Sit Your Ass Down: Brandi Sellers, Doula + Educator, Takes Us Through Lessons Learned After Three Chapters Of Birthing + Postpartum Support
Brandi Sellers is a force to be reckoned with. The musician, mom of three AND doula has shifted her energies from a life of music towards one of advocacy, education and community surrounding all things birthing and mamahood. She launched her blog, Not So Private Parts, an online platform designed to remove shame and stigma surrounding women’s issues, as well as co-founded Moms in Color, a collective for Black moms to celebrate diversity in motherhood. Now an educator with three completely different birthing and nursing experiences that span over a decade of her life, Brandi is the perfect person to share her story with our community as we work to honor National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Here, she breaks down her journey to becoming a doula through the birth of her three sons.
Brandi gave birth to her oldest son Jaxson at 23 years old. As a young Black woman, she experienced the medical bias in the healthcare system that so many women of color confront.
“With the education I have now, I know I was being looked at as a statistic,” she says. “Before leaving the hospital, I was actually shown by the nurse how to dry out my breast milk rather than given the resources and advocacy needed to enable me to breastfeed.”
Brandi breastfed Jax for 5 days. However brief, it felt long without a support system in place. Her mom didn’t breastfeed, her grandmother didn’t breastfeed, and all she held onto was the misconception that it’s a natural process and he would just latch on magically. But she learned the hard way that it takes much more than the love between mama and baby, and she folded to the nurse’s advice. In Brandi’s words, “Breastfeeding takes work. It takes support. It takes patience and bloody nipples. It’s a lot and I just couldn’t keep up.”
Beyond the nursing itself, as a young mom, Brandi felt the pressure to get back to her then-career in music and everything else that filled her life before. The week after she had given birth to Jax, she was on a trip and playing music again. Because of such urgency, she didn’t have the level of resiliency that she would have hoped for and knows could have been possible now.
Fast forward nine years to the birth of Brandi’s second son, Jedi, now three. As a thirty-something, Brandi now had friends with kids, which allowed for solidarity within a peer-based support system. With prenatal nursing classes under her belt and a new level of encouragement from her community, she not only had what felt like a freeing birthing experience, but her breastfeeding journey with Jedi was a complete success. That being said, she was now working in the (surprisingly) male-dominated textile industry that made a nursing mama feel like a square peg in a round hole. Amidst taking pumping breaks in her car, she decided it was time for a change and that women’s work called her name. Two months later, Brandi participated in her first Black Breastfeeding Week event, which confirmed her choice and so began her journey towards working in birthing and postpartum care. “Erica Chidi Cohen was a moderator at the event and asked me, have you thought about becoming a doula? I’m doing a training …” Brandi says. “That was four years ago and here I am. It felt right, and looking back it came together perfectly.”
For her third experience breastfeeding youngest Jupiter, now almost one year old, Brandi had a level of support that she had never dreamed of. “It was the yummiest, dreamiest birth and postpartum experience ever,” she says. On this third journey, she birthed in her own dining room, surrounded by women in her life that she loved and adored, including a midwife and doula to support her.
It was also during this experience that she learned to really slow down and take the time to heal. Through that expression of self-love and time, she actually bounced back faster and felt better by three months postpartum than how she felt pre-pregnancy. “And that was with three kids all calling me ‘mommy’ at the same time,” laughs Brandi. “It’s because of intention. Intentionally focusing in on myself and telling everyone else they can take a number.” She talked with us about her plan to slow down with Jupiter here.
What Brandi has taken from her three births and breastfeeding stories, which has become a key pillar in her own practice, is to sit down. What does she mean? That you have to listen to your body, slow down and take time for yourself. Often, mamas forget that after giving birth, they’re not bleeding from a period but from a placenta-sized womb that does need to heal. They’re also expending a wild amount of energy nourishing another human being. According to Brandi, it takes work and guts and patience and support and it’s a time to be intentionally selfish. If you can’t slow down for forty days, she demands — take two weeks.
“The way I birthed and ‘postpartumed’ has so influenced how I see my own practice and how I take care of my moms,” says Brandi. “Now when I go into people’s homes, I’m like, ‘Listen, I’m not trying to tell you what to do you, but why are you rushing? You might want to go sit down.’ I can now compare each scenario and tell them how much more I felt like myself after this last time. Why? Because I intentionally sat my ass down.”