Rhythm of Birth
Rhythm of Birth-Shalene Massie
by: Rachel Robison
As a result of her unique personal experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, Shalene Massie, Doula and Childbirth Mentor, has a special perspective on the childbirth process.
Massie and her husband met in Blacksburg, Virginia and moved to South Sudan to do mission work soon after the birth of their daughter. Massie says she had the privilege of working with a doula for her first birth and was amazed by the support she and her husband received. She remembers it as a beautiful experience, and one which contributed her desire to go into birth work.
In Sudan the Massies were exposed to the Sudanese culture. Massie says she was honored to be invited to attend a birth of one of the native women. During labor, Sudanese women have none of the basic benefits that women in American culture often take for granted.
“There was no electricity or running water. I was amazed and blown away by her strength,” remembers Massie.
She began to see birth in a new light. Massie remembers how she, like many expectant mothers in the US, had gone out and bought every pregnancy and labor book she could find.
“In an information-driven culture we often rely on a book rather than our intuition and our own heart.” This idea is part of what Massie calls the Rhythm of Birth Philosophy.
“(Different cultures) can definitely learn from each other. Women in the US have so much knowledge and we are in need of a more process-oriented class, but most childbirth classes here are very information-based.”
Massie sees herself more as a mentor than a teacher. She explains that her childbirth classes are more interactive, as participants learn from each other.
“What’s unique about my classes is that I incorporate a mentoring style instead of a (more traditional) teaching style. I call myself a mentor instead of an educator because I’m not throwing information out. Instead I focus on the heart of the couple.”
“An educator is perceived as having all the answers. Instead I do different processes to help awaken the mother’s intuition, (as well as) focusing on pain-coping practices just for dads and partners.”
Massie recognizes that fathers are often “drug-along” to these sorts of classes, not feeling that they are as valuable to the birth process. She and her husband both teach classes that allow fathers to share more in depth thoughts, concerns, and fears in a non-judgmental environment. These classes are six weeks long, and are also offered as a single “weekend-emersion” option.
After about four years of building orphanages for children at risk for human-trafficking, the Massie family was forced to evacuate Sudan after a nearby militia attack. Her dream quickly turned into an “emotional whirlwind of change” for which she says she was not emotionally prepared. She explains that she came to the point where she realized, “I can decide to wallow in pity because my dream has changed or I can choose to become empowered and decide to change course.” Massie says that soon after she embraced the change she began to step into her calling to become a Child Birth Mentor.
Today she is certified with Birthing From Within ® as a Doula and Child Birth Mentor. She supports new parents at hospitals, birthing centers, and home births in the New River Valley, Radford, Roanoke, and Floyd areas.
“The Rhythm of Birth Philosophy married beautifully with my life,” explains Massie. Often when pregnancy and birth don’t go as expected it can be easy to panic. This philosophy teaches that woman can choose to be stuck in their trauma, or they can accept it, grieve and move on to remain empowered and present during birth. She says this new way of seeing life “freed” her from how she was processing her unexpected return to the United States.
Massie passionately speaks about her calling. “It’s honoring to be a part of a rite of passage in the lives of a couple. I do view birth as a rite of passage and transition time. It’s honoring that people would invite me into that sacred space where time kind of stands still.”
When asked what advice she would have for mothers-to-be who may be considering having a doula, Massie says she knows that many couples may be wondering whether a doula would take over the father’s role. But she says her role is to help the father support the mother.
“Most couples are very much in need of an outside emotional support and advocate. So a doula who has experience with birth and stages of labor can help be that guide and that peaceful energy that can help (both parents).”
If you are interested in Massie’s services or registering for a class, visit her website at
www.rhythmofbirth.com. For more information about the philosophy of Birthing from Within ®,
please visit http://www.birthingfromwithin.com.”