Doula, Musician, and Mother Domino Kirke on How to Stay Sane in the New Year
Brooklyn singer, birth worker, and sister to 'Girls' actress Jemima Kirke speaks to Broadly about her work as a mother, a doula, and why she wants us to accept ourselves as we are in 2017.
Photo by Tina Turnbow at The Hunt
Multitasking is a skill we've all had to learn in a world where anything less is not an option. Still, some of us have mastered it a bit more than others. Domino Kirke is one such person. She is a mother, musician, doula, and co-founder of Carriage House Birth, a collective of trained and certified birth and postpartum doulas providing education for families and doulas alike. Though born in England, she's lived most of her life in New York, where she attended high school and has since become somewhat of a Williamsburg community staple and source of fashion inspiration, featured in StyleLikeU's "What's Underneath" project.
Though she is mostly known for her work in music and as a doula, some recognize her as Girls actress Jemima Kirke's sister. Today, while continuing her birth work at Carriage House, she is working on an untitled record set for release this spring. We spoke to Domino about how she balances her many lines of work and how she's staying sane as she looks towards a new year under Trump.
Broadly: What inspired you to start doula work and how do you stay inspired in it today?
Domino Kirke: My son was born eight years ago. I noticed right away a very big gap in my care. I was having a home birth and my midwife didn't allow me to have a doula. The reason I wanted a home birth was to be able to handpick my team and to not go with these huge practices where I wouldn't know who was gonna deliver my baby. When my midwife told me that she didn't allow that it kind of felt like I was back in the hospital. I felt lesser, unacknowledged, unseen, unheard really. After I had my son I remember feeling sad that I wasn't able to have the experience that I set out to. So what I did was I took the [doula] training when my son was about six months old and I became a doula very quickly. I knew a doula who had been working in New York for about six years. She acted sort of as a mentor and allowed me to shadow her. I was taking births through her and I was busy quickly.
How did Carriage House Birth come to be?
I had a little more than I could handle with a newborn so I ended up taking on a partner and we started Carriage House Doulas. It was kind of like wildfire. We made a little name for ourselves and then it was just done. We opened a space because one of my clients had a little storefront in Williamsburg. She was like, 'If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't have had the community that I had around giving birth in the city where no one's from.' She gave us very affordable rent and we were able to start Carriage House as a space and community center. I continued to attend births even though I was running a space until very recently where it's become a little bit harder. I do admin and mentoring and teaching, so I'm not on call as much today, but I'll never really stop trying to get Carriage House to the point where it runs itself.
What was the most surprising thing about this work?
Every single time I felt like I'd never been to a birth before. How every woman is so different and she labors so differently. No women's birth experience is ever the same. I go to every birth feeling like, okay today an outcome that I might feel prepared for might not happen. And you have to stay professional—it's a service you're providing. It wasn't something I could ever master. After eight years of being a doula I'm still kind of like, 'When am I going to feel like I'm really good at this?' I know what I'm doing and I know a laboring woman's body. It has become like an intuitive sense for me, but it's still new every time— that's the surprising part.
What is the most rewarding part of being a musician?
For me, being a mother and being a musician there's a whole new level of fulfillment because I have to plan my days around my child so when I get to make music it's such a joy, such a privilege. To have the space to be able to do it and perform it and record it—it feels so good to be creating and to have that balance in my life of service and creativity.
How do you balance being a doula, which of course has insane hours, with being a musician, a mother, and everything else life requires you to be?
I have a pretty crazy community around me when it comes to the birth work. I have doulas that will tap me out if I need them to. My son's father is really on board with what I do. So if I'm on call, he's on call. As I got older and became a parent I just got better at time management, really knowing when I could take things on. When I first started this, there was a lot of coming home, sleeping for an hour, and then going back out. I started trusting the universe a bit more, my spirituality changed, everything shifted. I just got better at self care and knowing when to say no. It's gotten more intense as my son's gotten older. Now he's not as into me going away for days on end. I really have to pick and choose the clients. With music, I have less time to mess around so playing a show has to be really worth my time. Everything's just tightened up.
To switch gears a bit, how have the election results affected your work or you personally? Have they inspired you to mobilize in any way?
Yeah. Carriage House has an actual physical space so as a community center we are a lot more driven and committed to holding more gatherings and opening up our actual space. We already have so much activism built into our roles as doulas, advocating for families on a one-on-one basis. We feel like we have to book more trainings, book more workshops, have more hosts come speak. There's a little extra pressure for us because we are known for holding space, literally. So we don't want our space to have a day where it hasn't got something going on in it.
That's wonderful. Are your events open to only expecting mothers?
No. We had a sexual abuse gathering geared towards expecting mothers—women who were pregnant or had babies and experienced their abuse in their labor. It was open to women only but we realized after that that we needed to open it up. We have grief groups for miscarriage and abortion. We also work with a lot of transgender and lesbian couples and that's becoming its own thing at Carriage House, where we're seeing more of a need for advocacy with those families. I feel like that is going to take off this year.
If you could give advice to someone now who's feeling anxious and having trouble finding any hope as they look towards the future here, what would it be?
I think I would say to trust themselves and to start a prayer practice [laughs]. I've found that prayer has let me feel less worried and feel less anxiety, less future tripping. Prayer really helped me get into the here and now and be less anxiety ridden, especially around the time of the election with the amount of panic I felt. I would remind them that they are exactly where they need to be. The pull to jump ship when this year started showing us its true colors was so strong. Slowly people started to realize that they'll do more by staying and I think that's my mentality with motherhood, doula work, and being a musician-- the impulse to cut and run or give up playing music or to stop focusing on doula work and focus on my kid. I think just staying in the day has helped me realize I can do all of it.
Do you have any New Year's resolution?
I don't know. I think when I do a resolution it's because I feel like I haven't done well or I didn't do that last year or I need to focus on this thing. I think this year's resolution is to realize that I'm perfect just as I am. As a doula we see that so often, all these women feeling like they can't trust themselves or that they need something else to make it easier on them. Motherhood has that all over it as well. My New Year's resolution is to be less hard on myself and realize that this is it. From there I can only get better.