Inspirational Interview: Courtneay Zeek CPM, LM | Charlotte Nicole - Photographer, Doula & Educator in Houston, TX
I love this description of midwifery that Courtneay uses on her website:
"The Lancet defines Midwifery as: skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate care for childbearing women, newborn infants and families across the continuum of pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the early weeks of life.
Core characteristics include: optimizing normal biological, psychological, social, and cultural processes of reproduction and early life; timely prevention and management of complications; consultation with and referral to other services; respect for women's individual circumstances and views; and working in partnership with to strengthen women's own capabilities to care for themselves and their families.”
There is a huge shift in birth culture, and it’s coming full force. That shift begins with women like Courtneay, making waves with her whole heart and pursuing her passions to make a positive impact in the world.
At my core, I'm a passionate individual who lives my life out chasing truth, making waves in the area of my purpose boldly and unapologetically. I'm the wife to an equally passionate and driven man, and the mother of three wild boys.
Urban Birth. There are SO many titles. I am a midwife and a doula, a motherhood and birth consultant, a counselor and a confidant. I'll never forget several years ago when I was faced with the tough decision of whether or not I would continue on the midwifery track, when a good friend commented that I could always just stick with education or doula work because, she said, at my core I'm a woman's adovocate, and boy, was she right!
Although I own a solo midwifery practice, I am hardly a “one man show.” I lean heavily on the birth community as a whole, making referrals and working along side other fantastic birth workers.
Typically while in my care you'll be exposed to doulas, birth photographers, childbirth educators, and a secondary midwife assistant at your birth.
My inspiration to pursue midwifery was born out of my first birth experience. After a short 26 week pregnancy, I found myself camped out in the NICU for four months with a 1 pound preemie, and THE very best primary nurse I could have ever asked for. As a young first time mom who didn't know any better, I would have allowed any and every procedure "the doctor said" to be done, thinking it only in his best interest.
My son's nurse took time to inform me, and strongly encouraged that I not only educate myself so I could advocate for my child, but also to seek alternatives.
On my path to seeking those, I discovered midwifery, and fell in love. I just knew that if I had been exposed to the type of education and care provided by a midwife, that I would have made a lot of different choices during my pregnancy leading up to my delivery, and I wanted to be able to offer that support and education to other women.
It's that look on a woman's face when she's finally done it, and realized what she just did, and what that means. The "aha" moments when something clicks for a mother, sister, father, or other part of the birthing family, when they finally get something that's a trajectory changer.
It's the breaking of barriers, the healing of a confused culture one family at a time. It's the lessons the mothers themselves teach me. Really, the inspiration comes everywhere, and often in the most unexpected circumstances.
The training to attain expert status never really ends, but is rather an ongoing process. I've been in healthcare in some shape or form since I was 15. My educational journey was 5 years long with breaks in between and the births of two of my three children in the process.
I'm a traditionally trained midwife through the apprenticeship model, and along the way have attended several modules from midwifery training programs, workshops, have self-studied, acquired, poured over and thumbed through 25+ Midwifery Textbooks, have attended over 300 births in varying capacities, and passed the nationally recognized NARM Exam.
Elizabeth Davis says midwifery is as much of an art as it is a science. The science is the easy part, learning the basics, skills, advancing knowledge through research, etc. It's within the art side that the making of an expert happens, and really it's an expert in creative thinking. See, in addition to the above there are missed holidays, birthdays, countless hours of no sleep, and for myself in particular attending the delivery of someone else's baby two weeks after my own cesarean and uterine rupture (which I do not recommend by the way.)
It's really those times when the pressure is high that the most growth happens, one sees what they are made of, the truest lessons are learned, and the strength to do more and be more becomes known.
It's been said, if you want to change the world, start with yourself. I think it starts at home. Putting the power back into the hands of mothers everywhere changes how we view women and how women view themselves and their immeasurable worth. This gets passed down generation by generation and effects how our children are raised, and what they are taught to believe. When you change beliefs you impact community as a whole.
There's still some misconceptions about midwifery out there, and especially around homebirth. Although the our birth culture is changing for the better, the biggest challenge is getting mainstream acceptance and integration by the larger medical community.
Traditionally trained midwives can still be given a really hard time by some hospitals and their staff. This is constantly changing and getting better with time and education about what midwives are and the necessary roles we provide, and for that I am grateful.
Bearing witness to the remarkable transformation that takes places as a woman becomes reacquainted with or sees for the first time her own strength and how that impacts her entire worldview.
I am here to walk with women through some of the most vulnerable and powerful times in their lives. I'm transparent with what I know and will educate and inform accordingly. I can't and don't guarantee outcomes, experiences, or anything else, because this is life, and as such there are no guarantees.
Sometimes what we stand for can better be defined by what we don't. I could easily tangent off on a massive soapbox of my irritation surrounding some of the current cultural practices of withholding pertinent education, under or falsely informing to retain or hold power over people, and always with bottom dollar in mind. Or equally as grotesque, the over use of ridiculous language surrounding birth that unfairly draws families in, and sets up unreal expectations of some perceived way things should or are going to happen. What is that? Who defines that? What images are being invoked? Can we just be honest?
There are so many other actual truths that can be spoken to create a more realistic mindset. If I take you on as a client, you are carefully qualified, and are an active participant who assumes responsibility for every choice you make. I honor my part by looking after you in the capacity that I am hired to do so.
Most importantly, I walk beside you as you as you navigate the winding journey toward motherhood, from pregnancy, through the wild, raw unpredictable nature of labor and the birth of your child, and the birth of you as the mother to that child. I do so knowing that it's not because I am needed, but because I too have been vetted and chosen to be the ideal person in your space.
I fill a gap in community, where low risk, expectant families with strong ideas that defy the norm can come and be lovingly provided with modern alternatives, cared for without judgment or pretense, learn, make informed decisions, be active participants, and exercise their bodily autonomy.
How doesn't it? It impacts it in both hilarious and deeply meaningful ways. On one hand I have 3 little boys who are super educated and not afraid to use the correct anatomical terminology, even if it's in the middle of Wal-Mart and merits a few head turns and scoffs. There's been lots of questions and discussions--one time, one of my sons likened the miraculous stretching abilities of the vagina to a rubber band. The boys are familiar with cervical dilation and can somewhat equate it to how long until Mommy gets home.
But on a more serious note, it impacts me personally as I see my boys constantly being exposed to the normality of birth and the intricacies of the female body. In a time where our over sexualized culture gets it so backwards, I'll never have to worry about my boys having the wrong ideas surrounding women. They won't grow up thinking any function of a woman's body is gross or taboo, that we are subordinate or here only to gratify their felt needs. They know better and are learning just how much value women hold and how much they should be respected.
There are so many that have shaped my vision and changed me, but, I'll leave you with this beautiful piece that gorgeously compliments the work I do, the mission I'm on, and what I strive to offer:
“We need women who are so strong they can be gentle,
so educated they can be humble,
so fierce they can be compassionate,
so passionate they can be rational,
and so disciplined they can be free.”
Houston is blessed to have some incredible out of hospital birth support options, and Urban Birth is no exception. Courtneay cares about how women and families enter motherhood, and that they are active participants in their pregnancy, birth and motherhood choices and experiences.
Are you a local business owner in the greater Houston area? Do you provide a service that supports women and families throughout pregnancy, birth and/or postpartum,? Let’s collaborate! Get in touch with me about applying for your Inspirational Interview today!