Hearthwell

is creating reproductive health culture, education, writing and advocacy.

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Seedling

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$3
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  • Curated links with responses, writings and critiques.
  • Extended versions and early-access content.
  • Opportunities to vote on topics for written content.
  • Recipes and Fun Facts
  • 10% discount on public class offerings.
  • A big 'Thank you'!
  • General Support
  • Patron-only posts and messages
  • Patron-only voting power
  • Early access to content
  • 10% discount on public offerings.
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Spring Bud

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$9
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  • All Seedling benefits plus...
  • All library content, including archives
  • Affirmation Action Circle Access: One 30-minute group session per month
  • Pre-release ticket access for limited capacity classes/workshops.
  • General Support
  • Full library access
  • Patron-only posts and messages
  • Patron-only voting power
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  • Affirmation Action Monthly Circle
  • 10% discount on public offerings.
  • Thank You Message

Full Bloom

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$15
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  • All Seedling & Spring Bud Benefits plus...
  • Access to video format mini lessons.
  • Discount on private practice bookings (ranging $10-$100)
  • One 30-minute private video call per quarter (or every three months).
  • General Support
  • Full library access
  • Patron-only posts and messages
  • Patron-only voting power
  • Early access to content
  • Video tutorials & lessons
  • Affirmation Action Monthly Circle
  • Quarterly private video call
  • 10% discount on public offerings and cash discount on private bookings.
  • Personal Email Thank You & Welcome Intake

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About Hearthwell

Jessalyn Ballerano (she/her/they) of Hearthwell offers birth doula insights, prenatal and postpartum education, writing, advocacy and nourishment towards
whole self, family and community wellness.

Hearth = home/body/health/birth
Heart = relationship/personal development/social justice
Earth = environment/global citizenship/conscious consumerism
Art = creativity/collaboration/expressive freedom


For parents, would-be parents, birth workers, and all humans - independent of reproductive desires, capacities or paths.

THANK YOU for exploring and supporting here!


More Background....
Before You Continue, Know That:
1) I am verbose and put a high value on context.
2) I aim to be inclusive, and I sometimes fail! I'm open to feedback and I am also not expecting to please everyone, all the time - and that's okay!
3) I'm using Patreon to share (my) truths, not necessarily to make people feel comfortable.
4) It is all, deeply, expressed with love, always, in all ways, for the condition that is the paradox of being human.

Okay, back to this context thing...

I got my start...well...in my mom, but after that I became interested in what the %***&#? was going on with birth and reproduction in the United States when I was a young 20-something anthropology student considering thesis topics - and my imagined future as a would-be mama myself. I was really interested in history, the power of language, food systems, health, sustainability, media, and what makes individuals tick - or come to care - about any of this. Were my pseudo-hippie "alternative" parents the only reason I cared about the environment and social justice? Nah, I had friends from totally different backgrounds with the same interests. Was my early atypical education* responsible for the confidence and knowledge that had my fem-identifying friends coming to me with questions about sex orifices and how to set a boundary via text? Probably...But why did I have this deep sense that my own body and my own health was somehow related to everyone else's as well as that of the planet? And why did I sometimes feel alone in that? (PS: I wasn't.)

As all children are influenced by their caretakers, I believe that my mother's choices about her own bodily sovereignty and healing (good job, Ma!), relationship to nourishment, and activism - and her birthing of me in that process - deeply imprinted my worldview...and maybe you're thinking, "Duh." But why, in contrast to my deeply held personal beliefs about the capacities and resilience of the human body, were so many American women** and families experiencing highly medicalized births, increasing rates of surgery, complex emotional and physical traumas, and postpartum depression? Why was I observing an increasing reliance on consumer brands (including pharmaceutical and technology companies) to inform our health and parenting decisions and beliefs? How has a process that, globally and historically, is at once cultural, biological, and sometimes medical, become almost entirely medicalized and often "handed over" to specialists in pathology and surgery?

A thesis was born (my first baby, really) and I studied the history of American obstetric birth, shadowed care providers in upstate New York, and interviewed women about their US hospital experiences - the norm for the large majority of American citizens today. You can read it, typos included, here. Guess what ya'll? I found what other social researchers and millions of birthing people have reported about the last century - a lot of medical decisions about women and birthing people's care are shaped by institutional foundations that center convenience (read: SPEED), systemic efficiency (read: COST!), and a pathological framework for women's bodies (read: FEAR and MISOGYNY)...even when individual care providers do their girsh-darned best to mitigate those factors.

