About The Instructor

About The Instructor

Barbara Essman, Childbirth Educator and Creator of the Birthing Sisters Community Doula Course.

Barbara was born and raised on the island of Oahu with a long history as an island girl. Her great-grandparents arrived on the island of Kauai in 1875 after a long journey from Scotland via the West Indies. Her grandmother was born on the island of Hawaii and her grandfather came into this world on the island of Maui. Her mother was born on Oahu and all of these were home births. Barbara continued this island lineage when she arrived in 1945; however her birth was greatly disturbed because of the then current birth practice of hospitalizing birthing moms and giving them heavy doses of drugs – in Barbara’s case ether, and separating moms and babies for many days so mom and baby could recover.

Having sufficiently recovered from the birth Barbara grew beautifully, went off to college in California, got married and had children – all that was expected of a woman at this time. After a divorce, returning to college, working full time to support 2 beautiful children and discovering a deeper essence of self, Barbara began a journey to recovering from the trauma of birth. This was a subtle journey at first as she was unaware of the profound impact the birth had on her. She was drawn into the early childhood education field and got an AA degree in child development from Honolulu Community College, a BS degree in family resources from The University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a MA degree in human development with a focus on infants and toddlers from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena California. While doing this course work Barbara attended many workshops and trainings that were drawing her to working with younger and younger children. This included the Infant/Toddler course at Syracuse University in New York with Alice Honig and the RIE training (Resources for Infant Educators) with Madga Gerba in Los Angles.

After about 25 years in the early childhood education field that included being a preschool teacher for 3 and 4 year olds, a director of several preschools on Oahu, working with PATCH (People Attentive to Children a resource and referral agency), working with infants and toddlers at the University of Hawaii Children’s Center and the infant and toddler lab school on the campus of Honolulu Community College, being the parent and infant educator trainer for Kamehameha Schools, and lecturing at the University of Hawaii and Honolulu Community College, Barbara saw clearly a need to support pregnancy and pregnant families. So, while continuing her work with young children and their families she got certified as a childbirth educator with The International Childbirth Education Association and began to teach childbirth preparation classes. She did this for many years on the Marine Base in Kaneohe on Oahu working with military families and the incredible stress they live through as many daddies were called off to war. She also became a certified doula trained by Penny Simkin and Doulas of North America. She expended this doula role and got certified to be a DONA doula trainer. About 10 years into her doula work Barbara meet Sunni Karll at a workshop with Pam England on Oahu. Sunni is the author of the book Sacred Birthing: Birthing A New Humanity. A friendship grew and the Sacred Birthing vision was firmly planted in Barbara’s heart and soul.

This is when she began to really explore all the ramifications of her own birth and the profound effect it had on her life. She had not realized the amount of trauma that she had been holding and this trauma was indeed carried into the births she was being called to support as a doula. This was a huge wake up call and it became difficult for Barbara to continue to teach others to be doulas until she had fully explored her own birth history. It became very clear that a weekend doula training and then going out into the world to be a doula was just not enough. She developed, with other doulas on Oahu, a 12 week course that began to go into more depth around birth stories, but this was still not enough and she had to step out of this for a while.

As the Sacred Birthing energy grew on the island of Maui where Sunni Karll was living Barbara attended two Birthshops that took her to the next level of Birthing A New Humanity. From here her life began to shift, just as our planet is shifting, and she left her home and family (older son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren whom she had shared a home with for 12 years) and moved to the island of Kauai where Sunni and Sacred Birthing was gestating. She has been there for about a year and half now and is fully immersed in the clearing of her own early wounds that include connecting with the ancestors and clearing this energy. There is still much work to do, but it is very clear to Barbara that a doula course must include this clearing work before a doula can be fully present for someone else. Each birth that she attends opens up her heart more and more to the full potential and power of a loving birth. We can let go of birth being about pain and fear and know it is a joyful event that the whole world must celebrated as sacred.

Here is a piece of writing from the introduction to Barbara’s master’s thesis.

“Childbirth is a time of connection, building relationships, exploring personal strengths and abilities, facing fears, team building, growing a family, love and faith in the human body. It is also a time of great fear, unknowing, pain, loss of control and often giving over of power and self to a medical model of childbirth, the delivery instead of the birth of a baby. Birth is a journey for the baby moving from the warmth of mother’s womb to the warmth of mother’s arms. It is a journey for the mother who gives birth and moves into motherhood with all its rewards, joys, sorrows and twists and turns along the road that has an unknown destination. Life is a journey of unrecognizable magnitude that is often guided by the events that take place at the moment of birth. Was baby eased into the world by mother’s natural undulating waves of energy that caressed baby down her birth cannel and to her arms, or was baby pushed and pulled through this process with an array of drugs and modern medical equipment? Or, did baby and mother start the journey in an operating room as baby was pulled through an opening in her stomach because of the need for a cesarean birth? This beginning step can have an influence for many years to come, perhaps forever. If this first step is full of power and control and feelings of accomplishment the journey may be smoother with more joy than sorrow. If the responsibility for the first step of this journey was taken away by the drugs, high tech equipment, and a medical staff trained to manage birth, the journey may be filled with sorrow as both mother and baby continue to let the drugs, high tech equipment and medical staff take responsibility for, and to manage their lives.”

Birthing Sisters and the community doula course is about bringing back the human connections, the relationships, the team building, and exploring personal strengths and abilities. It is about facing fears and developing love, faith and trust in the human body.