Natasha Aldridge has endured two laparoscopic surgeries and induced menopause to treat stage four endometriosis. Through it all, she found herself bouncing from doctor to doctor, looking for ways to manage pain and to get answers. The process was all-consuming, forcing her to exit nursing school prematurely.
“I was very unhappy with myself,” Aldridge shares. “I felt like my body was broken.”
Eventually, struggling through the personal challenges, Aldridge identified the larger forces at play.
“I realized how maternal health needed to be easier to navigate and more accessible,” she comments.
Now, Aldridge works as what she calls a Perinatal Professional and Maternal Ambassador. Her business, Natural Queen Essentials, supports feminine wellness from the first menstrual cycle through menopause. Her collective work includes facilitating holistic wellness options, Trauma Informed Doula Trainings through Cocolife.black and volunteering for The MOM’s Tour (Maternal Outcomes Matter) to provide information on lactation and the importance of doulas.
Aldridge is also an Advanced Prison Doula with Ostara Initiative where she supports women in local jails and helps to educate staff about milk expression and storage. She partners with The Diverse Birth Collective, Project Empower and Virginia Prison Birth Project to facilitate peer support groups, prenatal yoga and the transport of milk. Currently, only six states “have laws with written policies on breastfeeding and lactation support for incarcerated postpartum people in the U.S,” according to the National University-Based Collaborative on Justice-Involved Women & Children (JIWC).
Aldridge is one of the most recent individuals to earn the Accessing the Milky Way scholarship, and she says her studies through the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) have already helped her help others like cheering on incarcerated moms and babies during their first latch.
“It’s a domino effect,” she says. “The more knowledge I provide through peer support, the more information will pass through the justice system.”
Aldridge was drawn to the LCTC because she found she lacked the ability to provide lactation and breastfeeding support. She shares that she “easily gave up breastfeeding” with her two daughters, because she was never educated on the impact of infant feeding. None of the women in her family breastfed either. Aldridge struggled through postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs) too.
“I didn’t have the capacity to even know where to begin,” she says. Like so many mothers, Aldridge’s language pins herself as the responsible one for not breastfeeding, when in reality, breastfeeding is not a one-woman job and requires greater systemic supports.
The LCTC is illuminating many details about infant feeding and its history, Aldridge shares. She says she’s finding the counseling portion “excellent as well” and is able to apply the strategies to all areas of her career.
“Knowing the background and the science is pulling everything together in my whole journey,” she says.
In the beginning of September, Aldridge spent time on Capitol Hill with Mom Congress learning about policy making and how to tell stories to help influence legislation important to families, one of the elements essential to improving infant feeding practices in the U.S.
Aldridge was also recently honored with the Catalyst of Change award from Endo Black, Inc.–a Black women-led advocacy group founded by Lauren Kornegay for Black women living with endometriosis– which “recognizes an ambitious leader and influential person in the endometriosis community… [who] engages the community in a meaningful and high-impact way.”
Aldridge’s ambition and accomplishments are certainly ones to celebrate, but she says that it’s all bigger than herself.
You can support Aldridge’s work by following her on social media @naturalqueenessentials. Watch for the release of an in-the-works newsletter for another way to get connected.