Season 3 EP#80 Capturing Rites of Passages: From Birth Doula to Sacred Portraits with Karissa Raya

arts May 11, 2023

In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I am with Karissa. She supports families in documenting the beautiful milestones of life as their personal biographer. Karissa's intention with her camera is that her subject, whether it be a family, an entrepreneur or a woman giving birth feels seen. Much more than a collection of moments, photographs become part of a family's historic archive. And as a creative entrepreneur, Karissa has supported small businesses with strategy, branding, and marketing. Her creative nature and personal journey have led her to incorporate energy healing, meditation, sound healing, and other personal healing modalities into her work. And more importantly, Karissa is the one person I have trusted into the sacred spaces I've created for my own students, my own clients with the retreats that I have facilitated. So if you are curious, who it is that takes my photos and takes the photos of my clients and then comes to the retreats to capture this magic, it is this woman, Karissa.

Main Topics Discussed:

  • The Importance of doula work in communities of color
  • Grief after giving birth and acknowledging emotions
  • Balance between documenting moments and being present in the moment
  • Combining passion for photography with doula work
  • The Importance of Rituals in Rest and Connecting with Self

What is it that you're celebrating about yourself today? 

I'm celebrating my birth. My solar return is actually on Saturday. So I'm celebrating that I'm alive. Honestly, just being able to exist in this timeline, that's what I'm celebrating. 

What is your medicine?

My medicine has evolved. I'm visualizing me showing up in any space as this beautiful auric vessel and being who I am and being myself as a nurturing and very present and calming energy and being able to expel that throughout the room that I'm in. That's my medicine. It's just getting to travel through all these spaces and containers in which I live and exist and just be like, can I offer some calming? Can I offer some of my love and profound gratitude into all these spaces where maybe it doesn't exist yet, or maybe stressful and tense? Can I just be myself and bring down that energy?

What is your ancestral lineage and how has this influenced your path today?

My ancestors are from the land that's currently known as Mexico. Both of my parents are there. So I'm like a generation 1.5 where my parents immigrated as children.  So they assimilated. I didn't learn Spanish at home, but I learned through my grandmother, who taught me Spanish because it was her primary language and if I wanted to communicate with her. And as one of the oldest cousins, I was like the mitigator. Right. I led my younger cousin, so I had to learn to communicate with my grandma. So I'm forever grateful that I learned the Spanish that I know from her, but it's really influenced my connection to where I live now, the Southern California Orange County where my grandfather was a brasero. So he was a migrant farm worker. He'd travel into northern Mexico, where my mother was born in Mexico, on the weekends, and he'd travel here to the Santa Ana Orange County area and work all the farms that were here. My mom tells this really sweet story where she remembers him coming home on a weekend and, like, waiting up for him because he would always bring citrus. He'd always bring oranges, because that's oranges, whatever he would bring from the farms that he was on that week and she would stay up so she could have one of those sweet oranges. And so I love knowing that ancestrally all of this was Mexico. All of this is native land. And so my ancestors have cared for all this land for a really long time. And my work as a birth worker and wanting to bring this work into communities of color, specifically and especially where I am in Santa Ana Orange County, where it is predominantly Latino, like 70% or something like that. 

I didn't think that doulas were something that were for me but through that discovery of traditional birth work and birth workers that were reclaiming traditional ancestral ways of caring for the birthing person and the postpartum body, I have just learned so much about traditional Mexican postpartum care and medicine and that has really influenced the way that I take care of myself and the way that I show up professionally and weaving in all of these ancestral wisdoms into the way that we care for ourselves, our communities and our land.

What is it that you wish you knew as a mother before you stepped into this role as a doula?

I wish I knew before I was postpartum that the massive amount of grief that you could feel is almost like an inner death experience. Before I was a mother, I would see other people become mothers, and they're not the person who you thought they were anymore. They become somebody else. They're the mom version of themselves. Their focus has completely shifted, as it should be on this other person that they have to take care of full time, 24/7. You're thinking about this person, and I always felt like, I don't want to lose myself so much. I want to still be like the Karissa I am now. I want to stay friends with my friends that are not parents and stay connected to that person who was just like a grown up person doing the things that I love to do. And when I was postpartum in those first few months, I just felt so much grief. I was mourning that I was never going to be that person again. I could not be. I could no longer keep that person because she was gone.

Why is it important for small businesses and especially healers, to be intentional about their branding and their photography?

As a service based entrepreneur, it's so important because you are a big part of your business. You are providing the service. And so it's so much more special to be able to say, this is me. This is how I do my work versus this is my pretty logo, these are my pretty graphics. Because people are going to work very intimately with you and you're telling the story visually. So you support people through writing their story, through saying their story aloud. Through writing it down. But the pictures accompany that. So I love to share that it's not just the pictures, but it's like the story that goes alongside the picture. But it's all a story. You're telling folks a story. So in the clothing that you're wearing and the way that you're choosing to accessorize in the location and all the elements of the pictures are painting a picture of who you are. And the time old saying that a picture tells 1000 words or 1000 stories, that's what comes through for your brand. It's like, what is your brand? Who is your brand? And it's accompanying your story, which is why you exist in business anyway.

What is it that you do to stay rooted and balanced?

Some of my rituals are taking long baths. So water and rest are like my top two. And I like to just really check in with myself a lot because it's evolved over time. Having a young child, like the amount of time and space and energy I have to do my own rituals changes over time.

Sleep is my medicine too, being able to show up. I didn't get very much rest the other day, and I was so short with my daughter, and she could tell I didn't sleep very well. I'm just like a grumpy mess. But also learning about NBC, the nonviolent communication has really helped too. Because that's an ongoing practice in our home, it’s acknowledging that we all have needs and we're all trying to meet our needs day in and day out.

What is it that you've learned to release?

I've learned to release the people pleaser in me over time. This idea or all the ideas that I believed that I thought I needed to be, or the ways that people think I should show up. And so as I release that version of myself and then nurture the most authentic and truest self of myself has been so freeing.

If you could speak to yourself as a future ancestor at this moment, what would you say?

I would tell her to just do it, just go for it. I think there's always been a hesitancy or just kind of like waiting. And I think what I'm learning is to just do it, just be free. Another tidbit of wisdom that my mom has given me that I have really clung to in the last few years is that the answer is always “no if you don't ask. So it's like, just ask the questions, do the thing. And I'm definitely more like, ask for forgiveness and for permission. And it's been a practice, it's been a learning. So I think I would just really nurture that in my younger version.

Conclusion: Balancing work and personal life can be a struggle. It's important to acknowledge and respect your own needs in order to live harmoniously.

Action Integration: Give yourself permission to feel the things that come up for you. It's okay to not be okay. And it's okay to invite people to come in and help support you with love and compassion.

Learn more about Karissa Raya:


Ritual Retreat: 8 magical nights of transformation in Costa Rica | November 6 - 13, 2023

Sign up for the waitlist for priority registration and receive $500 off!


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Cras sed sapien quam. Sed dapibus est id enim facilisis, at posuere turpis adipiscing. Quisque sit amet dui dui.


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.