Blog

Uncategorized

Lauren’s second home birth

This time 5 years ago I had just given birth to my youngest baby! Elle and I don’t often talk about our own experiences but the birth of my youngest taught me so much about the support I needed (and what I missed out on!) as a birthing mother and it was a huge part of my journey into doulaing so it feels right to share. If you fancy reading on you might want to get comfy with a cuppa as it’s a long one!

Going back to the night before, I was 40+4 weeks pregnant and beginning to wonder if labour was beginning. It was a Friday evening and I was just clearing up the spaghetti from dinner that my almost 2 year old had strewn across the table and floor when I felt the first twinges. As I wiped over the mucky high chair I remember suddenly being aware of a heaviness low down in my bump but as quick as I’d noticed it, it has stopped again.

Lauren the doula smiling and pregnant Was this the start? Not wanting to get too excited I carried on getting Theo cleaned up and ready for bed. 20 minutes later though…more cramps and this pattern carried on throughout his bedtime. Having experienced a long prodromal labour in my last pregnancy I figured I had a couple more days at least until I would be holding a new baby in my arms so after texting my doula to give her a heads up, I went to bed to try and have an early night. 

I lay in bed listening to my hypnobirthing tracks but sleep didn’t come. Instead the cramps built into more regular, stronger surges. I was definitely in labour! After tossing and turning for a couple of hours I couldn’t ignore it any longer, the surges needed my attention so I decided to get up, put my TENS on and head downstairs. Entering the living room I instantly felt relaxed and calm. The pool was up, the lights were low… this was my birth room, this was where I would meet my baby.

Throughout the night I rested on a makeshift floor bed dozing and watching Netflix as the surges gradually got more intense and regular. I bounced on my birth ball and breathed through every sensation, riding each wave until the peak passed. As they got stronger I remember going more within, no longer able to focus on what was going on around me in between each contraction, Labour Land was calling me and it was where I wanted to be. As surges built I needed to reach up, grabbing on to my birth partners neck and as the peak approached I would sink down into a deep squat, feeling the sensation spread over my bump and down my thighs, surrendering to the power within my body. Occasionally fear would get the better of me and I would tense as I felt another one starting… “Oh no not another one! Not yet!” Those were tough, but when I allowed myself to be curious and welcome the sensations it felt so different, intense and sometimes painful but not more than I could handle. Newborn baby sleeping

The early morning approached and I knew it was time to call my doula and get in the pool. She told us she was on her way and I relaxed deeper, knowing my chosen support would be here with me soon. When she arrived however, she had her young son with her! I remember being in the pool and looking up after a surge had passed and wondering why this little boy was in my birth space. Uninvited, intruding, not what I had expected at all. Seeing that I was very much in established labour, she suggested calling the midwives and left to find childcare. 

Theo woke up around this time and was the perfect little birth partner. He pottered around with his bowl of grapes, watching his Very Hungry Caterpillar DVD and occasionally toddling over to me to stroke my shoulders and head. They were such special moments. I carried on following my body, listening to my birth partner on the phone… “Yes, contractions are maybe 6 minutes apart”, I heard him tell the midwives. I knew they were much closer together than that. There was barely time for me to catch my breath in between but I was so deep within that I didn’t want to vocalise and engage in his discussion.

Lauren the doula pictured holding her newborn babyBy the time the midwife arrived and my doula returned I was bearing down, intermittently and involuntarily. I didn’t need anybody to do, I was doing it all by myself but looking back, I really needed someone to hold my space. I was in my labour bubble but I felt alone, not supported and held. The midwives were doing their notes, occasionally bothering me to check I definitely didn’t want any vaginal examinations, my doula was taking pictures, my birth partner was being dad to our toddler… I knew I could do it alone but I wanted to feel that they were with me. Making sense of these feelings though and finding the right words felt beyond me, I had surrendered and my body and baby had all of my attention.

Around 11am I felt the familiar sensations of his head beginning to crown, then the frustrating feeling of him going back inside! He felt so close but so far. I kept trying to  trust my body though and the relief when his head was born was incredible. Sadly, this is the point where things began to go awry…

Newborn baby breastfeedingThe midwives suggested I sit back so I could pick him up once his body was born and like a good girl I did as I was told. The next two contractions came and went and he hadn’t budged. I wasn’t worried but before I knew what was happening the midwives’ fear filled the space and without warning or explanation I was being dragged out of the pool. The next couple of minutes were a bit of a chaotic blur. As I got out of the pool he was born into the midwife’s arms, his cord cut immediately. An ambulance was called and cancelled and I remember feeling like a forgotten, empty vessel, having no idea if my baby was ok. There was absolutely nobody holding space for us and it was not what I had ever imagined would happen.

