• Education and Training:
    • BA, Health Education and Integrative Health Studies
    • Herbal Apprentice (alternative herbal/human well-being school)
    • Doula
  • Occupation:
    • Doula
    • Co-owner: herbal shop
  1. So you’ve completed higher education first through conventional schooling, then through an alternative education source. How did you integrate what you learned from these different institutions?
    1. I’ve always been intrigued by the human body and the relationship with our environments. When I was studying Health Education I took a course called Alternative & Complementary Health Modalities which introduced me to herbalism and birth support as integrative health tools. I then completed a minor in Integrative Health Studies and began an apprenticeship with the alternative school a few years after earning my BA. While I was there, I always brought my focus back to women and children’s health, knowing that I wanted to pursue training as a doula. After completing the apprenticeship I trained and certified as a doula with Doula Trainings International. I brought my lens of community herbalism and community health with me through that training. By integrating each of these areas of studies, I created a small business which focuses on helping individuals and families integrative a holistic lifestyle that fits their needs.
  2. Does the alternative school have another, non-scientific view of humans and/or the world?
    1. Oh, absolutely. They’re not mutually exclusive. I learned to access and integrate both views as I began learning about many Western herbs.
  3. You’re a doula. What special care does a doula offer?
    1. Our care looks different for every mother and every family. We offer an array of emotional, physical, and educational support to families throughout pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.
  4. What sort of changes does a mother go through, from immediate pregnancy, to after the baby is born?
    1. Way too many to list! Physiological, emotional, and spiritual changes!
  5. How do you assist the mother during her struggles while pregnant?
    1. If a mother is struggling,I will provide her access to evidenced-based information to help her find and make the best choices for herself. I will also offer referrals to trusted practitioners in our community who may be able to support her throughout her pregnancy and thereafter. A lot of the doula’s work is to offer non-judgmental, unconditional support, which often comes in the form of active listening, holding the space for, and supporting her to process and make decisions that can be challenging throughout pregnancy and parenthood.
  6. Why do hospitals position the mother, during childbirth, in a non-ideal fashion?
    1. It goes back to the 1800’s when men were first assisting in the medical field . It’s easiest for the practitioner.
  7. Are there any non-obvious events that might occur during pregnancy that requires the mother to go into hospital care?
    1. In regards to medical emergencies and abnormalities, sure – lots of things could happen. This is why practitioners take routine tests to ensure that everything is developing normally. However, the practitioner might notice an abnormal amount of proteins in the urine, irregular blood pressure, significant change in amount of amniotic fluid, or the baby could have an irregular heart-rate just to name a few. Although not incredibly common, these abnormalities would indicate further testing or support within the hospital itself.
  8. How unhealthy is a cesarean section?
    1. They’re abdominal surgeries that are sometimes necessary – which means they could be considered a healthier option or even life-saving. However, they’re a serious medical procedure and a different, additional type of healing must take place after birth. It’s certainly not an approach that should be taken lightly.
  9. Let’s switch gears a bit. Exercise. In your opinion, how long, frequently, and at what intensity, should we exercise physically? How does exercise promote our well-being?
    1. Staying physically active is important throughout life. Try to reach a heightened heart-rate for 20 minutes, 5-6 times per week. Exercise can benefit the circulatory, lymphatic and skeleto-muscular systems just to name a few. Endorphins are released, which help us to feel good emotionally. Maintaining our physical health through exercise helps us to create more white blood cells, which in turn helps us to fight illnesses and disease.
  10. Nutrition. Can you give me a breakdown of an ideal, omnivorous diet? How about a diet geared toward building muscle.
    1. Diets must be unique – based on heritage, activity level, and personal need. I believe that the source of the food is more important than how often or how much of it is consumed. Eat fresh, nutrient-dense food and avoid processed food. Watch out for genetically modified foods and meats treated with hormones, as they may influence our endocrine system.
  11. Emotional well-being. Have you heard of cognitive-behavioral therapy? It’s helped me significantly, and is highly validated. Have you learned of a practice, technique, or therapy of similar healing potential?
    1. Not one thing works for everyone. However, integrative health practitioners may use meditation, energy-work (such as reiki or tai-chi), yoga, massage, acupuncture, or cranialsacral therapy to support other forms of health promotion or behavior therapies.
  12. Following up on that, could you describe the non-herb/medication tools that you yourself have found most supportive and healing?
    1. When I was at my most imbalanced, acupuncture and yoga were the most supportive to my healing process.
  13. Let’s diverge a bit and talk about herbs. Is there one that, in your experience, you’ve found to be particularly versatile, effective, and health-promoting?
    1. I wouldn’t say that there’s any herb that is a perfect fit for everyone. I’ve developed a relationship with many different herbs that have been effective for me and I use them based on their application within the body. Many herbs can promote health within various systems of the body at once. So even if I’m focusing on my reproductive system, I may also be receiving benefits from the herb in my nervous or hepatic systems as well.
  14. Would the healing advice you offer always include herbalism?
    1. Not always, but I certainly encourage exploration with herbs. People can discover their own relationships with different plants. As a community herbalist I offer people access to more information about herbs and we can look at many herbs as nutritional support, like one might look at certain vegetables and fruit, but I don’t offer medical or healing “advice”.
