Happy Saturday! It’s finally the weekend and the end of the longest January in existence. We’re all relaxing after a long week and hope you are too.
It’s that time again. Here’s our Saturday Shout Out. Grab a cuppa and get cosy…
What we’ve been up to
A couple of wonderful interviews reminded us of why we do what we do, and how much connecting with women feeds our souls. We facilitated three free community groups this week, and we’d love to see them grow.
Also Amy drove inside a building for the first time (with a jolly Elle inside) and Lori got stranded with a flat tire (with a less jolly Elle inside).
We enjoyed our first few days of working together as a team, and had our first slumber party!
Questions for the doulas
Top three bands/singers? L: Lizzo, Stormzy, Beyonce. A: Eminem, Ed Sheeran, and McFly. E: Bjork, Weezer, Panic! at the Disco.
Movie you’ve watched more than any other? L: Harry Potter. Maybe Stealing Beauty… So cheesy, but I used to be obsessed. A: Definitely Harry Potter, and Avengers: End Game. E: The Princess Bride.
All time favourite TV shows? L: Gilmore Girls, Grace and Frankie, Game of Thrones (before it ended the way it did – still haven’t forgiven the writers for ruining it). A: Friends, Scrubs, and Gilmore Girls. E: Adventure Time, Mr Robot, and Scrubs.
What’s on your bucket list? L: Getting fat exploring Koh Phangan and having a beach house so we can be awesome old crones together like Grace and Frankie. A: There’s a lot of things on my bucket list! Mostly visiting countries I haven’t seen yet, and skydiving which is too expensive and scary, but one that will be ticked off soon(ish) is converting a van into a camper so I can travel more. E: Getting a scooter.
What’s coming up?
Next week is all about funding. Some deadlines are approaching, and we’re meeting face to face with a funder for the first time.
On Thursday we have our first Free Birth Meeting of the year. It’s so important that women know about all their options during pregnancy. Especially if you’re thinking outside the box for your birth, it’s so reassuring and inspiring to hear the tales from the women who did the same and had a beautiful time.
The Wild Mothering Circle is now open to all women, because if we want to see a village built in our lifetimes, it needs to be made up of women of all ages and stages of life. We meet every Friday afternoon so come along and be part of this growing sisterhood.
On Saturday we’ll be taking part in a flash mob to raise awareness of how the systems women rely on for support are often the systems that make our lives difficult in the first place. You may know the video from Chile which spread over the world. Watch the powerful anti-rape demonstration in its original language here.
A week today it comes to Manchester. Anyone is welcome to take part, but full details have not yet been confirmed. Feel free to message us about this.
How can you help at the minute?
We have a few suggestions this week!
We have just started writing our antenatal course which covers as much as a regular one, but focuses on human rights in pregnancy and childbirth. We got partial funding from Lush, but we are £1000 short, and are looking to raise the rest by crowdfunding. Here’s a link to the Just Giving page Lori made last night. We’ve never tried crowdfunding before so would really appreciate your support with this!
Another week has flown by but it’s somehow STILL January! We’re starting to wonder if February will ever come. Anyway here’s your weekly reminder to take some time out for you, grab a brew and get cosy for our Monday Mailout.
What we’ve been up to
This was a tough week for Elle, as she had some laptop issues and had to work all week from her phone. Lori had a tricky week balancing personal life and doula life. But overall we had an exciting week as we officially welcomed the wonderful Amy into GMD CIC!
We had been hoping for this for a while, and we are so pleased to be able to officially announce the news. You can read all about Amy here. Welcome to the sisterhood Amy, we are so thrilled (and very lucky!) to have you onboard.
We were also so happy to have been able to shared the first part of the lovely Jess’ birth story. Head here to have a read.
