March Member Highlight – Avira Wenn

Every month a VBN member will be chosen for a Member Highlight, and this month, Avira Wenn has been chosen. Hope you enjoy learning about Avira and her services!

Name: Avira Wennavirasmall
Business Name: Sacred Path Birth Services
Services: Birth Doula, Belly Casting
Website: www.sacredpathbirth.com
Contact Info: sacredpathdoula@gmail.com

Tell us about yourself, your family (if you’d like), and where you originate:

I was born and raised in southern California (Thousand Oaks) and moved as far north in California as you can go (almost) when I was 18. I lived in Mt. Shasta/Redding area for 5 years, where I met my soul-mate Karl. We started a family shortly, and moved to the central coast for greater opportunity. We kind of moved around all over, we lived in Atascadero, Pismo Beach, but stayed in Cambria the longest, for about 5 years. There we raised our two children Elijah (now 12) and Kaiya (7) until we relocated here to the Central Valley/Three Rivers area. It was supposed to be a 6 month pit stop, but here we are 4 years later 🙂 Eventually we’re thinking that the Bay Area is calling our name, as it’s the only region in California we have left to experience!

Describe your business/services:

I am a Birth Doula, or professional labor support, with a certification pending with DONA International. I offer physical, emotional, and informational support to families during pregnancy and birth. I also offer belly casting.

What is a typical working day like for you?

A typical day as a doula involves meeting clients in their homes for prenatal meeting where we establish their priorities for their birth. We get to know each other and determine the types of support that will be useful to them for their upcoming birth. Prenatal visits include Childbirth education, lots of discussion/answering questions, addressing areas of special concern and developing strategies for creating optimal birth experiences (birth plan), demonstration of comfort measures that both the partner or I can perform, relaxation techniques, and more. These meetings are very customized to individual client needs. And then of course the birth day is the longest working day! I arrive when a mom decides she’s ready for me to come, and I stay and support her through the entirety of her birth by use of various comfort measures, relaxation techniques, emotional encouragement etc. I support the partner in supporting mom also. I serve as an objective source who can offer suggestions for how the partner can provide comfort/support to mom, help to remember the mother’s preferences when things get intense and difficult to remember, and fill in for the partner when they need a break, especially useful in a long labor. Labors often begin in the middle of the night, and are really long (like 10+ hrs). My muscles, voice get pretty tired and sore, I get totally exhausted, but I love every single second of it!

What inspired you to start in this line of work?

It’s hard to say what exactly was the major influence for me. I had two awesome, empowering, non-medicated birth experiences with the care of CNM”s at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo. But I did sense a missing ingredient during both my births. Although my husband supported me, I really desired a nurturing female support as well. Even though the CNM was there (towards the end) she wasn’t really THERE for me. I felt as there was no one in that room who REALLY knew what I was going through and I did, in a way, feel very alone in it. I think somehow that I might long to provide what I felt was missing from my births. I am starting to understand also that my mother’s birth with me was difficult. The cord was wrapped around my neck multiple times. My mother was told to wait and not follow her body’s instincts to push, but to wait for the doctor to arrive, for a prolonged period of time. I’m assuming that there was a good amount of stress, fear, and anxiety surrounding my own birth, possibly in the realm of birth trauma. I think it’s very possible that my desire to work as a doula and help provide other mothers positive birth experiences is part of my own process of working through my possibly traumatic birth.

Did you have any hesitations or fears before starting? If so, what has helped you along the way?

I have felt the calling to do this work ever since my first child’s birth, in 2002. It has taken me 12 years to really tackle it and turn it into a reality. I think I did definitely have fears about whether I “could” do a good job at it. What if I did not know enough? Say or do the right thing? It’s such a vulnerable moment for a mom and family, I have definitely had my reservations about believing I could really be a benefit to a mom in that moment. It’s taken a good amount of self confidence to blaze forward and trust in the calling I’ve felt for this long. Information has most definitely been my vice. My DONA training workshop, networking and leaning into other doulas for support, reading, reading, and more reading has given me tremendous strength. I’ve also had some awesome cheerleaders along the way, continually affirming “You’d make an AWESOME doula!” and that has really helped. It’s super encouraging to hear those kinds of statements!

What is a fun fact about you? Something most people don’t know?

Hah! LOL, well it’s fun to know that my husband and I are pretty nomadic. I’ve moved almost 40 times in my life. We even bought a double decker bus with the intent to turn it into an RV (another story for a rainy day) which is parked out front our house! We still continue to dream of increased mobility, but I’m also noticing that every year I seem to get a little more “grounded”. We even discuss the real possibility of owning our own house in the near future, which if you know us, is absolutely crazy.

What made you decide to join VBN?

