Birth, Uncategorized

Sweeps ARE induction (…and there is nothing natural about them)

There is an abundance of misinformation given to women about the infamous ‘stretch and sweep’. This misinformation leads women to believe that a sweep is completely harmless, and in some cases necessary! The feeling that comes from these kinds of ideas is that labour needs help to start and that it would be dangerous to do nothing, undermining the fact that labour is a perfect system that involves lots of hormonal changes before any obvious signs of labour can be detected.

 

Misinformation Exhibit A:

A poster that was displayed in the waiting room of a maternity clinic

Where do I begin? 
Maybe from the top and work our way down.

 

1.Let’s start with due dates. Due dates are calculated on the assumption that all women have the same length menstrual cycle. This is simply not the case, they can differ hugely from woman to woman, month to month. The “normal” range of being full term is between 37 – 42 weeks, so that is already a wide window but it doesn’t take into account how many women are induced due to the fear of going “overdue” (like a library book). So in reality, if we were all left to our own devices this window of normality would probably stretch much further. Whilst we’re on the topic of being left to our own devices – have you ever heard of a woman being pregnant forever? I haven’t. I have heard so many times “I’ve never gone into labour before so I don’t even know if I can” or “I wasn’t going into labour so I had to be induced”. There is no reason to think that your body wouldn’t go into labour naturally given enough time and patience, it is the healthcare system’s incessant need to interfere that undermines women’s confidence in this.

 

2. The next point of focus on this awful poster is the second line; “want to start labour naturally?” … WHAT?! The only natural way for labour to start is to leave well alone because anything that you try to bring labour on before it naturally would, isn’t labour ‘starting naturally’. The other important thing to ask here is why would we want to start labour early? The only reason women feel pressure to “kick things off” is because of the information they are being given about due dates and going past them. That pressure is coming from the maternity service, so they are offering a “solution”. Sweeps are often offered as a way to “avoid induction” but a sweep IS part of induction.

 

3. So you’ve so far been told that approaching your due date means that you must want to get labour going, and that having someone put their fingers inside you to “sweep” around your cervix is a “natural way to induce labour”, and that you should talk to your community midwife about it. I’m not sure about you but the information they’ve given so far isn’t exactly filling me with confidence that talking to them about it would benefit anybody. It is easy to tell from this poster that birth is not seen as a normal bodily function because there is a continuous want to DO something or measure something or fix it. Midwives have to follow the policies of their hospital, and clearly, this hospital (like many others) see birth as something to be managed, which includes inducing labour at all costs. Offering a more “natural method” of a sweep (rather than a chemical method) seems like a compromise, and women are expected to take this compromise to avoid being pressured into further induction techniques. The idea that you can only avoid a formal induction by having a sweep suggests that saying no isn’t enough and won’t be respected. But here’s the thing… you don’t have to compromise. If you don’t want an induction, you don’t have to have one. You can tell your midwife that you will not have an induction and therefore don’t want to discuss it any further, and if they do bring it up against your wishes then you can tell them that they are harassing you. There are many, many ways to avoid the pressure to be induced, but having a sweep isn’t one of them because it is a form of induction, and once you have said yes to one form of induction, it becomes much harder to say no to the rest.

 

4. ‘Available at your local clinic from 40 weeks pregnant’ despite the fact that most women who are 40 weeks pregnant have already been offered multiple sweeps. The main purpose of a sweep is to avoid going post-term (two weeks past your only 5% accurate due date), and the reason for that is based on the increased still-birth rate associated with post-term pregnancy. The research for this is varied, but there are 10 years worth of CEMACH, CMACE and MBRRACE reports that actually show a lower percentage of stillbirths in women who gestate for 42+ weeks, compared to women who gestate for between 37 – 41 weeks.

 

5. ‘Successful for 8 out of 10 women’… I’m not sure where they have found this stat or what they consider to be “successful”. The most recent Cochrane review on the topic, done in February 2020, states “Membrane sweeping appears to be effective in promoting labour but current evidence suggests this did not, overall, follow on to unassisted vaginal births.” So it might be the case that a sweep can trick the body into contracting, but is that really a success if it just leads to a longer, more exhausting labour with more interventions? 

A stretch and sweep can only be performed if the cervix is “favourable”, meaning your body is already preparing for labour (so it’s probably imminent anyway), which means that for women who do go into labour following a sweep it might be that their body was already ready to go into labour and would have done so regardless of whether they had the intervention or not. There is no way to know this, but if you ask around I’m sure the majority of women who went into labour after a sweep has had more than one sweep previous to that one and did not go into labour, so it could have just been a coincidence.

The review also found that women who had a sweep were “less likely to have a formal induction”, but this only perpetuates the notion that a formal induction is inevitable and non-negotiable. What actually makes any form of induction less likely is giving women all of the information and breaking the cycle of thinking that women’s bodies are incapable of going into labour on their own. 

 

6. ‘No known side effects’ … this is a blatant and dangerous lie.

Stretch and sweeps can cause;

  • Pain during and after the procedure
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Painful contractions for the following 24 hours without leading to labour
  • Longer labours
  • An increased risk of infection
  • An increased risk of rupturing the membranes

And for what purpose?

The Cochrane review found that it did not generally lead to labour within 24 hours, and it did not reduce the incidences of further intervention such as the use of synthetic oxytocin and instrumental births. The very fact that a sweep can cause contractions that aren’t effective will lengthen labour, and there is often a lot of pressure put of women who have been contracting for 24 hours, makes you wonder whether there are actually any known benefits.