Quick fire questions for the doulas:
Late night snack of the week? E: Plain white rice. L: Vegan cheese and Quorn ham on buttered crackers. A: I quite often make mash late at night if I can’t sleep. Weirdest dream of the week? A: I dreamt that I had been underwear shopping and an old lady mugged me, stole my underwear and walked off… that was pretty weird 😂 L: I was a survivor in a zombie apocalypse and I was having to relocate and lead a group to move house. It was pretty intense and scary! E: I went to an amusement park for orphaned goats, and a penguin bit me. What have you been making this week? L: A glittery rainbow pixie hat for a mystery toddler. A: I baked a cake last week – does that count? I haven’t had much downtime for making things recently but I’d like to get back to sewing bunting. E: I got a bit obsessed with making baby bonnets. I’m over it now. Favourite thing about being on call? L: I’m extra kind to myself when I’m on call, and it’s easier to make sure I get enough rest and me time, and that I’m well nourished. And it’s exciting to know that a woman is going to bring new life into the world. E: I like not knowing where the day is going to take me. It can be a boring morning then all of a sudden I’m off to do the best job in the world! A: I like the reminder to take care of myself so that I can be full of energy for the client when the time comes. So it’s a great excuse to have a bubble bath or a lazy day.
What’s coming up?
We have three groups this week. Manchester Birth Worker Circle is tomorrow (Tuesday afternoon) for anyone supporting women and families in the childbearing year. There are loads of birth workers in Manchester, but there’s no real community. We want there to be, so we started this group. It’s for practical support around starting or running a business, as well as emotional support for challenging times. It’s a great networking opportunity too – we know it can be hard to tell others about what we do, so come practise with us in a vegan dessert parlour!
Women Reclaiming Birth This group is a safe and supportive circle for women to get together and explore their autonomous choices in conception, pregnancy, birth and beyond. We hold space for questions, stories, thoughts about the monthly theme and anything else that comes up for each of us. Whether you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or have a story to share, you are more than welcome to join us. Little ones are very welcome as always. This Thursday, the Salutation Inn.
Wild Mothering Circle On Friday afternoons (1.30 – 3) we gather in circle as wild women, in the Living Room at Home Cafe in Didsbury. The group is so named because we try to recreate a little of the magic of red tents, or women’s circles, during the day, in a child-friendly environment. We show up as we are, and share whatever is going on for us. We listen to one another, we nurture each other, and we hold space for one another.
How can you help at the minute?
National Storytelling Week is coming up, so we want to feature womens’ stories. They don’t need to be related to giving birth, although birth stories are always good to share. They can be about any aspect of womanhood and in any format. Write us anything you’re happy to be featured on our Facebook, website, and in a future roundup and get in touch if you would be interested in recording a podcast with us!
Our recent Wonder Woman was the lovely Jess, wild mother to Luca and Eden. We are lucky enough to be able to share her journey, from a traumatic first birth to the beautiful, healing home birth she had with her littlest one Eden.
Eden’s birth story Part 1:
During Eden’s pregnancy I knew I needed to work through many fears and unanswered questions from my first birth experience if I was going to birth in a way that felt positive and empowering this time round.
I’d wanted a water birth with minimal intervention with my first born, but in the end he was pulled from me with no time for any pain relief. I lay on my back, pain like I’d never known, under bright lights with lots of people watching, I felt helpless and powerless. I tore awfully and had to leave my tiny newborn and go straight to theatre for 3 hours afterwards. Yes I know others have traumatic births and yes I did have a healthy baby, but I’m not ashamed to say it broke me. I felt horrendous. Cheated. Angry. Grief stricken. Violated. Unheard. Except I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. I was supposed to feel lucky, relieved and ecstatic that my baby was safely here and grateful to the doctors that had helped me. People told me how fortunate it was that I hadn’t had the home birth I’d been thinking about having. “Imagine if the doctors weren’t there to help”, they would say. At the time I kind of agreed with them, but I also had this niggling feeling that things could have been different somehow if someone had truly believed in me and if I had truly believed in myself, but I didn’t quite understand what that meant. My body felt like it’d been run over by a train. My mind raced with thoughts of inadequacy; I’d needed medical intervention to get pregnant (IVF) and now medical help to birth my own baby! How the hell was I now expected to trust myself to know how to mother?!
I know that some people reading this may feel triggered by what I’m saying. You may feel annoyed towards me for feeling this way because you had it worse or you wish you had the privilege of birthing a child or you feel differently – maybe you did feel completely supported by your doctors or that you’d never dream of birthing outside of hospital because you see it as a risk. Know that I respect you and I would never judge a woman by her decisions or feelings. I understand these are my own personal feelings and everyone is different. I would say that if any of my birth story does bring up a strong emotional reaction for you, that it might be worthwhile talking it through with someone. Feel free to PM me. Although I’m not trained I can signpost you in the right direction for support.
