Doula Coordinator, Traditional Birth Attendant, M.A.N.A Pasefika
The most disturbing was the ways that certain individuals and institutions operated with an agenda disguised as being in “mom’s and baby’s best interests” without even being aware of their own biases. I’ve always had a strong BS detector and the more I learned about the history and current state of maternal and infant care in the United States, the more my detector was going off.
Back in 2013, I worked for some years as an apprentice midwife in a free-standing birth center in Southern Arizona where I learned to trust the natural unfolding of labor. Thanks to my mentor, Diane Elizabeth Gregg, I was quickly receiving babies and conducting prenatal appointments. In doing so, I saw that what felt supportive to these families — more than technical skills — was someone who could communicate with them, someone who would take the time to sit and process through their options, someone who believed in their capacity to birth. I’ll always remember the midwife telling me how she’d seen birthing people change over the years, how there was more fear now and more complications.
I never knew that I could do this kind of work with my own people. Because I’d been raised in that special immigrant way of both highly regarding our traditional culture, while also absorbing that it was antiquated and that “We do things differently now.” Connecting to culture and making my way in the world seemed mutually impossible. I was blessed to spend several years learning about other healing systems from amazing mentors and elders, and had accepted being the Pasefika doula unicorn of the BIPOC birth community. Then, SisterWeb called.
SisterWeb San Francisco Community Doula Network is an organization committed to providing culturally compatible perinatal support and resources to Black, Latinx, and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander (NHPI) families birthing in the City. We work with and within the institutions to shift the culture to one that is safer and more supportive for our communities. I started out working with just one other Pacific Islander doula — the first I’d ever met! — and together we started M.A.N.A. Pasefika.
M.A.N.A. stands for Maintaining Ancestral kNowledge & Autonomy, which encompasses just about everything I want for our people. M.A.N.A. Pasefika provides wraparound doula services — prenatal care and education, labor and birth support, postpartum care, and care for pregnancy loss or termination — to NHPI families birthing in San Francisco.
I quickly realized, though, that because our people are so mobile, having descended from wayfarers that regularly crossed oceans, we had to be able to offer services beyond the city, so we’ve expanded to hosting monthly prenatal and postpartum support groups for all Pasefika people regardless of where they live. I also tell people to send their pregnant and birthing folks to me, because even if we can’t be their doula, I want to touch base, connect them to resources. and make sure they know that they have someone to call for questions, resources, and the occasional second opinion.
Beyond M.A.N.A. I am an active member of the San Francisco Pacific Islander Maternal Advisory Board. I also serve on the API Breastfeeding Taskforce, PTBi’s Community Advisory Board, and Expecting Justice’s and the Abundant Birth Project’s Steering Committees.
I am currently working towards becoming a lactation consultant. In addition, I take private doula clients with Masina Fou Birth Services — and am one half of Alofa Mai Pacific Birth, a partnership with my Samoan doula sister Leonora. On the side, I also encapsulate placentas… I will rest someday!
BIG shout out to my partner Bexx for supporting me in E V E R Y way, and all thanks to my ancestors for giving me the spark and the strength to make it all happen.
Over the years, I’ve come to see how the state of birth and maternal and infant health is really just an extension of the ongoing colonization of BIPOC people which strives to keep us separate from our land, our languages, our bodies and our spirits. Pregnancy, birth, the postpartum are opportunities for our people to recalibrate themselves — and the coming generations — into an alignment away from the colonial machine and into a deeper relationship with the rhythms and cycles of our planet.
I did not choose this work but I humbly accept the call and I am grateful for the ways that we — the families, the community, the cultures — get to heal here. It feels heavy, at times, but “heavy” like thick with the hopes and dreams of ancestors, “heavy” like fertile soil, “heavy” like a wave rolling in to shore, and I give thanks for the ways I am being pushed every day to clear and connect myself to source, to serve to the best of my ability.