Giovanna Aiello – Founder of Mindful Mommy Doula – talks about how pregnancy changed her life in more ways than one.
Stnce is a platform that believes confidence is the key to taking financial ownership. This is part of a new series we call, “Not at the Table!” where we ask people to address the elephant in the room – the taboos of personal finance.
I’ve always loved pregnancy. As a child, I would admire baby bellies and become fascinated by the journey a woman goes through to grow life. How one’s mind and body changes to prepare for birth. How in those nine months, one nurtures maternal instincts. I’ve always felt amazed by the miracle of it all. But I didn’t pursue a career that involved my passion for it because I wasn’t sure I could handle any of the heartbreaking moments. I also figured that the work would mostly be freelance or contract and wanted something more stable. So, I went into fashion management. After graduating, I found a retail position and enjoyed the work for a couple years before finding a role in office administration where I stayed for a decade.
In those ten years, I fell into a routine. And a comfortable one at that. My co-workers became my family and my job was something I looked forward to every morning. It was great. But in my eighth year at the company, I started to feel something nagging me. I began to question whether I had stuck around for too long. Because while I enjoyed every aspect of my role, it wasn’t what I was passionate about. My ears still perked up when people talked about pregnancy and births. And I knew I didn’t want to be in office administration forever.
It turned out that a doula provides emotional and physical support throughout the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum stages to make mothers feel less pain and more at ease when they need it most. It was like all the pieces were coming together.
One day, I heard the word, “doula,” on TV. I wasn’t really paying attention to the program but out of curiosity, I searched it up and discovered that it could be the answer to my pseudo-mid-life crisis. It turned out that a doula provides emotional and physical support throughout the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum stages to make mothers feel less pain and more at ease when they need it most. It was like all the pieces were coming together.
Completely inspired, I devoted hours to researching continuing education programs. But there weren’t many available for people who worked from nine to five. So, I moved on. It wasn’t like I was desperate to leave and if it wasn’t right, it wasn’t right. I took comfort in knowing there was an option for me to consider when the time came.
Sometime later, I became pregnant with my first child. The experience was everything I thought it would be – the ups, the downs, I felt fulfilled by it all. Giving birth can make you feel so empowered and ready to take on the world. After all, you just created a human and pushed it out of your body. So, of course, with that mindset, the nagging feeling came back again. The difference this time was that I was on maternity leave and had a few free hours every day to dedicate to a class. I wasn’t tied to a nine-to-five workday. I was free to explore.
I started doing the math. I asked myself, what are the bare essentials I need to afford to live a comfortable life and provide for my family?
When I went back to work, I had a lot on my plate. I was a new mom, reacclimatizing to my job, and juggling the beginnings of a new career. A few months in, and I don’t remember exactly what made me feel so liberated, I reached a tipping point. I started doing the math. I asked myself, what are the bare essentials I need to afford to live a comfortable life and provide for my family? I calculated that daycare cost $1400 a month, rent was about the same, and my average cost of living was around that as well. If I started my own business, I could look after my daughter myself and cut down on spending – which would leave rent as my only fixed cost. I then looked at the income I could receive as a doula and found that if I could book one birth a month, I would break even. A second or third booking would allow me to bring home more money than I was making at my job. Knowing this made the decision easy and I announced my resignation.
The good thing about being a doula is that there’s no overhead. All you need to do is invest in education and marketing to give yourself a start in the business. As soon as I left my job, I took as many classes as I could take. It was like a watershed moment and I wanted to soak in as much as possible. At the same time, I knew I couldn’t let myself become a professional student nor could I afford to make mistakes. So, I hired a business coach and bought a professional camera, the cost of which came out of my savings. After that, my growth was exponential. I successfully added birth photography to my business and booked six births for the next six months. It’s a rate of growth I believe I would have achieved after being in the industry for two years, which makes me glad I sought advice.
I’m still getting used to the life of being a freelancer. I’ve found that working with a more unpredictable structure can make slow moments feels slower. And I’ve learned that not every client is good for business; this job is about emotional investment and partnership, so it’s important to make sure there’s a connection.
When things aren’t going the way I expected, it’s easy to experience imposter syndrome. But I’m learning to remind myself that I do know what I’m doing – that women trust me to help them because I’m capable. It’s like giving a speech, there’s a moment right before you step out from behind the curtain where you think, “I’m not ready for this. They’ve picked the wrong person.” But then you walk out, and everything comes naturally, and you realize there was no doubt you could do it.
As told to Cara Lau exclusively for Stnce. Illustration by Yana Vorontsov. We make taking financial ownership approachable and relatable. Interview has been condensed and edited.