Tomesha Walker is known by some as a “godmother”-styled doula and has transitioned most of her work to coaching and childbirth education, writing, and speaking and she sees it all as a ministry. When you meet Tomesha, her positive energy is evident. She describes her leadership style as caring, uplifting, and expanding. “I mean that [expanding] in two ways. My style is always growing and whoever I am working with will expand and grow.” In fact, her work is expanding with a new non-profit launching this summer, Voices of Mothers.
Voices for Mothers is a program she created for first-time, high-risk, or financially-challenged pregnant women in their first or second trimester “to experience healthier and happier pregnancies, births, and stronger families.” The program is geared to be childbirth education from a godmother/aunt perspective. Tomesha aims to record the workshops and to make films available by purchase or donation to women who cannot attend the classes to broaden the reach of the program. Walker successfully received $4000 through a grant from Neighborhood Connections, a small matching grant program of The Cleveland Foundation for grassroots groups. The funds will help her produce the films, secure speakers, and provide food and supplies to mothers in the workshops.
Voices for Mothers participants get a workbook, a journal and opportunities to create birthing affirmation cards, birthing/breastfeeding jewelry, bibliotherapy, and nursery crafts. Bibliotherapy is therapy through writing. One Tomesha’s motivations for the program is talk about things that get left out of other childbirth classes, namely how moms can support themselves, their families, and their newborns. Speakers include psychologists to talk about trauma and its impacts and physicians sharing the importance of what to talk about in pregnancy visits; how to share it; and how to hear what the physician is really saying. Another speaker from Birthing Beautiful Communities is will be teaching baby-wrapping techniques to help carry babies. These workshops are inspired by a conversation with an obstetrician who was explaining things she wished new moms knew.
This nonprofit venture is the most recent growth of her career as a birth doula, having taken her first doula class when she was nursing the first of 4 biological children. (She describes herself as having four children by birth and four by wedding present.)
Since middle school, she knew wanted to be in labor and delivery. “I remember a teacher teaching the lesson and not hearing the teacher because I was amazed by the raised illustrations of the stages of pregnancy and a baby being caught by an anonymous hand. I asked her teacher, ‘Who is that?’ and the teacher said, ‘Oh, that’s an obstestrician/gynecologist.’”
Although Tomesha studied something completely different in college, through twists and turns, changed her focus back to this interest. “I want to provide for mothers something I didn’t see and didn’t have and learn how to support moms: what are the changes in your body and why you are feeling the way you have? How to have the best labor for YOU.”
Being a birthworker is “not just holding their hand, but really listening and helping to create a healthy and happy delivery for them,” she said. “I am the Baby Birthing God Mama, your Doula, delivering the birth of your dreams with peace and power.”
To become a doula, no certification is required, but as a new mom, Tomesha completed certification through DONA International, which gives prospective doulas 3 years to get the requirements done between the reading and real life experiences. Beyond the doula credential, Tomesha trained with Dancing For Birth™ and Spinning Babies® and worked locally to become a community doula trainer based on the HealthConnect One national model.
After her youngest child was born premature, diagnosed postural urethral valve and eventually needing a kidney transplant, her doula practice’s focus changed to share her experiences as a gift to other moms feeling overwhelmed with extraordinary pregnancies and babies. She and her son had survived a high-risk pregnancy longer than professionals thought they could last, so it was a stressful experience before the premature delivery. The way she supports women has also moved to less direct-service birthwork and to more speaking, teaching, writing, and life coaching thanks to the success of publishing her first book and the feedback she got from sharing her own tips and tricks in videos she published on social media after the birth of her last child. “Even the nurses with what I was doing with my son.” The encouragement nudged her further along the path of speaking and writing.
“I love writing because it allows me to reach people all around the world and affect change. I knew everything I was going through with our son from the beginning was not about us, but to help someone else. Writing was how I could share the story and never have met the person or met one on one, and still bring hope to their life.”
“Everything I am a part of is about hope and encouragement. Be fully what you can be and use every talent God has given you. Enough people who have died have taken their dreams and their talents with them. Everything God has given me I want to use. I don’t want to keep any of it. That is my destiny, what I am striving to do.”
Her first book, Purpose in Pain, is the result of the two months struggle for life her son had in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the advocacy she had to do for her son to be discharged home against the health insurance’s wishes, and the resiliency the family needed to go through false hopes for kidney donation matches and the post-donation care after one teacher gave their family “the amazing gift” of life by donating her kidney. After the international success of her first book, she decided to keep writing and has since published First Year? No Fear; The Real Me series of affirmations for children with a volume for boys and a volume for girls; and Pregnancy Prayers Vol. 1, prayers, poetry, and writing for pregnant moms formatted along the different stages of pregnancy.
Along the way as a doula, author, educator, and speaker, she has practiced a lot of entrepreneurship, which has fed her ability to coach other women looking to own changes to their life, including launching new projects. Part of her niche that other birthworkers have learned from her is using social media and online tools to build their practices and to support the operations of small businesses.
She pushes birthworkers and community initiatives to incorporate technology as a matter of cultural relevance and effectiveness. It’s “where different cultures are living,” so agencies and entrepreneurs need to access technology so multiple cultures can see what is happening and going on, she says. Tech niches are where “complete generations are living.”
“One of the highlights of my life was the Spinning Babies conference. Going there and sit in the classes and listen to the speakers and sit with some of the greats in pregnancy and birth.” Because of Tomesha’s tech savvy, she did their social media sharing and interviewed the speakers for the posts. She also trained the Spinning Babies trainers on how to share their work and create cohesiveness with their brand as trainers.
Walker still is in awe that at the conference and among the many birthworkers she got to meet, one of the biggest celebrities of the field asked her for Tomesha’s autograph on her book, Penny Simkin. Penny is an author as well, a physical therapist, and a childbirth educator and doula since 1968. Having one of the bests in birth sign a copy of her own book was a humbling experience.
Even Walker’s community work centers women and children. In 2017, she coordinated a team of young urban women from Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) to research the infant mortality crisis and write a book, First Year? No Fear!, as part of a peer community outreach strategy. She also taught the YOU teen workers how to print t-shirts for their tabling presence, create video graphics for their digital outreach, prepare and do community outreach at a festival, and request donations by phone. She took her crew to local government meetings at the City of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga Board of Health to present what they learned about infant mortality and why the students are motivated to help more babies celebrate their first birthday. Tomesha also volunteers at her place of worship, a gift-giving event for children called Christmas with Lolo in West Park, and a nonprofit in North Ridgeville. Looking to her next community project, Tomesha shares, “I am emceeing an event all about women with workshops and brunch in March” at the Parma branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library entitled I Can’t Come Down Women’s Conference.
Learn more about Tomesha at her website: www.TomeshaWalker.com.