Having January come to my city, and empower and love on my village was so powerful. I feel like I can't even put into words what this event meant for me, so I am going to share what some of the women who attended shared with me, along with some amazing photos that my friend Anne Uebersetzig took.
My first Birth Without Fear conference was in Madison, Wisconsin. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was told by so many that it is a life changing experience. I was definitely skeptical. I felt a little shy at the beginning. Having my daughter Harlee with me helped a lot. Other moms with babies started playing with her. It opened up so many conversations. When we got started, January spoke to us in this calm, soft voice. Even though she was so soft, the entire room just became enthralled by her presence. She spoke about things that have weighed on my heart for so very long. I never really knew how much of my life was controlled by negative thoughts. She talked about the importance of self-care and self-love. About how we must take time to make sure we are okay. I truly believe that ANYONE would benefit from that kind of wisdom. This was not just about birth. This was about healing our souls. I learned that I do NOT need to lose weight to be worthy. January said something that I will never forget. She said, “When I was younger, I would turn sideways while looking in the mirror and tell myself that if I could cut off my entire stomach that I would finally be worthy.” I have said that to myself daily for as long as I can remember. But then January said, “Now imagine if you heard your daughter tell herself that...”. I looked at my daughter in my arms, beautiful and pure, and cried my eyes out. We have to show ourselves the love that we want our children to see. They are watching how we speak to ourselves. We need to be kind and gentle. I thought for the longest time that I was so alone in these feelings. But here I was, sitting with a room full of women, that were all agreeing and validating my feelings. That brings me to the major thing I walked away from this conference with, a huge sense of validation and belonging. I was finally not alone! We then went into our harmony circles. I felt a little vulnerable but I knew if I opened up, I could start to heal. I listened to these other women and mamas speak about their experiences. We all helped them to share and heal. When it was my turn to share, I started with the sugar coated version. Then my circle started to ask questions. I told them about my recent miscarriage. I immediately started to go to my default of “but it’s okay, I’m working through it”. My circle could see it was bullshit. They validated how much I’m hurting. They answered my questions and taught me that it’s okay to say I have three babies, even if one is in heaven. My child matters. We named our angel Storm Phoenix over the weekend and my circle loved the name. They told me that Storm is loved and they did exist. We came together as such a family, community, and support system. I walked away with so much knowledge and a different outlook on so many things that have been weighing me down. I received and gave so many hugs. We held each other while we cried and lifted everyone up with so much love. I honestly believe every single person could walk away from this conference and only have positive things to say. January took time at the end to personally sign our books and speak to/hug us. I walked out of that conversation on cloud 9. She is such a goddess and has such a passion for uplifting others. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Birth Without Fear conference, GO! Seriously, DO IT! Yes, I went into it skeptical. But now I can proudly say that it definitely won’t be my last conference. -Rachel Pitt
I signed up for Birth Without Fear not really knowing what to expect, nor did I really know much about January. A big part of me simply wanted to connect with other Moms and to meet some from my online “Village” group.
Being in a room full of others who “get it” was refreshing; it was as if a layer was peeled back. We Mamas shared a common ground, and we didn’t have to defend ourselves for how we felt. When hands were raised or heads nodded in agreement to something January said, I felt comforted knowing I wasn’t alone and felt validated. These were things I hadn’t truly vocalized to anyone or really admitted to myself, but I instantly felt it as she spoke.
I spent the following days heavily processing BWF conversations. I had a good, deep cry one morning just to release the emotions I didn’t know where there. Man, did that feel good! That deep release has enabled me to begin healing from within.
Attending Birth Without Fear and listening to January was on of the best things I have done for myself in a long time as a Mother. It has stirred this rebirth from within. I now feel empowered as I begin to dive deep inside to embrace what I’m feeling within.
