A Conversation with Paula Mallis

I'm excited to announce that I'll be leading a new workshop Write Your Birthing Story which will be taking place on Sunday, March 6th, hosted by Paula Mallis at her home in Venice. Paula is a doula who has been holding circles for women to gather, share and witness each others' stories around pregnancy and birth. As a mother, with my own birthing story, I'm thrilled to co-create this space with her! Read more about Paula and the workshop below.

PAULA MALLIS is a mother, doula, yoga teacher, meditation guide and facilitator of women circles living in Venice. When she was pregnant and traveling on her own journey into motherhood, something shifted. She experienced a spiritual awakening that allowed her the opportunity to choose a more conscious way to approach her life as a woman and mother. In her practice, she blends her experience as a mother, her expertise as a doula and her extensive training in yoga, as a meditation guide and facilitator. Sharing what she knows and supporting women as they make their own journey into motherhood is her deepest passion.


Karin: Tell us about the Birthing Circle and how it came to be?

Paula: Over the past few years I've been holding circles to give women an opportunity to come and share; really just take a pause to share their transition from being a maiden to being a mother. A part of that transition is by sharing the birthing story that they have experienced in bringing their child into the world. And what I've experienced from holding a space like this is women not realizing how important it was to their healing process to actually pause and go back and share this story which, you know, was maybe one of the most amazing days of their life. And how there really isn't a safe non-judgmental space to share the story.

Being in my own experience having been pregnant and having given birth to my daughter a little over three-and-a-half years ago, I connected with other pregnant women; there were four of us. After we gave birth to our children and they were all either hours or at the most two weeks apart, we got together postpartum and shared our birth stories with each other. It was so beautiful; it was in my tiny little apartment and the four of us sitting around nursing our babies. It was just so special and so powerful to really honor each other and our journeys and what we had gone through and the birthing story that really brought us into motherhood. It was such a beautiful time to share and be together, and so from that I felt inspired to continue to offer that in a space for women to come and experience the same.

How does your “other role” as a doula support this work you're doing, or does it?

Yes absolutely. Part of my practice with my doula clients is going back for a postpartum visit and really debriefing and going over the birth story. And whatever comes up, the joys of the birth, the challenges of the birth, the “Aha” moments really bring our time together to completion. If there are any challenges or moments that they feel that the dots didn't connect for whatever reason, just really being there for my clients; being able to help facilitate any healing or reframing that needs support for the birth however it unfolded or really came into manifestation.

In doing these circles over the last couple of years, have you found that there is any kind of common story thread or theme?

Yes. Well I think the number one thing that comes up for them is, “I am so grateful that I had this space while I was pregnant and that I was willing to show up and hear these stories from the other women because when it came to a moment of questioning or challenge [during my own birthing experience], I was able to tune back in to the circle and remember the stories and remember the strength and remember the courage that all of them had had.” It's just so much gratitude for the circle and that they had an opportunity to be a part of it during their pregnancy.

And then the other thing that 99.9% of women say is, “My birth plan went out the window. What I thought was going to happen just did not happen.” Even if the outcome was absolutely joyful and bliss, for whatever reason in every woman's experience they were just like, “Birth plan? Forget it. It went nothing like I thought it was going to go.” That lesson seems to be one of the number one lessons in birth, the letting go and the surrendering.

I can relate to that for sure.

Yes, me too.

From a doula's perspective, what's the most unique birth experience or story that you've witnessed?

Oh wow. That's interesting. I would love to write a book one day on birth stories through a doula's eyes because I am witnessing the birth story as it happens, the entire birth story I'm a part of. 

One of the most amazing things is the second birth that I ever went to the baby was born in the sac. To be born in the sac is a very mystical thing, it's a very magical thing; it's kind of like an omen. Every baby is a blessing, but being born in the sac is kind of like an extra blessing. It's a pretty miraculous thing to watch as well.

From a personal standpoint, part of what intrigued me about co-creating a workshop with you is how struck I am that I don't share my own birthing story more often. Why we don't talk about it, when it happens to be for every woman a pretty transformative, defining event?

Yeah, I think that so much more is focused on what stroller you're going to get and when's the crib coming. Back in the day it was absolutely a part of gathering and being in the circle and being with women and sharing in this way. I don't know if you've ever read The Red Tent, but it's very much about being in circle and storytelling and sharing. The wisdom of the grandmother was shared with the mother which was shared with the daughter. And that's how women gathered information was through storytelling and through the lineage. So there was no misunderstanding; everyone understood what childbirth was.

But this day and age, we're not necessarily living near families or maybe our mothers or sisters aren't emotionally available to support in the way that we need while we're birthing. So I think it's just culturally we've gotten away from connecting as women and supporting each other through the most powerful day of our lives. When people do share their birth story you hear more negativity than you do positivity around the birthing experience. So my intention is to create the space, structured in a way where it doesn't really matter if you've had a traumatic birth or not. All birth stories are received with love and are honored all in the same way. No one comments back or gives any feedback. It's simply a space to share and to be witnessed and heard.

Hear-hear. That's a great lead-in to my last question about our upcoming collaboration, which I'm excited about!

Me too.

What do you envision for this workshop?

I think what will be beautiful about us collaborating is giving women the opportunity to go deeper and the healing that might come forth, using writing as a tool to heal a part of a woman's birth story that she may not be settled with. Or maybe she wishes that it looked a little different or maybe she just wants to acknowledge that moment of seeing her baby for the first time and that moment of joy and bliss and excitement and really just take a pause and write that out and see what comes forward. And so I'm just excited to hold the space and witness what you bring in your work and have women experience your work. 

Another thing I hear from women is, “Oh I wish I had just written my birth story down right after it happened. I just wish I had it to give my daughter or my son one day so they could read their story of coming into the world.” So I am excited about the opportunity to write and just be in the curiosity of it and open to how it unfolds.


To learn more about Paula Mallis, visit paulamallis.com

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