 

7. ‘Unlike curry!!’ 

This is clearly meant to mock the more “natural methods” of induction, but as I said at the beginning, anything that you do to try to bring on labour is a form of induction, whether it is chemical or otherwise so they fall under the same umbrella, except eating a curry doesn’t involve someone putting their fingers inside your vagina. The theory behind the curry method is the irritation spicy food can cause to your bowel, which could potentially trick the body into contracting. But, unlike sweeps, eating curry (if you like curry) has many benefits and not just to pregnant women! These include;

  • Satisfying hunger
  • Spicy foods tend to release endorphins which can give you a bit of a buzz
  • Cooking curry can be really fun
  • It tastes great
  • If you don’t like it or it is causing you discomfort/pain, you can stop eating it instantly without having to tell anyone (unlike having a sweep where, if you wanted it to stop, you would have to rely on the midwife performing the procedure to listen to and respect your decision, which isn’t always the case)

 

In conclusion, this poster is a load of shit and is a perfect representation of how frequently women are misinformed in pregnancy and how flippantly this is done. It shows how easily things become routine without really being based on any solid evidence. It also says a lot about the systemic mistrust in women’s bodies and the belief that they need help to perform the most natural of bodily functions.

If you find yourself being offered or pressured into a “quick sweep to get things started” or any other kind of induction, take whatever time you need to go through the BRAIN acronym and consider the benefits, risks and alternatives to what is being offered, check in with your intuition and ask yourself (and your midwife if you want) what happens next if you accept the intervention and what happens if you decide to do nothing. All of this information will help you to make the decision that is right for you.

If you want to chat about any of these decisions or navigating the maternity system, feel free to get in touch with us and book a ‘holding space’ session by emailing hello@greatermanchesterdoulas.com

 

Related Sources:

https://billieharrigan.com/blog/2019/5/6/birth-hijacked-the-ritual-membrane-sweep

https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/induction-at-term

https://www.sarawickham.com/articles-2/unpacking-sweeping-policies/

https://www.aims.org.uk/journal/item/ten-things

https://www.cochrane.org/CD000451/PREG_membrane-sweeping-induction-labour

https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/crdweb/ShowRecord.asp?LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12011000682&LinkFrom=OAI&ID=12011000682

Uncategorized

Why it takes so much more than just hiring a doula to have a good birth

 

As we hear more and more about doulas, it’s easy to get the impression that having a doula will somehow magically lead to having a better birth experience. It often feels like one of the things on the ‘positive birth’ checklist; hire a doula, do a hypnobirthing class, read a birth book etc. and it’s true that having a doula can significantly reduce the risk of interventions and birth trauma, but that is largely due to the work that a woman does with her doula, and by herself, during pregnancy.

What we have learnt from women

Through our years of working as doulas in Greater Manchester, we have come to realise that birthing within the maternity system can and often will come with complications, barriers and difficulties. One of the best ways to combat these hurdles is to know what’s coming. Knowing how the maternity service works and knowing their policies gives you a head-start and also shows you that there are other options, such as birthing outside of the system. Knowing your rights and your options are the first steps to having a positive birth. A doula can support you in learning all of this, provide you with information and books on the subject, they can give you information about how the system works and how you can navigate it, and tell you all about the birth process, but it takes you to make the difference. 

Women who have had a traumatic birth in the past often come to us believing that their body failed them and that they need to do something different this time. Hiring a doula is a great start because it gives them the space to talk openly about what happened last time, a place to wonder whether those things were necessary or completely unacceptable, a place to cry and ask questions. Once women learn and start to believe that the process of birth is not inherently dangerous, and is not a medical event, it leads to an awakening that is incomparable. Getting to this point though takes a whole load of courage and openness from that woman, and when that woman is heard, she can find the answers she’s been looking for. So many of the women we listen to were having a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy and labour until it was interfered with by medical staff, and realising that sometimes complications in birth are caused by the interference is key to protecting themselves against it. Their body did not fail them, the system did.

We have been programmed to think that authority means safety, but in so many instances we have been proven that in fact, the opposite is the case. When we trust someone else’s word over our own feelings of discomfort, we are left feeling violated. When we look to someone else for the answers, especially in birth, we are handing over our control and ignoring our intuition. We often hear in women’s stories that the parts that felt the most traumatic are when they went against what their body was telling them, and just did what they were told – so far I haven’t met a woman who regretted following her body. Our intuition is what has kept us alive and safe for so long, and birth is such a private and personal event that it makes very little sense to look for external approval or guidance. When we trust women, birth is safe. A doula is often the only person in the birth room who is solely focused on you, as the birthing woman, and having someone who completely believes and trusts in your body at that moment can make a huge difference to the energy. Questioning the authority of medical staff is necessary to get the birth you want, because going with someone else’s flow will inevitably lead you down a path that makes you uncomfortable or feels wrong. You ARE the authority, and you DO know best, even if you have never birthed before. Birth is a hormonal event and a normal bodily function – if you were monitored, observed and examined whilst trying to have an orgasm it probably wouldn’t go very well, would it?

