent birth plan for the hospital that focus a lot in non-pharmacological coping techniques, implement aromatherapy, implement skin to skin in the OR, and I think for a more progressive — like if you tell this to somebody in Oregon or Washington, they’re like “Okay” because they are progressive and those things have been part of their protocol for a while, but in a more conservative community, those are huge accomplishments, and then later, walking epidural, telemetry, so that’s really cool stuff. And then from there, we ended up creating a Doula Advisory Committee. It was more like a Doula Nurse Committee, so a lot of good stuff.
Lindsey: Yeah. It seems like it’s done a complete 180 probably in the last decade.
Ana Paula: Yeah, it’s made a lot of progress, but I also feel like a lot of times — people have to understand that no place is perfect. A lot of times, it depends on transitions that each organization will go through or challenges that they’re facing internally. The fact that the hospitals are working to reduce C-section rate and implementing things that we are discussing doesn’t mean that the person giving birth is still not the most responsible person in the room for calling out what they want and don’t want because I feel like even in very progressive environments, if you go to a medical center, they’re going to treat you medically. That’s what they specialize in. They specialize in medications and the medicalization of birth, not to anybody’s fault, but that’s what they are trained to do.
So I feel like if people don’t advocate for themselves or ask, they’re just going to fall into a very standard of care, which is come in, have an epidural, your IV, potentially breaking bag of waters and then some Pitocin and then push the baby out hopefully. Is that wrong? No, it’s not wrong, but it may not be what everybody wants. And a lot of times, people don’t even know that something different than that is possible. They just think that’s how it is for everybody.
Lindsey: For sure. I like that you said no matter where you are, even if the hospital is implementing change or different things that it’s still the responsibility of the person giving birth to be educated. I think that’s huge.
Ana Paula: Yeah, even at home.
Lindsey: Yeah, for sure.
Ana Paula: People that are giving birth at home, sometimes it’s like the midwife, the midwife, the midwife. Well, the midwife is a wonderful and very important, vital partner, but it’s still the person’s responsibility to own their own birth. That’s what shared decision making is, is really understanding the process and making educated choices.
Lindsey: For sure. So what kind of projects do you have going on now or in the future next year, 18 months or so?
Ana Paula: Oh, that’s exciting. We have tons of things. On my end, on the end of the Bini Team, we are starting a bunch of new classes, so besides the regular Childbirth Education classes, we have now a Comfort Measure class only that is for people that either feel like their Childbirth Education class did not go through enough hands-on stuff, so some of that, or sometimes second-time parents that just want to remember the breathing and positions.
We have a very cool, completely revamped baby care class that teaches all the basics of diaper changing, bathing and all of that, but also includes brain development of newborn babies, so why do they like to cuddle, why do you do certain things with your baby and it’s just not because it’s a trend or because a celebrity did. Physiologically newborns have certain needs, so we have a little bit of that scientific piece of attachment that is with the baby care classes.
And then we are working on some advanced doula trainings or advanced trainings for doulas that have gone through training in our in-depth phase of yeah, I’m experienced enough, but I realized that there are some issues that I still need more exploration or guidance, so those are coming up in August and we’re launching four classes of those. And then with Cedars, I’m still involved with them in many different ways, some volunteer, some hired as an independent contractor for childbirth education program there, their parenting program. I absolutely love those nurses and they work so hard. I just really have found a team of nurses there that are really great fit. I’m also getting involved with a couple of other hospitals. We have something in the works with Kaiser for their residents program and tomorrow we’re going to Northridge Hospital and we’re doing a class for nurses there, so that’s really cool.
Lindsey: Awesome! So do you have any spare time?
Ana Paula: No.
Lindsey: It’s a good thing you love what you do, huh?
Ana Paula: Yes, I do. I really do love what I do. It’s very reenergizing. Sometimes I get close to burnout, but then I just slow down. It kind of comes in seasons. There are seasons that are more busy than others. My daughter is working with me now, so it’s been really fun.
Lindsey: So many would consider you their mentor. I definitely would put you in my mentor category even though you’re on the other side of Los Angeles, but who would be your mentors or who are people that you call on for support or even just guidance? It can be in the birth world or just as a mom or a woman.
Ana Paula: Sure. God, number one for sure. I think this kind of work takes a very godly strength and inspiration, so I definitely count on my faith for that. I definitely count on the memories that I have of my grandmothers. I was very, very close with both of my grandmothers, so I feel like a lot of times when I have parenting tips that I need to give people or wisdom from mothers, my grandmothers are always in a way manifesting my thoughts. And then on a local level, I’ve had a teacher and mentor that really got me into this. Her name is Julie Freidus. She’s been teaching childbirth education classes for 40 something years. She is a legend. She’s really an incredible woman, really funny and smart, honest and kind, so I go to her for support.
