A Day in the Life: ’16 Public Health Alum Rochelle Vincent Focuses Her Energy on Grace and Space

“When folks say it takes a village, that literally was my upbringing. And my village– those are the folks that got me to where I am today and help hold me as I continue on the journey of who I am and what I want to do.”

These insightful words are those of Rochelle Vincent: Owner, Full-Spectrum Doula, and Bodyworker at Lotus Birth & BodyWorks. Rochelle, a Minneapolis native, is a 2016 alum of St. Catherine University who studied Public Health and Psychology.

Speaking with Rochelle was an experience like no other; she was extraordinarily sincere and passionate about her company, her career advice, and the story of how she got to where she is today.

Finding Her Way to St. Kate’s

Rochelle and her twin sister both went to the Academy of Holy Angels for high school, and eventually, they both ended up going to St. Kate’s– but that wasn’t Rochelle’s original plan.

“I had planned on going out of state to Michigan State and… being pre-Med, but obviously the ancestors had a different plan for me… and it didn’t make sense for me to go out of state,” she says.

At St. Kate’s, Rochelle studied Psychology and although she could have graduated early, she decided to stay at college the full four years for a few different reasons. In order to stay longer at St. Kate’s and to think about broadening her possible career horizons, Rochelle added a Public Health major. She had friends who were in the major and found the program really inviting, extremely important, and versatile– you can do anything from working on public policy to being a community health worker.

When asked about her favorite college memory, Rochelle mentioned that she holds the time spent with friends closest to her heart, but she also states that Graduation was amazing, because, after four years of postsecondary education, she was ready to go. In fact, the night after the commencement ceremony, she got on a plane and flew to France!

Lotus Birth & BodyWorks

Rochelle had the opportunity to study abroad in the Dominican Republic and Cuba over a J-Term, where she experienced and learned about the maternal and infant health system, specifically in Cuba.

“That trip was difficult for many reasons, but one of the beauties that came out of it was this rich vibrancy of the Cuban culture, and how community is just a crux of their care, which is something we absolutely don’t have here in the states,” Rochelle states.

She points out that from a typical public health standpoint, people would try to see how to implement American structures into these countries, but with this particular issue, she realized that the Cuban healthcare system is a great model in this regard.

“So I thought, what is something that I can take from this [experience] without appropriation, but with reverence of what they are doing, and how I can implement something like this in my own community?” Rochelle says.

In order to reach this goal of hers, Rochelle decided to become a doula, and she opened her company, Lotus Birth & BodyWorks.

A doula is a trained professional who supports another individual going through a significant and life-changing health experience, usually related to childbirth. A doula can make this experience much more comfortable by supporting the mother before, during, and after childbirth, whatever the outcome of the pregnancy {Source: DONA International official webpage}.

Rochelle is so incredibly passionate about the work that she does: “We know the statistics of how black and brown folks are more adversely affected by the healthcare system. The rate at which black and brown folks are dying when giving birth, the outcomes that infants have when leaving the hospital or wherever they were born. I think policy work is so important…. but I just realized that’s not where my heart is and I’d rather be on the ground, with my folks, on the ‘front-lines’ in a way.”

Rochelle stated in our conversation that her company Lotus Birth & BodyWorks was not intended to be a “business”– she just wanted to help individuals going through the experience of pregnancy and postpartum. However, after a while, she realized that she would have to market herself in order to bring in more clients. She also added bodywork services, which ended up really formalizing her company.

“I run this business by myself, but it’s not really just me. I have to shout out my mentors who helped me cultivate this business,” Rochelle says, “and my phenomenal clients who give me the honor of being part of their journey.”

Rochelle’s business covers being a doula for all aspects of childbirth and postpartum, including support with the loss of child; childbirth education classes for clients and public classes where she has partnered with local non-profit organizations; and bodyworks, which includes prenatal massage, craniosacral therapy, and placenta encapsulation.

