Kelly Devi Swails RPYT, CCCE, CEIM, M.A.

Kelly Devi Swails
RPYT, CCCE, CEIM, M.A.

In 1982 I became a mother for the first time. I was sixteen. Beyond prenatal visits to the doctor, there was no counseling or education on pregnancy, labor or baby care suggested. I suspect I was treated like any other fully mature woman at that time. However, I was far from mature and I was completely unprepared for the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood on every level.

Knowing nothing about what was happening in my body, I was quite scared when labor began. Numerous procedures and medications were administered for reasons that were not told to me. I felt trapped, panicked and alone. Given the circumstances it is not surprising that this birth experience, at such a young age, was long, painful and traumatic for me.  

In 1991 I became a mother again. This time I was living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Like all pregnant women on the reservation, I received my prenatal care through an under-funded government health program. While I did receive a one hour class that covered breathing for childbirth, the instructions included too many steps that were hard to follow. The techniques did not make sense to me, so ultimately, I did not use them.

When labor began, I found myself, once again, woefully unprepared and under-informed to fully participate in my labor. There was no one there to support me. I experienced labor as a rather involved series of procedures necessary to get the baby out. I had no clue that there was anything I could possibly do to facilitate matters, or that I even had a right to know what was being done to my body. I just thought this is how it’s done. After this birth I underwent a long and uncomfortable recovery and had difficulties with breastfeeding. (Although I did finally succeed on that count due to the caring support of a proactive student nurse.)

By the end of 1992, I was expecting my third child. I still had no clue about my options during birth, but my general attitude was that I mostly knew everything I needed to know. What I knew was that labor is a long and painful process, so I was resigned to just endure it for however long it took.

At this time, I was also a recently single mom living in Brooklyn. But as luck would have it, I had a close friend who was a labor and delivery nurse. When I went into labor, she came over to the house at the crack of dawn just to “keep me company,” as she put it. After breakfast, we went for a walk, did some shopping and had lunch at a restaurant. By mid afternoon, we went back to the house. We talked and laughed until early evening.

At one point, I was standing at the kitchen counter swaying my hips during a contraction when she told me that I needed to think about heading to the hospital. I did not believe her. I knowingly told her I had been in labor twice before and I was definitely not in “enough pain” yet. By this point, I had been in labor for 14 hours, but due to the relative lack of pain I was experiencing (compared to my previous labors), I thought I still had plenty of time.

Finally, my friend convinced me to go to the hospital. I was quite sure the staff there would just send me back home. But to my surprise, less than twenty minutes after my arrival to the hospital, I had my baby in my arms. It was a completely natural birth.

For many years I chalked up this “easeful” birth experience to it being my third child. But as I began to educate myself about pregnancy and birth; first as a prenatal yoga teacher and then as a doula, it dawned on me that this experience was not solely the result of the number of babies I had. The potential for this birth experience was within me all along!

I realized that it was actually the relaxation: the talking, the laughing, the sharing of a meal that had helped facilitate the process. It was the movements that I did all afternoon just because they felt “right” and reduced the pain. In a nutshell, it was the upright positions, the freedom to move and the overall physical and emotional love and support I received from my friend that made the tremendous difference in my experience.

These days, I look back on my three experiences of pregnancy and birth with a sense of awe mixed with a strong helping of sadness for what I did not know until after the fact. My experiences had run the full gamut from traumatic to ecstatic. While my first two birth experiences were quite difficult, I am nonetheless, grateful for what I learned as a result. These experiences brought me to the work I do today.

It is my desire to help women and their partners to connect with the profound beauty, power and sacredness of birth. By developing deeper awareness and trust of the body, birth becomes a much fuller and richer experience. Regardless of the path birth takes: natural, medicated or surgical, it is a major transformational life event. Finding a sense of connection and comfort in the body and mind, knowing the process that lies ahead and understanding the importance of participating in this miraculous event is an invaluable gift to oneself and one’s new family.

I am first a foremost a proud mom of three awesome sons. They have taught me many things about life and about myself. So, it is to them that I owe my dedication and passion to the work that I now do.

I also have a beautiful niece. She too helped bring me more fully into this work. It was a special honor to support my younger sister and brother-in-law during their labor and to catch my niece upon her entry into the world.

I am a certified prenatal yoga teacher, birth doula, childbirth educator and infant massage educator. I hold additional certifications in reiki, thai yoga massage and martial arts. I also have a Master’s Degree in medical geography. I have worked with pregnant women and couples for the past ten years but only recently began this work on a full-time basis. While the boys were growing up I worked as a domestic violence counselor, social service program administrator and staff development technical writer. It has taken me awhile to get to the point of pursuing birth work full-time, but I feel that I am now on the path I was meant to walk all along.