Birth is led by the hormone oxytocin – as are orgasms – and for oxytocin to be released it needs the right environment. For women to release oxytocin they need to feel safe, warm, unobserved and undisturbed, so when you put a labouring woman in a brightly lit hospital with a bunch of strangers, unfamiliar loud noises and smells, and continue disturbing her with monitoring and examinations, it’s no surprise that birth takes longer or is more difficult. When birth is undisturbed, endorphins are released to match the intensity of labour as it builds – this is what makes labour pain manageable. When we interfere with the body’s natural pain killers, we cause more harm than good. Understanding what birth needs is a great foundation for planning where you want to give birth, and who you want to be there. Doulas can be really helpful in supporting you to navigate the maternity system when you are “going against medical advice” or just declining what you are being told is “how they do things”.

What we wish women knew before giving birth

We wish that all women knew that they were in charge of their body and their birth, that they didn’t have to agree to anything that feels uncomfortable or compromise with medical staff. We wish that women knew that birth doesn’t need to be fixed or monitored or sped-up and that they have the right to say no or to seek the care they are not being offered. We wish that women who have had traumatic experiences knew that they were not alone and that what happened to them was not okay. We wish that women weren’t expected to be “good girls” and do what they are told even when it feels wrong and that it’s okay to be “difficult” or “bossy” – in fact, that shows a belief in yourself, and the ability to assert your boundaries!

The work we do is to create the space for women to ask questions, to speak up and use their voice, to take what they need and to take back their power. We listen to women’s traumatic birth stories, we help them to write birth plans, we share information and experiences, we are behind them when they are navigating the system, or choosing to birth outside of it, and we have that unwavering trust in the birth process and in the woman in front of us. 

We support their choices, we hear their voices and we are privileged enough to witness their power.

But ultimately, what makes a positive birth is a woman who is ready to go deeper, to question what she is being told, and is fully supported in her decisions.

Uncategorized

Bodily autonomy and the information we are not given

This post is sparked by my personal experience (it’s Amy here, in case my hilarious t-shirt below didn’t give that away) and also from listening to women talk about their journeys with contraception.
 
Grab yourself a brew (and maybe some biscuits) because this is a long, winding road to a very broad but important point – bare with me.
 
 
Let’s talk about contraception (and information and consent and bodily autonomy… because it’s all part of the same point)
 
Being doulas, you might think that the topic of contraception is a little out of our remit but (as I have so succinctly concluded in the subtitle) that is not the case.
 
As doulas and feminists, we respect every woman’s right to choose what is right for her body, so naturally, the topic of being informed and choices being respected is at the very core of what we believe in. Also, being full-spectrum doulas we support women before they are pregnant and long after they give birth so it does come up a fair bit.
 
 
Let’s start with sex education
Way back in school (Elle would like to point out that it wasn’t that long ago for me), we were only ever told about two or three methods of contraception. We learnt a bit about the pill, maybe a bit on the injection and of course, everyone remembers the demonstration of how to put a condom on a cucumber or banana or any other object that doesn’t look like a real penis so that the teacher doesn’t get embarrassed. I’m guessing it wasn’t all that different for you? But this isn’t enough. If you’re going to teach young people about sex and contraception, you have to tell them all of their options and what each one entails. For example, I don’t remember anyone telling us in school that the longer you are on the pill, the longer it could take to get pregnant once you stop taking it. This might seem like a very way-in-the-future conversation to have with children, but who else is going to tell us that? Especially considering lots of women go on the pill from a very young age. “Wouldn’t that be the healthcare professionals job?” I hear you ask… the answer is yes, it definitely is, but that doesn’t mean that they will fulfil that expectation. The other HUGE gap (or if talked about at all, misrepresentation) in sex education is birth, but that’s a whole other rant.
 
My personal experience with contraception
Over a period of about four years, I tried two different types of the pill and the injection before deciding to have a detox because the hormones were having a very negative effect on my mental health. The side-effects are different for everyone but the general consensus of women I have spoken to is that there is at least one pretty rough down-side to every hormonal contraception option.
 
Condoms were the only other option (that I knew of) – our readily available, non-hormonal, trusty, 98% effective friend. However, it took one of these trusty little guys to split for me to end up seeking emergency contraception. For me (and many women have a much worse time of it), that meant I had to wait about 4 hours at a walk-in clinic (feeling alone and nervous), complete an incredibly personal face-to-face questionnaire and brush off several judgemental ‘I don’t believe you’ looks, for someone to finally tell me about the copper coil! I listened intently as they told me how it was hormone-free, had very few side-effects, could stay in for 5 years (some stay in for 10!) but can be removed any time I want, it doesn’t stall fertility after removal, and it is more than 99% effective…
 
 
…SHUT THE FRIDGE!!
 
Why in the hell had nobody taught me about this option before?! I had suffered through years of hormones messing with my brain, my skin, my personality. I got it fitted that day and four years later have not regretted it once. Now, it sounds like I’m just trying to sell you all on the copper coil, that is not my intention. It works for me and I love that, but the point of my rant is…
 
Why did it take so long for someone to tell me all of my options? Who decides which methods of contraception are offered to us first? If we are born into a religion that believes abstinence is the only way – where do we get the information to decide for ourselves? If our parents decide that sex is too difficult a topic and tick the opt-out box on the sex education form, where do we learn about our body and the changes we are going to go through? Why should other people get to decide what information we get about puberty, sex and contraception? It’s the first step towards bodily autonomy and nobody wants to talk about it! Maybe because bodily autonomy isn’t something that society wants us to have. Working as a doula has taught me that.
 
This power play continues throughout our lives, with anything to do with women’s bodies from contraception, boundaries, birth and beyond.
 
