Marle Women is created to celebrate our philosophy of designing pieces for women of all ages and stages of their lives. Each feature profiles a woman we admire and we hope each interview inspires you the same way in which these women inspire us.
For our latest edition, we sat down with Melbourne based doula, birth educator and founder of Radiant Birth Yahna Jeong Soon Fookes. Of South Korean descent, Yahna came to Australia at the rare age of 4.5 months old where she was raised by Anglo-Australian parents. A mother to Sunday (4), Yahna studied ballet since she could walk, which evolved into a career as a professional dancer and creator.
“I’ve danced overseas, toured regionally with Sydney Dance Company, made work for arts festivals and then hung up my shoes in 2015,” she says. Fascinated by the human body, “because movement is freedom and expression is life”, Yahna’s work has come full circle. "Educating couples and championing women to trust their bodies and connect better with their babies, so that no matter which way birth leads them, they feel good in their decisions and hopefully have a radiant birth,” she says.
In our chat, Yahna shares more about the work she does, lessons she’s learned and how her personal style has evolved over the years.
You’ve spoken about Sunday being the first biological family member you’ve ever known. What did this feel like for you and how did it influence the work that you do now?
Birth has tipped my entire axis of reality. We are on the journey of finding all the missing pieces of my cultural identity which have been void for long. As parents, Michael and I are hyper-aware that Sunday is bi-racial and we are trying to give her a sense of connection through spending time in the motherland. I fully believe you have to be somewhere to feel an energy and Seoul's energy is HUGE.
Looking back, I grew up in a racial purgatory being of coloured skin but brought up in a majority white society. Bridging that gap for me has so much to do with birth work.
A country's birth rate mirrors deep economic, societal and cultural factors happening to a country at that time. In this way, politics profoundly impacts birth. Those baby's birth stories are sacred and passed down for generations.
Tell us a little more about Radiant Birth…
Radiant Birth is a three-part immersive embodied birth workshop integrating yoga, nutrition, birth education and traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a balanced approach to preparing mothers for birth and postpartum that heavily unites Eastern philosophies.
A lot of “trendy” current birth and postpartum practices mirror what has been recommended in Asian and other traditional cultures such as South America, since the dawn of time.
What places Radiant Birth apart is we pay true respect to traditional methods but still make these accessible in a contemporary environment. In this way, it is not voyeuristic; therefore, the people interacting with these modalities hugely benefit them.
Science has come a long way, and we use evidence-based learning and physical work (yoga, breath work) to help prepare mothers to give birth safely and beautifully in a political time where our intervention rates are at their highest. Radiant Birth is also building community before birth. It’s unlearning and unpacking fear so you can head into labour “lighter”. I wholeheartedly think it's the only course of its kind.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt to date?
Nothing is permanent. Your roots are what ground you.
As a busy, working mother to Sunday, how do you balance work with family?
Birth is unpredictable and with every client I choose to support or welcomes me in their space, our whole family is essentially thrown out. So, in this way, I heavily depend on Michael. We both have the privilege of owning small businesses and have some flexibility.
For example, I attended a birth bender a few weeks ago where I started labouring with a mum on Friday eve, came home on four hours sleep to then leave for the country to celebrate my daughter's fourth birthday party (a trail horse ride) to then head back to the birth that early evening. That’s an extreme example but I have to say this work isn’t glamorous like social media makes it out to be. It’s wildly unpredictable hours and takes an arrest on the whole family's nervous system. But it’s community care that helps to support a thriving society. Plus, the oxytocin high you get at being the energy of birth is honestly the best feeling in the world.
Do you have any daily rituals or practices that you swear by?
Morning walk and coffee. Kiss from my kid. Mushroom powder for immunity. Family dinner by 6pm. Hot shower. Good quality magnesium before bed. Rinse, repeat.
What do you do for self-care and why do you think it’s important?
I don’t really look at it as self-care, just pockets of time. For our family dynamic, it looks like prioritising ourselves as individuals when we are away from Sunday. Getting the space and time for ourselves to discover things or revisit stuff that makes us feel whole is essentially my self-care. This, at the moment, looks like going to weekly hip hop classes (when I am not on call), doing some laps at the pools or going out for a wine with a girlfriend on a Thursday.
How would you describe your personal style and how has this evolved over the years?
Pretty utilitarian with a splash of fem. If you open my wardrobe you’ll see I have 15 white shirts, all with slight variations, whether it be the weight of the fabric or the odd seam - I am yet to find the perfect mandarin collar. In my early twenties, I idolised Japanese designers like Junya Watanabe, Issey Miyake and would rock cute Comme des Garcons pinafores, white shirts and brogues.
But now, in my mid 30’s I feel like I am way more relaxed and the garments I wear have less structure, because my body is softer and I need fabric to give and move. Motherhood has forced me (haha) to mix way more affordable fashion with beautiful life pieces I have invested in.
Marle is designed to add effortless ease to a woman’s wardrobe, how does wearing Marle make you feel?
Beautiful and pared back. I enjoy the breathable natural fibres and how soft they feel on my body. I also love the structure; for example, the Zara skirt has delicate invisible splits, so when I am at the park and need to mount a giant climbing frame, I can move but still look put together when we grab a chino at the gallery after. Perfect.
What is your most treasured object and why?
My daughter! Oh and my Seb Brown wedding ring and Bella Clark necklace that I wear every day and will give to her on her 16th.
Favourite home cooked meal?
A slow cooked curry of some sort
Favourite thing to wear?
New Marle Everly Top in Pumice
Your non-negotiable daily rituals?
Morning walk and coffee.
Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter?
Last Book Your Read?
Crying in H Mart
Current Podcast Recommendations
On Being by Krista Tippett