As quick as the chaos had started, it was over and he was in my arms searching for my breast. I had a physiological third strange and birthed my placenta ~15minutes after he was born. Theo tentatively approached, meeting his baby brother for the first time and surrounded by my two boys I felt more grounded again, rediscovering my centre as our new family life began.

Lauren the doula smiling and wearing her newborn baby in a woven wrapReflecting back on this birth now I’m a doula brings up so much and highlights what I believe are so important to remember when supporting a birthing woman. There is no doubt that it has shaped the doula I am today.

When Elle or I arrive at a birth we come ready to be present with the birthing woman in every way. We leave any baggage at home and have childcare plans for our childcare plans so we can serve her wholeheartedly.

When we are in the birth space we trust the birthing woman unreservedly. We don’t need to tell her which positions she should adopt or to intrude in any way without her permission. Her intuition is going to guide her better than anyone else, she is the ultimate baby monitor and knows what her body and baby needs.

In the birth room we are not always doing but we are always holding space for the woman and her baby. We are aware of when it’s right to sit back and crochet and when she might want us by her side. We know how to sit on our hands without making a woman feel ignored and abandoned. We are all about meeting her wherever she is at and serving her however she needs us to.

When we are with women we are mindful of our mission to support them to birth in their power. We believe all birthing women have innate wisdom and strength and should always be held at the centre of our work as birth keepers with unconditional positive regard, trust and reverence. Birthing mothers are magic!

Painted Rainbow Mural
Doulas, News

Reflecting on the closure of One to One and the current state of maternity care in the UK

Elle and I were shocked and saddened this week to hear the news that One to One Midwives have gone into administration. It’s a huge blow for birthing women and our hearts break for the midwives involved and most of all for the women whose birth plans now feel completely up in the air.

One to One Midwives logoIt is great to see women rising up and demanding change, creating petitions and sharing their outrage that yet another women-centred service has been forced to close it’s doors. However, I can’t help but feel like it won’t be enough to create any real, lasting change for women. The closure of services like One to One highlights a much wider issue around women’s services.

Why aren’t women a priority?

Albany Midwives, Neighbourhood Midwives, the drawn out difficulties for independent midwifery, One to One… services like these that really serve birthing women in a holistic and woman-centred way have always been and will aways be at risk. The closure of One to One is another example of how the NHS does not place any significant value on models of care that are proven to improve outcomes for women and their babies.

Should it be enough for trusts that following a birth everyone still has a pulse and nobody gets sued? The overall physical and emotional well-being of a mother and her baby don’t seem to be valued at all. Certainly not enough for the NHS to invest in services that recognise the importance and undeniable benefits of holistic models of care.

What about the woman left feeling traumatised after a birth full of unnecessary intervention? Then the resulting upset of the mother-baby dyad and the impact of that disruption on bonding, breastfeeding and the long term wellbeing of both the woman and her child? It’s a story we hear over and over because the system does not work.

What if things were different?

Imagine a world where all women birth in power and not fear and it’s not surprising that the state doesn’t want to support organisations and services that put women at the centre of their birthing experiences.

When we birth in power, we feel powerful! We feel capable of anything and no longer willing to be good girls. We dissent and take what we need because we see our countless strengths and recognise our worth. And by protecting the bond we have with our babies, we are able to pass this wisdom and power on to the next generation. Would a nation of powerful women be able to fit into our current patriarchal society?

Who does it serve when women birth in captivity and in oppressive environments that centre obstetric models of “care”? It’s certainly not women, ignoring our needs in an effort to keep us docile and compliant. And it works so well!

But what can we do?

Arunhati Roy quote “The system will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We may be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”The cost to the system of listening to our outrage and responding to our petitions might be too great. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change birth for ourselves. What would happen if we stopped asking our oppressors to change the system and instead started to take back our power in birth? Real change will come from women living and birthing in power despite oppressive systems of care because it’s our birth rite.

Asserting our human right to birth however we choose to, only accepting interventions that we want, listening to our intuition over and above policies and procedures every step of the way, autonomous pregnancies and free birthing knowing that we are the ultimate knowledge when it comes to our bodies and our babies. Women supporting women rather than relying on a system that does not serve us.

What are Greater Manchester Doulas CIC doing?

We will continue to serve women across Greater Manchester, supporting them to realise their innate power and wisdom by protecting their human rights, providing holistic support and education, and building sisterhood between women. 