Anyway it was a long road of acceptance after Luca’s birth. Talking about it with people who understood helped so much. Also breastfeeding, being able to do something with my body to nurture him helped so much.
When I fell pregnant again, naturally this time, I knew I could never birth like that again. I thought about an elective c-section but it didn’t fit right. So I talked some more, I rehashed Luca’s birth again. I re-examined every part of it, including the lead up to it. More uncomfortably I looked at the responsibility I held in the events that took place. I studied undisturbed birth and accepted some truths about birth in it’s essence. I sat with lots of fears and what ifs. It took a long while to weed out what I truly needed to birth in power. In the end I came to accept my highest need was to be surrounded by those that knew me and trusted me and trusted birth as a process. I’m not sure if I ever fully voiced it out loud but I came to realise that in my current circumstances I felt most in alignment and empowered when I thought about birthing on my own,
and as it turns out that’s exactly what ended up happening!
To be continued…
Stay tuned for the next part of Jess’ amazing birth story! In the meantime you can find her on Instagram @these_adventures_of_ours.
Following some feedback we’ve decided to give our supporters more of an insight into what we do, keep you up to date with community events, and offer a glimpse into our free time. We’ll also let you know what you can do to help us and how to get involved.
So here’s our Saturday Scroll. Grab a cuppa and get cosy…
What we’ve been up to
Our working year only started this week, after nearly a month off. We got straight into it with a wonderfully productive meeting with Lucy Green, a champion of ours and a whizz at business. We highly recommend her whether you’re starting out, stuck, or wanting to expand. If you join her Facebook group you’ll be offered a free video chat so you can see whether working together is the right move for you.
Birth doulaing will always be at the heart of what we do, but we can also take those skills and apply them in other situations, to help more women to feel heard and supported. You asked, we listened – introducing our newest service, With Women!
If you’d like to talk to us about this (or anything at all) you can email or message us on Facebook. Being able to offer this, with funding where possible, takes us one step closer to our vision of the village we all need.
We are growing! Bit early for deets, but in order to support more women we need more doulas with the GMD CIC ethos, so watch out for more news in future round ups.
Aside from that, we’ve just been playing catch up after the Christmas break, at the same time as completely rejigging the way we work! You can expect lots more from us this year.
Quick fire questions for the doulas:
What are you watching at the moment? E: My laptop is on its last legs but I’m looking forward to watching Grace and Frankie with Lori at the weekend. L: The Crown, I’m learning so much about history! You season two, which is even better than the first, and Power. What are you listening to? L: I’m discovering Billie Eilish, but the Frozen 2 soundtrack is pretty much on repeat round here. E: I’m enjoying the quiet, but also missing Christmas songs a bit. What have you been up to this week apart from work? L: Doodling in my bullet journal, and baking vegan banana muffins. E: My tax return 🙁
What’s on your mind? E: How to support women facing or experiencing baby loss. This article got me thinking more about the reasons women get PTSD following a loss, and what happens when we aren’t allowed to grieve. L: Amy’s latest blog. It made me think about how valuable doula support is in so many areas of a woman’s life. What are you feeling grateful for? L: Sisterhood and the women who help me to keep going on hard days. E: Lori’s muffins.
What’s coming up?
The Wild Mothering Circle meets every Friday. We haven’t settled on a topic (or location!) for the next one yet, but we’re hoping for it to be more of a women’s circle than we can usually achieve in the cafe where we normally meet. It’s closed this Friday so we’re having to get creative – join the group for news, and to connect with other women.
Local birth worker Natalie Qureshi just told us about an event in February for new parents about their postnatal experiences, we’ll let you know more details as we get them.
What’s going on in your world, and in your communities? Tell us, especially if you want them sharing
How can you help at the minute?
Yesterday Elle went into one of the Co-ops we’re featured in and discovered we are way behind the two other local causes, so we would love your support with raising that number!
If you’re a Co-op member just login to your account (or give them a call) and select us as your nominated cause to automatically contribute to our work whenever you shop there, at no extra cost to you. If you aren’t a member it’s really easy to join.