Thank you so much for pulling this together. What you did has truly impacted many mothers and beyond. -Kate Terrien
I initially went to Birth Without Fear thinking it might make me a better nurse... like I could pick up on some secret tip to help support my patients on their birth journeys, whatever they may entail. Other than Nicole telling me I would love it, I really didn’t know much about what to expect. I showed up later than I had planned and instantly felt underdressed, deep down I knew this didn’t matter, but it increased my nervousness a little bit. I quickly relaxed when literally every one that talked to me was smiling and kind... what a way to start the morning! Listening to January talk was easy and SO relatable. My postpartum period with our second has been going incredibly well... my bleeding stopped at like 3 weeks, I healed up quicker this time, he doesn’t fuss, I’m not crying 24/7.... really like a 360 from our first kiddo. Hence forth why I thought I didn’t “need” Birth Without Fear... oh how was I wrong. January has something that every woman, really anyone, can take away. She gave me the power to forgive myself... I’ve been struggling with my toddler and feeling such an immense amount of mom guilt for getting angry at her for seemingly little things. When January said asked me how postpartum was going and I said, “Fine, so much easier than with my first, but my toddler is driving me crazy.” She validated my feelings and then said, without judgement, “She’s still a baby.” And even though it was nothing, it was a tiny comment, I loved it and I have resonated with it so much. She’s still a baby, not quite two, and it’s okay that we don’t have it all together... we have two babies in the house. I’m not sure how to explain it... but it helped me totally change my perspective on how I have approached and responded to my not-quite two year old. Birth Without Fear, snd specifically January, helped me give myself the space that I didn’t even know I needed. I would recommend to any woman, there is more to learn here than pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Birth Without Fear is about supporting women in all journeys and stages of life.
- Anne Jones
Birth Without Fear was an amazing experience. I wasn't sure what to expect, how the group of ladies would be, or how I would feel. To say I was blown away, would be an understatement. The conversation started with self care, self love, continued into intimacy, post partum, and more, it wasn't just birth! And I was so amazed by how many women felt the same as I did, or had similar experiences, but even more that there were so many different experiences that I could learn from, empathize with, and just listen to during the harmony circles. (Which I totally realize sounds cheesy and awkward, but I promise it wasn't!). I will likely never forget this conference and the ladies I connected with during it. It was an amazing event and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a day of inspiration, truth, and growth, it's not just about birth! One of the topics January Harshe touched on was the idea of rebirth as our lives change, grow, and evolve. This really struck a chord with me. Ever since the birth of my 3rd son, I've been struggling with my headspace. I just cannot seem to get a hold on my life, whether that is the day to day, or the big stuff, it's just been a bit of a mess if I'm being honest with you (and myself). I couldn't figure out what my freaking problem was, why I couldn't handle things. So I went back to work 2 months after Lucas was born, hoping that getting back to a job I liked, at a place I loved would help restore some normalcy and sense of control to my life. SURPRISE - It didn't help at all. I ended up leaving my job to commit to my home life 100%, Thinking that if I had one focus I could get a grasp on things. SURPRISE AGAIN - This didn't help long term. For the first week I. WAS. CRUSHING. IT. - I hit up story time, baked cakes, and more. But soon, the excitement of change wore off and I was feeling still lost, struggling, and a mess. I've literally just been surviving for months, not thriving. WHY couldn't I get my shit together?! Then, I was at this conference and January talked about rebirth, and something clicked:MY LIFE IS NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME AS IT WAS BEFORE LUCAS, and that is ok. I couldn't get control of my life because I was trying to live a previous version of my life expecting it to be the same, and then was disappointed when it wasn't. TALK ABOUT A TRUTH BOMB!!!Now, I'm mourning that a bit, because Old Alesha? Man, she had her shit together, she was CRUSHING it. However, new Alesha, is just finding her footing, making new paths, and discovering new things, and that my friends, is reason to celebrate for me and my family. There are physical changes (the gym no longer being one of my happy places), the financial impact that comes as a result of adding another family member and me leaving my job, the change of purpose as I am not working for one of the first times since I was 14 - for those of you still here and counting that's 15 years, more than 1/2 my life, sooooo many changes. For the first time in my life, I don't have a next step, I don't have a plan, and the future is wide open. It's like looking out at the ocean and not seeing land. There is part of you that is fucking terrified at the intensity and unknown, and another part of you that is intrigued by what is out there, and new adventures. I'm going to try and lean into the excitement, the adventure, and the ability to blaze my own path. - Alesha Rodriguez
