In this episode of Wellspringwords: The Podcast, Nkem has an animated conversation with friend and birth + postpartum doula, Clare, about the journey back to Self after self-abandonment. Clare shares how she followed her inner calling into the world of pregnancy and postpartum support, and how her own journey of parenthood has invited her into herself to nurture and cultivate deeper self-love. Their conversation transitions into a discussion of self-abandonment, how we view our parents, and returning to our full and whole Selves. This episode is ripe with the fruit of loving inner work and conscious external effort to be sources of light in the world. Come and take your pick! Let us know if this conversation brought anything to mind or heart for you in a podcast review, on Instagram, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be well!
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Clare brings her wisdom to this episode through her passion and experience as a birth and postpartum doula. In her business, she has recently become involved in postpartum meal deliveries to make sure new families are well fed and connected to local farmers with seasonal foods to keep their bodies intertwined with nature. This new development into meal deliveries stems from the importance of recovering after a major life change like pregnancy. This episode’s conversation centers on what parenting is, returning to your whole Self, and the distortion and fragmentation that happens in our younger years that impacts our lives during the parenting journey. Clare brings to the table her own relationships with her parents and herself, as well as her two-year-old daughter, who has completely changed her perspective on life.
Clare’s journey to becoming the person we meet her as today brings to light the ways in which our souls and the universe guides us to certain paths. Clare followed an inner calling to attend a pregnancy doula training after reading a description of the course, despite knowing nothing about pregnancy and childbirth. She had previously taught health education and was always interested in women’s health, specifically in the way we learn about our bodies and how to treat them, so she studied topics related to education, health, and sexuality. The intersection of these subjects, combined with her inner calling, led her to doula training, which proved to be a truly transformative experience. She recalls her training as being a ceremony of bonding, understanding, and learning in which she was present and grateful all while going through the experience. Coincidence or fate, her training turned out to be on the weekend she became pregnant with her daughter.
Clare later had the opportunity to participate in a mentorship with a community of doulas and midwives. This turned out to be a huge part of her journey with pregnancy as those with whom she became close also supported her through her own pregnancy, making it an incredibly nurturing experience. Clare was at first very scared about the whole process; nurturing human life is a woman’s unique strength, but can also be difficult to take on given its seriousness. Meetings with her midwife helped her greatly in becoming more confident and comfortable with the healthcare settings involved in pregnancy, and eventually with the idea of having an at-home birth. The guidance and support Clare’s community of doulas and midwives gave her made postpartum life so special, confirming for her how pulled she was to being a doula herself. Pregnancy, despite its weight and inevitable hardships, is incredibly powerful and speaks to the power that women hold. At the same time, support and community are crucial to a smooth transition into motherhood; while Clare had plenty of support from her parents and in-laws postpartum, COVID hit and took that away, making it all the more clear how much value a doula’s work can have.
Now, you may be wondering, just as Nkem was, what the difference is between a doula and a midwife. In simple terms, a doula provides informational, emotional, spiritual, and advocacy support but no clinical care; doulas are not technically health care providers. Their main task is helping with comfort. On the other hand, a midwife can essentially do anything an OB/GYN does apart from surgery. Midwifery is about person-centered care and progress with the pregnancy, but also getting to know your client and building a relationship that allows them to feel empowered through the pregnancy process.
The societal expectations placed on women make it very easy to constantly be giving to others to the point of depletion, making the act of receiving love and support feel foreign. When Clare was being pampered by her community with love and care postpartum, she found herself saying things like “This is so much; this is so nice; are you sure?” She had to realize that women’s bodies remember a time when they were worshiped for bringing life to the earth, but now women are generally so conditioned to feel that femininity purely means caring for others and not receiving what they deserve.
That same question of worthiness has translated into Clare's role as a parent. She had to start asking the big questions like, “What does it mean to take care of myself while having an open heart and loving other people in the process, without abandoning myself to do that?” This particular question came from the important decision-making associated with parenting surrounding what exactly is the right way to parent. Of course, there is no right way, and every situation, person, and parent-child relationship is completely individual, so Clare decided to use an attachment parenting style: breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, and putting her child’s secure attachment above everything. She made this choice based on what she had researched along with her own life experiences of dealing with self-worth issues. Our motivations for the decisions we make aren’t always obvious on the surface, and after actually putting this parenting method to the test, Clare realized that she had probably also chosen this parenting style because she can tend to be boundaryless, codependent, and over caring — all qualities that may rise to the surface when putting your child first, no matter what. In any case, she started to think, “Maybe this is another relationship where I’m too scared to say no.” Even so, Clare has taken what could be a heartbreaking realization as an opportunity for learning, adjusting, and adapting to the realities of being a parent, and above all, being a person. Now, she’s working on creating boundaries for when she recognizes she’s burnt out, so she can rest and recover instead of being constantly available.
