In conversation with Mrs. B
Updated: Mar 10, 2019
Greetings! My name is Shannon Beacham. I have been supporting families as a doula and breastfeeding counselor since 2013. I believe that all women can achieve a positive emotional experience regardless of the circumstances of their birth.
My passion and profession is in women's health. I love talking, reading, and watching everything from menstrual cycles to menopause, and pregnancy to motherhood. But, who the heck am I? Read on to learn more about my personal experiences and just how I became so passionate about the many seasons of a woman's life.
“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” -June Jordan
Without further ado...
How did you first find out about doulas?
My first pregnancy, I planned to have a natural hospital birth (birth story details will have to be for another time). Although I did accomplish my goal of an un-medicated birth, the entire experience left me feeling deflated. There wasn't a single staff person who wasn't disrespectful to me and my husband, from triage to postpartum. On a whole, I was completely unheard, invisible, and let's not forget the wonderful subtle tones of passive aggressive racism. I am forever grateful for a quick and healthy labor, there is no doubt in my mind that had something gone sideways I could have died in that hospital. And now, when I read stories of black women dying or narrowly missing death from "complications" in labor when the only complication is that not a single person listened or believed her when she spoke of something feeling wrong. It sends chills up my spine because I feel that could have easily been me, and it could easily be any other woman of color in the community around me. I knew right then and there I was going to become a midwife! After doing some research online, I found an interest meeting for women of color seeking the path of midwifery in Baltimore. The meeting had already come and gone so I called the contact number to find out when the next event like that would be and was told about a doula training coming up. Back to the computer for more research and it was like my body was on fire with everything I read about doulas and birth outcomes, especially for women of color. I attended the training and at that time I was just a few months pregnant with my second child. I still look back on that training as one of the most profound influences on the direction my life has taken. I have so much respect for the trainer as a mentor, mother, and business woman and I still have lasting friendships from that training. As far as the midwifery path, I don't know that I will ever really go that route. I really love the space I am in in educating and working one on one with mothers not just in their pregnancy, but with breastfeeding, and herbal consultations/coaching for moms and babies.
Do you have a routine to get ready for a birth? What is it?
I could get a call about a birth anytime, day or night. I generally try to keep my birth bag with me once we get to the two week before the due date window- but I do not rely on it. It certainly doesn't ruin the birth or my ability to support the family if I don't have it. If I have the time, I take a shower. Most of my time is consumed with making sure my children will have care before hopping in the car and heading to the birth. I could be sleepy, or cranky from traffic if it's that time of day- so once I get to the place of birth. I light an incense in my car, slow down, meditate, and use affirmations to prepare my spirit to hold energetic space for the birthing woman and family.
What do you love most about birth work?
It's fun that my first introduction to a woman and her family is at such a vulnerable point in their lives. You get intimate very quickly with one another. I can offer them love, support. comfort, and information but the magic is watching the transformation to parenthood. I go into each space thinking about what I needed at that vulnerable time and try to give that to women. Yes, every family is different, not all are first time pregnancies but there are some universal themes that I find are important to everyone. I also love the community. Like I said earlier, I have lifelong friends from the onset of this journey.
What was it like giving birth at home?
A huge relief! I didn't have to worry about timing the pregnancy just right or what happens if I give birth in the car. I could just be in my own home. Use my own shower, my own toilet, wear my clothes, and be surrounded by things that have always given me comfort. And when it was all over, I could relax in my bed!! I just loved that everything I needed either came to me or was already there. All that was left for me to do was to allow myself to fall into the trance of labor and focus on just that.
Where do you draw your motivation from?
I feel the collective need calling me everyday for more education around the normal birth process, breastfeeding, the health of our bodies, and how to take care of our families through indigenous methods. I desire for my children to have a different experience when they reach the time for starting their own families. Not in the sense of changing hospital culture or western medicine culture, I do acknowledge that positive changes are occurring but it is slow. And still comes from a pathological or illness based foundation, no matter the change. I'm not much of a policy maker. Simply, that they are empowered with the spirit of having a positive birth experience, not starting in a place of fear or misinformation.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a birth worker?
Specifically to be a doula, I would suggest taking a training or two. As a woman of color, I would go further to say look for a training done by a woman of color because the historical and cultural education components are often times the foundation of the experiences of our families. You can find online and in person training, as well as, low cost or free interest meetings to get more information on the various fields of birth work. Whether you want to run a business, be a community advocate, or just want to know more so that you can share accurate and empowering information with immediate friends and family there is space for all those paths. We only get stronger as we become more informed and in tune with our birthing bodies, seeking information doesn't have to always lead to a new career path. However, if it does- that is awesome!
What do you want to be known for?
The sacred information of how to birth, how to be a homemaker, a family healer, those things that make up the feminine energy of a woman have been lost in translation and culture shifts. I would like to serve and be known as an open portal to this sacred information from our ancestors and to normalize indigenous wisdom that has served us well for many generations. I definitely feel like this information is still relevant in this era of technology and modern living.
What are your favorite birth tools and how do you normally use them?
I laugh thinking about the first few births I attended because I would haul around this enormous bag full of birth stuff- towels, tennis balls, essential oils, rebozos, a binder from a my birth training, etc. Much like my diaper bag as a first time mom, it was huge and full of stuff. Now a days, both personally and professionally I take a page from the 'Book of Badu' and I "pack light". I have learned to use what is available to me in the hospital and in homes.
And I only bring what I've used with the mom to be in our prenatal sessions. Essential oils are my favorite birth tool. They serve so many purposes, they create a mood, in a hospital setting it gives the space a less clinical feel, they ground, relax, and reinvigorate when needed. I typically use them in a diffuser because the mood of a birthing woman can change, one minute a smell is working and the next its not. Its much easier to turn off the diffuser or add a different oil than if it has been massaged all over the mom. When I do use them for massage, I stick to the feet. The feet serve to send the aroma up and its energetic properties up internally and externally in a gentle manner. My favorite "labor foot massage blend" includes equal parts chamomile, clary sage, and lavender with carrier oil of your choice (coconut, jojoba, apricot, etc.).
I'm still discovering who I am and living in the moment of my journey, but for now, this is me. Do you have more questions about this birth worker? Share below!
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