We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicki Dunnavant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicki, what do you want people to remember about you?
I would love for my legacy to be progress in the movement toward reproductive justice in the Denver birth community. Black birthers die at three to four times the rate of white birthers and unfortunately Denver is no exception to this trend. At the Colorado Volunteer Doulas, we’re working to not only provide volunteer labor doula services to folx that want it, but to also train and mentor our doulas to better recognize the injustices in our healthcare systems, understand their own implicit biases, and to support and empower our clients within these constraints.
Alright, tell us more about your work. How did you get to where you are today?
I love this question because it demonstrates that almost no one’s path is a straight line. I have a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago in Social Sciences and went straight into public health research after graduate school. Initially, I wanted a hobby to engage with outside of work and missed direct service, so I got trained as a doula through DONA International in 2013. I worked with the Chicago Volunteer Doulas and was able to volunteer as a doula a Saturday or two every month. Cut to 7 years later, I was working at a consulting firm, dreading every email that came in, finding no joy in my work, and barely going to births. I had a complete career crisis. Eventually, I realized that while birth work is my passion, the life style doesn’t suit my wants or needs for a full-time gig. Or rather, making it my full-time gig would suck all the passion out of the work for me. So, I found my way back to a stable, work-from-home healthcare job that affords me the lifestyle I want, and decided to found the Colorado Volunteer Doulas on the side. Running a nonprofit and having a full-time career is not easy. I constantly have to balance my time and often struggle with work-life balance. But what I want people to see is the creative solutioning that ended up being my special sauce. For me, finding career fulfillment hasn’t been as simple as “do what you’re passionate about.” It’s been years of identifying my priorities in life, my strengths in work, AND my passions to figure out how all the pieces of my puzzle should and could fit together.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In non-COVID times, this itinerary would be full of food, drinks, and hikes. I love taking people on a tour of RiNo – walking up and down Larimer and checking out the awesome street art. We’d hit up Stowaway Kitchen for brunch, Death & Co for drinks, and Cart-Driver for some of my favorite pizza in town. Central Market, Los Chingones, and Ratio Brewing are other faves on that block. At some point in the week, I would bring them to Williams & Graham for more cocktails, and would maybe pop over to Frozen Matter for ice cream afterwards. Bamboo Sushi would also be a must for dinner – the best sushi in town and sustainably sourced to boot!
Aside from eats and drinks, I know my bestie would be down for a serious hike or two, possibly an overnight car camp if we could wrangle our babies into a tent. I love taking out-of-towners up a mountain. There’s something so magical and empowering about standing on top of a peak knowing just your legs got you there (for the most part). Some faves near Denver are South Arapahoe Peak, Mt. Princeton followed by a soak and possibly an over night at Antero Hot Springs, and Chicago Lakes.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The credit and recognition for this Shoutout entirely belongs to the 45 incredible doulas who volunteer with Colorado Volunteer Doulas, as well as our Doula Mentor Penny Lyon. These doulas dedicate their free time to be with individuals and families in labor, sometimes for hours on end, sometimes overnight, always instead of being with their families or otherwise enjoying their free time. They are incredibly dedicated to our cause of serving birthing people and being committed to reproductive justice. They collaborate with me about how we can grow and better serve our clients. They challenge me when I’m thinking too small. They engage with each other and our trainings and resources. CVD would not exist without these doulas. They have truly made my dreams come true and I cannot thank them enough.
Donner Photos Monet Nicole Births