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On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with birth doula and EBB’s program team assistant, Rikki Jenkins about empowering expectant families through birth and lactation support.

Rikki Jenkins, pronouns (she/her) is a certified birth doula and lactation counselor. Rikki holds a bachelor’s of science degree in maternal child health with an emphasis in human lactation and social justice. Rikki is the co-creator of Heart and Sol Collective, an inclusive pregnancy support center, where she hosts support groups and teaches childbirth education and lactation classes to expectant parents. Rikki also serves as a board member for the Southern Nevada Breastfeeding Coalition and provides all-inclusive services to expectant families and birth professionals virtually in the greater Las Vegas Valley and surrounding areas. 

We talk about how Rikki got started in birth work and how she transitioned into being an empowering support to the families in her community. We also talk about Rikki’s passion to help her community wearing many “birth working hats” such as being an EBB instructor as well as pushing herself to further her goals in the professional world of lactation.

Content Warning: We mention COVID and birth trauma.

Resources

Learn more about Rikki Jenkins and Heart and Sol Collective here. Follow Heart and Sol Collective on Facebook and Instagram

Find an EBB Childbirth Class here:  https://evidencebasedbirth.com/childbirth-class/.

Transcript

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Hi, everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with birth doula and EBB’s program team assistant, Rikki Jenkins about empowering expectant families through birth and lactation support.

Rebecca Dekker:

Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Hi, everyone. My name is Iya Mystique Faodugun. Pronouns: they, she, and I will be your host for today’s episode. Today, we are so excited to welcome EBB’s own programs team assistant Rikki Jenkins to talk about empowering expectant families through birth and lactation support. Before we begin to interview Rikki, I want to let you know that there are some detail or maybe some detail, content, or trigger warnings. And if so, we’ll post them in the description or in our show notes that go along with this episode. So now I would like to introduce you to our honored guest.

 

Rikki Jenkins, pronouns, she, her, is a certified birth doula and lactation counselor. Rikki holds a bachelor’s of science degree in maternal child health with an emphasis in human lactation and social justice. Rikki is the co-creator of Heart and Sol Collective, an inclusive pregnancy support center, where she hosts support groups, teaches childbirth education and lactation classes to expectant parents. Rikki also serves as a board member for the Southern Nevada Breastfeeding Coalition, and Rikki also provides all-inclusive services to expectant families and birth professionals virtually, as well as in the greater Las Vegas Valley and surrounding areas. 

 

We are so thrilled that Rikki is here. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast, Rikki.

Rikki Jenkins:

Thank you for having me.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Yay! I’m so excited that everybody gets to see us highlight one of our greatest staff members here at EBB. I want everybody to know, can you tell our listeners just what led you to your journey to becoming a birth worker and the various roles you have in birth work, because I’ve only stated like you’re a birth doula, lactation counselor. You’re also an EBB instructor. You have a lot of hats that you wear. Let our listeners know what led you to your role in birth work.

Rikki Jenkins:

That’s a big question. But of course, like many others in this field, I was inspired through my own experience. Good and bad. Our first pregnancy ended, unfortunately, in a miscarriage and from that on kind of pivoted my whole outlook on life essentially. I did so much research. I watched all the documentaries. I read all the books, and then I concluded that I needed a doula for my birth. I hired the doula. I’m thinking, “Oh, everything’s going to be perfect. I’m good.” Unfortunately, when I got to the hospital, it wasn’t that. My husband and I were kind of met with a lot of disrespect during our experience, and we didn’t really felt heard during our experience.

That was very traumatic for me and a few other traumatic things happened against my will during the birth, which also kind of led me to wanting to research why my experience was that way. Everything I read said, “Hey, you’re good. If you have a doula, you’re protected,” everything like that. But what I didn’t account for and through my readings after I had my daughter was the maternal mortality rates, especially for Black folks. That kind of put a light bulb in my head like, oh, this is why. That makes so much sense why they weren’t supportive. They weren’t supportive of my breastfeeding journey or my chestfeeding journey.

And that was one of the things that I really wanted it to go right was feeding my daughter, because our birth didn’t go exactly as we planned. But even then, in the hospital, I wanted to quit. I didn’t know what I was doing in treating my daughter, but my partner was very much like, “No. You did not stay up throughout your entire pregnancy reading all the things about pregnancy birth and feeding that I’m going to let you give up.” It was really because of him that I continued my feeding journey. But even that was hard. Even through the encouragement was hard. I tried to get help and I couldn’t get help. Finally, it was two weeks after I had her, I would never forget, and I had a delivery at the door.

