I Wasn’t Able To Fulfill My Purpose Until I Had My Daughter
Words: Barbara Verneus
In order for her daughter see to her as fearless, this woman had to take a career leap she’d avoided for years.
The day-to-day hustle of life gets the best of us when we become adults. We let fear act as the barometer that tells what we should do; we get trapped in the lie of living a safe life, even if that means being miserable at a 9-5.
I knew that wasn't the life I was meant to live at a very early age. As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, I inherited a strong work ethic. But as time went on and I became older, I started to see that while I had learned about the importance of hard work and education from my parents, I didn't know anything about financial literacy. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate high school and attend college, but because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do, I accumulated a lot of loans. You could say I was a professional student like Lynn from Girlfriends—I went to three different colleges during my undergrad.
I had a lot of different interests during that time, but the one that I kept coming back to was midwifery. The film Losing Isaiah (Jessica Lange played an OB/GYN social worker) and a chance encounter with a midwife-in-training introduced me to the vocation. I began my doula work and witnessed my first birth in 2003, volunteered in Senegal with the African Birth Collective, and assisted midwives.
I ask myself constantly, “What do I want my child to know me as?”
I finally graduated in 2008 with a degree in media studies after deciding I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. But like so many graduates, I didn’t get to put my degree to use in the real world. I worked in counseling and human services for years, and enjoyed working with the detained teenagers, teen moms, and homeless women and children my work brought into my life. But even though I truly enjoyed the work, I would always hit a wall. It was frustrating to realize that I could only help people to a certain degree. And, more importantly, I had always wanted to work for myself—I detested working for someone else.
Working in human services brought me closer to my purpose, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter Glorious-Zoelle that a path started to present itself. Now, as a 35-year-old single mother, I ask myself constantly, “What do I want my child to know me as?” And I know that I want my daughter to think of me as fearless, compassionate, and well-established. I am my daughter's first teacher, and one of the things I would like to pass down to her is a life fueled by work she’s passionate about.
It was hard for me to make that leap, though. I struggled with the idea of becoming a midwife for a few reasons: I was intimidated by the science classes, the amount of time it would take, and accumulating more loans and debt. But I kept coming back to it, and I began doing the research on what route would be the best way to make this happen. I landed on being a certified professional midwife, but they’re only acceptable in certain states. So the next quest was figuring out which state I was willing to relocate to. (Imagine a city girl considering the possibility of moving to Arkansas!)
I started speaking with midwives in different states, asking them about midwifery in their state and the climate for Black midwives. The only place that looked promising was Texas; even though you can count on one hand the number of Black midwives in the state, it appears that Texas is the mecca of the birth world. Being a single mother living with roommates and barely making ends meet, I knew it was worth it to take that leap to do something I love and be so handsomely rewarded for it. I do have fears of how being Black will affect my career, but I’ll deal with that as it comes.
Right now I’m doing a lot of decluttering and spring cleaning. This move almost feels like an emotional and spiritual purge from weight I’ve been holding onto for years. I’m closing a chapter of my past. I’m still trying to figure out what this move will look like, but overall, I don’t have fears—I’m excited for the future for my daughter and I. I’m looking to move to Dallas, Texas some time this summer. I walk the stage on May 7, the day before Mother’s Day, to receive my master’s in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family. And in the midst of my move I will begin my midwifery studies at Mercy In Action’s Midwifery Academic Online Distance program, while apprenticing with midwives in Texas for the next three years to become a certified professional midwife.
Five years from now, I will be 40 years old and my daughter will be 7. (Wow, just thinking about that is blowing my mind.) But my hopes are that, by then, I’ll be able to live the freedom I have always envisioned. I want to be an available parent—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—to my daughter Glorious-Zoelle. I see myself homeschooling my daughter and as I am teaching her new things I am learning as well. I envision traveling to lands I have never heard of with my daughter.
I still don’t have everything together and I’m still working on my five-year plan, but I do want to say it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and accomplish your goals. Each day is a new day of opportunities that we can choose to grab or miss out on. Your biggest obstacle and competition is yourself. Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve to do it.
This year as I celebrate my daughter’s second birthday, we’ll also celebrate our new chapter in our journey together. I can’t wait to walk the stage with my daughter on commencement day, because she has been a source of my new level of strength and fearlessness. Glorious-Zoelle, my diploma—and everything I do after—is for you.
Barbara Verneus is a doula, family health advocate, and mother of one based in Philadelphia. She’s in the process of completing her masters in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family.
This article is part of our Money series, focusing on both the hard currency and our feelings of self-worth. Read more articles in the Money series.