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Funding, News

COVID-19 response funding from National Lottery Community Fund

This week started off on an incredible high with the news that we are being awarded almost £12,000 in National Lottery Funding for our COVID-19 response project.

This is going to make a significant difference to women in our community and means that we can confidently offer fully funded support to any woman who wants and needs it.

Why have a COVID-19 response project?

It quickly became clear that pregnant women and new mothers are being hugely affected by the new measures put in place due to the pandemic. This includes restrictions imposed by individual Trusts, inconsistently and without first exhausting alternatives, in direct opposition to guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. There are also many doulas who are not able to provide their services to women in our community, and as a result, we have experienced an increase in the number of women asking for our support.

Women have the right to choose where to give birth and with whom, but those options are rapidly being taken away from them or made completely inaccessible, making women believe that they no longer have a choice. Women, now more than ever, need personalised emotional and informational support whilst navigating the maternity services in the state that they are currently in.

Women who report birth trauma are most often not talking about the physical birth process, but the way they were treated during labour and birth. During the COVID-19 pandemic so far we have already witnessed the stripping away of women’s options for labour and birth, and women are fearful of the consequences of the restrictions put in place.

During this pandemic, women are likely to be and are already being subjected to human rights violations and unnecessary interventions under coercion – leading to an increased risk of traumatic birth experiences. There is also the added risk associated with isolation of new mothers, whilst being separated from their friends and family who would ordinarily be part of her support system. These two things will lead to an increase in postnatal depression and PTSD which will have a long term impact on the overall well-being of both the woman and her baby.

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What are you planning on doing?

This funding will be used to deliver one-to-one support sessions and community groups via video chat, for women planning their birth during the pandemic and women who are facing or who have experienced birth trauma as a result of COVID-19. We will be facilitating community groups, and providing Holding Space sessions and birth doula support (both face to face and virtually), free of charge for any woman who cannot afford to pay.

We aim to create a safe space for women to access emotional and informational support and to help them feel less isolated and more supported and empowered in their birth choices. We will help women to navigate the new restrictions within maternity services and support them emotionally through unexpected changes to their birth plans. This will extend to virtual support during labour and birth for women with additional vulnerabilities. For women who are facing the trauma of birthing alone because of COVID-19 restrictions, we will provide in-person physical, practical and emotional support throughout their labour and birth.

We are sending all our thanks to National Lottery players and The National Lottery Community Fund for recognising the importance of our work. It has been a much needed boost being awarded funding during a time that is scary and uncertain for both women and small organisations like ourselves. We hope you are as excited as we are that we will be able to continue to support women, even during a global pandemic! 

If you are a woman who could benefit from this project please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Much love,

Lori, Elle & Amy   

 

 

 

naomi's positive vbac
Birth, Birth Story, Doulas, Uncategorized

Naomi’s positive VBAC story

Naomi contacted us recently about sharing the birth of her second baby Amelie. Her son Dylan was born by caesarean but second time around she planned for a different experience. With the support of Amy, she had the positive birth she had wished for and we hope that Naomi and her story inspires you as much as she does us.

For the previous two weeks I had been getting lots of braxton hicks and had lost my complete mucous plug, but was determined not to get my hopes up about going into early labour as I went a week overdue with Dylan and I found it so hard waiting. I tried to keep in my head that I would go overdue this time too so that I wasn’t disappointed. I went to bed on the Tuesday evening and had absolutely no signs of labour except from my bump had dropped quite low throughout the day (I was 39+2). I slept so well and got a full 8 hours sleep.

naomi in the pool with gas and airMy alarm went off at 7.45am to get Dylan up and ready for nursery, so I snoozed and got him up at 8 and Ben got in the shower. I shouted through to Ben in the bathroom because I got such a big pain in my stomach but wasn’t sure what it was as I didn’t think I could get such a painful contraction with no build up. He carried on showering and I found myself bent double over our bed breathing through 4 contractions in 10 minutes with poor Dylan watching me wondering what was going on! So I shouted Ben again and he got out of the shower and got dressed and took Dylan downstairs.