It was a delivery of this big, huge box of formula samples. I was like, this must be a sign. I need to give up. I need to be done. I said, “You know what, I’ll give it until tomorrow. And if things doesn’t change by tomorrow, then I’m done and I’m going to give her this formula.” I was laying in bed that night and I scrolling idleness through the internet and I came across this group on Facebook and it was specifically for Black lactating folks. I said, okay, let me join it. I was immediately added right away. It was 3:00 AM, and I’ll never forget. I was like, I know there’s probably people sleeping. They’re not going to get back to me. But I said, “Hey, I’m struggling. I need help.”

I was met with tons and tons of support. I have not felt that supported since before my first pregnancy. They said, “Hey, have you tried this? Have you tried this?” Really like magic. Of course, after that I had some healing to do, but like magic, I felt like our feeding relationship was saved. And from then on, I went onto breastfeed successfully. And then I was inspired. I said, “Hey, all it takes is to help and support someone who’s lactating through this, then yes, let’s do it.” I did my research. My first love was lactation. I did the research about becoming a certified lactation consultant and realized how long of a road that really is. Throughout that, I did all I could.

I did all the reading again. It was funny. I went back to work nine months after having my daughter, and I had this coworker I would always credit this to her and my partner at the same time. I’ll never forget. She shared her story with me. She asked me questions that I was like, this is not normal questions that just anybody asks. She’s like, “Wow! You’re very supportive. Have you ever thought about becoming a doula?” And I was like, no, never. I didn’t think that was something that I can get into. And then later on that day, my a partner was lik, “Something came over me. Have you ever thought about becoming a doula? We had one. All the work that you’re doing, you might as well be a doula.”

I was like no. Of course, that then put me into another like, yes, let’s do this. Let me figure out what I have to become one. That started my doula journey. In a nutshell, my experience was really pivoted throughout my experience in wanting to help others and seeing how easy it is to just… Well, not easy, but just how much birthing folks need that support to get them through a tough time or how much lactating folks need support just to get them through like, okay, this sucks, but I can get through it because I have someone telling me like, this is normal, or this is not normal. Let’s try this instead of this. It doesn’t have to be this natural seeing that comes to us because it may be natural, but it’s definitely not instinctive.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

You touching on support, that is super, super duper needed in birth work, because I’m glad you had that support from your partner, from those outside that you were working with. Support is definitely need it. And a lot of folks really need that. I always stress it, as you guys can tell. It’s definitely needed because like you said, it’s no sugar coating the whole situation to make it look like sunshines and sprinkles and, oh, you’ll do just fine, because it’s going to be moments. You’re not going to do just fine. You’re going to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. You have no idea or whatever. And that’s okay.

That is okay. Even whether you’re a first time parent or you’ve been doing this for a while, you have multiple children, it’s okay to have those feelings of not feeling supported, but it’s good that it shifted to inspire you. Unfortunately, you had a traumatic… We’ll call it trauma, because it is what it is, type of experience, but it shifted into that whole support and your support with kind of giving you signs and sprinkle like, you’re already doing the work with you being passionate and wanting to be informative and all that great stuff. So why not? That’s awesome that you had that support to kind of push you in that direction, unfortunately, from the experience that you had. But overall, you had a supportive network. That’s great.

Rikki Jenkins:

Absolutely.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

I mentioned that you also are an EBB instructor. Can you tell us what has been your experience in becoming into that role and now that you are in that as a EBB instructor, what it’s like especially in your community?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah, absolutely. When I started my doula journey, I started listening, of course, to the EBB Podcast. And oddly enough, the EBB Podcast really led me to a lot of healing. Through the knowledge and everything like, oh, this is why this happened, and oh, this is the research and this is why this happened, and this is how the doctors work, and this is how nurses work and giving me that understanding. When I became a doula, I was like, I absolutely have to become an EBB instructor. I looked up the requirements. I wasn’t there yet. You have to be a birth worker for a year to become a EBB instructor. So I was like, okay, that’s my first.