(Sorry, it took me a while to get to the point! Have another biscuit…)
 
From a friends experience
A few years ago, before I was no longer shocked by the controls put on women and their bodies, my friend was seeking the morning after pill at a pharmacy. She had gone to the only pharmacy open that Sunday morning, she steeled herself, walked up to the desk in the not-so-private supermarket aisle where the pharmacy is located and told the pharmacist what she wanted to purchase. There was no medical reason for her to be unable to access the morning-after pill, but the pharmacist said no. He said that he could not dispense the pill because of his personal beliefs.
 
 
I couldn’t believe this was legal, especially with something as time-sensitive as the morning-after pill. I furiously googled it and found that yep, apparently, pharmacists have an opt-out clause which gives them the power to inflict their personal views onto others, potentially causing an unwanted pregnancy. Technically, if a pharmacist exercises this ridiculous clause, they are supposed to offer an alternative, but what good is that on a Sunday when nowhere nearby is open and the customer can’t drive? That’s a pretty risky clause to have, don’t you think?
 
So I have a few questions; would a doctor who is a Jehovah’s witness have a clause to opt-out of giving a life-saving blood transfusion because of her/his personal beliefs? Does a doctor who is Jewish have an opt-in clause to enforce circumcision on all babies because of his/her own beliefs? Is the opt-out clause used for anything other than emergency contraception, or is it a clause solely to deny women the right to decide whether or not to have a baby?
 
Now I am wiser I know that actually, professionals impose their personal opinions on women all the time, it’s just usually less obvious. For example, during pregnancy when something is offered to you (because it is just an offer, even if it doesn’t come across that way), that midwife or doctor should be giving you ALL of the information, the risks, benefits and alternatives, for you to make an informed decision about your care. This very rarely happens, and what we can assume from this is that the person giving you the partial information is deciding, based on their personal views, which information is more important for you to know, and what can be left out. This does NOT equal informed consent. 
 
The patriarchal society that we live in has assumed that women’s bodies, and the decisions women make about those bodies, are to be monitored and controlled. Constant protesting of abortion, the hoops we have to jump through to access all types of contraception, the scare-tactics used in pregnancy and the birth room – it is all about controlling women. Strong, independent women who are able to make informed decisions and stand their ground are a threat to that control. Information is power, and withholding information (or more directly, actual medical care such as the morning-after pill), is to take away a woman’s power.
If we take away a woman’s control of her own body, we are telling her that she is not important and that her body is not hers to be in control of.
 
What does this teach young girls and women about consent? What does it teach us about boundaries? What does it teach us about our power?
 
(and yours too, if you want us to!)
 
 
 
 
 
Resources related to this post:
 
– The most recent changes I found on the opt-out clause (2017):
 
– The Lloyd’s Pharmacy article:
 
– Some fascinating for and against comments from pharmacists about the opt-out clause:
 
– The NHS contraception guide:
 
– Info on the copper coil (IUD):
Days of the week on wooden pegs
News, Uncategorized

Weekday read 📖

It’s definitely a weekday, but we can’t be more specific at this point! We hope you are coping, and that you know you can always reach out to us. We are only a text away.

What we’ve been up to

Amy has been extremely busy in the studio, fulfilling orders at Clara and Macy. They are Christmas-level busy, but without any of the prep that they usually do year round. 
As well as that she’s still running her Meetup group, and of course being a badass doula with us.

Lori has been doing lots of yoga and reading this week.
She’s “eating more biscuits than any human should”, her laundry basket is empty 🥳😱, and has dyed her kids hair (on purpose) and house (by accident).

A quote from the book 'Pushed' by Jennifer Block
From ‘Pushed’ by Jennifer Block

Elle is getting into the world of podcasts. Two of the stars of Scrubs have started a twice weekly podcast about making the show, and she’s lapping it up. Every episode is soon to be on All 4 – watch-along anyone?
Her unbuzzed hair is now comically long and is crocheting herself a hat.

It was our birthday this week! We had drinks, got frocked up and had a Zoom party. You can watch it here (it’s long and rambling!)


We are so proud to have been here for two years, responding to the needs of the community, growing as an organisation, and learning just how much we can do when we need to! We have developed new skills and new ways of working, and we hope we always will. 
Thank you for supporting us and building our village with us.

Quick questions for the doulas (by Ember)

What’s your favourite breakfast food?
L: Vegan fry up or leftover curry
E: Defo vegan fry up, but at the moment I’m on a health kick and it’s porridge and seeds with fruit every day.
A: Chocolate.

What are you watching in lockdown?
L: Killing Eve, Gangs of London and everything on Disney+
E: The Comeback (Lisa Kudrow is more talented than I ever knew!) and Devs.
A: Just finished Season 2 of Money Heist and it was AMAZING.

What do you like to sit on?
L: On the beach somewhere sunny ☀️ These days my armchair with my feet up will do.
E: Those therapy chairs where you can lean forward and rest your arms and legs. Don’t know what they’re called but they feel good!
A: The floor, usually!

What we’ve been working on

We have been busy busy busy! Enquiries have gone up over 65% since lockdown, and we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of local women. This means being even more flexible in our approach, and applying for lots more funding. It’s more important than ever that we are able to provide emotional support at low to no cost, as barriers to this are mounting.

This week we hosted the Manchester Birth Workers Circle, and have Women Reclaiming Birth coming up, as well as our weekly Wild Mothers Circle .

