BRITTA BUSHNELL, PHD
Dr. Britta Bushnell is an award-winning childbirth, relationship, and parenthood specialist, author, and speaker. Having worked with new families for almost two decades, Britta blends her experience in the childbearing year with her doctoral study in mythology and psychology, bringing a fresh approach to an age-old human experience.
Britta is an engaging teacher, speaker, and presenter. Whether addressing a room of expectant parents, new mothers, or seasoned birth professionals, Britta has a way of captivating and inspiring them all. She has presented at conferences such as DONA International, MANA, and ICEA. Additionally, Britta has been featured on several popular podcasts including Informed Pregnancy, Birthful and Atomic Moms. In 2016, in recognition of her transformative childbirth classes, Britta was awarded "Educator of the Year" by the Southern California Doula Association (DASC).
Britta's work focuses on the transformational journey of pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood. Using a grounded, honest, and a playful approach, she helps parents navigate birth and parenthood with strength, confidence, and a deep connection as a couple.
When I was eight-years-old, my stepmom gave birth to my little brother. While she was in labor, I sat with her. We played gin rummy as her contractions came and went over the course of a few hours. When a contraction started, we would pause the game so she could focus until the contraction would pass and we’d return to our game. At some point, she went into the bathroom and my dad came out and told me they were heading to the hospital. I didn’t go with them, but I slept fitfully, excited by the prospect of a new sibling. I reflect on those hours frequently. I didn’t know then that that experience would be the first of many times I would sit with a laboring parent.
My first professional foray into the field of childbirth came as a prenatal yoga instructor. Several times a week I would lead a group of pregnant women through ninety minutes of stretches, breathing exercises, and visualizations. It was a calm and centered class; mothers would leave grounded and “in their bodies.” Often, mothers would come back to the classes after they gave birth to share their babies with the other women and connect with their postpartum bodies. When these women came back to class, I would invite them to share with the class a bit about their experience in labor (I did not know then what I know now about doing this). Time after time the new moms would say something to the effect of, “my birth was REALLY intense,” said with enough inflection to imply their experience was something unusual. I began to understand that I was somehow communicating through my yoga classes that to do birth “yogically” and to labor well, women should be able to simply breathe and meditate through labor as we had done time and again in class. I never mentioned pain, hard work, or effort. The focus was all about relaxation, breathing, calming, and becoming centered. Without realizing it, I was denying the very real possibility of pain in labor and contributing to the illusion that rendered these mothers underprepared for labor and birth.
I began to hunt for a more balanced way to support birthing individuals and their partners in preparation for the full range of experiences possible in birth. I knew that labor, birth, and new parenthood required far more than yogic breathing and relaxation.
The quest for something different led me to take a class early in 2002 with Pam England, author and director of Birthing From Within, who would become my mentor and then colleague, on my journey as a childbirth professional and ultimately, became a trusted friend. The Birthing From Within (BFW) approach and my close relationship with Pam, has highly influenced my work and my life. I taught classes to parents and continued to deepen my study within BFW as well as through other workshops both birth-related and outside of birth. I facilitated trainings for fellow birth professionals and became a partner in Birthing From Within from 2006-2009. Driven by a passion for birth as a transformative, meaning-making experience, regardless of the path birth takes, I kept seeking more.
I have always loved mythology and have found great stories to be profound guides for personal transformation. This, along with my love of storytelling, propelled me into a doctorate program in mythology. Entering graduate school, I vowed to branch out beyond childbirth, thinking I was ready to end the childbirth chapter of my professional identity and open to something new. But as things often go, those were best-laid plans that I could not control. It didn’t matter which course I took, I couldn’t help but hear themes related to childbirth. It was as if my mind was a childbirth lens through which everything was filtered. When it came time to write my dissertation, the loudest voice within me called for me to explore the realm of childbirth in America through the lens that had planted itself within my psyche. For over two years, I researched, studied, explored, and wrote my dissertation entitled, Forceps and Candles: Cultural Myths in American Childbirth. Upon its completion and acceptance in December 2015, I earned my PhD in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology. Writing the dissertation taught me a lot and by the time it was complete, I was already changing my thoughts on a few key points and expanding into others.
"Britta, you are an incredibly gifted and hard working teacher. You have such an unique way of allowing us to access the information using our own thoughts and analysis, and your intuitive sense of when to push and when to wait is truly special."
During all of these experiences, I was also raising two kids who are now nearly adults. One is successfully launched into college and the other is not far behind. I have learned a huge amount in the experience of parenthood. My kids have been profound teachers. I’ve made mistakes—learned from some and repeated others. Parenting teaches me the importance of openness, resilience, and strength…DAILY!
And, my relationship with my husband has been an important focus for nearly 25 years. Parenthood challenges our connection with each other—it challenges our communication, our power dynamic, our sense of personal and couple identities, our sex life, our roles as co-parents, and so much more! Through it all, we have made it a priority to attend to our relationship too. With so much going on, this simple statement belies the difficulty of doing so! Still, we are conscious about the needs of our relationship. We share a strong commitment to personal practice and relationship as personal/spiritual practice. Through our thirst for knowledge and skills that would help our relationship, we learned and adopted several specific practices that have profoundly supported our relationship throughout our 24+ years together and 18+ years as co-parents. Our work as a couple was so powerful for us personally that it began to seep into my work with couples.
All of these influences and more have woven themselves together into the work I offer parents and couples today. I am forever learning, creating, and sharing. My book is the next step along a path that continues to lay itself out before me, sometimes by choice and sometimes unbidden.
Britta is quite simply one of the best teachers I have ever had for any subject.
Dr. Britta Bushnell is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and mentor who blends her eclectic training, years of experience, and areas of study into a unique offering for individuals, couples, professionals, and groups. Britta is currently deep at work writing her forthcoming book, Transformed by Birth: Cultivating Openness, Resilience, and Strength for the Life-Changing Journey from Pregnancy to Parenthood.
>> Curious to learn more about my background and training? See my CV...