Amanda Hardy Hillman, PhD, LPC, CD(DONA), ICCE
Mandi is a Co-Founder of Iowa Birth Organization, and Owner of Gentle Beginnings Birth Services. She is a board member with ImprovingBirth.org and also serves in leadership with several other birth related organizations.
Throughout my first pregnancy in 2007, I had planned and prepared for an un-medicated
birth. I found I was frequently silenced by society and by the end of my pregnancy felt quite isolated in being able to discuss birth in any sort of positive light. After achieving my goal – with a ten and half pound baby, mind you – I was confident those who had tried to silence me would certainly want to
hear about my success. Much to my surprise I was again silenced and marginalized. “You just don’t remember what it was like.” “There’s no prize for not having medication.” “You just have a high pain
tolerance.” More isolation. After that, I decided to become a doula. I figured that if I was able to be one positive voice out there–for just one more woman–that would be enough. After attending my first birth, I was hooked. During this pregnancy, I was working as a mental health professional. Specifically, I was working with children and families dealing with varying degrees of attachment trauma. After becoming a doula and working in birth I started to notice a pattern. My clients had traumatic birth stories. My worlds were colliding. Could there be a connection between how we enter this world (our births) and how we act and feel years later? Around the time I was first beginning to explore the idea of a possible relationship between our birth experiences and attachment, I had entered graduate school again to pursue my doctorate. Throughout my course of study I plunged myself into this topic –approaching it from various theoretical perspectives. My dissertation study, The United State of Birth: A Feminist Critique of Birth in America, was an exploration into women’s maternity care experiences and the ways in which these experiences are internalized. I began my study using a feminist perspective to thoroughly explore the history of birth in America. I like to say that I study “how we got here and what it means for moms and babies now that we are here.” My professional work, as well as my research, has led me to the place I am today: a passionate advocate for human rights in childbirth.
Michelle Gossen, LMHC-t
Michelle is a wife, mom, helper and birth enthusiast. She works for Orchard Place Child Guidance Center as a therapist and has a background in Early Childhood Education. Michelle has been studying perinatal mood disorders and is now serving mothers in her private practice, Hope Renewed. As the vice president of Iowa Birth Organization, Michelle is passionate about improving care for pregnant, birthing and postpartum moms in our state.
“It was empowering to birth my son, my way. I am so grateful, for the experience and all of the people who helped me to make it happen, that I want to make that kind of birth available to everyone. But, do I want everyone to have the exact same birth as me? Do I think there is only one way to have a positive birth? No and no. What do I want? I want women to be informed about all of their options, the benefits and risks of choosing an intervention or avoiding it. I want them to know that their body is not broken; it knows how to birth their baby. And then, knowing all of that, I want them to make their own choices. Oh, and one more thing… I want them to be supported. I mean by everyone: birth professionals, family and community. I imagine a world where women have cesarean births (but, yes, less of them), home births, birth center births, hospital births, intervention free births, intervention-as-needed births and then come home to breast feed or pump or formula feed and NO ONE makes them feel guilty about it. Will we still feel guilty? Yes, we’re moms. We’re always going to wonder: Could I do more? Could I do better? Am I doing everything possible for this precious baby? But what a relief would it be, if the only voice questioning us was the one in our own head? The one voice we can shush. That’s what I want. I want you to know your options, trust your body, make your choices and have support. You have my support and the rest of them… well, I’m working on it;)”
Andrea, owner of Blessings Photography and Birth Services and mother of two little girls, is Iowa Birth Organization’s Treasurer.
Andrea became passionate about the total birth experience after giving birth to her first daughter in 2010. Shortly after, Andrea started her doula journey and completed her childbirth education certification. She teaches “Spiritual Birth”, a Christian childbirth education class in Des Moines, Iowa. Andrea is grateful to be able to stay home with Lauren (3) and Quinn (1) in between births
and classes and is married to husband Dustin.
Working with her birth clients, Andrea really focuses on encouraging mamas and dads to work together to create their birth journey and really become a part of it. Birth is transformative and effects the rest of our lives. It should be honored, acknowledged, and experienced.
“My wish is that birthing parents care about their birth journey and feel empowered enough to realize their wishes can and should be heard. I want moms and dads to be aware of the choices they have and in control of the choices they make, and hire care providers who respect this.”
Melissa is the mother of a daughter born in October 2010, an early childhood consultant for the state of Iowa, DONA certified birth doula, Roots prenatal yoga certified instructor, and an Iowa Birth Organization board member.
Melissa has had an interest in pregnancy and birth since elementary school, which blossomed into a passion when she began training to become a certified doula in 2010. After the birth of her daughter, the passion to educate and support women and families during pregnancy and birth grew even stronger. This
passion, combined with her personal yoga practice led her to also pursue prenatal yoga instructor certification.
Melissa’s priority around birth is to provide information to women and families so they can make informed decisions about their maternity care. It is her belief that if women are making their own informed decisions, even if their birth is nothing like they had planned, it will be remembered positively because they were empowered in the experience.
“Learning to be empowered and a self-advocate during pregnancy is an important skill to hone for the rest of your life as a parent.”