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Birth, Becoming & New Beginnings

Meet Sarah Auna – SuNu’s birth partner

Sarah Auna is a well known and respected Doula and Birth Educator in the Minneapolis birthing community. SuNu has been a trusted resource for all things birth related including holistic prenatal, postpartum and pediatric care. This partnership formed between the two was meant to be – it feels destined, written in the stars. SuNu values Sarah’s wisdom, perspective, authenticity and genuine love for others.

To know Sarah Auna is to love her. Sarah’s knack for birth support, combined with fresh parent education, will help clarify how to get the peace and safety you seek for your body, birth and baby. Attending births in homes, hospitals and free-standing birth centers, she comes bolstered by the wisdom of having served over 300 families.

We sat down with Sarah Auna and, per usual, our conversation was magical, enlightened and transformative. Learn why birth work and her part in it offers so much more than people might realize.

Take us to Birth Church – A conversation between Sarah Auna & Erica Ciardelli:

 

1) Sarah Auna, what drew you to birth education/Doula work? 

     The storytelling and the meaning making. Hands. Down. It’s not just the birth of the child, it is the birth of the parent. There’s so much depth in witnessing this becoming. To do Work (yes, with a capital “W”) like this is what drew me to birth support. I ALWAYS come home with more than I left with – no matter how long, physical and emotional the birth is.

2) What’s something that you wish everyone could hear or know, to allow them to process their feelings, or give them permission to ask more questions around their pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience/expectations? 

     Pregnancy, birth and the postpartum time were never meant to be done alone. American birth culture has siloed families into a dark place of over-individuation. They’re told, they better get it together, not hope for anything to go according to plan and asked to hand over the experience to the “professionals.” I ask, What if being pregnant, giving birth and healing after this big life transition was treated with as much social-sanctity and resources as a college graduation or a marriage? What if we were given permission to have the epitome of human experiences, and with that humanness, allow ourselves to safely feel and express the ENTIRE CATALOG of human emotion? It’s beautiful and brutal and everything in between. Like my adopted mentor, Glennon Doyle, says, it’s “Brutiful”- and it’s ok to say so.

3) You also teach yoga and prenatal yoga – do you often bring your two passions together? Do you have a “go-to” tip that generally works for everyone? 

     The prenatal and nurturing yoga space that I work to create are simply containers. Containers to hold this “becoming” that I’m speaking of. It’s an on-going process and we all need opportunities to settle inside of ourselves during these huge thresholds. My “go-to” tip that works for EVERYONE is

“As above, So below”

My midwife taught me this during the birth of my second child. It’s an approach that cares nothing about gender identity or expression, pregnancy, giving or witnessing birth, taking yoga or NONE of these. The approach “As above, so below” points out that the thoughts we think – tell our bodies how to act. The way we hold our mouths opens or closes our hearts and other parts. So if our mouths and thoughts are soft so is our animal body. Less resistance, more becoming.

4) Do you have a favorite success story or personal memory related to your practice/patients that you’d like to share?  

     Yes, so, so, so, so many. I carry them with me, I carry them in my heart (to summarize C.S. Lewis). I witnessed a first time parent give birth to her son like a total LIONESS… teeth sunk into the silk sling she was pulling on, partner’s support behind her. All 10.5 pounds of that baby made it into her arms. She birthed with gusto – and that size of a baby required every bit of her, and beyond. Did you know that it’s clinically more dangerous to be told you have a big baby, than to actually HAVE a big baby? Here we are right back at “As above, So below”.  I love it when one of these key teachings plays out in such an exalted, myth-busting way – and my goodness did it ever here! 

 

About 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the U.S. every year, and 60 percent of those are preventable.  And infants born to African American mothers are dying at twice the rate as infants born to non-Hispanic white mothers, according to the CDC.

 

5) With the recent awareness and attention being brought to the systemic racial injustice, inequality and discrepancies in the healthcare system, how has your industry changed?

     Nothing has changed yet, not enough any how. If people would like to help move the needle on this, they should financially support out-of-hospital birth opportunities for BIPOC families. By giving money to Roots Birth Center, The Black Homebirth Initiative and the Minnesota Healing Justice Network. What I know from my Black birth colleagues and my own witnessing, is that racism is a public health crisis and it’s as prevalent in the American birth space as it is in the American policing space.

6) What’s one of the most common fears, myths or questions you get from clients (or anyone) regarding birth, pregnancy, etc.? 

     I think the biggest myth in America is that an OB in a hospital is the safest setting for birthing a baby. The World Health Organization recommends Midwifery care for healthy, low-risk births (which the majority of births are). Listen, if you’re over 35, you are not high-risk. Also, if you have a large body, you are not high-risk. And if you are “overdue” you are not high-risk. Having a “big baby” does not make you high-risk. I am certain many reading this have been told otherwise. 

Here’s what I know – There is ABSOLUTELY a time and a place for the level of medical intervention and care that Obstetrics bring.

And many of the factors mentioned above *combined* may warrant the need for OB care in a hospital. But the fact is OB experitise (surgical management of a high-risk birth)  is NOT what most Americans need in order to safely birth their babies. In fact, it is the Midwife (in hospital or out) who holds the expertise for vaginal birth (both with and without an epidural). This is what most American birth givers desire, and it is what the midwife specializes in. Modern medicine has removed us from the wisdom that birthing a child is an act of health. It’s as normal as breathing, having an orgasm or digesting our breakfast. Some of us may need medicinal support or doctoring to complete these bodily functions, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

7) Has your practice changed much since COVID? Has the pandemic brought to light any “ah-ha” moments or revelations in trends, practices, etc?

     Totally. It has pulled into focus how important it is for families to be covered by the protection a doula brings. We offer navigation tools and critical decision making before the birth. We remove known obstacles and walk side-by-side with the family through the journey of their pregnancy, birth and postpartum healing.

When doulas were banned from Minnesota hospitals, most of us saw our clients endure a SIGNIFICANT increase in inductions, interventions, epidurals, longer births, opioid use for pain and surgical births (C-sections).

These are all things doulas are clinically proven to reduce. The out-of-hospital birth centers (spaces not associated with a hospital) and home birth midwives have always advocated for, and allowed, doulas in the birth space… even during the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe this is why, for the first time in my seven year career, I am the busiest I have ever been AND I have 95% of clients birthing out-of-hospital. Families are starting to embody the paradigm of birth as health, not sickness.

 

How to connect with Sarah Auna:

Sarah says, “Using a doula is like dating. If you feel a spark, an interest, a magnetism and you’d like to find out if I’m the right person to help you or a loved one through the birthing time, please find me at sarahauna.com. I offer a free, one hour discovery session where we can get to know each other and begin troubleshooting right away. Let’s get started!”

To learn more about Sarah’s partnership with SuNu Wellness, click here. She holds client interviews and prenatal education at Sunu Linden Hills and is available for all SuNu clients who need birth doula services, childbirth education, VBAC preparation, prenatal yoga, birth plan/provider consultations or postpartum care.⁠

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