Art by Taynee Tinsley
Art by Taynee Tinsley

If you have been affected by the closure of One to One, we’re here for you. As doulas we aren’t substitutes for midwives. While we can’t replace the support you had from your One to One midwife, we do offer an additional layer of support that might help you to navigate this difficult time. Whether you want birth doula support, or want some help reimagining and preparing for your birth with our HoldingSpace service, please get in touch. We can offer long term payment plans, and have funding available if our fees are prohibitive. Know that we see you, we care and we’re so sorry that the rug has been pulled out from beneath you.

 

 

 

Doulas, Uncategorized

The power of a gentle presence

When women first get in touch with us, they often have their own ideas about what a doula is, and does and the kind of people we are. Sometimes women expect a strong and forceful protector of the birth space, a “force to be reckoned with”, a fierce advocate who will take control if things go awry. Then they meet us…

Whilst I absolutely consider myself to be a strong woman, and my role is often about advocacy and protecting a birthing woman’s sacred space, the energy we bring as doulas is not fierce or forceful. We are gentle and calm and peaceful.

For some time, I wondered if I needed to find that fiery defender within me, to be a better doula, to better serve the women I work with. But along the way, I have realised that my gentle presence IS my strength. My feminine expressions: empathy, warmth, compassion, gentleness, intuition, patience, vulnerability… these are the very things that make me a strong female and shape the doula that I am.

I am embracing my femininity and appreciating its power more and more. As doulas we support and protect and advocate with a soft, feminine energy, rather than a harsher, masculine approach. By recognising and celebrating our feminine qualities, and our identities as women, we simultaneously honour the power of the labouring women we serve.

Our gentle presence at births supports the flow of oxytocin, the powerful hormone that women need in bucket loads to birth their babies. In order for physiological birth to happen, a birthing woman must feel safe and secure; as doulas we are a barometer of normality, communicating through being calm and peaceful that all is ok and that she is safe and supported.

We see the power and strength within the women that we work with and trust that they know what they need. As your doulas, we support you to own your experiences, speak your truth and advocate for yourself – we know that at times, that might mean looking to us to communicate your needs and wishes with others but we would never decide what those needs were for you.

Our culture continually encourages us to denigrate our femininity, but as doulas we see the power in the female body, in you as a birthing woman, in the women all over the world who are birthing with you. Through our gentle presence, we support you to reconnect with your true power, because owning your feminine potential can be life changing!

News

Go forth and vote!

We are delighted to have had our first successful application to the Tesco Bags of Help Grant Scheme!

Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its community funding scheme, which sees grants of £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 raised from carrier bag sales in Tesco stores awarded to local community projects.

Greater Manchester Doulas CIC, along with two other groups have been shortlisted in the Hale & Altrincham Tesco region, to receive the cash award and shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant.

Our project offers vulnerable women continuous support throughout pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. With the funding we will be able to offer this service for free, for up to 5 women who are young, vulnerable (e.g. through domestic abuse/ previous trauma/ mental health issues), disabled, newly arrived and/or alone. By working with these women we are addressing the need for bespoke support to complex clients and offering support that may not otherwise be available to them.

As always, your support with this is hugely valued and we would love for you to pop down to the stores and vote for us! Voting will take place from Sunday 1st July to Friday 31st August 2018 at Tesco Extra Altrincham and Tesco Express Hale.

Wish us luck!

Lauren, Elle & Christine x

Doulas

What it means to be a full spectrum doula

If you’re here, I imagine you are probably aware of what a doula is in the context of birth and postnatal support. Doulas are most commonly known for working with women and their families, providing continuous physical, emotional and informational support through positive pregnancies, birth and the early days of parenthood. However, we see pregnancy and birth as just one part of a full spectrum of reproductive experiences and bring this model of care to any pregnancy discourse and outcome. Given all this we consider ourselves to be full spectrum doulas.

But what is a full spectrum doula?

In short, a full spectrum doula is one that offers support across the full spectrum of reproductive experiences. We trust women and their inherent strength to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves, offering witness, companionship, information, resources, advocacy and support. Here are some of the ways that our full spectrum ethos influences our work as doulas and the support we offer:

Conception Support

Every pregnancy has to start with conception! As full spectrum doulas, we can support you in looking at your physical and emotional health and wellbeing before you are even pregnant, helping you to be in the very best place before heading into any future pregnancies. For some, growing a baby isn’t easy and not every pregnancy and conception journey is plain sailing. We can be there to guide and support you through these possibly challenging times.

Abortion Support 

We are pro-women and pro-choice, providing non-judgemental, compassionate support, focused solely on nurturing your needs throughout your experience. We can provide one to one support before, during and after your abortion, depending on the method chosen and the support we offer is always completely tailored to your needs and wishes.