I then did a very college grad thingy, having gotten rather angry and passionate, and took a train to California, hoping to learn more and "get involved" in the "other" experience that has defined the vast majority of human history - midwifery and birth in an out-of-hospital setting. I was surprised (oh, child) to find that Cali had all the same issues as everywhere else, including massive health disparities due to racism, and that while there were birth centers and midwives, those numbers were small and fluctuating, serving at most 3-5% of women in a given year.

It took nearly a year to figure out how one even becomes a midwife these days (summary: it's increasingly convoluted), and even though I'd never really aspired to be a clinician, I decided to dip a toe by taking an intensive with author, midwife and educator Elizabeth Davis, and then enrolled in the National Midwifery Institute. Along the way, I became a volunteer doula, and then withdrew from school (guiltily sinking my modest government-bond inheritance - thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) to focus on education, non-medical care and advocacy. I also quickly realized that despite "knowing" a lot, I lacked real understanding of doula work or attending births, and I blessedly found mentorship from grand doula and community activist and author Samsarah Morgan. I am now a SMC-Certified Full Circle Doula and CAPPA-Certified Childbirth Educator. I've been studying birth-related topics since 2010 and serving families directly since 2014. I've been in private practice (in Oakland, CA and now Oregon) and I am a Program Assistant, Senior Doula and the Communications Coordinator for the Oakland Better Birth Foundation.

Working with planning, expecting, parenting and curious families and individuals is an unending blessing. It's also incredibly challenging, and some days I don't know if I can bear the intensity of what feels like - because it is - an uphill battle to bodily liberation for all people. I will not sugarcoat for my clients, and I will not coddle you, dear Patron - but I will offer compassion, empathy and unified understanding however and whenever I can.

I will share my insights, learning, stories, emotions and critiques because I feel an imperative to contribute to the decolonization of our minds, hearts and bodies in this process we call reproduction (which, I promise, is so much more than anatomical). My clients and their privacy are precious to me, so any and all information shared here will be either 100% anonymous, shared with consent, or pulled from publicly published research and narratives. I will do my best to give credit where it's due beyond commonly available knowledge.

Solace is the generations of voices who have rang out - in all cultures, generations and contexts - before us, for freedom, truth and respect among human beings.  Story - including those of science (which I love!) and anecdotes (which are valid!) - are all we truly have to make sense of the past, present and future, whether we experience it silently, in words, in code, in data points. It can be hard to reconcile that something as simple as our very basic functions of mammalian reproduction are (and have long been) entangled in the power dynamics of economicsintergenerational trauma (how your great-grand-daddy lived and died matters), tribalism, and authoritarian dogmas of knowledge (not every culture agrees on what makes an expert...so not everything shared here will be comfortable or happy, and it may even cause cognitive dissonance - which can be a huge learning opportunity! On the really fun side of this is how forces as diverse as spirituality, quantum physics, the rapid intersection of new science and what was once "magic", and the upswelling of potent, righteous, creative collaborations for our collective health and liberation are changing the landscape of birth and reproduction - and so I THANK YOU for being courageous and willing to walk this ever shifting edge with me in the direction of your and your dear ones' well and thriving lives.  


*See The Free School and Unitarian Universalist Sex Ed...
**Most Western research documents realities of people who are identified (by the researchers or the subjects themselves) as women, and so sometimes that's the word I will use too. There are many issues that also/concurrently impact gender-neutral, non-binary, and trans people, and I often use the phrase "birthing people" to acknowledge that. However, whether someone is a trans man giving birth or a cishet woman, or a trans woman who is a co-parent, or any other identity with a stake in reproduction, becoming pregnant and gestating a fetus to be born alive requires certain anatomy and physiology. Namely, organs and hormones that have long been subjected to abuse, misunderstanding, violence, neglect, dismissal and even downright demonization as and by a function of misogyny, or the hatred/fear of women, girls, and processes associated with female-ness as viewed by Western patriarchy and modes of knowledge. This fear, and the conflation of difference with validity, impacts all people (including cishet men) negatively, indeed it is one reason so many trans people, and particularly trans women, are victims of violence at disproportionate rates, including in receiving health care. Racism only compounds this reality for BIPOC people. Until it does not have this hold on Us (may it be so), I believe that inclusion of all identities, without the erasure of the significant majority of birthing people identifying as "women", who have suffered, historically, because they are "women", is necessary in positioning the history of these abuses to today's challenges. I envision a day when trans folks don't have to fight for visibility and quality treatment because all people are treated equitably, and I am not sure that we can get there without naming the hate in the first place for what it is and how it has effected, in this context, everyone's mothers/birthing parent. Also, saying "uterus-haver" is clunky and inefficient.
I will do my loving best and I'm open to feedback.
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 3 exclusive posts
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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 3 exclusive posts
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Writing

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