We have extended our funding deadline with Aviva, which you can donate to here. We are hoping this extra time will allow us to reach our target and unlock the donations we have received so far.

What’s coming up

We are excited for the release of Dr Jess Taylor’s new book, ‘Why Women are Blamed for Everything’:

‘Based on three years of doctoral research and ten years of practice with women and girls, Dr Jessica Taylor explores the many reasons we blame women for male violence committed against them. Written in her unique style and backed up by decades of evidence, this book exposes the powerful forces in society and individual psychology which compel us to blame women subjected to male violence.’

Every weekend we are taking it in turns to choose a different workout video. We set up our phones and put YouTube on another screen, to cheer each other on (and secretly laugh). The videos we are choosing from are free, and if you’d like to join us (cameras on or not!) you are most welcome. 11am Saturday we’ll be attempting this one and we’ll nudge on FB beforehand too. In previous weeks we’ve tried Zumba, and Bhangracise. What other suggestions do you have?

We are working on some new fundraising ideas and hope to have more news on that next week. In the meantime, you know where we are, and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Much love and stay safe,

Elle, Amy &

fight sexism grafiti
Uncategorized

Dear wolf-whistler…

Dear wolf-whistler,

First of all, you’re an absolute wanker.

Here’s how it went from my point of view, in case you give a shit;

I went outside to put my cardboard recycling in the blue bin, as soon as I opened my door there you both were, hanging out of your car and staring at me like fucking vultures. I know we’re in lockdown and you probably haven’t seen another person for weeks, but that is not an excuse. I’m instantly uncomfortable and have put my defences up in case you decide you need more than just something to look at. I put my cardboard in the bin and walked back around to my front door, which is when you decided to wolf-whistle at me.

Here is why I don’t appreciate your staring and wolf-whistling;

I am not an object for you to gawp at just because you have fuck-all better to do with your time. You intimidate me by staring like that – which is probably what gives you a little buzz. Wolf-whistling is NOT a compliment, it does NOT make me feel all warm and fuzzy because, believe it or not (and I know this is a tough one to comprehend), I get my worth from me, NOT from twats like you.

Now, let me explain to you the effect that your actions have;

I hurried back inside and slammed the door, I hoped that it would show you that I was angry because I couldn’t put it into words to say to you, but in reality, you probably just thought it was funny. My heart is hammering, not because you wooed me with your charms contrary to what you think, but because you made me feel intimidated, scared and angry. I had another bag of recycling to take out, but that will have to wait now because the last thing I want to do is go back outside and be objectified AGAIN. So I’m hiding in my flat, full of rage. Is that what you expected to happen? Is that what you wanted to happen? Did you think of how I might feel before you acted? Did you fuck. You are a disgusting human. You can’t possibly comprehend the horrible effect your actions have on women, so I have no doubt that you’ll continue to do it, thinking it’s completely harmless. The sad thing is that you were probably looking for a reaction, and if I’d have said all of this to your face, you would have laughed it off and ignored it. I didn’t say anything, but even if I had the outcome probably would have been the same – you’d still be an ignorant man.

If you take anything from what I write (which I’m sure you won’t because you’re probably not the one reading this), let it be this;

I do not exist to be objectified by you
I do not want or need your whistles of “approval”
Your actions have consequences
Stop being a misogynistic twat

Pissed-off regards,

Amy

(the human being whose feelings you couldn’t give a fuck about, but whose ass you clearly took a fancy to)

A chalk rainbow
Doulas, News, Resources, Uncategorized

Slow Sunday Scroll ☀️

How is everyone doing? Lately we’ve seen so many people respond with how productive, or unproductive, they have been. But really, how are you? You are not the stuff you achieve – or don’t – you are a person, surviving an unprecedented period in history, and it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling, and to talk about it.

A chalk rainbow
A rainbow found on Lori’s walk

What – and how – we have be doing

Elle: I have developed a rigid daily structure, and have discovered life feels more manageable under lockdown. I’ve found a balance between all the aspects and roles of my life for the first time, and I suspect I will miss this when it’s over.

Lori: I have surrendered to not being able to balance it all! Developing new, creative ways to support women and single handedly mothering two high needs children are in themselves full time jobs. I’m trying to use this time to practise radical self care – resting when I need to rest, crying when I need to cry, reminding myself that whatever I am able to give to my children and my business is enough, and focusing on our basic needs. Oh and I’m loving working in such comfort! I never thought I’d be doing Zoom calls with clients in my pjs…

Take what you need poster by @lorithedoula

Amy: I have found it tricky to figure out working for Clara and Macy from home/at the studio in isolation (especially because we’re weirdly really busy right now!!), and for adapting how GMD is functioning, but it feels like it’s coming together now. I live alone so I’m finding the lockdown pretty difficult mentally, my anxiety is on a high and I’m definitely having more down days than usual – I’ve also realised that I really am a hug person and now I’m having hug withdrawal symptoms! A positive – the local wildlife seems to be thriving without humans everywhere! Something people should remember – don’t judge others, everyone’s necessities are different and people will be missing different things. Just be understanding!

Amy working in the studio for Clara and Macy

Collectively, we have been supporting the many pregnant women who have been directly affected by the pandemic. Our mission to defend women’s human rights, provide holistic support and accessible education, and to build sisterhood between women has never been more relevant, and we are extremely glad to be here to support women through this.

