We had the good fortune of connecting with Ash Spivak and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ash, one of the most rewarding things about getting to know so many entrepreneurs and creatives is seeing first-hand how many of them are focused on so much more than just financial results. So many of the folks we connect with are focused on having a positive social impact on their community or the world at large. Can you talk to us about how you are helping the community?
Everything I have created has been geared to fill a gap that many Americans face; we don’t trust that we can take the lead in our own health and healing (In fact, I’d argue that for those AFAB-assigned female at birth- we’ve been specifically taught not to trust ourselves.) I specifically focus on sexual, reproductive and hormonal health for those AFAB because the interconnectedness of those arenas are also central to just about every part of our health and wellbeing and because you can trace in American history exactly when, where and how racism, sexism, profit, control and ethnocentrism built the healthcare systems and institutions we work within today… and that are responsible for our current healthcare outcomes; Why the median diagnosis time for endometriosis is 7 years; Why Black women are 4x more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts regardless of any factor other than race; Why Black women are offered pain medication less often; Why clinics don’t include FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) as a valid form of birth control on their pamphlets; Why we have the worst maternal and infant outcomes out of the wealthy nations, yet we spend the most; Why midwives are so underutilized even though the states that utilize them most perform the best… and the list goes on. We don’t realize that as healthcare consumers, we have a ton of power. That, in fact, our healthcare providers work for us, we hire them. Instead, that white coat has become a symbol of power and all-knowing. We turn to those in the white coats to learn things about ourselves instead of tuning inwards first. Which can make it really difficult to advocate for ourselves, particularly while we are naked under a gown, or have a hand up in our vaginas, or when we are already in a ton of discomfort or pain, or while we are contracting during labor… While doctors and healthcare providers are essential to our care (and we are truly so grateful for them!), they are only human. And they are only as capable as their training, their experiences, and as their own biases, blind spots and shortcomings. And there are a few things that are important to remember about our traditional doctors; Their training is steeped in our sexist and racist history, and their training is not holistic (e.g has your gynecologist ever asked you about your orgasms, or mental health?) Plus, we must remember that our institutions’ policies are created from research and data that has its own set of flaws; women historically not being included in clinical research even for medications geared towards them, funding, making major mistakes as to what gets approved and put on market (google DES) and the overarching fact that individuals are not statistics. Individuals are complex and layered and so it is impossible for studies to account for all factors that affect individuals. This is why it is so vital we learn to become co-pilots with our healthcare team. Why we must look to complementary practices, eastern models, and energetics in addition to our Western model. Why midwifery care needs to proliferate for low-risk people. And why we need to only hire practitioners that also honor that co-piloting relationship. Because here’s the thing- you may be working with the most prestigious provider in the world, but only YOU have access to yourself 24/7. Only YOU have access to your trauma history, home life, diet, lifestyle, unique set of circumstances and experiences. And this too is very important data! It’s important to note that religion has also been built into the architecture of American institutions, it’s in part, why sex-ed in public schools is so pitiful, if it occurs at all. And this has left many of us with a lot of shame around our bodies and sexuality, as well as with a serious lack of education. This makes it hard for us to even know what is and isn’t normal and/or to seek help for certain issues. It also affects our mental health and ability to experience pleasure. These are the issues I try to address in all of my work! My book Why Did No One Tell Me This: The Doulas’ Honest Guide for Expecting Parents provides exercises and techniques for pregnant people to cut out the noise around them and get to know what they actually want and need, practical tips to advocate for oneself (or for your partner to advocate for you) during birth and postpartum, and a new framework to understand all the cool shit your body does for you. Allbodies Health is a digital health and healing club. We connect members with curated practitioners as well as provide opportunities to learn about body literacy, trauma, and sex in community, so we can start normalizing our experiences and feel good in our bodies, finally!
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Let me just start by saying, No! It wasn’t easy! It still isn’t always easy! There are many moments of “WTF am I doing?!”, and there were back-to-back nights of zero hours of sleep, sore feet from waiting tables and a very hurting bank account along the way, for sure. I’d say my biggest lessons came from working as a birth doula. The perinatal period is truly such a wild and extraordinary journey. We are forced to face some of our biggest fears as humans throughout- loss of control, the unknown, loss…and if we don’t let the fear of it all take over, it allows us to learn some pretty profound lessons- that we must contract in order to expand, that our physical setting and support people have the power to either help or hinder our process- so we can’t neglect selecting them wisely, and that we are never stuck…we may feel at times like we are starting over, or not moving at all, but the truth is that we are always moving forward, and that what comes next is always building upon what came before it, even if it seems totally disconnected at first glance. I have really come to see the process of Birth as a metaphor for just about any creative process or time of transition (The phase of labor right before it’s time to start pushing is actually called “Transition”) may that be building a business, making art, figuring out what it is you really want to do with your time… It’s all creation. There is always a transition of some kind. There’s always a death of what once was. And there is always a birth of what now is. I am beyond grateful that so many families have allowed me to support them in their transition to parenthood. Learning to hold space for others is the greatest gift I have received, and I wish that every body was able to receive such training. The world would be a better place, no doubt. I use the tenets of doula care in everything I do…it is the framework on which Allbodies was built, and I plan to use it as a foundation in my other projects under way (stay tuned!) While many of my biggest learnings are captured in my book, Why Did No One Tell Me This; The Doulas’ Honest Guide for Expecting Parents, here are some that are applicable for any time of transition or creation: • Don’t make decisions when you are feeling afraid or reactive- take the time to get clear on what you really want, and be honest with yourself about your true motivation for that desire. But don’t judge yourself for it! Instead, get curious- ask yourself “Why?” Worried that you don’t have the time to take the time? I have found that when I fully give myself permission to do this, the clarity comes wayyyy quicker than I thought it would. • Don’t think your way to clarity. Put an intention out there, then let it go and do something active with your body- take walks (in nature if you can), do yoga, clean dishes…and the answers will come to you. • Clarity doesn’t always come in the form of the answer you seek- sometimes it comes as the next step you need to take to bring you closer to that answer. • Work with coaches, mentors, therapists, plants, facilitators…it IS worth the money. • Set up your physical space to have smells, colors, patterns, textures, materials, music/sound that you love, that inspire you, or make you feel at ease. • Always hold with an open palm, not a closed fist.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Love this question! I have a lot, so will share a handful in case anyone wants to check out their work 🙂 Shout outs to my co-author and doula partner Natalia Hailes, my co-founder of Allbodies Lauren Bille, and my personal mentors and teachers from a distance and IRL: Jamie Salka (Story Pirates), Mary Overlie + the SITI Company, The NYC Doula Collective, Abby Epstein + Ricki Lake (The Business of Being Born + The Business of Birth Control), Nancy Mae, Aya, Ayla Nereo, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and The Jalopy School of Music.
Website: ashspivak.com , allbodies.com, whydidnoonetellmethis.com
Instagram: @allbodieshealth @ourbrilliantbodies
Other: Videos to CYCLES+SEX: LA = https://vimeo.com/user70466176 NYC = https://vimeo.com/219118305
Louise Reimer Brooke Saias Karen and Simon Biswass Andrew Werner