Though diagnosed in 2016 with PCOS, endometriosis, and infertility, Raven—aka Raye the Doula—was determined to maintain her future and her dream of becoming a mother by healing herself and by extending that healing to her community through a career in birthwork.
Now a mother to her son King, Raven Thomas, is a virtual assistant, an Instagram content creator, an RN, and a doula. Like many Black women, Raye struggled to be heard by healthcare providers and fought for three years to get a diagnosis for PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) after she discovered the condition herself while researching it in nursing school. Though she experienced the common symptoms: trouble losing weight, irregular cycles, bad dandruff, and pre-diabetes; neither of her four providers listened to her concerns or her request for adequate testing.
“So I had lab work done one time and the doctor only drew one specific lab… it was like my thyroid hormone or T4 or something. She was like ‘it’s normal so you don’t have PCOS’. She didn’t do an ultrasound, she didn’t look at my ovaries. If she did she would have saw the cysts looking things in there,” Raye says.
In 2016 when Raye finally got the diagnosis of PCOS, along with endometriosis and infertility she was overwhelmed with the amount of information given to her from the doctor. Common symptoms of endometriosis include nausea, throwing up, heavy bleeding and painful cycles.
“The doctor was like ‘okay this means that you’ll never be able to have children without some type of assistance. I remember very vividly I was in my early 20s when I got the diagnosis and he was like I’m pretty sure by the time you get 30 I’m gonna be doing a hysterectomy on you that’s just what it is.’ With endometriosis the treatment plan is often just medication and surgery to remove the endometriosis and he’s like ‘you probably have to have this surgery a couple times’,” Raye recalls.
Despite this news, Raye walked away from the doctor’s office inclined to heal herself holistically with her faith in God. After turning down surgery, Raye remembers: “I went on a journey of holistic healing learning how to balance my hormones [to] naturally get rid of inflammation within my body, learning all about my womb and womb care practices that have been lost,” Raye said.
Not only was Raye able to conceive her son without clinical fertility procedures the next year, but she was also able to successfully breastfeed though many women with PCOS have a hard time breastfeeding their babies. Because of her family’s history of premature babies, the birth of her son was another uncertainty for Raye. She prayed and wrote out affirmations for her desired outcome, giving birth to her son at 39 weeks.
Despite suffering a tear, Raye’s birth went smoothly, though the hospital was not very supportive of her breastfeeding intentions. Her journey motivated her to become a birthworker, “I needed to go through that experience to help me remember that my first goal was to become a lactation consultant anyway like I wanted to be involved in birth work anyway. It just helped me to fuel my passions to be like ‘girl you got to do this because people need you out here’ like you need lactation consultants [that] are our color and then obviously I had learned what a doula was through my doula. I was like okay I’m becoming a doula too because we need it out here in these streets especially in Georgia with our maternal mortality rate. My experience just pushed me to go for it.”
Raye’s business offers doula services, preconception/fertility services, and breastfeeding classes.
For more details on Raye the Doula’s story, check out the full interview below: