I recently met with author and birth and bereavement doula Kelly Gerken for a gluten-free lunch to chat about her new, deeply personal book “Sufficient Grace,” her work with grieving parents, and how she reconciles crunchiness to her spiritual life.
Kelly is a very brave woman who has lost three babies of her own. She is speaking up to make it OK for other women (and men) to be real and honest about their struggles with faith, questioning life choices, and accepting and loving themselves as beautiful mosaics of broken pieces by sharing her own family’s journey. Along her path, Kelly has re-discovered her “inner hippy” through her own health challenges and quest to assist mothers in the delivery room in any and every way possible.
What did she have to say?
Lately her life has been “a lot of becoming more aware of natural remedies.” A lot of this she learned from fellow doulas with whom she trained via Stillbirthday.com.
“Doula work is intense, physically and mentally. I began getting debilitating migraines and shutting down.”
One particular evening, Kelly was driving home and pulled over in a parking lot due to one of the worst headaches she’d ever experienced. She ended up at the hospital and had a bad reaction to a medication they gave her. Worried that she would not be able to travel in the next few days for work engagements, she called her friend Julie, who is knowledgeable about essential oils, and asked her for help.
“She coached me on diet changes and natural things I could do. She packed me a bag with essential oils and directions to take on the plane. It worked! I didn’t have to take any medication on that trip!”
Kelly laughs, “I used to tease friends about being crunchy. Now they’re the first people I go to for advice.”
Kelly now eats a gluten-free, GMO-free diet and feels this has helped her tremendously.
How does Kelly blend her Christian faith with her crunchiness?
“Most Doulas I work with are Christian,” and those are the people who introduced her to natural remedies.
“God made our world and our bodies, and He made the things we need to take care of ourselves. I think this is very much in line with Christ’s way: using what He made.”
But Kelly supports all moms, regardless of choices or beliefs, or use of drugs or natural support in the hospital room.
She calls herself a “Grace Rebel”
“I support that mom no matter what she wants.”
Kelly always asks the mom if she would like her to be there, and if she would like natural support during labor. She notes that many people don’t think about or realize that babies who have passed in utero still have to be born, and the mother must labor, which makes a difficult situation even harder.
She offers labor support such as a rebozo (a supportive Mexican scarf technique), diffused essential oils, hot rice packs, encouraging words or prayer, and a birthing ball. She has also been known to sing or play soft music.
Kelly is passionate about essential oils for labor. Her favorites are Clary Sage for helping the uterus contract, and classic Lavender for soothing.
What has Kelly learned from her many years spent in hospitals?
“Our body is made to give birth. It’s a natural thing. When we allow mothers to do their thing, it’s amazing how it works! I tell mothers ‘You were created to do this!’ It’s an amazingly sacred thing to witness. Whether life is brief or healthy, all babies are born. This baby is coming Earthside and is worthy of celebration. The peace and beauty in that room no matter the circumstance tells me that life was important to God as well.”
“My book is unique because it focuses on wrestling with faith after the loss of babies. What does it look like? How does marriage and family survive?”
The second part of her book discusses a decade of work as the founder and primary service provider at Sufficient Grace Ministries, as well as providing tools for bereaved parents to use on their healing journey.
“It was important for (my book) to be right, to honor God, and be a worthy offering. I wanted to have it convey our walk and be something of an encouragement to someone else. There had to be a lot of release and letting go in the process. It was difficult to hand it over and trust. I felt naked revealing such tender places. But, if I’m not real and open about rawness and grief, then others won’t feel safe.”’
Kelly adds, “It’s important to be supportive to all mothers in their stories. We need to supportive of each other. We should never make a mother feel her experience is less than someone else’s.”
Kelly’s book is receiving rave reviews on Amazon at the moment. Check it out for yourself!
Kelly Gerken is the founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, serving thousands of grieving families worldwide since 2004. She is the mother of five children, three who dance in heaven, and two who fill her days with boyish antics on this earth. Kelly is a featured speaker at hospitals, churches, women’s groups, and a leader of educational seminars for hospital staff and caregivers. She is also a certified SGM/SBD Birth & Bereavement Doula, building a comprehensive perinatal hospice birth and bereavement program and creating Dreams of You materials to support bereaved families. Mrs. Gerken lives with her husband and sons in Ohio
If you’d like to learn more about the services offered by her nonprofit organization, please visit her site, Sufficient Grace Ministries.