I first met Erica in 2007 when we were both at The Farm in Summerville, Tennessee studying midwifery skills with Ina May Gaskin and the midwives there. At the time we were both living in relatively the same part of the country; she was living in Mexico and I in Colorado…Fast forward to 2010 and we both found ourselves living in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, so cool! I had the pleasure of collaborating with Erica as a doula while we both lived in New York City and truly enjoyed it.
Erika’s passion and care for mothers everywhere is always evident. She is continuously expanding her knowledge and wisdom, learning as much as she can to best support the mothers she works with, even after all these years of practicing as a professional.
I’m so excited to catch up with Erica as she is now living in Bangkok, Thailand supporting the ex-pat community there. In addition to her birth support she is also supporting New and Blossoming Doulas as a mentor and teacher. If there are any new doulas our there looking for a mentor from a seasoned birth professional, I highly recommend checking out Erica’s offerings. And with that, let’s jump to it!
Me: Hi Erica! Can you tell us a bit about your work and where you are located?
ES: I am currently in Bangkok, Thailand, serving the English speaking community as a birth and postpartum doula. Since 2009, I ran my full-time Doula business, Erica Shane Childbirth, in New York City. I worked with over 100 families within 4 years time.
Last year, I decided to apply to volunteer my services in Bali at a free standing birthing center with Indonesian midwives. I arrived to the clinic this past summer and met kind and well-educated Indonesian midwives eager to open their hearts to my presence and the gifts I brought with me. The women I served were grateful and so was I to attend their births. I then landed in Thailand two months ago, as I was eager to stay in Asia to find a new community of doulas and to explore a new birth culture. I consider my work heart-centered as I passionately serve my clients no matter who they are or what their wishes end up being. Also because I care for them deeply, and take the time to hear what it is they need before, during, and after the birth.
Me: What is your role with mothers and babies? How did you become involved with your work?
ES: When hired as a birth doula, I am able to provide information to clients relative to what is missing in their childbirth education class, or the plethora of books by their bed stand. I ask many questions and spend lots of time listening during our prenatal time together. Every birth is different and I never have used the same set of tools twice. As a doula, I gather information on many levels to understand what moms need, and if I don’t know, I just ask. When in labor, I support the father too, making sure he is comfortable in his role, or comfortable taking a rest.
It’s been a long journey in owning my passion for my work. I became a doula when I was 21, fresh out of college. I majored in Women Studies and did a Google search in Florida at my parent’s house, and found Penny Simkin’s course the following weekend in Clearwater. I told my parent’s I’d be driving back and forth for 3 days as I was going to learn how to support women in childbirth. I needed an avenue to share my gifts. It felt right.
Me: What is your go-to self care activity?
ES: Self-care is a big subject for me. In NYC, my go-to activity, was well, taking a bath. Here in Thailand I don’t go anywhere near hot water as it’s already Summer all day every day. So I’ve found a pool nearby to swim about 3 times a week. It’s the water that’s healing for me, and I need to exercise. I’m 34 now, I don’t shrink like I used to just by eating veggies for a week. I also cook, which is healing on many levels because I can eat healthy, and share love with my roommates. Everyday I choose something to surround myself with that makes me feel good. In Thailand it’s an offering made of fresh flowers, or my favorite soup, a visit to a quiet temple, my time alone. The list goes on.
Me: If you had a magic wand, how would you transform maternity care?
ES: If I had a magic wand, I would lift every maternity ward out of every hospital and give it it’s own building on it’s own property, perhaps 10 or more birth centers in each city. With the magic wand, the buildings world-wide would be completed overnight, and on day 2 the gardens and pool structures would appear. On day 3, every OB would become educated in the art of breech birth, wear a smile to work, and would think Pitocin was the chemical leaking into the waters after Japan’s nuclear explosion. People in these facilities would appreciate and embody the normalcy of birth and also be aware of the true uses of medicine and surgery. There are many things that need to change frankly, but my main point here is that we could start by taking birth out of sick houses, leaving women alone so that they can labor, and spending quality time sitting with OBs who are lacking a true education on normalcy of birth. They could use some love too.
Me: Do you want to share some advice for new or aspiring doulas?
ES: I am really excited about my newest program, Mentor Support for the New and Blooming Doula. It’s a 12-week program which includes 7 Skype calls and steady email contact throughout the week. I absolutely find joy in helping my clients unearth their confidence and worth as they start their own businesses. We hugely work on networking so that they can be seen in their community, we build on juicy resources for clients, and make their website a reflection of who they are. I support them with their own current birth clients, and provide guidance with contracts & prenatal forms. It doesn’t end there. I help them with everything I’ve succeeded in, plus more. My clients blow me away with their ideas each week, and their progress. It is my honor to hold their hands as they realize the passionate, brilliant, and successful doula that they are. We have a private FB page that any new doula is welcome to join too: New Doula Mentor Support. I’ll tell you, it’s an exciting time to help women and humanity. If you are called to this work, do not go back. These families need you.
Erica Shane is Childbirth Doula currently living her dream abroad. She is also a Mentor for new doulas and offers a 12-week New Doula Mentor Program to help women kick start their heart-centered doula businesses. Recently, Erica has shared new products with her birth community, including Spanish for Birth Caregivers, and Recipes for the New Mother and Family. A graduate of the Matrona’s Holistic Midwife program, Erica shares a compassionate and nurturing perspective surrounding pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood. An advocate for gentle birthing practices, Erica is honored to be serving women in this pivotal time.
My work consists of so much more than attending births. I find myself mediating so that my couples can hear and understand one another with open minds and hearts. I share with them the sweet awareness of what it can look like to truly honor the needs of ALL through their postpartum window. I share self-care practices to take them through their lives. I mirror their own intuition around important decisions, for only they have the answers. And I provide expertise, yet this "expertise" is drawn from all the knowledge that my past clients have ever passed on to me. And it is taken from all the whispers their babies have ever sung in my ear. Yes, these babies get born, and I am there, and she may be gifted with a presence that stands by her side, by her wishes, by her spirit as she flies through her labor to places I can't see. What I do see though is the appreciation, the acknowledgment I receive after this angel enters the world into their arms, and when all settles down, I get a surprise letter of gratitude, it always gets me, it always moves me, shifts my perspective and throws me forward even deeper into this work. I am a passenger on their ship where love and knowledge and wisdom multiplies, again and again and again. My work takes me into a deep blue wavy sea where all I can do is trust that I will come back to shore, just as she returns from the edge, during her labor. We walk the line, we reach the edge, we look down, and we trust with our hands intertwined.
Erica is a Childbirth Doula in NYC. Her present focus is on the postpartum period.