Our virtual support is available in private 1:1s (well, 3:1s!), and we are making videos on subjects suggested by women whose birth plans have been upended by the virus.
If there is a subject you’d like to see covered (or covered in more detail, please get in touch.

FiLiA asked us to make a podcast on what’s currently happening in maternity regarding women’s rights and options, and we were happy to oblige.

Quick fire questions

In World Doula Week we faced our fears, and finally started doing live videos! So far we have discovered what’s in our doula bags, what’s not in our doula bags, how to mentally prepare for birth, freebirth, and a live version of our quick fire questions!

What we need help with

We are currently writing to potential funders, and funders who have already contributed toward projects we are now unable to run, so many things are up in the air.

The best way to help us at the moment is to add us as your local cause with the Co-op, and to donate to our ko-fi fund if you are able. Every penny will go directly to supporting women in our community, and beyond.

What’s going on online for free?

Lori has made a GMD colouring book, and we are compiling a list of free resources, and if you have anything to add please message us.

Please don’t forget it’s okay to slow down during this time – it’s enough to “do” nowt and to survive.

The networks you’ve been relying on for support might be missing from your life temporarily, or you may be having to access them in an unfamiliar way, for example by Zoom. This might take some getting used to, but research shows all the same places of our brains light up when we talk to someone by video and in person.

We were all nervous about moving from face to face meets to video calls and it felt so weird at first! We got used to it surprisingly quickly though and it’s nice to be able to connect with others from the comfort of our homes. Whether you’re in your pjs, haven’t touched your hair, or are joining from your bed, you’re welcome! Just come as you are.

If you need some help with getting online, we are happy to help. Connecting to our sisters has never been so important!

We hope to see you online soon.

Elle, Amy & Lori x

Doulas we can do it
News, Uncategorized

Monday magic 🔮

Hey all, did you miss us last week? We’ve got a bigger update than usual to more than make up for it! We hope you had a wonderful mother’s day and are keeping well given the situation we’re all dealing with.

What we’ve been up to

Our IWD2020 event was a huge success – thank you to everyone who came and everyone who helped. We think we’ll make it an annual thing!

Doulas we can do it

We met with some formidable women who work in human rights, and are passionate about reproductive rights, which was a very useful connection to make.

Lori enrolling at collegeLori enrolled at college! She’s going to study to become a counsellor, which we are certain she’ll be great at.

Elle is trying to move house. She saw a really nice one the other day and is hoping for a mutual exchange.

Amy took 19 kids to Brownie camp! She came back frazzled but glad they had a fun time. 

We introduced ourselves to Jane at Leech’s Funeral Care in Moss Side, as we are one of their Co-op Local Causes. She was so unbelievably kind, and offered us a lot of support. We see a future collaboration there, so look out for that.

Questions for the doulas

drunk elephantsWhat’s made you smile this last week?
E: The story about the wild elephants raiding the corn wine and falling asleep in the crops. 
A: The three old women who are self-isolating together – I imagine we’d be doing the same thing!
L: Seeing all the community support for women planning last minute home births.

Marmite?
A: Ew.
E: Love it. On buttered toast, with peanut butter, and to flavour soups and stir fries.
L: Mar-WON’T

What’s something others would be surprised to learn about one of the doulas?
L: Elle is amazing on the ukulele and it always makes me tear up!
A: That Elle used to collect mugs with the queen on, apparently she had quite a few!!
E: Both Amy and Lori are excellent at rapping.

How we’re currently working, and what’s changed

First and foremost, we’ve made the decision to keep what we share positive. There is so much information out there, and opinion, and articles that start out lighthearted but end up doom and gloom, and unasked for advice. That stuff is there if you want to read it, but we won’t be adding to that noise.

Birth doulaing and all one to one support will continue, as long as we are all well. We will continue to respond to and meet the needs of the women of our community, whatever they may be. We can offer phone and video calls for anyone isolating or distancing.

Pool hire We have just started our hire service, which has built in support sessions for anyone who wants some extra support before or after they give birth.
We are already getting booked up, so if you’re considering a homebirth, either very soon or later in the year, please send an enquiry asap.
The service is conducted by email, and it now shares a Facebook group with our home birth support.

greater manchester birth pool hire

Many women are facing unexpected changes to their birth, and we urge anyone to contact us who is facing a lack of support, or being forced into a situation you don’t want, or if you’re are still wondering what your options are.

Holding Space sessions can be booked separately or as part of our birth pool service. These can be used for any reason, not only birth, and can take place over Skype etc.

Community groups will all be taking place online for the foreseeable future.
We have decided to regroup some of our online groups into one larger one Wild Women Rising, which will be a source of sisterhood and strength. 

Many women are choosing last minute home births and free births, over going to hospital, which is understandable. We can support this in so many ways that we still have funding for. Please spread the word – we are not going anywhere. 

For everything else, including girls circles and antenatal classes – watch this space.
There’s lots more to share, and so many ways you can help us, but for now, please tell everyone we’re still here, and that we can help, and that we have funding. We want women to know – now more than ever – that they still have options, still have rights, that they still deserve the very best support, and that they matter.

Please also donate if you can, and take a moment to share it in your circles.
Every penny we raise from that will go toward providing birth services to women who would otherwise not have the option.

What is going on in the near future?

We’ll keep our ears to the ground so we can share events, ways to stay happy and healthy, and to keep little ones entertained. We will be posting positive news, and things that have made us smile. 

