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Interview with Jada Shapiro

Interview with Jada Shapiro

After falling in love with the experience of helping women through childbirth, Jada founded Birth Day Presence (website here) with fellow Doula Anna Merrill (pictured above, Jada is on the left). It's rare to get such an insight into the world of childbirth so we didn't waste any time asking Jada our most burning questions.

Your Story

What was your main motivation behind becoming a Doula?

I didn't plan to become a doula. The work found me! I was lucky enough to be invited to photograph the birth of a dear friend and what I saw completely blew me away. Everything I had heard or learned about birth from TV was different than what I witnessed.

My friend moved around, used the shower, the bath, changed position tons of times, used a birth ball, ate and drank throughout labor, was upright a lot of the time and gave birth with her family and friends surrounding her. When another friend got pregnant, I jumped at the chance to photograph her birth too...next thing I knew, I was helping her through her birth, so although I didn't know it yet, I was her doula.

I started to learn a lot more about childbirth after that birth and soon someone recommended that I attend a birth doula training. The more I learned about childbirth in America, the more I knew I wanted to help women learn about their choices and options and I knew women needed a lot more support than they were getting. I was extremely concerned about the medicalization of childbirth and how many women felt so unheard and unsupported during childbirth. I took the doula training and the rest is history!

What have been the biggest rewards and biggest challenges in building your career?

Being a small business owner with no business training is not a simple existence. The biggest reward in building my career is a tie between 1. being able to help so many people prepare for the unknown of childbirth and parenting and helping so many women and families to feel supported during their births and 2. having created a business that supports an extremely flexible lifestyle which allows me to be very present for my daughter when she is not in school, allows me to travel and work wherever I am, and allows me to do something new everyday.

The biggest challenges have been around growth and management. It is a great problem to have so much work to manage, but it is often a challenge to get it all done. It has also been challenging to just learn on the job. If I were starting a business now, I'd probably approach it very differently, but I am proud of what I have created on my own!

Do you remember how you felt when assisting with your first delivery?

Yes! That first birth I attended, I remember feeling the most incredible surge of joy when my friend's son finally came out of her body. The whole group of us held our breath the last few moments and then when his body fully emerged, we erupted into peals of ecstatic laughter and happiness. It was amazing.

At the first birth I actually assisted at (which was the second birth I attended), I felt surprisingly calm and present. Although I had no training yet, I knew that I just had to be a supportive, strong, calm presence for my friend. I remember how intense this birth was and how hard my friend worked. And again I experienced an incredible surge of joy when her son was finally born! 

Advice

Do you do your kegels regularly? Where & when do you do them?

Ok, not quite regularly enough! But I often do them on the subway, whenever I see my Elvie, whenever I talk about them with students or clients (which is a lot). 

What’s the most common question you get asked by clients?

How do I minimize the chances of having a c-section?

What would you say is the biggest shock of being a parent? 

The biggest shock of becoming a parent to me was the feeling of boundless, unconditional love. I just didn't know I had that in me!

What do you think all women should know about childbirth?

All women should know that who you give birth with is one of the most important factors in what occurs during your childbirth experience. That is to say that your choice of midwife or doctor influences your birth outcome (vaginal or cesarean) much more than reading, going to a childbirth class, practicing pain relief techniques, being in shape, etc.

So whatever you hope to occur during your birth, be sure that you are selecting a care provider who aligns with that vision! For example, if you want to have a vaginal delivery, your best chance at that is to hire a midwife or doctor with a very low cesarean birth rate. It doesn't mean you won't have a cesarean if you need one. It means you won't have an unnecessary cesarean birth. 

Your Motivation

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by many people! As relates to this field, Pam England is very inspirational to me. She developed the technique, Birthing From Within. I was extremely lucky to spend a full week immersed in her teachings a few years ago. Not only did she turn her negative birth experience, into a successful birth method, book, school, and outreach, she taught me so much about being present and in the moment, and how very painful, challenging experiences can transform us and have deep meaning in our lives which can be used to teach and help others.

She helped me understand how giving birth is a part of life and how we react in general in our lives will influence how we give birth. So learning to give birth is not just about understanding the stages of labor or interventions. In fact, very little of that knowledge will help us when we are in the throws of childbirth.

I feel very inspired by how much she helped me to both get out of my head and to understand why I was called to do this work. She creates a space that is completely safe, to go very deeply into what blocks us in our lives and how we can connect with and inspire others. She was also inspirational in helping me to further connect with the women and families I serve and to be able to meet them where they are without judgment. I feel profoundly grateful for her work.

I also feel very inspired by the woman who trained me to be a doula 14 years ago, Debra Pascali-Bonaro. She has created a wonderful and inspiring business of not only training doulas-to-be, but inspiring women to connect with other women on a profound level... She inspired me to get directly involved in birth work and to be an activist (but in the right time and place). She travels the world teaching and writes and makes documentaries about birth. I bring her to my studio 5 times per year to share her knowledge and wisdom with over 100 aspiring doulas per year. 

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Last weekend someone walked up to me and said, "Can I photograph your hair? I have to get a haircut today and I want it to look just like yours!)... But truly, very recently, a person very close and important to me told me, "I love your brain." That was easily one of the top compliments I have ever received.

My brain and its particularities is why I am where I am today. I have a unique way of thinking and to hear someone say that out loud and compliment that part of me above all other parts felt truly validating and amazing. 

What do you love most about your body?

I love how my body moves. There is very little that gives me more joy and happiness than when I am dancing, walking, stretching and moving in all the ways we can and do. 

What can we learn from Jada? 

The main takeaway we got from Jada's incredible career journey is to enjoy every experience you go through. Jada clearly holds every birth she's a part of in high importance; each one an opportunity to learn, grow and appreciate. 

To learn more about Jada and what her business has to offer, don't forget to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.