A year and a half passed and then I applied and I got in, which I didn’t think would happen, but my experience was so amazing. People really jumped to it, whether it was birth workers or pregnant families because they really understood and they all listen to the podcast. They’re like, “Yes, this is the information that we’ve been waiting on.” My favorite part about being an EBB instructor is not only being able to teach the workshops and things like that, but it’s the community. EBB has always been there. My favorite part is, of course, the peer-to-peer calls. I’m filled up by being able to talk to other people who are in this work and are like-minded and just get me and understand.

It’s always speaking life into each other. There’s never a peer-to-peer call that I don’t leave feeling like, yes, I feel like my cup is full. It’s priceless being a EBB instructor for sure.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

I would definitely say, if you guys haven’t heard enough of us talking about it via social media about the retreat, because that’s how we feel at the retreat. I feel that was like a glimpse of what the peer-to-peer type of support is going to look like, because EBB is about you are healing. You’re unlearning a lot of things. You’re relearning a lot of things. And not just necessarily in birth work, but with yourself. Definitely that’s what the program is about. Don’t know that I’m also an EEB instructor, so I know this firsthand. Going through the training, it’s literally just kind of checking your own biases, because we all have biases. We all have learned things that are not so quite supposed to be helpful.

They’re more harmful. It’s definitely an experience just growing with an organization as birth workers, as instructors just to know that we are here to literally be the advocates of Evidence Based Birth® work. That’s pretty much how I feel, how I view EBB. We’re the advocates of evidence based research when it comes to birth work. Yeah, it’s definitely a beautiful thing. It’s great that EBB provides that space, that environment for birth workers, like you said, who are like-minded, who are like, this is my mission and make sure that especially those who are coming from marginalized communities are heard. We also tell our own stories, if we’re coming from those marginalized communities to share that we’ve been there, done that.

That’s why we’re here. Can you share with our listeners, because you’re not only a EEB instructor, you shift into or you are in this role as our programs team assistant. Tell them what’s that about. Let them know because you all do a lot. For EBB, you all do a lot when it comes to the program section. Can you share with our listeners what it’s like to be a programs team assistant for EBB?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah. I love that you brought up the retreat because the retreat really showed how truly like EBB is all about family and all about support and being a part of a team that really truly cares, because usually we hear companies who are like, “Yeah, we’re family,” and you’re like, “Eh, this doesn’t feel like a family.” But it really does feel that way. But I love being a programs team assistant. I love being able to support the instructors and the pro members and just being a support where needed. I’m learning new things every day, which is great because there’s always something to do at EEB.

I love being able to keep busy. I don’t like to just sit in one spot. I’m always like, “Yeah, what do you want me to do next? What am I doing this week? What am I doing today?” It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Yeah, we have fun here. Like yes, we put out evidence based research that can be a little intimidating. Of course, it’s serious, but we’re doing hard work. We work hard. We play later, but sometimes we play while we’re working because you have to do that. This is a hard job as far as just being a birth worker, and then reading about the research that’s against especially bodies of color, especially Black bodies in birth work. We definitely have fun because I always tell folks, this is like a family. Never been somewhere where you can truly be yourself and you’re supported. You don’t have to be somebody you’re not just to get by.

Kudos to Rebecca for creating that space for all of us to just come here to do the work that we’re doing and our passion in it. But we’re just happy that you’re here because we’ve been meeting somebody like you. Even though we’ve been together for a little bit as staff members here at EBB, we’re still kind of getting to know each other. But the more we know each other, the closer we are. We’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know about… That’s what we learned about in the retreat.” We’re like, “I didn’t know that.” I want to kind of switch it up. I did mention before, outside of EBB, you are this great birth doula. I follow your work on IG, because like you’re doing these amazing things.

I want everybody else to know while they’re listening, can you speak about your mission to empower expectant families, especially those in need of birth and lactation support?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah, absolutely. Of course, I can only account that to my experience. Going back really quickly to my pregnancy, the first thing I wanted was community. I just had this innate feeling like, hey, I just want to be around other pregnant folks, or I just want to be around someone who can guide me through this experience, because I was brand new to Vegas. I just moved here at the time. I went to different spaces and I didn’t feel comfortable there. My mission when I became a doula, I was like, no, there’s not going to be one person that comes on my page that doesn’t feel seen. It’s very intentional when you go to my page and you go to my website. I just want everyone to feel like, hey, this is a place for you.

