Dreamer: Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica with Gladies in Acholi Quarters, UgandaThe first seeds of Ember Arts were planted back in 2007, when my sister Jessica Connolly was pregnant with her first child. The birth of her daughter, my niece, transformed our family. It was my parents’ first grandchild. Jessica stepped away from marine biology to focus on motherhood. And both she and my mom started selling Ugandan jewelry, little by little, at farmer’s markets and craft shows.

Of course it was most transforming for Jessica herself. Not only was she suddenly a mother, a world entire for this new little person, but the process of being pregnant and giving birth gave her a burning new interest.

“I dove in and learned all I could about the maternity system and the choices women have,” Jessica told me. The birth of her daughter was attended by a midwife, a woman trained to understand giving birth not just as a medical event, but as a normal and healthy part of a woman’s life. That experience, Jessica said, “was the beginning of a passion that has turned into a calling to educate, empower and attend women during this transformative life event.”

Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica set her sights on becoming a midwife. She sees it as not just a personal calling, but a global one. “Training skilled midwives to attend women in places of conflict and poverty, where women don’t have a voice or access to care, is one of the most powerful social development tools we have today,” said Jessica.

Now with two daughters and another on the way, freeing up the time and resources for the necessary schooling is a challenge. Jessica started by becoming a doula here in San Diego, and offers physical, emotional, and informational support to women throughout their pregnancies and births. “The challenge is balancing a calling with the current season of life,” she told me. “My priority now is to invest the better part of my time in my kids while they are young and maintain my role at Ember while stewarding my dream.”

It’s strange to think that my nieces never knew a time before Ember Arts. And that so many of the dreams of my family trace their way back to that same year that Jessica’s oldest was born. It probably doesn’t surprise Jessica, though. “Birth is one of the few raw, wild moments in life,” she told me, “when, in a day, we are transformed and empowered and changed.”