Visalia Birth Network is a manifestation that came from my heart of desiring a circle of support, not only for myself, but for all childbearing families in our area. I was so aghast when I moved here that when you Googled “birth resources Visalia”, the only search results were the county records! Why was there no group, no network of professionals pooling their resources and offering support?? Even though I was only an aspiring doula, I just couldn’t stand that thought and began to round up a circle. The first was Valley Doula Group, where some of us newly trained doulas got together with some wise and experienced doulas to learn, share, and support each other. There I met Denise Stricklind, a fellow Doula and talented Childbirth/Newborn Photographer, who was all aboard on my mission to create a birth network in Visalia! From the late summer of 2012 on, Denise and I have been the brain of VBN, trying to figure how to grow and be of most value to our community. We have now grown to an amazing group of over 19 members, offering free educational monthly meetings, and bringing some incredible events to Visalia like a Bold Red Tent (coming this Spring) and the national Improving Birth Rally! VBN is our own gestating baby, and we are so proud of it’s progress and maturity 🙂

What changes (in the realm of pregnancy/birth) would you like to see come to fruition in our area?

Oh wow, that’s a big one.
I would LOVE to see more support in the arena of natural childbirth. I would like to see more awareness of the Midwifery Model of Care. I wish more people knew that the Midwifery Model of Care has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma, and cesarean section. I feel we need more midwives. The Fresno and Bakersfield midwives have to travel so far to support Visalia area families, and for rapid births, well… that’s tough. We have only 1 CNM doing hospital deliveries in Visalia. She is amazing and SO supporting of families desiring a low intervention birth but she is only one person, and from what I see, extremely busy.

I would love to see more Evidence Based Birth Practices in the hospital. More and more families are learning that some standard hospital base procedures can me more of a hindrance than a help. For example, continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cesarean section and instrumental vaginal births but has NOT been shown to improve maternal or fetal outcomes, and greatly inhibits a mother’s mobility in labor. http://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-based-fetal-monitoring/ I’m seeing that more and more women are wanting to birth in a comfortable and trusting environment, cared for by providers who they trust to intervene only when vitally necessary. I think a Birth Center is GREATLY needed in our area.

What is something (tip, info, advice) that you wish EVERYONE knew?

I wish EVERYONE knew that there are proven benefits to having continuous labor support! Some of these benefits include increased mother/infant bonding, improved breastfeeding success, and a mother’s improved satisfaction with her birth experience. Although the role of a doula is non-medical, numerous studies have shown that labors with the caring support of a doula lead to fewer medical interventions, including cesarean sections. According to a summary of the findings, doula-supported women are: 28% less likely to have a cesarean section, 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed up labor, 9% less likely to use any pain medication, and 34% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively.

I also wish EVERYONE knew that first time mothers have approximately twice (50% increased chance!) the likelihood of having a cesarean section when synthetic induction (pitocin) is used to initiate labor when compared with mothers who waited for the natural onset of labor. That is a fact that is sadly very hidden.

What are your personal and/or professional goals?

I am constantly consumed with trying to determine my future path!! I know for sure it will involve women’s health and birth. A long term goal is to have a career in midwifery. I am constantly debating the road to either CNM or CPM. That is a hard choice!! In the meantime I’m trying to prioritize the next smaller step. There are a thousand things I’m interested in. At the present moment I’m looking into becoming a certified childbirth educator, a lactation counselor/educator, a Blessingway (as opposed to the traditional baby shower) facilitator, a certified bereavement doula, certified postpartum doula, and certified aromatherapist! I know I can’t do it all at once so I’m slowly taking my time in determining my next move.

Do any previous VBN meetings/events stand out to you that you especially enjoyed? Why? What is your hope/vision for the future of VBN?

It’s hard to pick ONE meeting or event, as they’ve all been individually special to me. I’d say a key moment for me was last years’ Big Latch On, where we brought the first one to Visalia. I was interviewed by the the local paper and Zachary Newcott did a great blog/video about our event. The Improving Birth Rally was really awesome, as it’s message is so important! It was so cool to have KSEE Fresno come out and do a story on us. That made it to the evening news which brought the message to an even larger audience… so cool! I also loved our Cloth Diapering/Baby Wearing Expo last year, where Jocelyn Corera did such a great job demonstrating how to use cloth diapering in this day and age. The turnout was huge and the energy was so great! I would have given an arm to have a free educational meeting like that at my disposal (no pun intended) when mine were in diapers!

My hope/vision for VBN is that it continues to serve as a circle of support and resources in our area! I would like to see a greater amount of professionals network together who care about the wellbeing of families during the perinatal period. I know I won’t always be here in this area, and I really hope people are there to carry the torch after I leave. I also hope more community members continue to find out about the benefits and support VBN offers, continue to attend meetings, and bring their friends. We love having meetings that are interesting and helpful to moms and families. We love having big turnouts, and the buzz from all the participants meeting and talking afterwards is great!

“FREE SPACE”. Have a link you’d like us to share? Anything else you’d like to mention?:

Feel free to visit my personal website at sacredpathbirth.com to learn about me and the benefits of doula services!

Categories: Membership

4 Comments

  • Barbara Woodley says:

    I enjoyed reading this Avira, and you are an amazing doula! I feel so blessed that I was able to have you by my side during birth. You are doing great things!

  • Coleen Salazar says:

    Thank you for sharing about yourself Avira! I have enjoyed watching you grow in confidence and knowledge of how to best support women and families in our area. You are truely called to do this work. Baby steps my friend! I know you will continue to make an incredible difference in our community for as long your nomatic self allows you to bless us!

  • Admin says:

    Awww I love and truly appreciate both of you ladies, you’ve both played a part in positively impacting my path. You are both so dear to me. xo ~Avira

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