That’s why I co-created Heart and Sol because I really wanted folks to have that home base to come to and feel like, hey, I belong here. I can be supported in this space. No one’s going to act like I’m not supposed to be here, look at me sideways, or anything like that. I also let my clients know that the support is always there, because support doesn’t end after you have your baby. I don’t say, “Hey, I’m your birth doula. Bye.” No. The support is forever essentially, especially when it comes to lactation. Lactation is so unpredictable. Having my families know like, I’m always here. You don’t have to be ashamed to reach out. This is what I’m here for. The support can’t end.

That’s my mission is to make sure that folks feel seen and heard and also comfortable enough to reach out when they need support.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Yes, because now I’m seeing that being thankfully more and more is coming about social media, of course, that folks are becoming aware that support, like you said, does not stop at birth or when the baby’s here, and then you’re like, “Okay, I’m out, have fun. Congratulations. The baby’s beautiful. You did great.” And that’s it. No. It has to keep going. I remember hearing somebody at the time say, postpartum can’t be forever. It’s not just for four to six weeks. It’s not just for a couple of months. It could be more than a year. It could be couple of years, because you’re adjusting to life, because life is forever evolving, things are evolving, things are happening.

You’re just adjusting to just having this new little human or humans, multiples. Just like, “Oh, I need help. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never had this before, or I did this before and that was a long time ago, or this is very different.” For folks who are listening not just… Because we have not just professionals or those expecting, but also it could be family members listening for those expecting. What do you feel is a key thing as far as support for somebody who’s a family member, might be their spouse or their partner or whoever, their supportive network, what do you think that person should hear or listening to this and should be aware of when it comes to just birth support and just postpartum support in general?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah. I feel like one of the hardest things about having a baby is sometimes you feel guilt, depending on how your birth experience went. Especially after COVID, there’s been a lot of folks who had to pivot what it looks like. Being that listening ear, just listen, can make a world of difference. As birthing folks, sometimes you feel like, oh, I need to be thankful just because I have a “healthy baby.” That’s not all that matters. They need to feel seen and heard. We don’t really get to hear the actual birth stories of folks because we don’t want to say the wrong thing or make it sound like we’re ungrateful for our baby to be here. But those are two different experiences.

Of course, we’re grateful that baby is here, but what happens with the type of healing that we need. Even if the birth goes perfectly, we do want to hear that story. We want to give space to hear what that person went through, not just say, “Oh, you’re good. Millions of people give birth every day. Bye.” It really does take someone to listen and hear and see you in that period, especially after having the baby and really just not putting your own experiences, not telling them not to feel what they’re feeling. Just give them space to feel what they’re feeling. Let them know that you see them. Keep checking on them, even if it’s been three or four months and they’ve got a groove.

Still check in to see like, hey, do you want to talk about anything? How is baby doing? How are you doing? Everybody asks how the baby doing. Ask how they are doing. Ask how they’re adjusting to like even if it’s seeing their baby grow. That in itself is like hard because you’re like, “Oh my goodness, my little baby is growing up.” There can be a lot of feelings around that, especially if it’s like say the last baby. This is the last time they’re going to be going through this experience. Really just honor where they are. Don’t try to pressure them into being “who they were.” It’s a new normal and help them adjust to that.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

What do you think those who are listening who are birth professionals, what do you think they feel they need to do? Or what are some ways they can assist those expectant families, whether virtually or in their community, especially to better support marginalized families with birth and lactation support?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah, absolutely. I say the same thing, don’t forget to check in, especially if it’s virtual, because we can easily get on Zoom and put on this like face of like, “Oh, I’m perfect. Everything is fine,” but the world is passion around you. We’re still dealing with a collective trauma that we’ve kind of all been affected one way or another, especially when it comes to birth. A lot of birthing folks, as we know as birth workers, we weren’t allowed in the hospital and we really had to visit and give support virtually. I feel like we all have been able to do that in a good way, but you’re also dealing with your own stuff.

