A Male Perspective on Birth Work: An Interview with Austin Humble
Austin Humble, the recent founder of Compa Doula, is a young man with a vision and passion for birth work beyond his years. His sense of curiosity for the divine feminine as well as his eagerness to spread his birth philosophy radiates a sense of comfort, humility, and lightness that is exactly what we would want in a doula. Not to mention, his beautiful newborn daughter, Willow, joined us for the conversation, chiming in with various baby noises that made us all smile.
Before we talk about your new business, I wanted to ask you about being a new father! Congratulations. What has surprised you most about fatherhood?
Oh, man. What has really surprised me is that I could just put her [Willow] on the ground and watch her for three hours and still be invested and inquisitive. Usually, I flit from thing to thing, but with Willow, she requires a lot of attention in a cool way. It’s like, I WANT to give her all my attention and she’s easy to focus on. And of course, they say, you’ll never love something like your child. And that’s surprising, even though you know ahead of time that that’s coming.
You’re also a new father in the middle of a pandemic. What anxieties and stresses have you experienced with everything that’s going on in the world right now? Pandemic aside, your wife also went into labor during the Black Lives Matter riots here in LA.
Britta Bushnell in her book “Transformed By Birth,” talks about how the birthing partner needs to be the banks to their partners’ river so they can be free to change and move and embrace the wild nature of labor. And Casie [Austin’s wife], had to remind me while all the news was happening and the helicopters were hovering, that it was time to turn it off. She said, “I can’t have that energy around this birth space right now.” And so that’s been one thing. Just that mindfulness that I want to be the protector of this space, the cultivator of this garden. And with the pandemic, I actually started doing a lot of cooking. I really fell in love with cooking really nourishing foods for Casie. I felt like, if I’m giving Casie a bowl of warm, nourishing food, then I’m, in effect, helping the baby. And as for staying at home, all of those peaceful homebody things are also great for a pregnant Mama. So there’s some alignment there.
So tell me how you got interested in birth work. How did you begin Compa Doula?
Even before the pandemic, our doula and midwife would always say, “Woah Austin, you seem so curious about this process.” This was news to me because I was just acting like myself. But I was getting these positive affirmations and it felt good. Then after the birth, I heard of DONA [doula training], which is like, the most official sounding place to get your credentials. I took a weekend course with Ana Paula Markel and I was like, this is awesome. I saw that there’s a sizable amount of female doulas, but not a lot of men who have doula practices. Then it was our lactation consultant that suggested I check out this Dad’s group for some support during the postpartum period. That’s when I realized that, a lot of the time, the things we need ourselves are the things we want to teach others. I wanted to be able to support partners so that they can support their birthing partner. Doulas are truth seekers. It feels like, I don’t know… this is transformative work I guess.
How has being a doula changed or deepened your understanding of the female experience?
Wow. I’ve learned so much about the female body. I mean, my wife is a pelvic floor physical therapist, so we have a yoni model over here and a vulva model over there. I feel like I’m surrounded by the divine feminine that lives in my wife and my daughter at all times. I see [women] as so powerful and brave. My wife, from the beginning, has always been the type of woman who, like, uses a diva cup and gives her menstrual blood to the plants. I’m not just gonna sit here and watch her do that stuff and then not ask questions about it. Being a doula, in a way, is historical work, anthropological work, and anatomical work. There’s so much storytelling in birth.
What’s your perspective on home birth versus hospital birth?
It’s all about informed consent. Preparing them for whatever is gonna happen. You’re acting at this beautiful liaison in this big world of birth. A lot of the time, what we see depicted in pop culture are things being done to the mama instead of her saying, “Yes, I want that.” Mama’s are already grappling with losing their autonomy by carrying a child, but then when things are getting poked and prodded and adjusted, they feel even more out of control. But between a home birth or hospital birth, one is not better than the other. You need to have all the options available to you.
What’s it like being a male in a predominantly female line of work?
So sick! I love women. I love that, kind of, “tend and befriend” vibe that women have. In my very first doula course, it was me, one non-binary person, and forty women. Most of the women were actually black, which was awesome because we need more black doulas and midwives. Nothing about it makes me feel insecure about my masculinity. I think the world could benefit from more female OBGYNs and more male doulas. We need to balance some of these imbalances that we have in the world.
What is your trajectory for Compa?
Well, I’m starting my own dad’s group. It’s gonna be a little bit more geared towards the spiritual nature of being a dad. I want to have a group where men can come together and talk about the emotional nature of their lives. So that’s next. Then, I’m working on making a curriculum to teach a birth prep class just for the dads. I mean, I googled top pregnancy questions from men, and I realized there needs be more education and there needs to be a safe place for them to ask those questions.
How has your doula experience informed your role as a husband?
I think that’s what’s funny about being a doula. A lot of the stuff I was already doing for Casie during the pregnancy are the things a doula recommends. Foot rubs, belly rubs, and eye gazing meditations. Connecting so that oxytocin can flow. That kind of behavior that helps your partner feel supported is also good for the marriage.
The pregnancy journey often focuses on the mother's role; her responsibilities, challenges, and emotions... but we know that often times, she isn't alone. Read more about the obstacles that men face in their transition to parenthood in our article, here!
So talk to me about the postpartum meals you offer! What’s on the menu?
Every little bit of knowledge I’ve acquired about food over the last few years, I throw it in the pot! I’ve learned from a traditional Chinese medicine person about having more warming foods with pregnancy. I can make a really good kitchuri, which is basically this savory porridge with vegetables and lentils. When it comes down to pregnancy, you really want to eat things that are a net gain of energy and nutrients. I also make a bone broth and lots of soups. Not a lot of smoothies though, because they’re cold. You want to be drinking things like teas and broths because they’re warming.
That all sounds delicious! I was excited to see you offer that.
Yeah, we also encapsulated the placenta and Casie’s milk supply has been amazing. We can’t pinpoint that as the main reason, but it definitely helps. And that’s what’s incredible about birth, really. It’s such a pyramid built up of so many little choices and decisions. If one thing goes awry, you also have 70 other things that you did right. Pregnant people need to be reminded that, “Hey, this is a ten-month process, and all these books that tell you to do this and that are great, but check in with yourself to see what feels good.”