After deejaying at a BET Awards event in June, Erykah Badu had planned to stay in L.A. for auditions and business meetings before flying home to Dallas. But then she got the mother of all phone calls and headed straight to the airport. Says Badu: "My pregnant client was having contractions."
Meet the ultimate multi-hyphenate star: Badu sings, acts, spins-and helps deliver babies. The Grammy winner, 40, known for her funkadelic sound and even funkier style, has been moonlighting as a birth doula-someone who assists a midwife in natural (anesthesia-free) childbirth-since 2001. "I've always had a mothering nature," says Badu, who helped bring Marley Jae Taylor into the world on June 29. "But I didn't plan on becoming a doula. I just wanted to care for my family and friends."
Badu began studying midwifery after the birth of her son Seven, 13, whose dad is Andre 3000 of Outkast. (She is also mom to daughters Puma, 7, and Mars, 2, from other relationships.) She later coached her best friend through a 52-hour labor and had an epiphany. "When I saw the baby, I cried," says Badu, who has assisted in five births. "I knew what I was supposed to do with my life."
Her work with moms-to-be starts one month before their due dates. In weekly 45-minute sessions, Badu discusses their health, massages them and performs Reiki (an energy healing practice). She also shares her own at-home birthing videos. "It's important they see I did not cry and scream," she says. "They're amazed they don't have to be afraid." On the big day, she comforts them during labor and prepares teas-of herbs from her garden-to help with relaxation, post-delivery bleeding and lactation. "My services are free," says Badu, who's helped deliver babies both at birthing centers and clients' homes. "My music permits me to do that."
While Badu's first four clients came from her inner circle-including friend Valerie Gillespie, who had a daughter, Zoe, on Mother's Day-she met Marley's mom, HR manager Felicia Taylor, 31, at a Dallas Buddhist Temple. "She came up to me and offered to be my doula," recalls Taylor, who had been thinking of hiring one. "It was almost too good to be true." After one appointment, she was sold. "Erykah did Reiki on my swollen feet," says Taylor. "The pain disappeared for three days. I told my husband, 'Whatever she did, I'm going back for more.'"
Badu, now an International Center for Traditional Childbearing spokeswoman, hopes to get midwife certification (she needs to assist in 17 more live births) and open inner-city birthing centers. Though she still makes music, she's happiest as "Erykah Badoula," as her clients call her. "Nothing gives me more pleasure," says Badu, "than being the welcoming committee for a mother's new joy."