[Editor’s Note: Leah A. Jacobson is the founder of The Guiding Star Project, that promotes wholistic women’s healthcare. She is a former campus minister, turned international Board-Certified Lactation Consultant who has worked with thousands of young people and mothers since 2000. Amidst growing her family and welcoming seven children, she received her master’s degree in Health and Wellness, and has spoken internationally on issues pertaining to Women’s Healthcare. She spoke to Charles Camosy.]
Camosy: Before we get into your new book, I’d love to talk about your work with The Guiding Star Project. What do Crux readers need to know about it?
Jacobson: Yes, of course! I would love to share more about it. The vision for Guiding Star started over a decade over, shortly after I left my position working as a campus minister at the University of MN, Duluth campus. While living and working on campus, I had talked to so many young women who didn’t understand how amazing the natural female body is and I felt compelled to do something about that! So, I founded Guiding Star as a non-profit in 2012 with the goal of creating a new norm for women’s healthcare. Now we’re a nationwide family of care centers that works to empower women to embrace, understand, and love their bodies and their fertility.
Women’s fertility has been recognized as the fifth vital sign, which is rarely talked about – and we want to encourage women to get to know, understand and love their natural bodies. Women’s fertility is a gift and it’s so incredibly powerful and is something that should be celebrated, yet the world tries to convince women that it’s something that should be hidden and oftentimes snuffed out completely.
We believe that women are not a number or a problem to be solved. Every woman is a natural wonder. And you deserve healthcare that cares about you. We want to encourage women to embrace their natural bodies, their fertility, childbearing, and breastfeeding abilities – and help women see their lives and their bodies as interconnected in the most wholistic way. We are becoming that “new norm” in wholistic women’s healthcare! Our Guiding Star Centers strive to be beacons of hope, joy, and truth — safe havens that uphold human dignity in all stages of life.
Can you tell us a bit of the story that led you to engage in such a project?
Sure, like I mentioned, the Guiding Star Project really sparked out of my work as a campus minister. In our early 20’s, my husband Josh and I lived and worked in the Newman House at UMD. We welcomed our first baby while living there, which prompted so many conversations with young women who expressed their desire to “have it all.” These were women that wanted to go to college, they wanted to have a career, but they also wanted to learn about their fertility, get married, and have a family. I felt their stress and just wanted to tell them, and every young woman, that your body is not the problem! A society that demands you change yourself to fit in, is the problem. Motherhood should not be the thing that women are required to sacrifice.
You have a new book out called Wholistic Feminism – love people working in these spaces! What do you mean by wholistic feminism as you are making a case for it in the book?
For so many of us, especially as Catholic women and mothers, we recognize that the so-called feminist movement really hasn’t listened to our voices for a very long time. Wholistic feminism represents a new wave of the women’s movement that is actually inclusive.
Wholistic feminism, and my vision and hope for it in this book, brings in voices of other women, like me – who have so often been ignored and marginalized, it encourages women to know who they are and recognize their intrinsic power and the greatness they were created for. It encourages women to learn about themselves, realize their gifts and talents, and know their identity as strong and empowered women, and to know true happiness through the choices they make, and by authentically living their lives to the fullest.
Wholistic feminism is about truly living the feminist dream. Right now, women who love and appreciate their God-given fertility, don’t have a seat at the table in the modern women’s movement – and it’s my hope that this book and wholistic feminism as a movement can change that and open up opportunities for all women’s voices to be heard and recognized.
There is controversy in some quarters of the pro-life movements about whether to even use the term ‘feminism’ – I imagine you have an opinion on that.
I know that there are some in the pro-life movement who have run from the term “feminism” and others – like me – who embrace it.
I understand those who don’t want to use the term, but from my perspective – the older feminist movement doesn’t “own” the term and we have as much of a right to use the term. Actually, we have even more of a right to use the term “feminism” because we are the ones who are truly embracing ourselves as women, our bodies, and our fertility. So, rather than abandoning the term “feminism” because we don’t like what it has come to mean, I am taking back the term and redefining it for those of us who have been pushed to the sidelines of the feminist movement.
We are the ones who are actually living the feminist dream of being happy and whole. And that’s the thing about wholistic feminism – we recognize the beauty, power, and uniqueness of women and their bodies… we don’t want to stifle our lives or our bodies — we want to bring our lives and our bodies to their full potential and greatness. We want to embrace all that we were created to be and all that we were made for – including having children, having careers, and living the lives that we want. I know the word “feminism” means different things to different people, but the book captures a different vision for what the word “feminism” and the “feminist movement” can be.
How do you see the connection between this book and The Guiding Star Project?
The book Wholistic Feminism is the message, the worldview about women’s bodies and gifts that is needed to make women happy and whole; and the Guiding Star Project puts that worldview into action! This book is the embodiment of my journey alongside women as a campus minister, and a lactation consultant, and it summarizes what I’ve learned from the thousands of women I’ve worked with. The book is a call to change our culture through the vehicle of women’s healthcare, and a call for women to see their bodies as good.
The Guiding Star Project is setting a new standard in women’s healthcare based on the principles in the book. We are doing so by opening Guiding Star women’s health centers around the nation that give women the kind of healthcare and pregnancy support that celebrates and works with their natural design. We serve all women, whether they’re entering adolescence, surprised by an unplanned pregnancy, experiencing infertility, or seeking wholistic women’s healthcare on another stage of their journey. All women deserve to know everything about their bodies and they deserve the best care and support — and that’s what we want to provide through the Guiding Star Project. And that is the embodiment of wholistic feminism.