One of the things is thinking about like how our own biases, especially implicit bias, may come up and understanding that it’s not take one workshop or seminar and boom, I’m anti-racist, and boom, I’ve done the work. Like no. It’s a continuous thing. You have to keep doing the work. You have to get uncomfortable. Because the more uncomfortable you get, the more you can understand and say hey. We’re all going to cause harm. Hey, I messed up. How can I do better? And really seek to do better and just understanding that like, of course… I know there’s this big push, as it should be, to have a birth worker of color in your corner if you’re a birthing person of color.

But in some areas, that’s just not an option. It’s really important that birth workers who are not from the community really learn and understand where that community is coming from, how to serve them by asking them. Don’t try to do your own like “research.” It’s important to listen to the voices of the families that you’re trying to support.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Yes, I agree. Because I see that a lot, especially where I’m from, where I live. It’s very robotic. It’s very, I’m going to ask the questions on this paper and that’s it. We get it. We get it. You have to ask those questions. But at the same time, this is a human being. This human being has feelings. This human being may have these feelings that they are trying to navigate through and process and kind of throwing those questions at them and not really saying, “How are you doing? How are you feeling? Do you have support? What’s going on?” But you also have to create that space.

You have to build that rapport so they’re comfortable with letting you know, “I do not feel okay. I don’t know what I’m doing,” versus the whole, “How are you feeling?” “I’m fine.” “Any problems?” “No.” Of course, you have to build that rapport with them, but you also have to be that, “Are you sure? What does fine look like to you?” You have to dig a little deeper, instead of just like barely scratching the surface of the “I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m just tired. I’m exhausted.” And also not throwing in the whole, “Well, that’s expected. Of course, you’re going to be exhaust…” They don’t need to hear that. Nobody wants to hear that. That’s what I heard when I first had my child.

Rikki Jenkins:

You’re like, “No. Help me.”

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

This is not helping me at all. I’m a first time parent, and I’m hearing, “Oh, that it expected. Of course, you’re going to be exhausted. You just have a baby.” Well, how’s the baby doing? Like you said before, don’t just ask about how’s the baby doing, like how’s the parent doing? How are the parents doing? How’s the family doing and adjusting? Because there are different family dynamics that a lot of folks aren’t aware of. Even there are some folks who are single parents or they’re adjusting to doing this alone or having very limited support. I definitely agree with you. It’s literally the same thing as far as partners, spouses listening to this, or family members support listening to this.

This also ties in with the birth and professionals. We get it. You have to ask these questions due to whatever reasons. But at the same time, this is a human. We have to get back into that human experience, that person centered type of experience for folks, especially those who are coming from marginalized communities who are not so used to that support at all. Definitely. If you want to share with our listeners, do you have like any upcoming projects you would like to share with our audience or any projects that you’re currently doing?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah. I have so many things in the work. Of course, my brain is always like, “Ooh, what can I do? What can I do?” I have to always like one thing at a time, one thing at a time. Right now my biggest focus for 2022 is obtaining my lactation consultant credential, God willing, in the fall. Of course, one of the biggest barriers to that is getting your hands-on hours. Right now with my amazing mentor, we’re both going to be launching a latch clinic at Heart and Sol. If you’re in Vegas and need help with lactating, please come down.

But yes, that’s one of the big thing that we’re working on and lactating folks can come in and they can get help with the pump or help with latching baby or other education. But yes, that’s the biggest one. And of course, childbirth education classes. I’m teaching a EBB childbirth class.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

You have a lot on your hands. And yes, getting your credential as a lactation consultant, it’s hard. It is, but it’ll be well worth. You’ll have those as I call alphabet soup on the end of your name.

Rikki Jenkins:

Right.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

I’m definitely sure your community would be so fortunate and so blessed to just have you just step in as a IBCLC. Congratulations on that definitely, because you got this. You got it. It’s okay.

Rikki Jenkins:

Thank you.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

You got it. How can our listeners follow you and your work on social media?

Rikki Jenkins:

Yeah. I’m on the Interwebs. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. You can find me @sacredjourneylv or my website is www.sacredjourneylv.com.

Iya Mystique Faodugun:

Awesome! Thank you so much, Rikki, for coming on the podcast. And if those who are listening, if you would like to review this episode for the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast, please do so on any of the podcast platforms you’re listening to right now. Also, be sure to check out our YouTube channel as well. You’ll see me and Rikki chatting it up during the podcast. Everybody who’s listening, thank you for listening to the EBB Podcast. Bye.

 

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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