Meet Maraya… Part Two… How I became a midwife

To read part one, click here…

How I became a midwife…

When I graduated from High School you better damned believe I took off. I left my little town in the NW and headed for Carmel, California. It was time to find myself, my own path and boy did the adventures continue. There I learned to surf, decided to no longer be a virgin, experimented with polygamy and read my first book front to cover: The Fountainhead.  

 My undergraduate experience continued to be one of exploration. I studied business administration and minored in diversity studies. I continued being the president of everything, that’s what you do when you have a NY Jewish Entrepreneurial father I guess. 

I played around with different religions and read the Bible, cover to cover. Then, had the opportunity to intern with P&G, in Dallas and LA, and hired on with them, hence the stilettos and business suits, airplanes and corporate Amex chapter of my life. I lived in Hollywood, interacted with some famous people, enjoyed the night clubs, the retro, the trendy and had my first Boba tea and Hamachi Nagiri. 

I attended my first birth… 

In 2000, best friend since the age of 12 asked me to be at her birth. As I attempted to support her journey of pregnancy, I read The Red Tent and held her hand as we walked the stairs at the Erika Badhu concert- I still remember how amazed I was that her belly could grow and transform to such a ginormous size- she couldn’t even see her own toes and for some reason she had developed a strange waddle.   

As she pushed that beautiful baby boy out, who is now 19 years old and 6’4, I quietly held her right leg. Her ob/gyn, her nurse, her mother, and I all encouraged her and I absorbed the miracle of childbirth. There were no words, just tears.  There was no explanation, just an acknowledgement that I had “found home”. 

So, there’s something you might as well know about me now if you’re going to continue a relationship with me here at BTRT.  I’m not a crier.

This same friend, who has known me since age 12, had only see me cry once before, and yet, the tears of joy, tears of confusion, tears of ecstasy streamed down my face for hours.

“Now what?” I asked myself. I was a business woman, in the corporate world, climbing that corporate ladder, on my airplanes and in my stilettos.  That’s not the life of a midwife. But no matter how much I resisted it, each day I volunteered on the labor and delivery unit at Santa Monica Hospital, or the Hollywood Birthing Center, each birth I attended as a Doula, I felt like I was home.

On the third day of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, in Peru, I made the decision. I met people who were traveling for months at a time, something I had never even considered. I returned home, registered for evening classes to finish my prerequisites for grad school, took my GRE’s, then quit my job, turned in my corporate car and Amex, became a nanny and started waiting tables at a Shabu Shabu restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. 

I took the leap….

I used all those Delta Miles I had accrued from my corporate travel and booked a 1 year around-the-world trip. It was a solo journey, just me and my backpack. It was a journey of trust and adventure. I learned the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler, I was accepted into the graduate program at Yale University to become a CNM while volunteering in Ghana with midwives. 

Best of all, I found confidence in my own skin.

I graduated with my Masters in Nursing as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) in 2007 and then worked in Hawaii, on the Big Island for 7 years. I swam with dolphins and whales, played in the waves and let the aloha spirit surge through my veins. In 2014, I moved back home to Ashland Oregon to give birth to my second child, where I have been ever since.

I have been privy to many private and intimate experiences and conversations with women. I hear women feeling lost at times, not knowing where to turn. I hear women unclear on what to expect through pregnancy, childbirth, mothering and menopause.  I see women lacking the support totally authentic and vulnerable conversations with aunties and grandmothers, mothers and friends.

So, I say:

“Let’s create that space in which we can ask the things we are afraid or embarrassed to ask.  Let’s support one another through the things we don’t normally talk about with one another like body image and eating disorders, libido changes and miscarriages, vaginal discharge changes and abortions… depression and sexual curiosity.”

I say, as long as it’s respectful and personal, bring it on.  I’ve likely heard it before and I want all of us within this community to feel far from alone; to know there are other women thinking the same thoughts, having the same questions and experiencing the same things (in their own way).

I am passionate about empowering women…

While volunteering with the midwives in a hospital in Ghana, in the Volta Region in a town called Ho, I remember well the contraction monitor- my hand and the beads of sweat above the women’s upper lip. I remember watching women ready to push stand up, put their IV bag on their head and stoically walk into the birthing room to push. I also remember the midwives laughing in my face when I asked how their community approached Postpartum Depression. 

“Do you think we have time or resources to address depression? We are simply trying to keep people alive,” they responded.

The fire was lit within me to find a way to reach women, support their journey and learn how we can all be the The Phoenix, the one that rises from the ashes and soars in the sky. 

While implementing an international health project in the deep Nicaraguan rainforest (musawas), I remember the gazes of children see white skin for the first time, the view of 50 indigenous midwives with their new headlamps, ponchos, blood pressure cuffs, placenta bowls and backpacks. I remember their callused feet and the smiles and community and deep gratitude for the empowerment they experienced being given the opportunity to safely practice basic midwifery in their communities that had no running water, no electricity and no motorized vehicles.

In Thailand, spending time in the villages, I remember the laughter of children seeing blonde hair and blue eyes for their first time. I remember sitting with the aunties and grandmothers and asking them, what is the biggest different between Thai and American culture?  Their answer: “In Thailand we take care”.  

I have learned that I am resilient, I am blessed and I also live in a US culture that feels sterile at times, separate.  We may have technology and things, but the women in these other places had community and support and connectedness. They cared for one another in a way I had never known. 

Why do I share all of these stories?  Because I found a calling in building up women. Sometimes it’s as a healthcare provider, sometimes it’s as a friend, other times it’s a leader or mentor and there have been times it’s been through international health projects. I also am aware of so much lacking in our current modern first world way of living. I want to connect women, I want women to feel empowered and supported, loved and heard. It may not all come from a virtual women’s circle, but it’s a damned good start.

June 17, 2020

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