June 22, 2022

Meet the ‘original’ Rita

Author: Alessia Morichi, co-founder of Rita Health

Let us introduce the person who inspired our company’s name: Rita. Mother, doula, post grad in child's neuroscience on a journey to help other women make more informed fertility decisions.

When Kamila Staryga and I had the initial idea of the company - Women AI Inc - , in our heart we knew that AI was going to play a crucial role in our future product and would have helped us remove biases and create customized experiences for users. Then, in our focus groups, we heard women complaining about how aseptic the relationships with their doctors were. They wanted to receive empathy and warmth. This is why we started to think about a consumer facing name that was not going to make women feel alone in this anymore. Rita, it is the result of a deep brand work with experts from the industry. It is also the acronym of the Right Information To Acknowledge. This is why Rita was born, to shine a light on the life-defining moments of a woman's life.

Nevertheless, when I moved to San Francisco a few years ago I encountered a very special and inspiring woman who lived in my building: Rita.

We were not extremely close friends yet when Rita talked to me openly about her fertility journey. It was a story like a million others but it was a wake up call for me: why is she the first person in my life walking me through this? Why are people not talking about this topic more often? 

Who are you, Rita?

I am a 36 yo mother, originally from Brazil and currently living in Atlanta. I’m passionate about learning, body awareness, and alternative therapies.  Just a year ago while still living in California, I gave birth at home to my first child, Antonio.  Then, I recently found myself passionate for women’s fertility and I wanted to make sure I could help other women to be empowered about it as well.

Tell us more about your fertility journey? 

My relationship with fertility has changed over the years. Even though I received a lot of education and support, I felt shame when I had my first period. I had this feeling for all my youth. Then, when I became sexually active, my only preoccupation was not getting pregnant. During this period, while using contraceptives, I didn't want to think about my ‘fertility’. 

It changed like 7 years ago when I started feeling a lot of headaches due to the contraceptives and had to stop. It took almost 6 months to get rid of all the drugs in my body. Only then I started to understand my cycles, my needs, who the real me was, and how reproductive health knowledge was a way to empower myself and other women. My mind shifted: my period was not a burden anymore, but a part of a cycle and a moment of reflection. I started connecting more with my body, using ecologic products during my period and respecting my internal cycle. It took me all these years to pay attention and appreciate it.

In 2020 when I finally felt 'ready' and my husband and I decided to try for a baby. We used different apps, ovulation stripes and thermometers to know when was 'the best time'. We tried for a couple of months, and the pandemic started, and we stopped our plans. It took us some months to try to conceive again. But one day in June, I knew it was the right time. I'm not saying that all the resources didn't help me, but that day I felt connected to my body and I'm pretty sure it helped me be more confident and trust my instinct.

We heard you decided to do things differently. How? 

My husband always asks me why I have to do everything differently. I say ‘Because I am different’. I know that every woman has a unique set of needs, fears, and desires that we want to satisfy. I am no exception to this. 

The C-section rate in Brazil is one of the highest in the world (over 70% when you go to private hospitals). There're a lot of political, cultural and financial reasons for that and movies didn't help us at all. But the reason I hear the most is connected to fear. Many women are frightened by the idea of experiencing obstetric violence during labor, this is why they opt for a c-section.  

Luckily, I come from a family where most women had a vaginal birth (although they're not free from violence during labor). I was confident that I also could make it  - and to be honest, I'm more afraid of surgery!

When the time came to prepare for birth, I was far from my relatives. Thankfully, in the United States there is good preparation for vaginal labor and less pressure around C-section: I was relieved! However, already after the 10 minutes ob-gyn appointment, the idea of giving birth in a cold hospital and being surrounded by people I didn't know, it didn’t feel quite right to me.

I spoke with my doula about the other options. She was also pregnant and preparing for her second home birth. Through her, I was introduced to my midwife and then realized I wanted to start a journey to ‘home birth’. At 30 weeks, I started the preparation for home birth, that involved myself and my husband as well. "Everything is different," my husband used to complain. After all the videos, appointments, and seeing the great connection with my provider, he also became excited. We didn't tell everybody (including our family) because we knew their fear could also impact our excitement. The home birth was amazing and changed my life. Antonio was born at 37 weeks, and the experience was beyond what I expected!

How do you plan to help other women in their future journey? 

The birth was not just Antonio's. I was also re-born that day. Before I was insecure, doubtful, and worried about others' opinions. On the day of the labor, I was entirely in charge of my body and needs. No one told me what to do… you hear a lot of "push, push" during labor. I was just with my baby, and we both decided what to do and the pace.

Many women don't feel empowered during one of the most crucial moments in their lives. We don't feel empowered in many moments of our fertility: from our menarche until menopause. Pregnancy is one of the rare moments valued but sometimes society takes out the magic. So I decided to become a certified doula to empower women. I don't think everybody must have a home birth (because, as I said, everyone is different), but I hope that all women will be able to make empowered decisions - whatever they are.

Then, I jumped into a new world: maternity. Oh, I'm still trying to figure it out! But, for me, being informed is the best way to help my anxiety. So, I started post graduation in child's neuroscience to help other mothers hear their instincts during the first years of maternity.

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