The conference was even more than I expected. I walked away refreshed and ready to take better care of myself and found it very applicable to my life as a midwife and my personal life, even though I’m not a mom yet. January is inspiring, authentic, and loving. I’m so glad I went!- Kim Bertram
January was absolutely amazing! I think right now in my life the biggest thing I took away from the event was changing the conversation with postpartum Mama's! Being a very recent postpartum mom it hits hard talking about how people will walk up to a woman in the store or come to see you at the hospital and the questions revolve around the baby, "aww how cute, how much did she weigh, does she sleep through the night, is she a good baby???" All placing unspoken expectations on those Mom's and not even considering how that Mom is doing herself! Mom's matter too! Learning to ask women, "how is postpartum going" instead of "how are you doing" will shock those Mom's but will also help them open up about what they are going through! Beyond that talking about intimacy was interesting as I was just discussing with my husband how different it might be this time around since we had a vba2c and I have NO idea what to expect when sex starts again and its comforting to know that I am not the only one worried about intimacy and sex being different. I loved getting to know the women and their stories in the harmony circles, might have been my favorite part as I feel we were able to freely discuss things normally not spoken about and to connect with other Mom's going through the same things I am or similar things! I will definitely be going to her next event as this was an amazing healing experience and she inspires and has inspired me in so many ways! I know that I will take away something completely different next time! And cannot wait to read her new book when it comes out! Such an amazing event with so many amazing empowering women! - Heather Combs
The weekend was so impactful for me. Hearing January talk about things that all of us moms go through but feel alone in made me feel less alone. I don’t have many mom friends where I live and opening up about the struggles and joys of motherhood does not come easy to me around people who don’t want to hear about the messiness. Her open and honest vulnerability was refreshing and exactly what I needed. I paid extra attention to the things that she said that hit a little bit harder and made me tear up, because those were the things I was clearly ignoring within myself. It opened my eyes that I need to take better care of me, and my husband needs to take better care of him, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves. Not so that we can be better parents. We are great parents because we give everything to our babe. But we leave little to nurture our selves and that needs to change. I loved the harmony circles because it was deeply healing to connect with other women. Finding people that have been through similar, or very different, experiences helps us understand our own stories so much more. I loved this conference and am so thankful for the women that I was able to connect to.
- Ashley Lentz
Birth Without Fear gives back power to where it once had been taken. As women, our bodies and minds are often not our own, as many try to lay claim to them. With absolute fearlessness January Harshe delivers a message to women that it is not only possible to take back our power, but allow it to be a life force for the ones we love. Birth Without fear isn’t simply about the act of giving birth. It’s about being reborn, an act of conscious continuous transformation, defined only by the terms we allow. So much feminine power has been hidden from us, and now it awakens.
- Kim Smith
Birth without fear, it should be called A Journey With January. I have had the privilege of attending three conferences. Mama J has the best hugs! Every conference is different & very empowering. I love that January follows her gut & talks about what inspires her that day. This year we focused on taking care of ourselves & rebirth.
One thing I am struggling with is my new body after housing, birthing & taking care of three babies. Not many clothes fit & it’s a struggle everyday to find something that I feel okay in. That’s not okay. If my son were to outgrow his clothes what would I do? Buy him new ones! If my daughter’s shirt is getting tight around the middle what would I do? Tell her she’s too chunky & to find something that fit?! Hell no. Why do I treat myself different than I would treat literally anyone else? Why do I talk to myself different? I feel guilty spending money on myself. Why?! I can’t even answer that. I work hard, so why shouldn’t what my husband & I make go towards ourselves too?
