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A Conversation with Musician + Doula, Domino Kirke

On juggling work with family, founding a doula collective and more.
Image Credit: Shervin Lainez

Image Credit: Shervin Lainez

Domino Kirke is passionate about space — holding and creating it for others, and also finding and resting inside of it herself. With the slashiest of job titles — musician, artist, mother, wife, doula and boss — it makes sense how much she values this commodity.

Let’s state the obvious: Kirke is a busy woman. She helped co-found Carriage House Birth, a Brooklyn-based doula collective; is writing a book with her partners there; and just released a folk-pop LP this past fall, all while weaving in births and spending time with her son and husband (actor and musician Penn Badgley).

“It’s all about time management and asking for help,” she explains. “Life is a lot like being in labor. I need support, I need my village, I need to know how to say, ‘No, I don’t want that,’ and ‘I need to rest.’ To be able to do birth work, make music, and parent a young child, I need my community! I’ve learned that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.” She says she “used to believe that if you are busy then you are successful,“ but these days, “I’m all about resting in between.” 

In one of those in-between moments, the 34-year-old carved out some space to chat with us about how she’s worked hard to create not just a full life, but also a fulfilling one.

What kind of divides, if any, do you have between your personal, professional and creative lives?

I don’t really have divides. It’s all me, in one big lump! I take time off from birth work to be able to perform my music. And the days my son is with his father are the days I do all my visits with new clients. I don’t use nannies or babysitters, so if I want to plan anything social, I do it in those days, too.I try to make the days with my son really count, because I only get him half the week. 

It’s a balancing act, for sure. Being on call can throw off everyone in my life, so I really try to give back and be present when I’m not at a birth or performing music. It all works out, but of course some days it’s overwhelming. But I’m always at the ready and grateful for the time I get to do my art. Being on call keeps me in a state of gratitude.

You’re an inspiring human who I imagine many look up to. Who do you admire and look to for inspiration?

Every birth attendant I’ve ever met. Every first responder. Mothers. My husband.

How did you get started as a natural childbirth practitioner?

Well, a doula actually isn’t JUST there for “natural” childbirth. We attend ALL births, from scheduled cesareans to home births. 

After I had my son, I sort of stumbled upon it six months after. A friend who was a doula told me she thought I had what it took. I felt a huge gap in my care when I was pregnant and giving birth, so I really wanted to be there for someone else in a way that I didn’t get to experience. I took a training and dove right in. My collective, Carriage House Birth, now offers foundation birth and postpartum doula trainings.

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Let’s talk more about Carriage House Birth — I want to know everything! Can you explain what a doula collective is and what services are available there?

We strive to “re-create the village.” We are a collective of doulas, birth educators, lactation consultants, and therapists. We are a referral agency and training facility.

What made you want to create a place like this? What’s special about it?

It was born out of such a need for a safe space. In this city, where so few are really from, we felt there was a piece missing. I was terribly lonely in NYC when I was 25 and pregnant. I longed for a place like CHB to take me under its wing and make me feel less alone.

When you’re not working or writing or touring, what do you to do? What is a free day in the life of Domino Kirke look like?

I come up with new things to cook to for my son. I love researching cook books. I sit in mediation for that much longer. I try to meet up with friends.

You’ve been sober for three years. Would you share what making that decision was like and what kinds of effects it has had on your life?

I lost a lot of “friends” when I stopped drinking, because I stopped going out at night. I stopped being “fun.” But to tell you the truth, I really stopped being “fun” when I had a child in my mid-twenties. I tried to be social again after my son turned a year old, and it was so strange. I had so little in common with the people I was meeting out at night.

Also, waking up with a hangover and a toddler was just not an option. I felt very isolated by motherhood initially, so I was conflicted. I was grieving an old self. But that self was young and very destructive. I started to recognize her less and less. Eventually, I was drinking so little, that I just thought, “what’s the point?” 

Being on call makes it hard to “party” too. I grew up with and around alcoholics. I’d been working so hard to try and make peace with my childhood, that it didn’t feel right to be doing exactly what I grew up around. I was trying to heal from the affects of alcoholism, [so] I had to get it out of my life.

What are you currently reading and listening to?

I’ve been reading Dust Track on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston and David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones. I’m listening to Bedouine and the new Bjork Record

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