Over the next few months, DTI will be introducing you to our fierce team of educators who will lead doula trainings across the country from Brooklyn, NY to Fairbanks, Alaska. This week, we introduce Becky Alford, who is the Social Justice Program Advisor for DTI and will be hosting the Brooklyn doula training May 12th-15th.
Becky specializes in birth, postpartum, and lactation (with a special place in her heart for compassionate cesareans) in Manhattan at www.downtowndoulanyc.com where she lives with her partner and two children. We asked her to share a little about her journey towards becoming a DTI educator. If you’re looking for a Brooklyn doula training feel free to reach out to DTI or get registered!
When and how did you first know you wanted to be a doula?
Sixteen years ago, I was a college sophomore at New York University, studying philosophy and gender & sexuality studies. In a women’s history class a classmate, Elan McAllister, raised her hand and started talking about the history of birth options and about the importance of birth support as a tangible way to put our theories into practice. It was the first time I had heard the word ‘doula’ and I ran over to her at the end of class with my mouth hanging open. Of course this is what I wanted to do! I quickly signed up for a DONA training and jumped right in and from my first birth knew this was a calling. There were so few doulas in NYC in 1999 that it was not hard to fill up my calendar and experience many different types of births, though at that time, most people looking for doulas were wanting natural childbirths/homebirths and my practice mainly focused on that for the first few years.
How did you become a DTI educator?
I took a break from doula work after my children’s births. I had unexpectedly traumatic birth experiences with both, homebirths that ended in transfers and cesareans. Even after working as a doula for almost 10 years at that point I felt unprepared for the transfer experience and the havoc it would wreak on my views of my body and birth culture. I felt incredibly let down by the natural childbirth community. Everyone tried to tell my story for me and tell me what I could have done differently for a different outcome. My eyes were opened to a different type of support people might need, yet I didn’t feel brave enough to re-enter the birth world. I focused exclusively on my other career as an elementary teacher for children with autism.
Yet I kept one eye on the work DTI was doing. I had originally met Tara Brooke not as doulas but as expectant mothers in our homebirth childbirth ed class when we were pregnant with our first children. I heard through the grapevine that DTI was a place where all birthing people and all types of births were honored and respected, so when my youngest was old enough that I felt ready to re-enter the workforce I made the decision to go back to my doula career. It was a ridiculously scary decision for me. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sign up for the Path2 training until the night before, and stayed up all that night anxious that I would be triggered by conversations about “unnessesareans” and “if you believe you can, you will” mindsets. I had felt like I didn’t fit in the birth world because I didn’t fit the narrative anymore, and I knew I wanted to come back to birth work with a fresh mindset and the ability to support people through all possible experiences, but I was so afraid of what I would encounter from other birth workers in the training.
Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The trainer set the tone as one of autonomy and respect for all births; it could not have been more different than my original DONA training. I knew within minutes I had found my new home. As someone who was also previously an educator and mentor in my other field, I realized becoming that for DTI and merging both of my areas of expertise was a perfect fit.
What do you love most about being a part of DTI?
I have the feeling so many educators will say this– but the community. It is incredibly inspiring to be working with and training people who are so full of passion and creativity and a relentless drive to make things better for birthing people. I wish we could meet in Tulum once a month and soak up each other’s energies and life forces, but once a year will have to do! In NYC we are blessed with a huge DTI community and we support each other in countless ways, from watching each other’s kids, to backing each other up, to informally business masterminding each other when the need arises, and just being a listening ear when things get intense. I would not want to be a doula again without access to this incredible group of people.
What is your favorite aspect of DTI’s 4-day doula training?
The cultural competency piece, of course! I am so proud to be part of an organization that focuses on social justice to such a large degree, and I love facilitating conversations about how this impacts our work as doulas. People come to trainings from so many varied backgrounds, and with so many different opinions. I find it an invigorating challenge to bring us all together despite those differences to focus on the humanizing aspect of births.
What’s a (non-doula) fun fact about you?
If I hadn’t met my partner and had two beautiful children with him, I would most certainly be a cat lady. As much as I love being a mother to little humans with every bit of my being, I can see a parallel universe where I am surrounded by dozens of cats and spend my time rescuing and fostering. As it is I have to limit myself to 3 cats in my 2 bedroom NYC apartment, and my third cat is so bad I should probably let this fantasy go.
I’ll be hosting the Brooklyn doula training in May. Hope to see you there! Register here.