A Day in the Life

Rochelle’s typical work schedule looks like this if she is going to a birth:

Start of the day

She begins checking emails and checking in with clients with calls and texts. When she gets a new client, depending on where they are in their pregnancy journey, she sits down with them and helps them figure out their birth preferences “so that they have the highest level of dignity and they feel like they’re getting the birth experience that they want,” Rochelle says.

Client in labor

When a client goes into labor, she checks in with them more frequently to gauge how far along they are in the process and how far apart contractions are. Then, she begins preparing herself to meet them at the hospital or wherever they are giving birth. Rochelle gives herself anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour to get out of the door and meet her client in labor.

Pack the doula bag

Because labor can last a short or long amount of time– Rochelle says that she has been with a client for 72 hours in labor before– she packs her bag for any situation. Normal things that go into her bag include:

  • Water and snacks
  • The Birth Partner book by Penny Simkin
  • Honey sticks and straws for the client
  • Unscented lotion
  • Essential oils
  • Makeshift heating pads
  • A Rebozo, a beautiful Mexican shawl– “I use this with a certain reverence because it is not my own culture… but I’ve learned from instructors how to use it in an appropriate way,” Rochelle says.
  • A change of clothes

Meeting the client

Once she is all packed and ready to go, Rochelle will meet her client at the birth center, their home, or the hospital. She stays with them and does different maneuvering techniques, comfort measures, and encourages them to eat, sleep, and drink water when they need it. She also advocates for them and makes sure that they get the best birth experience possible. Once the baby is delivered, Rochelle usually stays with her clients for 30 minutes to two hours.

24 hours after delivery

Rochelle will do an in-person visit to make sure that everything is going well as far as breastfeeding and to make sure they are feeling good in their bodies and that they are okay. This is usually a quick visit because the focus of the family needs to be on their new infant and getting rest.

Meeting 4-6 weeks postpartum

A month or so after the birth, Rochelle will reach out to her client again to make sure everything is going well and to go over the birth. She mentions that she reviews with the client at this time, because any sooner, and the family is still trying to adjust to life with a newborn. In this meeting, Rochelle also speaks with her client about what their relationship will look like moving forward; for example, some clients she sees all the time, and some she just checks in with them every so often after the baby is born.

“I think the most important part of this job is honoring the sacredness and the vulnerability that people are willing to share with you at such an intimate time,” Rochelle reflects.

Finding Your Work/Life Balance

As I was getting in touch with Rochelle to interview her for this blog, she mentioned that she finds work/life balance extremely important. Naturally, I had to ask her about how she finds that balance in her life and why she does it.

In college, Rochelle kept herself very busy– she worked and she was a full-time student. She also was the President of the Black Student Association when she was a senior, and the Secretary as a Junior.

“In college, at times, you have to be over-productive because that is kind of what’s expected from us,” says Rochelle.

College students are always doing something, whether it is schoolwork, their extracurricular activities, working, or hanging out with friends and family. College students are just so busy that when they graduate and approach the real world, they don’t have as much to do.

Rochelle’s advice? Take on enough to be productive and engaged in your work, but not overdoing it. Self-care is an important process that every person must take time for because you cannot function properly without being sound in your emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

Here’s how Rochelle finds a good work/life balance:

  • Safeguard your boundaries
  • Do not do work-related things on weekends
  • Realize that your energy and your time is valuable
  • Travel when you can
  • Be comfortable putting your phone on silent
  • Have family and friends hold you accountable to your boundaries or share in upholding your boundaries

Advice for Katies

Though finding a good balance between your personal and professional lives is important, Rochelle also had other great tidbits of advice for current St. Kate’s students.

  1. “Travel as much as you can, but do it in a way that is fiscally responsible for you. Traveling should not be viewed as a luxury, because it is your right to live the experiences in life that you want to.”
  2. “Give yourself grace and space…. School is really hard, so give yourself the space to explore other majors and activities, and get off of St. Kate’s campus. Explore the city, and cross the bridge into Minneapolis! There are so many cool cultural things to do here. Meet new people, have new experiences, and just give yourself the grace and space to just be.”
  3. “Honor your rest, and listen to what your body and mental health is telling you that you need that day.”
By Mandy Hay
Mandy Hay Career Assistant