The Empowered Birth Project with Katie Vigos
There is truly nothing like the elation a new-mom feels when she first finds out she's expecting. Following the celebrations with family and friends, comes the looming-fact that "Oh...and now, I have to deliver this thing?" That thought is normally followed with a lot of questions, a good amount of fear, and some serious insecurity about what is to come. Katie Vigos wanted to change that. She wanted to create a space for mothers-to-be to feel like empowered goddesses when it came to the prospect of delivery. We sat down with Katie to chat about her creation, Empowered Birth Project, and what Motherhood ultimately means to her.
Photo: Katie Vigos feeding her son in our Katie Dress in Black
Before becoming a mom, what did you feel was your calling?
Some of my earliest memories as a young girl are of sneaking into my mother’s stash of old college textbooks and gazing at black and white photos of childbirth. I’d flip to that section first, transfixed by the diagrams of developing babies and the images of round bellies. I always knew motherhood was my calling. I was raised in the Mormon church, which places a huge emphasis on family and children. From a very young age I was taught that one of the most important things I could do in life was to bear children. While I have since left religion and discovered there are many other worthy pursuits in life and womanhood, becoming a mother has been at the top of my list and my most challenging and rewarding endeavor. This curiosity for life and the human body naturally led me to pursue nursing, and I’ve been working in healthcare and the healing arts for the last 13 years.
What was the experience, or were the, collective experiences that birthed Empowered Birth Project?
In the hours following the home birth of our second child in 2010, I laid in bed, unable to sleep. I was still high from what I can only describe as an orgasmic birth, and I replayed the labor and birth over and over in my mind. It was then Empowered Birth Project was conceived; I envisioned documenting and filming my next pregnancy and birth and sharing it with the world to inspire and empower women to trust birth and believe in themselves. I envisioned a community of women coming together to support each other through the birth and motherhood journey. Four years later, I began sharing my third pregnancy on Instagram, and the rest is history.
Photo: Katie in Mitera's Katie Dress in Black
What is the biggest blessing with the movement?
Without a doubt, the biggest blessing has been to connect with incredible people all over the world. I’ve made what I know are life-long friends; some of the dearest souls I have ever known were brought to me through my movement on Instagram. And to be seen and heard as a birth worker and advocate by mamas from all walks of life is such an honor. So many have shared their most intimate life experiences with me, their joys, their losses, and their everyday moments. Additionally, they have been a huge support to me during a very beautiful and yet very challenging time of my life. As I struggled through recovery from an emergency cesarean birth, hundreds of women offered encouragement and love to me on a daily basis. I am deeply grateful for the community that has formed and I truly love it with all my heart
What challenges have you encountered while breaching a subject in our culture that is often not well-understood?
The challenges have certainly been many! The response to Empowered Birth Project has been overwhelmingly positive, however, on many occasions there have been negative, ignorant, and even hateful dialogue on my page and worse, sometimes directed personally at myself or other members of the community. But that’s exactly the challenge of it all— not to take anything personally. Birth is a subject that touches people in the deepest reaches of their psyche— trauma from their own births, sociocultural norms, deep seated belief systems, body shame, you name it. Having a large following on social media and discussing intense subjects like birth and loss is like holding up a giant mirror in front of humanity; every reaction imaginable comes forward and people tend to project their own sh*t from behind a hand-held screen because they feel protected by anonymity. I’ve had to learn to let it go, not take it personally, and remind myself that I am here as a facilitator and an advocate, a person who is starting conversations and offering support to those who are interested in participating. It’s been a fascinating adventure!
What does motherhood mean to you?
Oh, motherhood… it’s everything. It’s the deepest emotions, the highest highs and the lowest lows. It’s blood, sweat, tears, vomit, and the most epic messes. It’s growing up alongside my children— my worst flaws and best features reflected right back at me. It humbles me to the dust and makes every day I get to be alive with them so bright and beautiful.
Photo: Katie in Mitera's Katie Dress in Black
What are your thoughts on the various methods of birth?
One of the most common sentiments I hear is “But what if something goes wrong at home?” as if the hospital is always the safest place to be. And it’s just not that black and white. Of course everyone wants a good outcome. But the thing is, birth is a mystery. Birth is unpredictable. It is one of the safest and most natural human processes, and yet it will never be free of risk no matter where a person gives birth. I think one of the most important decisions a person can make is who their care provider is; is that person competent, respectful, supportive? Does mama feel safe in their care? That really makes all the difference, whether birthing at home or in the hospital. After all, birth can’t be planned. I like to replace the term “birth plan” with “birth preferences." I think women go through a huge initiation with the birth of a first child, in the sense they have no idea what the experience will actually be like. It doesn’t matter how many birth stories you read or whatever coping techniques you practice ahead of time; when birth happens it will rock your world. There is a deep surrender that takes place as a woman lets go of her independence and is reborn as a mother. She is a new person and has just experienced the most intense, mind-blowing rite of passage a person can ever have. So a second pregnancy will naturally be a completely different experience, because now she knows the nature and power of what lies ahead. She may have developed entirely new preferences based on her first birth experience. So yes, I do think most women are profoundly changed heading into subsequent pregnancies and births, and I think those philosophies continue to develop throughout the childbearing years.
Photo: Katie's two sons
What moves you personally?
I am moved by people who are in their element and flowing through life in their truth. I’ve received inspiration for Empowered Birth Project from a wide variety of brilliance in the world, much of which has nothing to do with birth at all. I’m moved by nature, the sparkle in my children’s eyes, good conversation, and music. I’m always listening to music unless I’m at work, and even then I’m humming a melody or tapping a rhythm. I guess a lot of things move me. I just try to be present and observe, and the inspiration is all around.
What is the best advice you can give a new, or continuing-mom on giving birth?
Birth is an opportunity for self-discovery. Dive into it, embrace it, allow it to transform you.
We have so much gratitude to Katie Vigos for sharing with us her story, and sharing Empowered Birth Project with Mother's everywhere.