  15. Do you learn how the herbs you sell work in brain? For instance; valerian is an adenosine receptor agonist. Compounds in both are GABA transaminase inhibitors, agonists, and allosteric modulators.
    1. Through my training I’ve learned how particular nutrients may influence the body, and how much of which are needed, but not necessarily the psychopharmacology of the herbs.
  16. Similarly, what do you think about the idea that herbs shouldn’t be used for wellness, given that the components inside them are not standardized? Shouldn’t one ideally be on a constant dose of a health-promoting substance?
    1. Herbs are not pharmaceutical drugs. They are plants comprised of many, many compounds and constituents and nutrients. There is benefit to receiving the plant as a whole, not just removing one compound from it because we have seen it to be one of the more active compounds. The plant is effective because it is an orchestration of these various components. One of the best aspects of using plant medicine, in my opinion, is that we can often grow or wild-craft our own. Accessibility to a plant and developing a relationship with a plant is just as important, in my opinion, as figuring out how much of a substance your body may need.
  17. I’d like to ask about your experience with psychiatric medications. Is that okay?
    1. Ask away.
  18. Have you had experience as a patient in the psychiatric institution?.
    1. I was prescribed psychiatric medication through my primary care provider throughout my teenage years and early twenties as a form of support for the depression and generalized anxiety disorder that I was diagnosed with.
  19. Okay. As an aside, society still holds a heavy stigma against people with mental illness, and those who have taken, or take, medication for mental illness. It’s textbook bigotry. This is one brave, strong woman folks. Okay, could you describe your diagnosis and/or the medication and dose you were put on? Do you take any pharmaceuticals these days?
    1. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression when I was a mid-teen. I was on an SSRI and benzodiazepine – dosage varied throughout those years. I don’t currently take them.
  20. How long of a time have you been off them? How long did the withdrawal last?
    1. It has been five years since I stopped taking the medications.  The first time I began coming off the medication (after 4 years) I tapered my dosage with the support of my physician over a year’s span. After about 3 months of not taking the medications all of my symptoms returned. I then utilized the medications again for another 4 years before tapering off again for a year’s span. At that time in my life I was able to successfully come off of the medications with the support of a counselor, herbal medicine and a strong support system of friends, family and my employer.
  21. In retrospect, how do you feel about the psychiatric institution?
    1. It can be very beneficial, but there are holes in the system, especially in the cooperation (or lack thereof) with doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and the community at large. It’s often looked to as a “cure-all”, which it cannot and will not be. We, as a society, tend to look at it as a first-step or first defense. I believe that there are many aspects to supporting the whole wellness of an individual, including our mental health, and there are many holistic modalities with fewer side effects that can be utilized before pharmaceutical medications. Additionally, many people are unaware of how hard it is to come off of these medications, such as myself. But I do feel that some people need medication and that it can be an important piece of a whole system of support.
  22. You are quite functional these days, busy and productive! What did you do, and what has your schooling taught you, in order to thrive?
    1. I constantly self-reflect in a manner that allows me to genuinely listen to my whole being, which guides me towards support systems that help me navigate challenges.
  23. How do you feel about the common defense for marijuana use: “it’s just a plant” – does this give us reason to believe that all plants with psychoactive compounds are by default more healthy than pharmaceuticals which seek to heal the same mental/spiritual malady? For example, average levels of seized weed in 2014, had on average, four times the THC of weed confiscated in 1995. The new pot had, furthermore, lower CBD (cannabidiol) levels. This current pot has a lot of negative research around it, just as studies on CBD have found remarkable benefits. And on the argument that more potent pot means less pot smoked, the same argument for alcoholic drinks clearly doesn’t hold.
    1. Plants need to be respected and understood at the appropriate level of complexity that lies within them. A relationship with the plant is built, from planting the seed, to seeing it emerge through the soil, watching it mature, harvesting, drying, and consuming it. As for marijuana, just as any other plant, it deserves respect. Some of the strains we are seeing today are stamped with capitalistic greed. Their growers breed it to have a certain taste, look or specific effect. It’s a form of exploitation. There are so many strains and there are so many ways this plant can express itself. The plants we are studying today are much different than the plants that were studied decades ago. If there was more funding, we could likely learn even more about the benefits and risks associated with the various strains. We could learn how ways of growing and harvesting this species, affects it. If approached respectfully, we could learn a lot about how it adapts to its environment, how and when it flowers, how it reacts with the endocannabinoid system within our bodies, and more. We’re just beginning to understand the variety and plethora of the gifts and components of cannabis. But, unfortunately, it’s being exploited in many places. Additionally, due to its legal status, there is a lot of fear surrounding honest discussion of the plant and its potential benefits and uses. It’s difficult to create an appropriate community forum when this fear exists.
  24. Very interesting! Just a few closing questions. What does “spirit” mean to you?
    1. A life-force energy or guide.
  25. Could you give us a sense, however abstract or specific, of your belief or non-belief in God? How would you describe your position on that?
    1. I believe in a greater spiritual force that is comprised of many energy expressions.
  26. In conclusion, could you give us a sense of why what you do provides meaning for your life?
    1. I’m constantly inspired by all that surrounds me…people, plants, processes – all of it! The relationships that are built from the people who I work with fuel my desire to learn more, grow and constantly adapt.