Gemma from Yes Matters has started making short informational PSHE  videos for kids and their parents, along with homework. This is an area she has so much expertise in, and we want them to be watched and shared as much as possible, because this subject is just so important for young people.

We’ll be making lots more videos too, so let us know if there’s any burning questions you’d like answered – whether it’s birth related or personal, send us a message on FB or email us. We’ll be going live on facebook every evening at 8.30pm so stay connected and join us if you can.

Elle, Lori & Amy x

Uncategorized

Saturday Scoop

It’s all systems go here, as we prepare for tomorrow’s IWD2020!

It will probably be fine to just show up, but you can secure your place by getting a free ticket here.

We’ll be face painting, having a raffle, and selling vegan goodies. Local yoga teacher Alice will be offering a taster session, and there will be some art you can contribute to if you’re feeling creative. There’ll be a craft area for little ones too.
This is a celebration of women, and all we have achieved. If you have flyers for your women-run or women-centred business please bring them, and please shout about what you do!

The event is free, there’s parking, and the venue is on a good bus route. Any money raised will go toward supporting women facing or recovering from birth trauma.

Here’s some BTS pics of us as we get ready for the big day:

You may have seen our email earlier in the week, when our Aviva crowdfunder went live. We are asking Aviva employees, and the public, to part fund our new girls circles, Wild Girls Rising.

There are a number of rewards available (which you can keep or gift) starting at £5, although we are grateful for any amount. If we don’t make our target we get nothing, so we’re keen to spread the word!

Also, if you know a girl aged 8 – 12 who might be interested in joining one of our circles please forward a parent this email, or send them this link to our booking form.

Questions for the doulas:

Which character from books or screen would you want as your bestie IRL?
A: Luna Lovegood because she’s so unapologetically odd and I love it.
L: Frankie from Grace and Frankie.
E: Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec cos she’s got so much heart and she’s super efficient.

Would you rather be able to play any instrument or talk with any animal?
A: Talk with any animal, because they would have some amazing stories to tell!
L: Talk to any animal because they should be heard and I always wish I knew what they were thinking. We don’t deserve them!
E: Play any instrument because I’d be able to express myself in so many ways.

What helps you fall asleep?
A: Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter audiobooks.
L: Listening to Harry Potter in a comfy bed.
E: I have a mantra that I’m not supposed to tell anyone. I don’t know what it means but it gets me through tough times during the day, and lets me fall asleep at night.

What’s coming up?

We have a lot more to share with you, including announcing a localised project, and we’re hoping to share some pics from our event.

Yes Matters are launching their new CSE rehabilitation youth service in Bolton on Monday. 
Says Gemma: “We invite you to come and hear about the services we provide so that young people you work with, can benefit. Hear our story, and let’s work in partnership to help the young people in Greater Manchester. Plus there will be cake!”

What do we need help with?

We really want tomorrow to be busy and fun, so please come along if you can. 
Please share the event.
If you’re able to bring something for the bake sale, or donate something to the raffle, please do.

Please share our Aviva fundraising page in your circles, because the better we do with public donations, the more visible our project is to the Aviva employees who have £15 each to donate.

If you’ve worked with us in any way, please could you fill out this feedback form? We hope to gather as many responses as we can to help us secure more funding. 

We appreciate each one of you reading this. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, and enjoy International Women’s Day.

Uncategorized

Saturday Sentinel

Hey folks!

We are absolutely swamped at the moment, working on our days off, weekends, and until we fall asleep at night.
There are so many projects we’re trying to get off the ground, things we’ve never done before. But this is what we love doing, and we’re getting ever closer to the big picture. Together with our volunteers we’re a dream team, and we’ve got this! (But also, please help us!)

As well as all the plates we’re spinning, Amy also managed to take her Brownie pack to the recycling centre. Here she is looking very fetching in her recycling garb:recycling centre wear

She also took some time out to volunteer with Sister Supporter. We each feel very strongly that women should be able to access whatever healthcare they need without restriction, judgement, or shame. 
There is a petition to this end here.

After a fantastic kids’ birthday party at Rock Over Climbing last weekend, Lori and Elle decided to work there on our day off, knowing the kids would be happy running about while we cracked on. We earned a break and had a quick climb.doulas on a climbing wall

Questions for the doulas

If you had to, would you rather fight a hundred duck sized horses, or one horse sized duck?
A: One horse sized duck. Anything in large numbers is too intimidating.
E: A hundred duck sized horses. Ducks are too cute no matter their size, and I’ve never met a horse I liked. They’re shifty and capricious. 
L: One horse sized duck. But I would feed it it’s fave snacks and love on it so we didn’t have to fight!

Where do you sit on a bus?
L: The back seat or the front on the top deck if I’m with Elle.
E: The front on the top, on the right, so I can pretend I’m driving.
A: I do like the front seats on the top deck, but when I was in college it was always the back row.
 
Favourite sleeping position?

L: Curled up like a giant fetus.
A: Foetal.
E: No pillow, lying in a straight line, on my front.

