WINDOW ROCK – As the sun begins to set on a blustery fall day, the rugged buttes of Navajoland glow red in the soft light and swift gusts spiral dust through the air.
About 40 women, most draped in traditional dress, stand in a circle as Melissa Brown, an indigenous midwife, asks the group to reflect on the day just ending – and the mission still ahead.
“We have talked about being safe here. That is our goal,” she tells them. “We’re going to cry, and we’re going to laugh. And that’s OK.”
One by one, the women share a word that best captures how they feel: Happy. Safe. Joyful. Supported. Sovereign. Brave. Then one sings a hymn in her native tongue.
These women have come to the Navajo reservation to be trained as doulas, aides who have no formal medical background but provide guidance for pregnant women up to and through labor, and sometimes beyond.