Learning from these experiences is especially important to Clare because as a parent, she is consciously and unconsciously influencing the kind of person her daughter will grow up to be. Clare is creating a piece of the future — a radically important job that all caretakers hold the responsibility of. At the same time, as much control as Clare has over her daughter, she also has no control over how her child will turn out when she enters the world on her own. Even if her daughter grows up to be an asshole, she will still have a profound effect on whomever she encounters. Part of being a parent is letting go and seeing your child as their own person, separate from you, especially when they enter adolescence and beyond.
We all know too well the growing pains, angst, and healthy rebellion adolescence brings out of us. Our relationship with ourselves and our parents goes through changes that can be tumultuous because we are becoming real, whole, individual people with so much power and personality that we are learning how to hone. Clare went through the phases of pushing away her parents and pushing for individuality in her 20s because, in her teen years, her parents had a habit of over-parenting. Clare found that she was a bit late to the game when it came to maturing because her parents' version of love was to shield her from hurt and sadness instead of equipping her with the tools to deal with real life. No parents will ever be perfect, and having a child of her own helped Clare understand what her parents were going through. Loving somebody so much can make things very messy, and in the words of her mom, “When your heart is this cracked open, you don’t always know what to do with it.”
“Kindness and people-pleasing are two completely different qualities — kindness comes from genuine whole-heartedness, while people-pleasing stems from a desire for external validation because of a wounded heart.”
In all of our relationships, but especially in those between a parent and a child, we can have a tendency to project our own feelings onto other people. Clare came to the courageous realization that she was holding onto resentments towards her parents because of her dislike for herself. She thought that perhaps, if her parents had done something differently, maybe she would be worth loving. While that mindset may be oddly comforting for the short-term, holistically, it gives all the power away to the people around you and avoids the real answer: looking inward. Empowerment and radical responsibility for oneself go hand in hand to make for more control over your life as well as more freedom. Having self-worth issues can be a hard pill to swallow but denying self-worth issues only leads these issues to show up everywhere, till denial is no longer possible.
One of Nkem’s ways of embodying healing through her self-worth issues is taking solo trips with the intention of healing. One particular case she mentions was taking a recent solo trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. She arrived in Oaxaca with one goal: confronting her habit of people-pleasing. Kindness and people-pleasing are two completely different qualities — kindness comes from genuine whole-heartedness, while people-pleasing stems from a desire for external validation because of a wounded heart. In setting the intention to work on her people-pleasing, Nkem ran into plenty of opportunities to say no, but that didn’t necessarily mean saying no was always the right decision either. She had to ask herself what she actually wanted and listen to the answer. We often already know intuitively what will serve us and what won’t.
A helpful tip to listen to yourself and assess if you are acting in a way that is true to you is to simply stop, breathe, and check-in with yourself. Clare started to utilize this habit when she became aware of how much she was turning herself into other people in an effort to make them like her. School, parents, and religion revolve around how much people are pleased by you, and that can make something like a simple disagreement feel like rejection. These conditions are all deeply embedded within us, and deconditioning takes practicing self-compassion when we can be comfortable in self-abandonment. Self-abandonment can be a phase in life, but it can also appear throughout our lives. It takes conscious and loving effort to rewire our responses to conflict with internal reassurance that may sound like, “I’m still okay and I still love myself,” rather than doubling down and tying our self-worth to our interactions with others. When self-worth comes from within, it doesn’t waver based on external factors. Turning to a sense of worth rather than abandonment is really about repairing our relationships with ourselves into one that is strong, healthy, loving, and dependable.
Self-worth is inextricably tied to who we are and what it means to be whole. Clare is currently going through the process of trying to bring all the fractured and scattered parts of herself back together. The process of knowing oneself is not one that has a definitive end goal because we are, hopefully, always evolving. Clare feels like whoever she has felt like in any moment changes so rapidly because of how committed she is to growing and understanding herself. In committing to that process, Clare has stopped creating personas of who she wanted to be and instead has started asking herself what she truly wants and likes. Her deeper relationship with herself now allows her to feel in her body when something is right or wrong: honest and informative intuition.
Reflecting inward is a wonderful tool for guidance when trying to find that one thing our mortality asks of us: our purpose. Through a life of getting to know herself, Nkem’s mission has revealed itself as the act of empowering people and illuminating their light through her own; simply put, the act of inspiring. In her life, being her authentic self and speaking from the heart, to those who are receptive to her message, gives her the most joy and fulfillment. Getting older has helped her pursue her mission with more force because people tend to respect you more at an older age — though she has had this soul urge inside her since she was young. Nkem believes helping inspire each other is a two-way street, “I have my medicine you have your medicine and we can help each other.” This makes for a mutually beneficial exchange of energy rather than spending energy judging others and neglecting the opportunity to embrace your wholeness.
Nkem and Clare bring their conversation to an end with their playful banter and conversation that only comes so easily to friends so connected with their inner selves and each other. The lightness of genuine connection and friendship is incredibly important to facilitating difficult and insightful conversations like this one. To keep up with and reach out to Clare, you can find her at @natureandnurture.love on Instagram.