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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!
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lauren, Christine & Elle x
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!
Lauren, Elle & Christine x
When looking for a doula locally, women are frequently directed towards Doula UK, a membership association of birth and postnatal doulas in the UK. You will notice however that none of the Greater Manchester Doulas are listed in the Find a Doula directory of doulas, 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 that we work. As independent doulas, we value independence and autonomy, not just for ourselves, but more importantly for you too.
When we chose to be fully independent, we chose:
- a commitment to ensure that we are completely women-centred; offering non-judgemental support to women remains at the heart of what we do,
- to work with doulas who shared the same philosophy of reproductive experiences and how this impacts the support we offer,
- to work alongside like-minded women who will support and mentor each other with compassion and without judgement, helping each other to be the best doulas 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 you. Rather than trying to balance the way we work with being part of a body that we don’t fully align with, we are now able to support women in a way that is completely focussed on their needs with no outside limitations.
There are many myths about independent doulas and they are often criticised for various reasons – they do not following 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 reproductive experiences and for us the learning never stops. We are always reading new research and taking part in courses that support and expand our knowledge, and are more than happy to talk about this.
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 philosophy of reproductive experiences and the way in which we support women is very much aligned. We know that when we reach out for 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 and grow in a way reflects our views and ethos.
Values mentoring as a continuous practise.
We see a value in mentoring, not just at the beginning of our doula journeys but throughout. We continually reflect with each other on the way in which we work and on specific experiences of working with women. We use our individual experience as doulas to support each other and 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 the Greater Manchester Doulas’ Philosophy and Code of Conduct.
Get in touch if you’d like to chat more about our work as indie doulas!
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 our fee is based on a sliding scale and we just trust that you will pay what you are able to within that. We are also more than open to payment plans and skill swaps, so if you want our support please don’t let finances stop you from getting in touch!