As Off the Mat’s Seva trip to South Africa came to a close in February, I found myself reflecting on the year since I’ve returned from my own trip with OTM. Before leaving for Uganda in February of last year, I was unhappy with my life in New York. I was inspired by my Seva Challenge fundraising, and my new involvement with Off the Mat, but the rest of my life was not what I wanted it to be. I was sick of the city but felt stuck. I was unhappy with my teaching life and neighborhood but I couldn’t find a way out. I had generally come to accept the way things in my life were, and I simply hoped that someday they’d be different.
Then I went to Uganda with 21 inspiring women to get my heart and eyes blown wide open. As soon as I was headed back to America, I knew that I was going to have to deal with my own inner discontent when I arrived home. I’d been hiding from the rest of my life by focusing on my Africa fundraising and the upcoming trip. When it ended, I had nowhere to hide. One thing that I learned from seeing the incredible spirit of the African people, especially in the face of their many challenges and everyday struggles, was that it is unacceptable for me not to pursue what makes my heart sing and ignites my passion. The resilience, strength, and beauty of the Ugandan women helped me find faith in myself. As cliché as it sounds, I realized that there was no time like the present to make changes. I knew that I had to pursue opportunities to make my life more sustainable, enjoyable, and rewarding. So I did. I made changes.
One of the biggest changes to my life is that I’m now a birth doula—supporting women through labor emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I empower women every day to make choices that are right for them. Pursuing this work came directly out of my time in Africa. During our trip in February, I helped a young woman, Miriam, through her labor, along with two fellow Seva participants Amanda and Davian. We supported her as she navigated birth. It was the most present and alive I had felt throughout our entire trip. When I returned to the States, I signed up for a doula certification program immediately. I was following my gut. It was something that I hadn’t done in a long time. Since my first birth as a professional doula in July, it has been a wild, intense, rewarding, exhausting, and inspiring ride. I feel called to this work of empowering women, and I feel like my soul has found a home on this path.
I also now live in Brooklyn. I moved out of my Manhattan apartment that I’d been in for 10 years and found a new neighborhood that has more trees, space, and like-minded people. It’s a much better fit for me. I was able to make these changes because of my trip. After Uganda, I found confidence in myself, a respect for life, and my purpose.
In May, I’m joining Amanda and Davian on a trip back to Uganda to revisit the work that we started last year and to continue our relationships with the people that changed our lives. I am excited to go back to this country that cracked my heart wide open and to open myself up again to challenging and rewarding experiences. I’m grateful to Off the Mat for providing the opportunity for these experiences and supporting me on this path. I couldn’t be happier with the way my life is now, and I’m thrilled to see what the future holds.
by Heather Snyder
Heather is one of the NYC regional leaders for Off the Mat, Into the World, and she currently lives in Brooklyn. She’s a Pilates and Alexander Technique teacher, conscious activist, and inspired new birth doula! She is committed to bringing together communities of inspired, empowered, and like-minded people to see what we can create