Birth Doula

As your birth doulas, we will provide continuous support for you and your family throughout your pregnancy, birth and the early days with your newborn.

Miscarriage and Stillbirth Support

We offer both emotional and practical support to families experiencing loss. We hope you know that your loss matters and that we can be here to support you through this time and help you through your grieving process.

Postnatal Doula

The first few weeks following the birth of a new arrival is often a bit of an overwhelming whirlwind. As your postnatal doula, we will provide non-judgemental practical and emotional support for you and your family, helping you to adjust to life with a new baby.

Holistic Support

In addition, we recognise that each of these reproductive experiences are significant but also interconnected and we bear this in mind throughout. For example, a previous baby loss experience may or may not influence how you feel about your pregnancy and birth and this could have an impact on your needs and the type of doula support you want. As full spectrum doulas, our support is always holistic and women-centred. We support you as a whole person, and see you as more than just your current pregnancy and birth.

We’re always up for chatting about the way in which we support women so if you’d like to learn more about what we do, please get in touch.

Much love,

Lauren, Christine & Elle x

News

We are a social enterprise!

We were so excited last month to be able to share the news, that after weeks of hard work and waiting (lots of waiting!!!), we are officially a community interest company (CIC)! We received our certificate of incorporation for Greater Manchester Doulas Community Interest Company, our not-for-profit social enterprise.

A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders. As a CIC, we are regulated by the CIC regulator to ensure that our activities fulfil a community purpose and that all assets are used for this community purpose.

What does this mean?

Becoming a CIC won’t really change how we work with women in the short term. We have always aimed to support women across the North West throughout their reproductive experiences, and this won’t change. What we hope will change over the coming months is how accessible our services are to women, and to create stronger connections with communities.

We have always been aware that finances and other circumstances are often a barrier for those seeking out doula support, in particular women who could be deemed as being more vulnerable. Being a social enterprise gives us a better foundation and infrastructure so we can work on bridging this gap.

With funding and donations we are able to offer our services for free or at a reduced rate to women who are vulnerable and / or experiencing financial hardship. Through being accessible to all women, regardless of their circumstances, we are addressing the need for bespoke support to complex clients and offering support that may not otherwise be available to them.

We also hope to create community peer support groups, creating opportunities for women in the community to come together and establish positive social networks with like minded individuals. After all, what is more powerful than women supporting other women?

How can I help?

As a startup social enterprise, we rely heavily on support from people like you. Any support you can offer is so very much appreciated! Here are just a couple of the ways you can support us currently:

  • Like, share and engage with our posts on social media to help spread the word about what we do.
  • Make a donation, no matter how small, every little helps!
    Donations can be made in cash if you fancy meeting up for a brew, through PayPal, or by bank transfer (get in touch for details).

We are so excited about the future for Greater Manchester Doulas CIC and we hope you continue to follow us on our journey!

Much love

Lauren, Elle & Christine x

Doulas

Being indie doulas

When looking for a local doula, women are frequently directed towards Doula UK (a membership association of birth and postnatal doulas). You will notice however that none of the Greater Manchester Doulas are listed in their ‘Find a Doula’ directory, as none of us are members of Doula UK. We are proud to be independent doulas!

Why are we independent?

Being independent is an important part of our ethos and is very much reflected in the way we work. As independent doulas, we value autonomy, not just for ourselves, but more importantly for you.

When we chose to be fully independent, we chose:

  • a commitment to ensure we are completely women-centred: offering non-judgemental support to women remains at the heart of what we do
  • to work only with doulas who share our philosophies and ethics
  • to take full responsibility the range of support we offer
  • to work and grow together, supporting and mentoring each doula with compassion, helping us to be the best we can be.

What does this mean?

As independent doulas, we have no agenda and no interest in serving any kind of authoritative body: we answer to nobody but the women we serve. Rather than trying to balance the way we work with being part of a body that we don’t fully align with, we support women in a way that is completely focused on their needs, with no outside limitations besides the law.

There are many myths about independent doulas, who are often criticised for various reasons, eg they do not follow a code of conduct, are not required to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, are not part of a mentoring program, do not work with insurance, are not part of a membership community where they continually learn and develop.
Whilst we cannot speak for all indie doulas, we can say that every Greater Manchester Doula:

  • Has completed an initial preparation course, and regularly seeks out CPD opportunities to learn and grow as a doula

We believe that as doulas we are so much more than the courses we have taken, but we are also passionate about birth and all reproductive experiences, and for us the learning never stops.
We are constantly reading new research, and enrolling in courses to further our education, and are more than happy to chat about what we have learned, and discuss any specialised information they may be interested in.

