“It was amazing!” Norris exclaims. “I was used to seeing birth the way that I had experienced it: In the hospital, on your back, with directed pushing.”
Differently, she witnessed her friend walk around, enjoy snacks, labor in a tub, and set the pace for her birth.
“I had no idea any of these things were even an option and I felt cheated that I didn’t experience them with my births,” Norris says.
Determined to offer women “another way” to have their babies, Norris became a doula.
After attending her first few births, Norris says she decided she needed to complete The Lactation Counselor Training Course.
“The moms would ask me specific breastfeeding questions and I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer them,” she explains. “I understood the basics but I wanted to be able to adequately assist moms in need.”
Completing the training allows Norris to offer continuous care.
“I’ve already been with [the moms] throughout [their] birth[s] so it makes sense that I help [them] with breastfeeding immediately after,” she says. “It just flows better.”
Norris and her business partner Danica Davis founded Baobab Birth Collective in Birmingham, Ala. in 2014.
On their website, they point out: “In Tanzania there is a tribe of people who have a tradition of actually giving birth inside the [Baobab] trees whose trunks are huge and sometimes hollow. These trunks offer women a secure and private area to give birth. At Baobab Birth Collective we strive to provide this same security and support while we assist mothers in their journey to give life.”
In addition to offering respectful, evidence-based maternal child healthcare, Norris and her business partner are active in their community.
Norris and Davis co-facilitate a weekly Baby Café breastfeeding support group. Norris also serves as a children’s storyteller at a local library; some of the Baby Café participants attend Norris’s storytimes.
Norris recently received an “Innovative and Cool” grant from the Birmingham Public Library to support a Parenting 101 class to be taught at the library. The series will begin with prenatal and breastfeeding information and is scheduled to begin in early December.
Additionally, Baobab Birth has partnered with a local physician/midwifery office and high school to provide childbirth education to their young mothers.
“Of course a large component of that is breastfeeding education and support,” Norris says.
Group prenatal care is offered during the school day so that the mothers miss less school. Norris reports that partner participation is low, but fathers are always welcome to attend.
She also reports that the young mothers who participate appreciate and value the information presented.
“They all strive to be good parents,” Norris says.
This summer, Norris and her colleagues plan to once again bring The Lactation Counselor Training Course to Birmingham.
Norris and Davis also have plans to travel to Suriname next summer to provide breastfeeding support in a country with a 2.8 percent exclusive breastfeeding rate.
Recently, Norris spoke at the 2016 Alabama Breastfeeding Summit and attended the Lamaze Conference.
“It has been amazing to see the work that others are doing on national and international levels and it’s encouraged me to set new goals for myself in my current work,” Norris reflects. “I am honored to be in the presence of such amazing women and to learn from them. It’s been great to build relationships, work on national initiatives and really get a feel for what’s happening around the globe with women’s issues.”
When asked what excites her most about the birth and breastfeeding movement in our country, Norris replies:
“I love the fact that women are no longer being passive receivers of health care. We are researching our options and making informed decisions about how we want to birth and feed our babies. Not only that, we’re letting our friends know what we’re learning and informing them too. It’s sisterhood at its best!”
Learn more about Baobab Birth and connect with Norris here.