So here’s to my rebirth. I will own my body. I will be thankful of my body. Not only thankful that it has grown three beautiful children, but thankful that it continues to sustain me and give me life. I will buy clothes that fit & get rid of the ones that don’t. I will talk to myself like I would talk to my kids, family & friends. It’s time I treated myself like I treat everyone else & know I am just as important. Love yourself in every chapter. - Missy LaForest
I feel infused with love and harmony after attending my first Birth Without Fear Conference. I connected with so many beautiful souls. January Harshe truly is the Mother Theresa of postpartum, self care and self love. She reminded us all that self care is not selfish all while making us laugh. She’s the kind of person we all wish we could be best friends with. - Ashley Seney
The Birth Without Fear conference came at a time in my life when I didn’t recognize how badly I needed it, but came away completely fulfilled. Seeing January Harshe pour so much love into her words and affirmations about self-care was truly inspiring and her guidance through our work in the Harmony Circles led me to realize how powerful I really am. The women who shared their experiences, joys, and sorrows with me have given me perspective on how much credit we need to give ourselves and each other. It is true that everyone will take something away from BWF- and many of us will take away something different. Some may be comforted and empowered that they can have the birth they desire, some may be reminded to make it a requirement that they practice self-care by feeding themselves a meal instead of eating the leftovers from their childrens’ meals, and some needing the confidence to show up for herself in her relationship may go home and communicate to her partner what has been weighing on her. Sometimes a woman will experience all three revelations (and more), and sometimes that woman is me.
The atmosphere in the room with so many powerful women was electrifying and empowering and reminded me that we are not alone. I realized who my village is, and feel wrapped in so much strength and love. That day was life-changing and I will be riding that high for a long time.
My experience of attending the Birth without Fear conference might have been a bit different than most of the ladies that attended. The conference was mostly about self care, especially postpartum, and how to adjust to your new life as a mother, with all the new demands that comes with it.
Words that I so desperately needed to hear one year ago, two years ago, when I was going through my own postpartum depression as well as other mental health issues, I didn't need as much anymore. With already having given birth to four children of my own, I've come in and out of that postpartum period, and learned how to manage and cope. But I will say that I did listen to January's podcast during that time and her words greatly helped me then. That sometimes, taking care of yourself first, before you take care of your family, will actually help you with taking care of them better. That not letting other people's expectations of you be your expectations. That sometimes you need to say no to people when you absolutely cannot do one more thing, and learning (I'm still learning) how to ask for help and to accept that help and support from other friends and family members, because we were never meant to go through motherhood alone. And lastly, that I can't do it all, and that's okay.
Being able to witness other women hearing January's words, or rehearing her words, at the conference was amazing. And listening to other women's stories on birth, infertility, loss, and life filled my heart with compassion for what other women have gone through. Most importantly, when I told a few women during the conference and harmony circle that I was pregnant with my fifth child and I choose to homeschool, I didn't feel the usual judgement that comes when I tell other people that, and that was pretty awesome.
At the end of the day, January took her time to sign her new book to those who wanted and I could see that she was really listening to each and every woman that waited in line. It was a great experience, and I recommend attending her conference if you get the chance, especially if you are in the new stages of motherhood.
- Anne Uebersetzig
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Art work by Alesha Rodriguez
On Friday, the day before the conference, one of my clients was in labor. She is a huge fan of January's and was so bummed she would be missing meeting her and having her book signed. So we surprised her at the hospital! Can you imagine January walking into your room as you are attempting a VBAC? I had to share these images and words from Allison with the conference photos because this is January and why we all love her so much.
She walked in and I felt like I already knew her. Just knowing that she had been through all of this and knew how important VBAC means to a mama helped me relax. I had been internally stressing over not contracting after the foley came out so it was the perfect way to distract me so my natural oxytocin could start flowing! I remember her asking to touch my belly and as she held my belly she looked at me and said “you’re doing it. This baby is going to come out of your vagina!” It was exactly what I needed to hear in the moment as I had started to doubt myself. I was doing it! - Allison Lynch
XOXOXOXOX. January, we will never all be able to express what your words mean to us, but I hope you see what kind of an impact you have on women. You are meant to be doing this powerful work. Thank you.