We had the good fortune of connecting with Lydia-Carlie Tilus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lydia-Carlie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
In one word, Freedom. That said, the process behind starting my own business has been influenced by and is rooted in many facets of my life experiences. My parents are Haitian Immigrants and my dad ran his own business for the better part of 30 years. Growing up with that example I saw what flexibility my father’s business afforded our family. I also saw how married my father was to his business in a way that did not allow the business to flourish in a way that would have given him the space to be less hands-on. So like most young adults, I went in the opposite direction. After graduating from university, I sought the promise of stability that working for someone else appeared to hold. I worked for other people for over 10 years after college and that promise of stability was never fulfilled by working for someone else. Over those 10 years, I realized we either have time or money and I was discovering more and more just how precious time was to me. So, in 2012 after being let go from a job I was drawn to massage therapy. A trade/skill that would get me out from behind a desk and screen and instead face to face with people and eventually in control of my time and money. While this was the plan, in the beginning this didn’t quite pan out since I kept returning to working for others. While I wouldn’t change those years, I wish I had believed in myself sooner.
Like for many, 2020 and 2021 brought a lot of time to reflect on what was deeply and truly important. So I finally made the decision to really dedicate myself to what for so long had been a side hustle. So I’ve invested in myself and my vision. My vision of personal freedom and my vision of providing care to fill the gap between how our healthcare system currently supports pregnant people and the complex needs surrounding birth and reproductive health. Care centered on upholding autonomy of the birthing person, advocacy during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and providing education so that new parents can make the best-informed choices for their families.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
It hasn’t been easy. It is not easy. Falling and getting back up again is how I have overcome it. It’s taken a lot to gather up the courage, find my voice, and cement my vision. I’d want the world to know that, and I don’t know who said it first, comparison is the mind-killer. Comparing myself to others, be it their path, their success, their abilities, their talents have always resulted in truly crippling doubt. Thinking that if I didn’t look to someone else’s tried and true method I would be sure to fail. When in fact failure and setbacks came from taking the faith that I should have placed in myself and placing it in another person because I believed what worked for them would work for me.
I was never going to realize my dreams by trying to walk someone else’s path to my success. This isn’t to say that I didn’t need to learn from others in order to develop the talents and perspective I have; I am grateful for every single one of my teachers. What I did learn is that I held the keys all along. By trusting my own intelligence, instinct, and intuition I would find the right teachers, colleagues, collaborators, clients, and more.
My journey to becoming a multi-talented, multi-faceted birth worker has come from uplifting my own unique perspective and approach and honoring my differences instead of dwelling on the fact that I did not take the expected or traditional path. My detours are my strength and what sets me apart and above. I am a queer, Black, Haitian, First-generation, intelligent woman whose identities give me the ability to approach typical challenges from an atypical perspective. A perspective that makes so much sense when people hear it. A perspective that I doubted because by comparing myself to others I was sure that what I had to say was already known or given.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Where I live in the Bay Area is pretty central to a lot of cool places. 30 mins West puts you on the coast in Half Moon Bay, 30 mins South is San Jose, 30mins east and north a bit is Oakland, and 30 mins north is San Francisco.
In a week’s time, I would likely stay on the coast. It’s an underrated place to visit, I feel, when coming to the Bay Area. So I would take them to Moss Beach Distillery right on the coast just north of Half Moon Bay. The vintage distillery is a restaurant with a nearly 360-degree view of the ocean. On the right day in the right season, you can see pods of dolphins and whales. Just off the parking lot up a small road from the restaurant is a trail entrance to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve where harbor seals make their home in the tide pools. The trail isn’t long and it has a breadth to it that makes you feel like you are in another place.
Between Moss Beach and Half Moon Bay is a small town called El Granada that has a small cafe called The Press – amazing grilled cheese, breakfasts, and house-made pastries. In the same town is an Indian restaurant called India Beach and the Lamb Korma is so delicious. Lastly, in El Granada, tucked away in the hills is the regional park, Quarry Park. It boasts an outdoor labyrinth with trails that are beautiful, quiet, and vary in length and difficulty.
Lastly, I’d drive down highway one to Pescadero to a restaurant called Duarte’s that has incredible seasonal vegetable soups, and a famous eggnog in the winter. On that same small main street, there’s a market that sells fresh baked and par baked pull-apart artichoke garlic bread. Drool.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my mother, Ghinna (Gina) Blain Tilus. On January, 28th 2021 my mother died after an intense battle with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. Only 10 weeks after finally being accurately diagnosed. This woman, my mother, was a powerhouse in her own right that struggled with her personal challenges with as much grace as anyone could have mustered. Her voice, knowledge, intelligence, strength, humor, magic, and determination are all seeded, sprouted, and growing in me. Even when I didn’t always listen to the abundance of wisdom and clarity that she said to me I heard them all and they’ve always come to me when I needed it. This isn’t to say that we did argue, fight, disagree, or get mad at each other or that dysfunction wasn’t present in our relationship. We did and it was. It’s more so to say that even when I came to my mother for advice and I didn’t like what she said because of the doubt it may have stirred in me, that friction allowed me to find my path, voice, and internal compass.
On January 22, 2018, I posted this to Facebook – Sometimes you should listen to yourself. An excerpt from, Lydia’s Gazette, a newsletter assignment I found from computer class in 1997:
“My goals in life are many but, one lifelong goal is to become a gynecologist and obstetrician. I know these are far-fetched goals for a 13-year-old but I want to be these things because even if I don’t have kids at least I will be part of kids’ lives. If I succeed I will open my office to all people. I would choose this career because I can get something out of it by the simple act of helping another woman bring a life into the world.”
My momma’s comment sums up perfectly just how much she believed in me – “The sky is the limit for your abilities, my daughter; seek, what the future holds for you. Remember, to always talk to the man above!
headshot – Nicola Borland Photograghy Action shots – Hiro Ellis, Edits – Robin King