We had the good fortune of connecting with Krystyna Bowman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Krystyna, how does your business help the community or world?
Willow Wish is a grant program seeking to make the free-standing birth center experience financially accessible to families in Arizona. We believe it is the birth-right of every birthing family to experience a peaceful, empowering, transformational birth for the mother, and a joyful entry into this world for the baby.  Today this is only available if the family can pay the fee for service for their out-of-hospital midwife and/or free-standing birth center. By raising funds that are then directed to families ($1500/family), Willow Wish is removing the inability to pay as a barrier to high quality pregnancy and birthing options. This work is especially urgent given the current COVID-19 pandemic. Between more families needing financial support due to a loss or reduction of working hours, and more healthy, low-risk women choosing out-of-hospital birth, we expect that our application volume will increase. Evidence shows that birth centers are an option for healthy, low-risk mothers. Arizona has five accredited birth centers that qualify for our grant program.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My passion around birth and having choices started with the pregnancy and birth journey of our first child in 2005. At the time, having an unmedicated birth in a hospital was part advocacy, part choice of location, all about who you chose as a provider, and a measure of luck and stardust. Both hospitals where we birthed were not natural-birth friendly. My husband and I prepared for a natural birth by taking Bradley Method classes, we hired doulas to be our cheerleaders and comfort measure gurus, and we had lots of conversations about what and how we were going to bring our sweet peas into the world in the way we thought was best. At the end of the day, my husband and I were a great team and we got the birth experiences that we wanted and prepared for. We had three hospital births and a midwife-supported home birth with our fourth child. Experiencing the difference between midwifery care and OB care as a healthy, low-risk mother made us wish we had known about the midwifery model of care earlier in our childbearing years. We decided we wanted to make a difference for other couples who wanted to birth together. We became Bradley Method instructors in 2010 so we could share the birth education and labor training that worked for us with other couples that wanted to work together to birth their babies. Together we taught over 200 couples. I also had the honor of supporting the students that asked me to be their doula. That’s what led me to meet the midwives that planted the seed for Willow Wish. When they decided to open a free-standing birth center, they realized that their dream of providing free care to the needy and deserving was unrealistic. They knew I had experience with event planning, fundraising, and that I had a heart for birthing families. They asked me if I would run a foundation for people that couldn’t afford the expense of personalized, boutique care that is offered at free-standing birth centers. I said yes, and now we are continuing to write the story of Willow Wish. We had no idea what to expect, and there was no model to follow since we are a unique program in the United States. It’s very exciting for me to reflect on this. We have the opportunity to discover what works, document it so that it’s repeatable, and help other states grow birth foundations that help families have the out-of-hospital birth experiences that lead to better outcomes for mothers and babies. Evidence shows that patients at birth centers have lower rates of cesarean birth, higher rates of patient satisfaction, lower rates of forceps delivery and higher rates of breastfeeding. We support the human and civil rights of birthing people to choose a birthplace supported by best evidence regardless of their ability to pay.  Free-standing birth centers are primarily available to the economically privileged. It is uncommon for insurance companies to pay for out-of-hospital birth options. Many families are left to pay out-of-pocket or maximize the yearly allowance from their FSA or HSA.  Thanks to the Willow Wish Grant Program funded by our sponsors and donors, and the many volunteers who raise awareness about the program, we have had the honor of helping 19 families have the birth center experience they thought would be out of reach. The grant they received turned their wish for a birth center experience into a dream come true. We are eager to continue our mission of Granting Birth Choice. Even though 2020 has completely changed the way we gather and we fundraise, our incredible team has still found a way to underwrite the cost of 12 more grants. Huge thanks to our sponsors and our donors who have so generously continued their support. Thanks to the collective efforts of our community, Willow Wish Grants are going to make it possible for 12 families to birth their babies with the support of their midwives in a free-standing birth center. It’s amazing and humbling to get to do this work. A Willow Wish Grant completely changes a family’s birth story and allows them to start their journey as a family in a peaceful, supportive environment. To get to award 12 of them a year is just the beginning. We are working towards a day when we can say yes to everyone who applies…that is going to be an awesome day.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend was visiting, we would start the trip by taking the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon. From there, we would drive to the Four Corners area to see the landmark and drive through beautiful Canyon de Chelley. We could come back to Phoenix by way Payson (lunch at the 260 Cafe) to see the Rim Country and then Sedona to experience Red Rock Country (eating at Rene’s is a must in Sedona). We would finish the week with a relaxing visit to the Camelback Inn Spa or the Wild Horse Pass spa and a stay at one of the Resorts. If we had time, I would do an overnight at both resorts. I have learned that when you are on the road, look for the restaurant with the most cars in the parking lot. It has led us to find the local places with the best food, and we would definitely do that on this trip when I didn’t have a specific place in mind to stop for a meal. Each region of Arizona boasts great chefs and the resorts also have amazing food offerings. We are pretty lucky.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The Willow Wish Volunteer Team: These dedicated mothers and fathers selflessly give of their time and talents so that our social media, our website and our events are all a seamless and professional experience. I also want to acknowledge our generous sponsors and donors who believe in our mission and make our grant program possible. The volunteers, the donors, and the sponsors have made all the difference for the birthing families that get to receive a Willow Wish Grant – 19 to-date. At the heart of all our efforts is sweet Clara, who inspires us with her message, “Love is forever”. Although her time here was short, she has inspired many of us to do the most with the time we have and to make a positive impact in our corner of the world.

Website: https://willowwish.org
Instagram: @willowwishaz
Twitter: @willowwishaz
Facebook: facebook.com/WillowWishAZ
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUBtSRje2HPYWkTsw7cfq5A

Image Credits
Cherry Blossom Doula Services Alisha Hunsaker Photography Stephanie Greene Photography Simply Taken Photography Sidney Holly Photography Candid Theory

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