My name is Nicole Donald. I’m 29 years old and currently living in Orlando, Florida with my wonderful husband and our five children. I am a prenatal doula, photographer and a licensed hair stylist.
I grew up around the Minneapolis, MN area; I was raised by my mother who struggled with mental illness and alcoholism. I also had issues with drugs and alcohol from age twelve until my early twenties. My home was violent and unstable for much of my childhood. My father left when I was very young, I met him only a few times over the years; in my late teens he underwent gender reassignment surgery. She and I have only recently started to have more contact.
I dropped out of high school and ran away from home by sixteen; I was pregnant a year later and a mother soon after my eighteenth birthday. I ended up single by the time my son was ten months old. I had a very hard time figuring out a natural approach to parenting having never learned to trust my intuition. I didn’t feel like I had support in this area and the internet did not have information as readily available, like it is today.
I went back to school and got my GED; I entered college right away. I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine which largely impacted my ideas about health and spirituality. But I hardly got by on my school loans and part time work; I eventually ended up switching to school for cosmetology so I could make a more practical living as a single parent.
I often felt like I was growing up along side my child; I felt unsure about so much and made many mistakes. I did the best I could with the information I had. I got caught up in a lot of the common “booby-traps” and gave up on breastfeeding at four months, switching to formula because even doctors told me it was the most comparable alternative to breastmilk. I didn’t realize formula was full of high fructose corn syrup, processed unhealthy ingredients and Genetically Modified Organisms; I didn’t even know what a GMO was at the time. I was encouraged to breastfeed on a schedule and to limit feedings at night. The concept of co-sleeping never once came up; what was stressed was the importance of putting my baby in his own bed at an early age to start “good habits.” At the time, I believed everything suggested sounded sensible even when my gut said otherwise; honsetly, I was mostly grateful for the help.
When my son was five my mother died. Our relationship had never been very healthy and the news made me look hard at the kind of mother I was and wanted to be. Two years after her death I was pregnant again.
Thankfully, by this time, I had learned a lot about birth and natural living. I chose to have my second child at a birthing center with a midwife and a doula. My first was a hospital birth; it had been high intervention, difficult and scary. The whole event left me feeling powerless and disconnected from my body. I knew it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I birthed my second son in water; we waited until the cord stopped pulsing before we clamped it. I moved forward from that day feeling empowered and changed. I began to truly understood how incredible and capable our bodies are. I wanted to explore a career related to birth but didn’t think it was realistic. Birth remained a topic I felt passionate about and continued to research.
Shortly after I brought my baby home it became clear that I had postpartum depression; my hair started to fall out and I began having severe panic attacks. I chose to travel with my child’s father to Arizona even though we were having relationship problems, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle things on my own given my state of mental health. I wish I would have known about placenta encapsulation! I feel that would have helped me so much. It took me almost a year to get my health back and save enough money to make it home to the small support system I had started to build here in Florida.
I still struggled with breastfeeding and turned to formula again when my child was only four months old because of a reoccurring infection in my ducts (which I now know I could have worked though by just continuing to breastfeed). My baby had skin issues and digestive problems from the formula until he weaned off it entirely.
I was also not yet aware of the truth about circumcision and still in the habit of blindly trusting “medical professionals” to some degree. I brought my second child to get the surgery because I had chosen that for my first and my oldest seemed fine based on my limited understanding. Then my new healthy baby almost died from the loss of blood when a blood vessel was nicked during the operation (you can read the whole story about my son’s circumcision here). This is one of my deepest regrets as a parent but honestly I genuinely thought that it was a necessary procedure. I started really researching and was horrified by what I found; the evidence against all the misinformation I had been given was overwhelming. I learned that around one hundred babies die from circumcision every year in the United States.
When you know better you can do better. I decided I would never again consent to anything that would impact my children one way or another until I made sure I understood it’s truth. My research led me to the realization that a lot of my ideas were based on other people’s views that did not run parallel to what was in my heart. It became clear that it was vital for me to continue learning and investigating if I was to sort through all the crap we as parents are fed because our society tends to think of children as second class; because often times financial gain is valued more than the health and well being of our babies.
I began to understand that a lot of the struggles I experienced with my children were based on an idea that had been deeply engrained in me from a very young age, this idea that children needed to be compliant and controlled instead of respected and encouraged.
I eventually came across information on Peaceful Parenting and it was like a ligthbulb went off inside me. As I learned how to release my need for control it became easier to meet my children’s needs. I stopped spanking altogether (which I didn’t do often but it no longer felt fitting with my parenting style at all); I switched time-outs with time-ins and quit trying to bully my kids into better behavior. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that taking this gentler approach to mothering resulted in more connected, more compassionate kids! It was all very eye-opening.
Along the way I also learned about the dangers of genetically modified food. I had been a very healthy eater for many years but began to reevaluate what I was putting in and on my body. Over time I stopped using many commercially manufactured products, including make-up and shampoo/conditioner (I switched to mostly coconut oil on my skin and apple cider vinegar and baking soda for my hair). I learned to make things from scratch and grow my own food (still learning!). Through juicing, cutting out dangerous toxins, gmos and getting regular acupuncture my crippling panic attacks began to disappear.
As I learned more about parenting, health and trusting my instincts and my body, my relationship with my children and my-self dramatically shifted. I made it an important part of my life to share this information with other parents and build a network of inspiring and radical women to help me along the way.
Over the years I had pretty much given up on the idea of finding a relationship I would be comfortable bringing my children into; but two years ago I met an amazing man who was incredibly supportive, inspiring and like-minded. He was also a single parent to three lovely kids. We got married almost five months ago. My husband helped me to pursue my dream of becoming a doula. He understands and strongly supports my activism. He also shares my passion for healthy natural living, peaceful parenting and gentle discipline. We plan on adding to our big family very soon.
I am excited to apply all this new knowledge to my next birth and through the early stages of raising a child. We have decided on a home birth and will be hiring a “hands-off” midwife because I want an intervention free childbirth this time. I plan to baby wear, full term breastfeed, co-sleep and use attachment parenting techniques. If I have another son I will definitely keep him intact and I won’t be vaccinating without thoroughly researching all risks and ingredients.
I was brought into the MotherWise page by my dear friend Kristen, who was one of the most inspiring and pivotal women I met in my early twenties. I feel very blessed to be a part of such an awesome community and look forward to continuing to learn from and contribute to the MotherWise site.