Tell us a little about yourself outside of your work.
I’m a wife and mother of 3 children and one grandchild. I enjoy writing poetry and music and latin dancing.
What sparked your interest in maternal mental health? Is there anything you’d like to share about your path?
The issues that I have seen arise during my work as a doula have sparked my interest in maternal mental health. I know that the mind is extremely powerful and I’ve witnessed the mental condition affect birth in positive and negative ways.
I have experienced birth with women who deal with trauma and how it affects them and their babies. I believe that mental health cannot be separate from physical health.
I became a doula to ease the pain and emotional load for the families that I serve, because I suffered severe trauma through my first birth. My mission is to offer mental health support to all clients and raise awareness about the connection between the body and mind, especially as it pertains to maternal issues.
Tell us about your work. Is there something you’d like to be more widely known from what you’ve seen as a doula?
I am a birth and postpartum doula of 13 years, certified with DONA International. I chair the Birth Equity Subcommittee and serve as the Indiana Ambassador.
I founded Mahogany Maternity to provide maternal health services and awareness related to the disparities that harm African American and Latino families during the childbearing year and beyond. I am a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Certified Lactation Specialist. I opened a Milk Bank Depot to provide awareness and offer breastfeeding support and milk donations. I center my operation in a community with the highest infant and maternal mortality.
As a doula, I have witnessed the difference in outcomes that results from close attention being paid to moms’ mental state. I have witnessed labor slow, or halt depending upon how mom is feeling. I understand that the atmosphere surrounding her and her mental state can affect everything that happens physically for her as well as the baby. Being a doula has given me the opportunity to learn and gain insight into the entirety of the mind body connection as it pertains to women’s health.
Being a doula absolutely provides training opportunities for expanding knowledge of the female psyche as well as how to understand and interpret cues and nonverbal information regarding mom.
How has PSI and membership been beneficial to you and your career?
PSI offers information and support regarding equity in their offerings, and PSI’s Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color focuses on expanding access to professionals of color.
PSI membership has offered me extremely valuable information and resources for the families I serve. I offer my clients evidence-based information and services that enhance their experience and support their overall health. PSI membership is a great resource for my practice, it’s a wonderful source of support for every aspect of my work. Expanding my knowledge of mental health support is invaluable in my career and mission.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My work as a doula, childbirth educator and lactation specialist is the beginning of my mission to bring change in maternal outcomes. My mission is to eliminate disparities that plague African American and Latino families. My goal is to enlighten people about the possibility of beautiful maternal experiences and bring about a movement of strength to pregnancy and parenting.
Thank you to PSI volunteer Dina Drankus Pekelnicky for interviewing Kelli.