Retrospective:

The interviewee particularly interested me because of her achievements in mainstream academia, and those in an alternative health institution. I would imagine that she’s particularly effective at what she does as a result of training in these two realms.

Going into the meeting, I didn’t know what a doula was. At first glance, it sounded like being a maid. But her responses underlined a very complex process, involving all categories of one’s being, as a mother goes from pregnancy through having a baby; I mean, the sense I got was that it would take at least several hours for her to describe in full the changes that naturally happen, the things that can go wrong, and the specialized assistance she gives to the mother. Seemingly unimportant details, the levels of certain proteins in the urine of the mother, must be regularly checked up on. And then there’s the baby. And then there’s the mother-baby connection…pregnancy must be a rocky ride! Very complex.

No surprise that exercise is beneficial, but I never knew to the extent such as improving the lymphatic system. I absolutely have to work out, and then take a walk, every morning, to start my day. Yesterday I didn’t have time for the walk, and I suffered pretty badly; today I walked, and feel much better for it. I wonder the mechanism by which it buffers the lymphatic system. Interesting bit on the endocrine system and GMO’s. Nutrition has been a great asset to me, that’s what I can say. I just feel more clean.

I think some of these alternative healing techniques are starting to have a significant amount of science behind them. The two massages I had definitely did something good to me. Never heard of reiki. As with herbs, it’s not ideal in my case (because pharmacueticals aren’t designed to be used with psychoactive herbs), but I do find myself with a cup of tulsi (holy basil) tea every now and then. I’ve had it around for five or so years. As it is, though, I can’t really delve deep into the herb realm, being on medications.

Psychiatric care is becoming more prominent. I do think drugs aught to be the last option, in retrospect. Practices such as acupuncture and yoga, which she stated helped her immensely, have real scientific data behind them. On the other hand, once a psychoactive chemical enters the body, there is a more fundamental, powerful, shift – not always for the better. Her and I are in agreement. I was frankly surprised about her answers regarding marijuana. I had honestly expected a defense of the 20%+ THC marijuana of these days. One of these days I’ll get around to trying this relationship of sorts she discussed, with plants. I would have to be taught how to go about doing it, because, frankly, as with most Westerners, I’ve never really viewed plants as possessing the potential to form such a  union. It’s interesting though – I like plants overall. For instance a week ago I was at Lowes hauling a bunch of tile into a cart, then the car, for dear old mother. I saw a plant, and asked her if she could buy it, and take it out of my rent, which she approved. I just like plants in general. They’re cool.

I’m diverging. This woman is knowledgeable as she is courteous, and frankly pretty awesome. Great interview!

Source: Women’s Reproductive Health Assistant (Doula) and Holistic Health Professional