Naima Beckles’ Professional Revival with Transformational Birth Coaching
What brought us here
“Impression without Expression Causes Depression. Study without Service Leads to Spiritual Stagnation”. I recently came across this saying by Rick Warren, and it has reminded me of how depressed I was some years ago. I was feeling that my birth support practice is no longer impactful, nor sustainable. I wanted to quit because I found it impossible to provide the service I was trained to provide. As a doula trainer, it made me think of all my lovely doula students who had never established a doula practice or served birth givers because they found it to be irrational in its demands and not sustainable. This is not longer the case. I was blessed to reinvent and reclaim my passion for birth support by developing transformational birth support coaching. The miracle grew even bigger when my students began offering transformational birth coaching exclusively, without being hired as a doula. Some decided to stop providing doula services completely. Naima Beckles is one of them. Soon after Naima graduated from the course, she wrote to me thanking me for the inspiring training and shared that she was now exclusively coaching birth clients. I felt inspired and interviewed Naima to learn about her professional revival.
The development of transformational birth support coaching was a birth of love after a long period of professional doubts and pains. I experienced professional burnout. At that time, I was a seasoned doula and childbirth educator with 18 years of experience. I sensed a growing gap between my perspectives and values around pregnancy and birth and those of my potential clients and medical caregivers as one. There was a growing gap between my belief system around birth and the direction the rest of the world was heading. The integration of diagnostic technology and the increase in medical interventions, along with the longer hours of providing birth support in L&D while having to advocate in a sneaky and inauthentic way, brought me to my knees. I felt that I was sacrificing my true self and core being. I ignored my health to ‘save’ birth givers. I was accountable to the birth vision my clients said they wanted while they were not as convinced as I was that they want or can achieve these visions. I was seeking a career change. In 2007, I enrolled in a year-long program to become a transformational coach. During this year, I realized that transformational coaching provided me with better strategies than I have ever had to lead and support my birth clients. I implemented the principles and strategies in my birth practice with a new sense of joy and enthusiasm leading to great results. Then, I set down to write my book The Art of Coaching for Childbirth, and a few years after I designed the 8-week course to become a transformational birth support coach. My vision was to lead birth support practitioners to integrate transformational coaching strategies into their hands-on practice. However, my students took it one step farther.
My students want to exlusively coach birth clients; not doula clients
Meet Naima Beckles
Naima is an educator, perinatal coach, doula, and founding director of For Your Birth – an intentionally diverse doula agency in New York City. Naima earned her MA from Loyola Marymount University and taught middle and high school students in Los Angeles, DC, and New York City. Soon after the birth of her first child, she went into birth support and earned certifications from Lamaze and DONA International. Currently, Naima is a teacher for The Institute for the Study of Birth Breath and Death where she has co-created, with the institute’s founder, a course on understanding and responding to pregnancy loss and infant death in communities of color. Naima lovingly stands alongside individuals navigating life’s triumphs and difficulties.
What motivated you to pursue the integration of transformational coaching into your birth support practice?
“By August of 2020, I had already supported 3 families who had given birth as the first wave of the pandemic was peaking in New York City. All of these clients intended to have in-person doula support, but could not. My doula support services became virtual and I was figuring out how to navigate the sudden change. I saw an opportunity to provide birth support in a new way. I wanted to get at the heart of what people seeking birth support from a doula wanted most. Were they happy with their provider? Did they feel prepared to manage the physical demands of labor? How were they thinking about their postpartum time? What were the fears and anxieties that Black birth givers carried during their pregnancies?
It was then that I had the idea to Google: How to be a birth coach? And fortunately for me, the Birth Coach Method course appeared in my search. Right then, I dove headfirst into your blog and found so much that resonated with me. Soon after, I emailed you to say thank you and that I was so excited to register for the next course. This was exactly what I was wanting.”
I had the idea to Google: How to be a birth coach? I dove headfirst into your blog and found so much that resonated with me
What type of clients hires you to be their transformational birth support coach? How are they different from those who hire you to be their doula? What makes them prefer coaching over doula support?
“The clients who hire me as their Transformational Birth Coach have been people who are good at getting information. They’ve taken the classes and read the books to prepare for birth. What they haven’t done, and this is where coaching comes in, is find their inner truth, their voice, and take action. For example, one of my clients initially wanted in-person doula support for her birth because she didn’t want to be induced. She heard from friends and read online about many poor induction experiences. I invited this client to enter a Transformational Birth Coaching relationship with me so that we could unpack what she believed to be true about induction and what led her to have the mindset of not wanting one. Throughout 6 sessions and several text check-ins, we revealed so much more than “not wanting to be induced.” And because we had frequent meetings, I was able to lead my client to take action around what really mattered to her by building accountability toward achieving her goals.”
In 2019, you were a speaker at the first Evidence-Based Birth conference in Kentucky. How do you twine informing birth clients about the evidence supporting a certain maternal care practice, with putting your clients’ inner truth, beliefs, and desires at the center of the coaching process?
“Oh, I’m glad that you asked that. Let me clarify, I’ve been a speaker at Evidence Based Birth’s conference, I’m a professional member of the organization and a trained instructor. However, I feel strongly that the place to unpack the evidence supporting a certain maternal care practice is only when individuals seek it. I’m actually much more interested in using my training in evidence-based practices to teach healthcare professionals such as nurses and training doctors, not pregnant people. At the same time, if a pregnant person with whom I’m in a coaching relationship specifically wants to know about the practice and the evidence that may or may not support it, I’m equipped to give that information.”
Being a pioneer doula myself, I remember how hard it was to find clients when they didn’t know what is a doula. Transformational Birth Coaching is a pretty new practice. How do you attract clients who are interested in prenatal coaching? How do they find you?
Birth coaching provides an opportunity for the birth giver to uncover questions they didn’t know they had and to build in practices that will help them achieve their goals
“Since this method of providing support for birth is so new, I’m marketing my services to my community of friends and existing supporters of my work. I have learned that it’s most effective to talk to a specific group of people who trust you first and ask them to help spread the word. Most potential clients are wanting traditional in-person doula support. And when they ask for that, I look for an opportunity to talk about Transformational Birth Coaching. I plant tiny seeds with lots of folks and hope that some will sprout.”
What do you perceive as the 3 most valuable things that the Transformational Birth Coach Method course has taught you?
- “Birth is a performance. I love this so much because it beautifully frames for me the intent of the birth giver which is to do well or perform well at birthing. This is the motivation that drives birth givers to seek support. They simply want to learn how to give birth in a way that’s best for them. What they don’t always know is that a lot of the answers to how to birth well lie within. It’s my job as the coach to help uncover what my client already knows. I’m reminded of the time that I hired a physical trainer. I wanted to learn how to exercise in the gym and stay motivated on my own. Over several sessions, the trainer got to know me, my beliefs about working out, and my prior experiences. Along the way, I learned ways to perform well at building exercise into my daily life – a skill that I didn’t have before. In a similar way, birth coaching provides an opportunity for the birth giver to uncover questions they didn’t know they had and to build in practices that will help them achieve their goals.
- Clients lead and the coach follows! The client is the expert in their lives, body, values, and beliefs. The coach is the expert in coaching, leading, and empowering.
- Coaching is messy; I love this too! And I remind myself of it each time that I sit down to have a session. I don’t know where the session will go. I’m not in charge; the clients lead and set the agenda for the conversation. I show up with a lot of curiosity and a few good coaching strategies. It can get messy but is so rich! “
Follow Naima’s work by subscribing to her weekly newsletter – Birth/Werk – where she has created a space for birth workers and birth givers to connect and be inspired.