Ninja Doula

When I started this business, my intention was to keep it professional. Share information about baby care, evidence-based birth practices and the importance of postpartum support for parents. Birth, babies and parenting are areas of interest and the occasional obsession I’ve carried throughout my life. I planned to share some personal anecdotes and stories that related to my birth, postpartum or parenting experiences. However, the more I do this work and live out my own life, the more I find “related” content in seemingly unrelated activities.

Four years ago, my oldest son started his karate training. And honestly, it changed our whole family. That son is about to test for his first degree black belt. My middle son and I are on track to earn our black belts together in a couple of years. And the youngest is on track to follow us in his own time. Eventually, my husband may even join us in class, himself. We spend a lot of time at our academy, with fellow students and with our instructors. And we keep adding more classes and events to our calendar. Even though it takes time away from other things. Even though it costs a significant amount of money. Even though the drive is longer than I’d like. We’ve made it work. Because it’s worth it. And I’ll tell you why.

It’s not just because we get a good workout. It’s not because we want to know how to punch and kick and defend ourselves if we have to. That stuff, even though it’s what initially brought us to karate, ended up just being a bonus. The reason we keep getting more and more involved there is because this particular academy is not just about tournaments and trophies. It’s about inspiring confidence in people, which leads to success at LIFE.

Our instructors are all invested in every single student and family that walks through their doors. And you can tell. You can feel it. They are driven by their purpose and their values, prominently displayed on the wall as you walk in. They encourage us to try new things (beyond just the karate moves), to grow, to step out of our comfort zones and make mistakes. They celebrate with us just as much when we fall as when we fly. Because it all has something to teach us.

Honestly, if it hadn’t been for my exposure to these people and this place, I don’t know if I would have had the courage and confidence to start and grow this business myself. I never wanted to be self-employed. I enjoyed having managers and leaders and corporate entities tell me what to do and when to do it. It was comfortable. It’s so much harder to hold myself accountable to myself. And in customer service and in childcare, not being in charge freed me up to connect with people in my own way most of the time. I didn’t have to worry about marketing or sales goals or business taxes or websites or networking. I just showed up, put in my hours, got paid. It was fine.

What karate has been teaching me, however, is that fine is fine, but I’m capable of so much more than fine. With some courage, some self-discipline and inspiration from other successful people who care about my journey and are invested in my growth, I can be exceptional. I can do things that I never thought possible. I can achieve goals I never thought I even wanted. I can even do the same thing for someone else.

I’m learning to communicate better, so that I can inspire confidence in other people better, especially those new parents with whom I work. I’m learning to speak from a place of authority and confidence, but also to modify my tone and body language when appropriate so that I can meet people where they are and help them see where they can go. I am waking up to the world around me, seeing people in new ways and understanding behaviors at new levels.

So that’s a little bit of the story about how my martial arts training has inspired me in my business. But there’s more.

One of our academy’s values is, “We strengthen our community; we leave it better than we found it.” As I have taken more steps into both karate and birth work, I have found my decision making is often influenced by this value. When I make a choice to attend an event, to volunteer for something, to serve a particular client, participate in a fundraiser or intentionally move through my days at school pickup, grocery shopping, church or wherever, I know that I’m making a difference when I keep the strengthening of my community in mind.

There is so much going on in the birth world. There is so much struggle in early parenthood. There are so many issues to address, from the systemic to the personal. By understanding and growing in my own purpose and values, which I have been working to clarify for myself on the karate mats, I feel like I can be part of the solution for these other communities in which I play a role.

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On Thursday, April 25th, my karate school fulfilled the promise from a fundraiser we held on March 9th. We had raised money for the local VA hospital, in order to purchase everything on their seasonal “wish list” for donations. Between the three locations, we raised over $19,000. The community stepped up in a big way. Because of the way people discover their own strength and confidence when they walk through those doors. Because connection is how we survive. Because there is so much need, and generally, the families and students that take martial arts classes are coming from a place of privilege with a desire to improve things around them. Because most people want to make a difference for the better.

We purchased thousands of items and spent an insane amount of money at Target. We filled up the karate vans and delivered boxes and bags filled with things like socks, sheets, soap, shoes and more to the hospital. Local news stations showed up to follow us around as we shopped and to interview some of the instructors and students. And it wasn’t just a publicity stunt to promote karate classes, though of course they want people to come and sign up for a class. But the real goal, the real reason they want everyone to come and “do karate,” is because they want to change lives and help people live up to their potential. To have the courage to do the right thing when it’s not the easy or comfortable thing. To lift others up instead of tearing them down. To connect. To grow. To define and live their own purpose. To change the world. And karate, the way they teach it, does all of this and more.

Would the VA hospital be my personal first choice recipient if I was in charge of putting together this kind of fundraiser? Maybe not. Because obviously my heart is for babies, families, equity in birth care, paid family leave, evidence-based maternity care, reproductive justice, access to affordable and quality healthcare, etc. Actually, that last one would probably include the VA... But as part of a community that includes so many different people from every kind of situation imaginable, I want to do what I can with what I have. I had some money to donate and break some boards with my family at the initial fundraiser event. I had some time on Thursday morning to participate in the shopping experience with my team. It was incredible and meaningful, and I really appreciated the community and collaboration that they intentionally brought together to make it all happen the way that it did.

So I chose to post about it on my business Facebook and Instagram accounts. Because my business is not just about birth and newborn families. My business is to serve my community, which for me, focuses my talents and interests on those particular areas. My business is also about me. My business IS me. And my martial arts journey is a HUGE part of who I am and why I do what I do, say what I say, choose what I choose. Karate applies to every single aspect of my life. When I’m on the mat and especially when I’m off it. And when something has impacted my life in such a way as this, changing and improving nearly every facet of my being, well, it’s relevant. So I have to share it.