By Larry Stansbury
Photos by Maureen Tricase/Capture Your Moments
Kira Smith is not your ordinary nurse, she’s a nurse that empowers women to be women, especially when giving birth to the first child.
Smith was introduced to midwifery. She always wanted to be a midwife and initially thought she was going to be an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) because she had a passion for women’s health, specializing in delivering babies. After completing her internship, she realized that her passion aligned with both midwife and OBGYN, where this led to her being a Certified Nurse Midwife. This route allowed her to do sexual and reproductive health along with all aspects of women’s health.
“I always knew I wanted to work with Doctors Without Borders and didn’t think I’d be with the practice for more than a few years,” Smith said in regards to working at the Yale School of Medicine in the OBGYN Department as a Gynecological Teaching Associate. “The midwifery service became my baby and I invested almost 10 years serving the women of Connecticut.”
Being able to be with women through their best and worst moments, supporting them and witnessing their experiences, Smith empowers women to live through their experience for the better. She guides women to find their strength, voice, and themselves. This is the major factor of her role – encouraging a mother to give birth to her first child – and also teaching teenagers to have a positive and educational experience through their first pelvic exam. As a nurse, she supports women who’re going through disclosing sexual assault and walking with them on their path of survival and healing.
“I believe one of the ways to empower others is by speaking the truth and being authentic,” Smith said. “We often see someone do or achieve something that we admire but think that we could never accomplish the same because of whatever imaginable shortcomings we have. I believe it’s my responsibility to not only tell others they can do anything but also to share my challenges, struggles and obstacles to show that they too can overcome things in the way. In fact, you can take those things and make them your strengths.”
After working with MSF (Doctors Without Borders), refugee camps, MSF sites in Ethiopia highlands, Somali sections of Ethiopia, South Sudan and had assignments serving the Rohingya people in refugee camps both in Bangladesh and Myanmar, she had many challenges as a nurse.
“I also had the experience of not being taken as a legitimate knowledgeable healthcare provider because I’m not a ‘doctor’,” she said.
This is a big challenge for many women, having to work twice as hard to earn respect in the workplace in order to be equal.
But Smith doesn’t let this stop her from doing what she loves.
“I’m motivated by just knowing that something I can do will empower another person and those ripples keep going,” she said. “And I’m motivated by the people I’ve met in the world and the relationships that grow.”
She’s also inspired by the people she’s around with every day.
“I’m inspired by the person who leaves an abusive partner, the person with mental illness who shares their story, the person who is suicidal and chooses to live another day, the person who claims their sexuality or gender, the person who speaks up for someone else even though it puts them at risk, the person who chooses the peaceful nonviolent route, the person who loves and cares for others. I’m inspired by people who speak their truth,” Smith said. “I look for inspiration in everyone.“
This can be challenging when you inspire both people and yourself on this journey because people can bring negativity to you.
“I do think that a hardship that all women face is ‘shaming’. We are shamed for our bodies, slut-shame, shamed for putting ourselves ‘in certain situations’, fat shame, shamed for working too hard or not hard enough, being a stay at home mom, not having children, shamed for getting an education, etc, etc.,” she said.”We need to embrace one another and raise each other up.”
Now as an educator, she helps students reach their goals and potential in school.
“During this time, I continued educating by precepting students,” she said. “I once had a student who got down on herself because she didn’t know something that she felt she ought to know, she questioned if she was going to be able to make it… I told her that’s why she was a student, to learn those things and it was my job to teach them to her. But what I couldn’t teach her was how to care for our beneficiaries, I couldn’t teach her to be compassionate or empathetic and that’s what is required. Since she had those in abundance the rest would come into place… And did it ever, she’s an amazing nurse-midwife.”
She ends her job with a Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people willforget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”