What we’re focusing on at the moment

Everything! Everything needs to be focused on, right now! Here’s what our everything looks like, and what we need help with:

  1. Birth Pool Hire Scheme – it’s getting off the ground. Supplies are slowly arriving, and once we have them we’re going to jump right into hiring them out alongside offering funded Holding Space sessions. If you have any donations (home birth stuff, anything from tap connectors to towels) we’ll gratefully take them. Look out for more news next week.
  2. International Women’s Day 2020 Event. Lori made a cool flyer:
    and we’re getting everything ready behind the scenes. We would love it if you could bake some vegan goodies for the bake sale – we’re hoping to get the attention of passersby with this! Also, do you have anything we could raffle off? Any proceeds from the day will go directly toward funding 1:1 work with local women. 
    Tickets are free via Eventbrite.
  3. Our antenatal course has a name, a brilliant Lori-designed poster, a venue, and a starting date, and places are now available to book. We are so excited to be launching this, so please share with rebellious friends who are ready to learn about and assert their rights during pregnancy and birth. The workshops will be comprehensive and will cover everything you’d expect to find on other antenatal courses too.

What’s coming up

Fellow birthworker Lucy told us about this event for parents in Salford.
Details: Saturday, 21 March 2020, 10:00-12:00, at Eccles Fire Station.
“Come and join us to talk about the support that you received or how you feel services in the area can be improved.”

This week – as always – we will be meeting with women who are preparing for an upcoming birth, and/or who are wanting to reflect on a previous one. Whatever else we may be up to, this will remain at the heart of what we do. We just know that in order to reduce instances of birth trauma we must take a multi-pronged approach – it’s not enough to try to help once the damage has been done. 

Thank you so much for working alongside us to a future where women feel confident and powerful all the damn time.

stormy sea
Doulas, Funding, News, Uncategorized

Saturday sound off 🗣️

stormy sea

Happy Saturday! We hope you all survived Storm Ciara and her wild ways, and are hunkering down, hiding away from Storm Dennis this weekend. It has certainly been a whirlwind of a week over here.

It’s that time again. Here’s our Saturday sound off 🗣️. Grab a cuppa and get cosy…

chalkboardWhat we’ve been up to

This last week has been another week of spinning plates but we wouldn’t have it any other way! At the moment our work is a real balance of grassroots work with women and growing the organisation so that it remains sustainable and we can continue to offer the support that we do.  

The full moon energy had Elle and Lori both supporting warrior women through births in the last week or so. Despite both being birth keepers for a number of years now, the strength and resilience of the women we serve never fails to amaze us!

woman sat in a van smilingAmy took a huge step closer to one of her bucket list dreams this week! She is now the proud owner of a van, ready for converting into a camper for more exciting travels. We’re all excited to see what she does with it.

We’ve booked tickets to some great looking festivals this summer. Are you off anywhere nice? Early bird tickets for SolMas Fest 2020 end tomorrow so be quick if you don’t want to miss out! We are so looking forward to spending the weekend reviving our bodies, minds and souls.   

Greggs giftcardWe also celebrated galentine’s day yesterday in our own ways. Messages proclaiming our love for each other and… a Greggs gift card so Elle could buy ALL the vegan steak bakes!

Questions for the doulas

What song do you love so much that even if next door woke you up by blasting it at 3am you wouldn’t even be mad?

A: C’est La Vie – B*Witched
E: Say It Ain’t So by Weezer
L: Too hard to just pick one song… Although I think I’d always be mad about being woken at 3am unless it’s a woman asking for my support!

Would you rather spend a week at the beach, forest, or city, and why?

E: I grew up by a quiet beach in Blackpool so that feels like home to me.
L: Beach 🏖 I feel called to be by water. I find it very calming and grounding.
A: Forest! It’s nice and quiet and I could camp with a nice fire and a good book. 

First and most recent video game completed

L: Maybe Mario Kart on the N64 and the Wii
A: Probably Lego Harry Potter for both 😂
E: Sonic 2 and Lego City Undercover

wonder womanWhat do you love most about being a doula?

A: I love being able to support a woman through the whole journey and then still see her afterwards! It’s such a lovely bond.
E: Women.
L: Being able to witness and hold space as women discover their power. I love being able to be among strong, badass women every week!

What did you want to be when you grew up? (Before you realised you were always a doula!!)

E: I didn’t know but I just trusted that one day I would know. I didn’t want to throw myself into anything until I was sure that it was my thing. 
L: A ballet dancer, then a primary school teacher, then a play therapist, then back to primary school teacher. I’m so grateful to have found this calling though. 
A: Originally I wanted to be a firefighter, then a midwife, but after some hospital experience I realised that I was meant to be a doula!

What’s coming up?

Next week is half term for Elle and Lauren so their week will mostly be spent entertaining little ones (and counting down the days to some peace and quiet!)

The Wild Mothering Circle will be meeting again on Friday afternoon 1:30pm – 3pm so if you are a wild woman wanting to connect with other women, please come along. We will be getting together upstairs at Healthy Spirit, a beautiful woman-led local biz across the road from our usual meeting place. 

What are you all up to next week? We’d love to know.

birth ballHow can you help at the minute?

This week we managed to pick up an unwanted exercise ball from a local facebook group that will go into our library for women to borrow. If you have any pregnancy and birth resources that you no longer need we gladly take donations. We want to ensure that women have access to all the support they need, be that emotional support, information or practical items so all donations are hugely appreciated.

Another reminder to choose us as your Co-op Local Cause if you haven’t already. It’s just £1 to join as a member and every penny will support local women to access doula support.

choose us as your co-op local cause

Finally, if you’re a woman in Manchester wanting to connect with other women, join our facebook community! It’s a quiet group right now but we would love to see it grow🌕🐺🌈

Hope you have a wonderful week and Storm Dennis doesn’t cause you too much trouble!

Lori, Elle & Amy

amy lori and elle in ice shack