We still have funding for women in Greater Manchester who are experiencing, or who are at risk of, birth trauma. If this sounds like someone you know please pass along our details. We work with women in a few different ways, so you don’t need to mention any particular service. We can start things off with a Skype call or a face-to-face chat and take things from there.
Finally, we’d love to hear from you. If there are events you’d like us to share, or there’s a topic you’d like us to shine a light on let us know. Please tell us how you’re doing and what you’ve been up to.
As 2019 draws to a close, we have been reflecting back over the last 12 months! Our second year of working together as part of this amazing social enterprise has been one of real growth and resilience.
When new year comes around it is easy to throw yourself into big plans and grand ideas, but we are taking some time to celebrate how far we have come and to remind ourselves that what we are doing right now is already truly magical.
There have been rejections and moments of doubt, overwhelm and worry, but looking back we are so incredibly proud of ourselves and what we have built and achieved throughout this year.
Here is a roundup of for anyone who wants to join us in celebrating our 2019 journey…
We started off the year with another grant from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme which allowed us to continue to offer funded birth doula support and consultations.
Navigating the world of funding and grants has been challenging at times but we were so pleased to be offered funding for a number of different projects.
Money from the Big Lottery has allowed us to continue to work with women suffering from, and who are at risk of birth trauma. With the help of this grant we have supported many resilient women who were seeking holistic support for future pregnancies or who were courageously exploring their past traumatic births, and challenging the authorities and systems that did not provide the care they needed. Each woman took brave steps towards healing and progress and thanks to this grant, we were able to support this further with funded Rewind sessions with Lauren.
Later in the year we received funding for Lush Charity Pots to write and deliver an antenatal course with a focus on women’s human rights. Through our work with local women we know that human rights abuse in pregnancy and birth are rife. We believe that ending obstetric violence will require a complete overhaul of the system, starting with how women prepare for birth. At present it is unrealistic to expect to ‘go with the flow’ within the maternity services and have a positive, powerful birthing experience, which is outrageous. Learning to be comfortable being that dreaded “difficult woman” who questions everything, serves the woman, her baby, her family, and her community. We are just so excited to share this with the world. What topics would you like to see on this course? Nothing is too out there – think outside the box!
We were also accepted as a Local Cause by The Co-op, from the end of October for a year. In the Co-ops in Hulme (Birley Fields), Whalley Range, Oxford Rd, and Leech Funeral Care members can vote for us, and 1% of profits will go to our fund. If you want to support us with this, please join the Co-op as a member if you haven’t already, and choose us to be your local cause. If you can, encourage friends and family to do the same. All the money we get from this will go towards offering funding birth doula support to local women who could not otherwise afford it.You can track our funding here.
October took us to Bradford for the annual FiLiA conference and it was an incredible experience. We had a table, and invited women to speak to us. Here’s a photo album of highlights. We heard so many amazing, inspiring women, and we are looking forward to going again next year. Women told us where they’re struggling in life, and we listened. We are considering adding services not related to birth to better serve our community. What would you like to be doula-ed through?
We started a Birth Network group for birth workers in Greater Manchester who want to connect and support one another. Through these meets we met the lovely Amy, another local doula whose approach is so similar to ours, who has a similar ethos towards the work. As always, leading up to Christmas was our busiest time of year and Amy helped us out lots, much to our, and our clients’, delight! Amy understands that practicing in a woman-centered way is more about being than doing, and that the first step toward a positive experience is promoting and protecting womens’ autonomy. We are really looking forward to working alongside her more in 2020.
GMD CIC is all about women supporting women, so when we realised we needed to grow (to support more women!) we sought out a local woman to support us! Introducing the amazing Lucy Green, a certified business coach and development consultant. Pardon the metaphors but she knows her onions, and is an all round good egg. She’s going to be kicking us up the butts for the next few months, to turn our dreams into plans. It can be easy (even though it’s hard!) to focus on the now and what’s right in front of us, but if we want to see our dreams in action we must shake up the way we work. 2020 is going to be a crucial year for GMD. We will keep you in the loop, and if you want to get more involved you can apply to join our volunteer’s group. Please keep sharing our posts, write us a review or testimonial if you haven’t already so others can read about our work, and put up a flyer on your local noticeboard. It goes towards support our work, allowing us to continue to support other women.