I have in many situations gone to Penny Simkin for things. I think Penny Simkin really embodies the blueprint of the doula. She’s always available. She’s always humble. She is willing to share and give and listen, so they certainly have been mentors in my career and my path, and then I have peer mentors. It really depends on what kind of support that you need or what kind of information that you need, a lot of times maybe more on a medical or midwifery question or support that I need, so depending on who it is, but I would say my entire community in a way is my support. Even new doulas can be a great source of support and inspiration. I think the idea of mentors and mentorship with this whole millennium generation, I think that mode has been broken as well of what a mentor looks like.
We tend to think of a mentor being somebody way older and way experienced. I believe so much in peer coaching and peer support. I have learned so much from new doulas. I spend a lot of my time with green doulas, brand new doulas, and they teach me so much with incredible, intelligent questions or perspectives. Sometimes it’s even better because it’s fresh and they bring different experiences to it.
The other thing, Lindsey, that I think is really important for anybody in life is I volunteer so much for committees or task forces and one of those things is DONA International. I’ve been part of the DONA International Board for now coming up on six years. I’ve learned so much from that. I feel like when you are serving in that capacity that it’s so high level and the responsibilities are so big. This is an organization that has doulas in 54 different countries. You work with so many talented people that you just learn so much, so I just love to learn.
I heard something a couple of days ago, which is if you are the smartest person in the room then you are in the wrong room, so I’m always trying to get myself into those rooms that I’m learning from somebody and it doesn’t matter who it is.
Lindsey: For sure. That’s a great quote. I love it. So wrapping up, where can people find you at? Do you have social media? I know we’re just talking about this.
Ana Paula: Yes. I would say on Instagram, my personal handle is @apmarkel, but go in your own risk because it’s my personal one. There’s also maybe political or whatever. And then on a more professional birthy one, you can go to @binibirth and same name for Facebook and Twitter, so @binibirth and @apmarkel.
Lindsey: Awesome. And then if I missed anything, let me know, but I wanted to ask you one more question, and that would be what is one message — especially having daughters — you would give to women growing up in today’s world?
Ana Paula: Love it! Let me think. Find your value from within and define what that value is and where it comes from, that your worth and your beauty and your strength doesn’t come from outside, doesn’t come from other people telling you. It doesn’t come from who you hang out with, what brand of clothes you wear, what car you drive or don’t drive, what neighborhood you live. It really comes from deep within, and yes, it is so cheesy and cliché, but it’s also so true that it really does come from within.
I think the most beautiful and happy women that I know, they are the authentic ones. They just own who they are either that is tall or short, skinny or fat, super educated, uneducated from whatever skin color, from whatever background. They’re just authentic. They are comfortable with who they are. That is extremely inspiring and exciting for people to be around. It becomes a very refreshing energy in a day and age that everybody wants to portray their lives in an Instagram feed, that everything is always pretty and happy, but I just find that authenticity and finding that source from within yourself and your Creator is to me where a woman should put her value.
I think that we’ve gone so back and forth with women’s position in society, but I do love the revival of feminine and I do love the new take on feminism, which to me is not as angry as it was in the ’60s. It is powerful. It is direct. It’s clear, but it’s also funny. I feel like the women now, we have a sense of humor. We can joke around and we can laugh about our own quirkiness, so I love to have three daughters that are all millenniums that teach me so much about feminism in 2017.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. I love it. Thank you so much for donating your time to me today. I’ve certainly enjoyed this interview and I’m just upset that I didn’t make it happen sooner. I was trying to get out to Sherman Oaks, but we know how that goes.
Ana Paula: That’s totally fine. I completely understand and thank you so much for having me and listen to my Brazilian accent all the time and let me blab about things that I love. And anytime I’m always available for you, Lindsey. I love what you’re doing and everything that you’re moving. It’s really incredible. I keep seeing it out there more and more and more every time that I get out there in social media and it’s incredible. And even the people that I’ve met that work with you, they’re incredible, loving, powerful. It’s just really beautiful to see how far you are taking this passion and your talents. It’s just so beautiful to watch the movement that you are bringing forth.
Lindsey: Well, thank you. The tribe loves you and they always ask me, “Can we get her back to the summit?” so you might be getting an email. Awesome! Well, go enjoy your Tuesday and thank you so much for hanging out with me.
Ana Paula: My pleasure, Lindsey. Big hugs to you.
Lindsey: All right. Bye, Ana Paula.
Ana Paula: Bye!
Lindsey: Okay, everybody, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I did. I really love her and she makes my heart warm and I just want to hug her through technology. If there’s one thing you’ve got out of our conversation today with Ana Paula, I think it’s that little tidbit of personal responsibility. I believe we’ve talked about this before on the podcast, but she made a very smart, super intelligent statement when she said no matter what the hospital or the birth center or what they’re doing to try to be progressive, the responsibility still lies in the people having the baby, so the mom having the baby and/or the partner that’s involved, and the responsibility is on them to become educated and to seek out education.
I know that’s very real and some people, they hear that and that’s a lot of work and it’s daunting and everything, but we live in the information age now. There’s Google. There’s the internet on our phones. So spend some time diving deep into some childbirth education and listen to this podcast. Listen to other podcasts and just ask questions until you can’t ask any more questions because the responsibility is on you to become educated.
That’s it. That’s all I have. Bye, guys.
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