Today’s profile of Catherine Rivera is part of our series profiling people who work with pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period (prenatal massage therapists, childbirth educators, OB/GYNs, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, labor & delivery nurses, pediatricians, etc.) and are Pagan or work with a Pagan community. Check out the previous Birth Guardian profiles. If you would like to be a part of the series please send an email to paganfamilieseditor@ . Now here’s Catherine’s profile.
What kind of work do you do with pregnancy, birth, or the postpartum period?
I am a birth doula working towards certification. When a woman first contacts me, we arrange a meeting to make sure they know what a doula can and cannot do for them and that we are a good match for each other, kind of like dating. If she and her partner hire me, we get all of the paperwork out of the way in the first prenatal visit. I get to know her and her partner and any children they have so that they are comfortable with me for the remainder of their care. There is nothing weirder than a stranger touching you while you labor. The second prenatal visit consists of some practice laboring, further discussion of their birth plan, and massage and comfort techniques. Once my client is in active labor, I join them in their birth environment, whether it’s their home, the hospital, or a birthing center. I help to create the sacred birthing environment with calm, low lights, aromatherapy, and anything else my client requests. I hold their hand, I rub their back, I can pray with them, I can sing to them, I remind them of their primal strength and miraculous ability to birth their baby. After the birth, I help the mother get established with breastfeeding and I help introduce the new arrival to any older siblings they might have. I make sure the mother is comfortable and settled into her recovery room before I leave. After a few days, I visit the new family in their home and I make sure their breastfeeding relationship is going well. I’ll even hold the baby so they can shower or nap. I will also clean up their house and prepare a meal or two. I always remain available to my clients after that last visit, because parenthood is a journey and it is my honor to walk with them.
In what ways does Paganism affect your work?
The only way that Paganism affects my work is that it enhances the sacred nature of childbirth. It’s not simply a medical event or a natural occurrence for me. It is a sacred event. The Gods have gifted this family with a child, and it is my privilege to honor that gift and honor the mother who was chosen. If the couple is Pagan, I can add more Pagan touches to their care. If the couple is of another religion or no religion at all, I keep it to myself and remain neutral. I pray to the Gods on my way to each meeting and I pray to Isis as I drive to their birth. My faith in the Gods is my source of strength and inspiration.
How can we honor what is sacred in childbearing?
We can honor it by leaving it alone. Our bodies were created in Their wisdom and it knows what to do. If the body fails to do what it was designed to do, the fault lies with human error, not an error in the design. If we can eliminate unnecessary interventions and let the mother be responsible for her birth environment, then we have honored that process.
If you could tell Pagans one thing about pregnancy or birth, what would it be?
Embrace it. Treat it as the sacred gift that it is. Pregnancy may seem like an eternity to the woman, but it should be celebrated. It is such a short period of time compared to your whole life. Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are strange. Do what you want! If you want to paint your face during labor, do it! If you want to wear flowers in your hair, do it! If you want to keep the placenta to bury it and plant a tree, do it! I am there to support your decisions.
You can find Catherine on the web at firstname.lastname@example.org and sunshinedoula.weebly.com. She can also be reached by inquiring mothers on her cell: 717-606-9989