Throughout the year we have continued to work to build community for women in Manchester. We still facilitate the Chorlton Home Birth Group and as well as starting new community ventures to support sisterhood and solidarity among local women.
We started up the Women Reclaiming Birth Circle, a new group, running the last Thursday of every month. It is all about women informing women through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. All women are invited to come, to contribute their wisdom, and share their experiences and we are excited to see how this group grows over the next year.
We also started The Wild Mothering Circle with the amazing wild mothers Jody and Alice. It is a safe and supportive circle both online and in the form of weekly face to face meets for women and children. Initially the group was focussed on women supporting women through the ups and downs of motherhood, especially for women making more “alternative” choices. However throughout the year we have been curious about ‘The Mother’ being more than the role we take on when we give birth. Instead considering ‘The Mother’ as a stage that every woman can access and experience in life, regardless of whether or not she has given birth. We are looking forward to opening the group up to any wild women who wants to explore this archetype more, and working towards creating our village.
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, we continued to work directly with women as radical birth keepers. We held space for women during pregnancy into motherhood, we attended beautiful births, and watched so many women transform and step into their feminine power through the rite of passage that is birth. We also held space for women choosing to face and heal from their traumas. To all of these women, and everyone who we have supported since we began this work, we say thank you! We are humbled by your power and resilience, and feel so privileged to have supported each of you and witnessed your journeys.
A new year, a new decade
Wow, what a year it has been! And we have done all of this as single mothers, mothering children with additional needs and navigating our own health and wellbeing struggles. It has been incredibly hard at times but we wouldn’t change it for the world. More than ever we feel called to do this work and cannot wait to see what we can build together throughout 2020 and beyond.
We thank you wholeheartedly for being a Greater Manchester Doulas CIC supporter. We hope you continue to be part of our community, helping it to grow and flourish. Let’s keep building the village we all long for and deserve!
Sending so much love and wishing you a happy new year 🥳
Elle and I awoke with heavy hearts this morning. We fear that our new conservative government will have devastating consequences, not just for us personally but for the maternity services we support women to navigate.
An already broken maternity system is likely to disintegrate further, with women’s needs and voices being silenced by Tory austerity and a society that does not value us. We anticipate more birth trauma and increased rates of infant and maternal mortality, particularly among black women who are still five times more likely to die in birth than white women.
It is easy to feel like all hope is lost, but as Anna and Elsa sing… “some things never change”. As women our strength and resilience lies deep within within our bones and that will never change. When we feel lost and afraid, we can always lean on our sisters and hold each other up, no government will ever take that away from us. Now more than ever we need to recognise the power in sisterhood and solidarity, and continue to fight together.
If today’s news has taught us anything, it’s that our work as birth keepers is perhaps more important than it has ever been. We will continue to defend women’s human rights, continue to provide accessible, holistic support and education and most importantly continue to build sisterhood between women. There is so much work to be done but together we will thrive despite a government that does not wish to see us rise.
Great news – we have been chosen as a Co-op Local Cause!
When members shop with at the Co-op, 1% of what they spend on some branded products and services goes to support local causes through their Local Community Fund.
If you choose us as your Local Cause you will be helping to provide 1:1 doula support for women with vulnerabilities across Greater Manchester.
How much money will you get?
That depends on how many people choose to support us! We have a year as a Local Cause funds, so please help raise as much as we can.
How can I help?
There are a few ways you can help.
Become a member of the Co op, and choose us as your local cause
Ask your family and friends to do the same, even if they live far away
Share our fundraising page and our cause – help us spread the word
Connect us with any press or media contacts
How do I choose Greater Manchester Doulas CIC as my Local Cause?
It’s easy! First, sign up to be a member if you haven’t already. Then either login to your account, or give the Co op a call (we recently did this ourselves and found them to be really friendly and helpful) on 0800 023 4708.
I can’t see your cause when I login…
You can search for a cause up to 15 miles away using the drop down menu on this page.
If we are further from you than that you can still choose us as your cause, just use the link to our Co op page.
You can follow our cause and see how much members have raised so far here.
Thanks so much for your support. By supporting us you are helping women across Greater Manchester to access the support the deserve.
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.
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.
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.
By 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…
The 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.
Reflecting 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!
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.
It 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?
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.
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.
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!