©Courney Paige Ray
When I was 13 years old I watched in awe as my older sister gave birth at a birth center with the support of midwives. As I sat at the end of the bed with a perfect vantage point I witnessed the most miraculous thing I could imagine. The perfection of women’s bodies and the whole process inspired me not only in my own birth experiences but also as a girl blossoming into a woman. The moment so profoundly inspired me that it would eventually shape not just my perspective on birth, but my career path as well.
When I found myself pregnant for the first time I immediately without much thought checked my insurance for a providing physician and began my care with him. Several months into the process as I was reading Suzanne Arms, Immaculate Deception, it dawned on me that there were other options…I had witnessed them with my sister many years before. I opened up the phone book and found a local birth center. Because of my naiveté I did not realize what a blessing I had stumbled upon. There was a team of midwives that lovingly prepared me for my birth and what my rights were should I need to be in the hospital at any point. After a 36 hour labor and 5 hours of pushing…the decision to transport was made…in disbelief there I was on my way to the hospital. I experienced many of the common interventions. Epidural, episiotomy, forceps, post-birth separation, no skin to skin contact, delayed breast feeding, etc. At the time I couldn’t understand as a young healthy woman how I ended up there. However, 25 years later as I look back I realize that was because I would be working with so many families in and out of the hospital system, and that personal perspective was invaluable.
Eight and eleven years later I had two beautiful home births. The care I received during this time was transformative, the time they took with me at each appointment to answer every question and concern, the support they gave me as a woman when I felt shaky in my relationship the confidence that they had for me even when I didn’t that my body could do this…that I could do this…was invaluable. I was shocked with my second pregnancy doing concurrent care how vastly different my visits were with the OB and with my midwives…again I am so happy to have had that experience because it gives me such and informed perspective of what families are enduring in attempting to have their babies in the most natural way possible.
When I found myself a single mom shortly after the birth of my third child, I joined the office staff of that same team. With babe in tow…I supported the midwives in providing loving care to families. What I experienced there as a staff member was a working business model that was vastly different from any other I had ever experienced in my 15+ years in corporate administrative, retail, food service and hospitality industries.
Inspired I left that team to begin my own venture The Nest Center & The Nest Family Foundation. A community center and non-profit organization designed to support growing families. During this time I served families as a parent educator and lactation peer counselor. We were awarded a grant from First 5 of Los Angeles. This allowed us to supported hundreds of families via community events & workshops including; birth options, Quality Parenting, Prenatal & Postpartum Nutrition, Attachment Parenting Skills and Baby Wearing to name a few.
In 2007, I began following my dream to become an entrepreneur and open the only free standing birth center in Los Angeles. With no outside investments we manifested the only center of its kind in the entire country. At the heart of this innovative center was the vision to “Transform the way birth is managed and perceived in this country”.
I am humbled and honored that we were able to provide this amazing center for families. It was born in my living room from my dreams as a client, merging my passions for Sustainability, Birth Options, and Empowering Individuals together into one beautiful project. We created a large group practice and brought to fruition all that we envisioned with a yoga studio, eco-boutique, birth and wellness center and a non-profit program to subsidize those in need. We supported and educated thousands of families provided, out of hospital birthing choices, supported “radical” birth plans such as breech, twins, VBA3C, families traveling from other states and countries. It afforded me the opportunity to worked closely with many of my birth heroes, Dr. Stuart Fischbein, Ricki Lake, Marina Alcuzar, Aleks Evangeulidi, Constance Rock, Suzanne Arms, Elliot Berlin and many many more talented midwives and educators. At the end of it all, with as many beautiful acknowledgements we received for the community we created, I realized I was longing for the small intimate, hands off, traditional midwifery practice that had supported me during my pregnancies and I longed to practice this way with my clients. The Sanctuary thrived for many years. We closed the center in 2015, allowing me to pursue yet another long held dream of becoming a midwife myself and starting a small home birth practice. Studying under both Dr. Fischbein (LA's only home birth obstetrician) and many skilled midwives, I was fortunate to learn the art of midwifery in addition to the unique skill of delivering Breech, Twins and VBACs.
Currently I support families on their journey as a home birth midwife, childbirth educator, placenta encapsulator, and a natural birth and family consultant.
At the heart of all of my work is a deeply rooted belief in the brilliant design of our bodies, the symbiotic relationship between baby and mother, the power of the human spirit and the richness that honoring birth as a rite of passage and resurrecting lost traditions can bring to our high tech low touch lives.
Even if you don't see yourself as a "home birth mama" but something your reading resonates with what you are wanting for this experience, please reach out. Lets sit over a cup of tea and brainstorm all the possibilities of how you can harvest the beauty and joy that is possible in this time in your life that is rich with opportunities for transformation. In this day and age we have "jobs" but I am the communities midwife and my greatest joy (besides actually catching babies) is supporting a woman in understanding her options and seizing her power. I would be honored to be part of your journey in any way.