  • Is not just part of a doula community but one that completely reflects their ethos

Part of the reason we chose to work together is because our philosophies toward the work are very much aligned. We know that when we need support from each other, it will come from someone who really understands who we are as women and as doulas, so we are supported to develop in ways that reflect our ethos.

  •  Values mentoring as a continuous practise

We see value in mentoring not just at the beginning of our doula journeys, but throughout. We continually reflect on the ways in which we work together, and on specific experiences of working with women. We use our individual experiences as doulas to support each other, and we take new learning from every woman that we work with.

  • Has appropriate insurance

We all have up to date insurance for the work that we do, and use written contracts to ensure that everyone is in agreement about what is expected of them.

  • Is committed to following Greater Manchester Doulas CIC’s Philosophy and Code of Conduct

An important part of being independent is being able to follow a philosophy and code of conduct that fully reflects who we are and what we believe in.

Get in touch if you’d like to chat more about our work as indie doulas!

Doulas

5 doula myths… busted!

We often hear that doulas are only for a certain type of woman wanting a certain type of birth, but thankfully that just isn’t true! As doulas we offer support to a wide variety of women and families; women from different communities, with different needs, and planning all kinds of births. We thought we would bust some myths about doulas, what we do and who we support…

1. Isn’t a doula just like a midwife?! I don’t need both.

In short no! A doula is not just like a midwife. Each role is very distinct, and has a different place in a woman’s birthing journey.

A midwife’s job is focused on the physical well being of a woman and her baby, centred around the clinical aspects of pregnancy and birth.

Doulas on the other hand are not clinically trained, so we don’t perform clinical tasks or give medical advice – that’s where your doctor or midwife might come in! Instead we give you emotional, physical, and practical support, and signpost to relevant information, so that you can make informed choices yourself.

2. I have a birth partner already, I wouldn’t want a doula to replace them!

We love that you have a supportive birth partner, and we would never want to replace them, or interfere with the relationship you have with them. We imagine they know you better than we ever could, and that is so special and valuable – especially in the birth space.

As doulas we want to work with birth partners; supporting them to be a confident support for you. Sometimes this will look like reassurance and guidance for them, or we might take on more practical tasks so your birth partner can focus on giving you all the emotional and physical support you need. We are there to step in so they can take a break: during labour your body is flooded with all kinds of good hormones so you can stay in your birthing bubble – but it is always the cold light of day for your birth partner. It can be a huge comfort to know they are able to step out to eat, sleep, use the toilet etc. and be in the best place possible to support you.

We would hope to get to know your birth partner antenatally, and we even offer a separate meeting with them so we can really work together as a team to give you the very best support.

3. Doulas are only for women who are having a natural home birth.

Doulas are for all women and every birth! We want to support you to have whatever kind of birth you want, be that a hospital birth with pain relief, a caesarean birth, a home water birth, or anything in between.

We support your birth choices with compassion and without judgement. We want to help ensure that you feel respected throughout your pregnancy and birth, and supported in the choices you make so you can look back on your experience positively, with warmth and pride.

4. I can’t have a doula because I’m having a caesarean.

A doula can still provide invaluable support if you have a caesarean birth. Here are just some of the ways we can give support:

  • Support you to be informed about what to expect and what your options are
  • Guide you in writing your birth preferences
  • Be an advocate for you and support you in your birth choices
  • Support you pre-theatre, practically and emotionally, so you feel as relaxed as possible and looking forward to the birth of your baby
  • Be present for you, your birth partner and your baby throughout, and hold space for whatever is going on for you at the time
  • Help to facilitate skin-to-skin, bonding, and breastfeeding after birth
  • Give you practical and emotional support after your caesarean, helping with self-care and giving you the opportunity to reflect back on your birthing experience with us.

5. Doulas are too expensive!

We know that hiring a doula can be a big investment for some, but is your birth experience worth investing in?

Women who choose to invest in doula support are less likely to need an epidural, less likely to have a caesarean birth, and more likely to birth at home, with better rates of exclusive breastfeeding at six weeks compared with national average.*

Saying that, we know that the cost of doula support can be a barrier for lots of women. Whilst we still have bills to pay, and families of our own to support, we are not in this for the money – we love what we do and are passionate about supporting women. We want to be as accessible as possible for all women, so if you want our support please don’t let finances stop you from getting in touch!

http://nurturingbirth.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MIDIRS_Research-PDF.pdf