This is Anja

Hi everyone, I’m Anja Akhile. I’m 29 years old and I live in Los Angeles with my husband and our two children, who are 9 months and 2 years old. We currently live with my mother, who offered us space in her home during my second pregnancy, so I could have more support while my husband was working. 

I am of Panamanian and Puerto Rican heritage - born and raised in LA. My husband is Nigerian and Caribbean - born and raised in Oakland.

On career and motherhood:

Daily life is generally crazy. When my oldest was 6 weeks old, I went back to work for 2 months and I had to try to balance a full-time work schedule with a newborn. That didn't work for me, so I became a stay-at-home mom and my only focus was her, until I gave birth to my second daughter. When my second daughter was born, I made a decision to start working again but for myself.

I’m currently a birth doula, placenta encapsulator, student midwife and goal coach. My children are now in day care for 6 hours each day and I can focus on myself and my work. Some days I workout and take a nap because hello, moms need to recharge! On other days, I’m seeing clients, doing school work, interviewing prospective clients or attending trainings and seminars so I can expand my skill set.

My husband has Thursdays and Saturdays off, so Thursdays are our time to reconnect as husband and wife and Saturdays are family days. My husband has made a commitment to be home by dinner/bath and bed time every evening. He comes home and we all play as a family, eat dinner, do bath time and then my husband takes our oldest in the room for stories and puts her to sleep. While he does that, I’m with our youngest, nursing her and getting her ready for bed. Once both kids are sleeping, my husband and I like to watch movies or cuddle until we fall asleep.

I got involved in birth work because I was continuously hearing stories of moms having traumatic birth experiences, feeling isolated during postpartum, feeling unheard by their doctors - whereas I had been lucky to have the opposite experience. My natural birth, with a midwife, meant holistic care. I was seen as a whole and complete person and treated that way. Throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum, I had always felt seen and cared for and I wanted to give that back to our community of women, ESPECIALLY moms of color, who experience more c sections, more death and more trauma than any other race.

My favorite thing about motherhood is watching my kids grow through play and discovery. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my babies smiling, playing together and getting excited that they learned something new. 

In terms of challenges, I struggled a lot (and still struggle a little bit) to reclaim part of the woman I was before kids. it really requires a lot of patience, self-care and a great support system, to find balance in all of your titles. I found myself feeling like ‘just a mom’ or ‘just a wife’, not knowing where the fiery, spontaneous woman had gone. Now, I get my nails done more often, go on girls trips, date nights and other things i did before, so i feel more like me as a mom and not ‘just a mom’.

On diversity, representation & inclusion:

When it comes to this topic, I’m saddened and hopeful at the same time. Before getting into birth work, I was just mad about the lack of representation and diversity. Now, I am sad to hear the stories from women of color; however, I know so many amazing individuals that are working around the clock to change this. For example; midwives and doulas who are working for free, or offering a sliding scale to women of color. I see trainings in birth work, that are specifically for women of color, popping up all over the place and social media is making it possible to educate the masses on the lack of diversity and representation, so people are starting to listen. 

Because my children are so young, I hope they are not impacted by the current lack of representation. If not enough change happens by the time they reach reproductive age, they could shut down. It is hard seeing a doctor who doesn't look like you or understand you. It is hard being pregnant and knowing that you are more likely to receive poor care. It is hard not having adequate postpartum support and feeling pressured to go back to work before you are ready, or forced to give your baby formula. All this leads to moms being scared, isolated and depressed. So i am hoping through my work and the work of my colleagues, my children get a different perspective - that they feel empowered and supported and that they know they have other options if they are feeling unsafe or unseen in the hospital setting. 

Diversity in brands:

I would love for baby brands to use social media to their advantage and partner with moms of color who are not just celebrities. I think Ergobaby is a brand doing a better job at this. They have a handful of moms of color in Los Angeles, who are product ambassadors for them and this makes Ergobaby more appealing as a brand. 

On All Our Mothers:

Platforms like this make moms and women feel like they aren't alone. Everyone wants to be seen and heard and the more platforms like this, the more possible it is to make sure all women and moms have the support they need. Platforms like this also provide the necessary education that some women are lacking. One of the best ways we can fight the lack of diversity and representation is by educating ourselves and then feeling empowered to use the information we now have. 

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You can keep up with Anja right here.

Michelle Gibbs