The first seed of conception was planted in 2014 while I was a live-in nanny for a family in Marin County, California. The mother I was working for was pregnant with her third child in 3 years and labored at home until the last possible minute, arriving at the hospital just to push and deliver her baby. I was in awe of her strength, tenacity, and intuitive trust in the process. While I stayed home with the toddlers, I kept thinking “I will be supporting people through labor, delivery, and recovery one day.” At that point, I did not have a clear vision or deep enough belief in myself to pursue doula entrepreneurship. Now as a full-time birth and postpartum doula and perinatal yoga teacher, I see a similar doubt, fear, and uncertainty arise in my clients during the first trimester of pregnancy and often the first few weeks (or ‘fourth trimester’) after they’ve birthed their baby.
When I zoom out on my greater life’s purpose and story, it’s crystal clear… I’ve been enamored with pregnancy, birth, babies, breastfeeding, and ancestral traditions since I was a baby myself. I just couldn’t see the viable career path until I had graduated college with a degree in psychology and holistic health and had exhausted other options. I was struggling to make ends meet by nannying and teaching yoga. I applied to corporate jobs but never got a single call back. Although I loved teaching and working with babies, I felt a constant lackluster, depressed energy in my day-to-day grind. I worked with mentors in the birth world and followed dozens of birth accounts on Instagram, but it truly took years and several paradigm shifts within to visualize making it work for me and taking the next inspired action.
After years of running around NYC and the Hudson Valley providing high-quality postpartum and childcare to families of all configurations, I was burning out. I had little time to take care of myself and knew if I was going to follow the call of my heart and start attending births, I needed to reconfigure my entire life. First things first, I needed a business and branding doula to guide me in up-leveling my online identity and services to create a sustainable career.
This felt like the second trimester in my business gestation: a humbling moment of pause, admitting that I couldn’t do it all alone. I outsourced and invested in professionals I vibed with and trusted to guide me through this transition, this initiation of sorts. The soul-led, female-founded creative agency pushed me to charge more, restructure my offerings beyond an hourly wage and get in touch with the bigger picture. They helped me believe in my innate power to birth a brand new way of relating to myself and my career. I immediately started getting more yoga clients and was hired for every postpartum gig I interviewed for.
It was time to continue my education so I consciously chose a birth doula training that stood out from the rest: Mama Glow! I was specifically looking for a training program that prioritizes Black birthing bodies, activism, ancestral and maternal wisdom, spirituality, and ritual. Most of my childcare and postpartum experience was in serving upper-middle-class white families but it was clear to me that I did not enter this field to serve one demographic. I entered this field to be an advocate, to provide compassionate, affirming, life and soul-saving care to ALL birthing people.
Similar to my third-trimester clients, I was ready to learn, nest, and learn some more in the homestretch of launching my full-time doula business. I took all of the trainings and workshops I could find within my budget, soaked up all the information, techniques, and protocols I could. While I was confident in my ability to teach yoga and show up for families in the postpartum period, I was still unsure if I was capable and strong enough to be a birth doula. The Mama Glow Birth Doula training propelled me into a new dimension of confidence and support. During a year of self-isolation and financial insecurity, I found a sense of community that helped me labor, push and deliver my doula business into the world.
I won’t sugar coat it, those first few weeks/months post-launch I was shaky, irritable, and awkward trying to find my footing. There were many meetings that ended in “Sorry, we’ve decided to go with someone more experienced,” or with no response at all. There were ugly cry phone calls with my mom wondering if it was all worth it and if I’d ever actually attend a birth. When I managed to close my eyes and listen to the guidance of my ancestors and all of the birth workers before me, I was able to access patience, trust, and acceptance. I tapped into something greater than myself that said “rejection is protection: the births, your clients, your time will come.” Through deep mental reprogramming, announcing my services on social media and to friends and family, joining a few referral agencies, and continuing to show up, I began booking clients. The births started rolling in, postpartum work became more fulfilling because I was being paid appropriately for my energy and experience, people I admired reached out to me to collaborate.
I have the freedom of creating my own schedule (besides births, babies come when babies want to come!), new consultations and clients sending me signed contracts weekly and the deepest sense of belonging I’ve ever experienced.
To build a business from the ground up is the very essence of birth. Whether you dreamt about and planned your birth of something new for decades or you accidentally fell into entrepreneurship, building a sustainable business requires the same patience, grit, softening, strengthening, community, and collaboration that childbirth calls for. There have been many times over the years I’ve doubted my ability to birth a profitable, socially-driven business and I’m sure there will be times in the future I waver as I continue to expand and grow but one thing I know for sure… We were born to create. We were born to expand. To challenge cultural and medical conditioning. To honor our essential need for self-care while fulfilling our life’s deepest calling. To rise into greater consciousness while remembering the messages from our grandmothers’ and their mothers’ and their mothers’ birth stories. We were born to link arms in birth and business alike.
Claire Koepke (she/her) is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Pleasure Coach, and Yoga Teacher. With over a decade of yoga teaching and nannying experience, paired with a psychology degree (focusing on families and children under 5) and extensive doula training, Claire arrives thoroughly prepared to support families of all configurations and backgrounds. In all of her work, she calls on evidence-based practices, mindfulness, intuition, humor, deep listening, and compassion.