I called maternity triage who could hear how regular my contractions were and how much pain I was in and they said to go straight to the birth centre there and then. So Ben called Dylan’s nursery to warn them we were on our way with him and that he’d not had time for any breakfast.  I called my doula Amy to let her know we were on our way to the birth centre, she said she would leave and meet us there. I also called my mum as she was supposed to be having Dylan while I was in labour but I asked her to come and see her granddaughter being born instead as luckily it had fallen on a nursery day!

We all got in the car for the most uncomfortable journey and we were so lucky that it was half term so there was hardly any traffic bearing in mind we were driving towards Manchester city centre in rush hour! When we got near to nursery I was in so much pain I said to Ben don’t take Dylan to his room, just drop him in the office and get back to the car quickly, I felt like the baby was coming soon.

naomi giving birthSo 10 minutes later we arrived at the birth centre and Amy my doula had just arrived before us. The midwives took us into the most gorgeous room with twinkle lights, soft waterfall sound effects and a big projector on the wall with waterfall videos, it was so relaxing. They got me on the futon to examine me and she said that I was 4cm dilated, fully effaced and my waters were bulging. She said I could get straight in the birthing pool and have the gas and air which I did. I forgot how amazing the gas and air is… the hallucinations! And the warm water was so soothing on my back.

I remember at one point feeling a bit panicky about my scar rupturing and asking the midwife if I was showing any signs of scar rupture. And then I panicked that the baby would get stuck like last time and asked her if the baby was back to back like last time. She answered no to both questions and reminded me that this was a different birth and to trust my body.

Amy made me 3 cups of tea which I downed in the pool, and we all had a laugh that I was alternating between gas and air and cups of tea (fab combination by the way!) Like Dylan’s birth, Ben was the official gas and air holder and my friendly face for when I was in crazy amounts of pain. Then as things were ramping up my mum arrived which I was so glad about. She was holding a cool flannel on my head and it was just generally soothing to have my mum there. I felt so safe surrounded by the people I chose to be at my birth and it was so completely different to my poor experience from Dylan’s birth.

Naomi, her partner and her newborn babySoon after my mum arrived my body started to push involuntarily. I didn’t need to be examined, I just knew that I must be fully dilated and my body knew what to do. I looked down between my legs as I thought I had pushed the baby’s head out but it was actually part of the sack full of waters that hadn’t burst yet, so surreal to see!

At this point the midwife used the Doppler and couldn’t find baby’s heart rate so very quickly her and the second midwife said I needed to get out of the pool immediately. I was so worried as it was like history repeating itself, they had to get me out of the pool as an emergency when I gave birth to Dylan.

As I got out of the pool I could feel her head crowning and the midwife could obviously see it too as she put her hand between my legs in case the baby came out! As soon as I was out of the water the pain was so intense as the gas and air had worn off and I had no other kind of pain relief in my system. I laid on the futon and begged for the gas and air but everyone was more focussed on the baby coming out so I didn’t get my gas and air back!

The next contraction came and I pushed so hard and her head was born, then one more push and she was in my arms crying! The sense of achievement straight away was just incredible and  I still can’t believe that I achieved a vaginal birth after so many professionals told me I couldn’t do it.

I also specified in my birth plan that I wanted a physiological third stage which I’m glad about as the placenta came naturally around 10 minutes later. We waited until the cord had stopped pulsating completely and Ben got to cut the cord this time which we were so happy about.

amelie

My doula Amy managed to get some amazing photos of the labour and birth which I’m so happy about as we only got one photo of when Dylan was born. I honestly feel like I would do it all over again, I’m so thrilled I got the birth I wished for all along. 

A perfect example of how listening to your intuition alongside the support of a trusted team who believe in you and your body can lead to a birth on your terms, despite the doubt of professionals. You are amazing Naomi! 

Uncategorized

Lauren’s second home birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doulas, Uncategorized

The power of a gentle presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doulas

What it means to be a full spectrum doula

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

But what is a full spectrum doula?

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

Conception Support

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

Abortion Support 

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

Birth Doula

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

Miscarriage and Stillbirth Support

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

Postnatal Doula

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

Holistic Support

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

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

Much love,

Lauren, Christine & Elle x

Doulas

Being indie doulas

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

Why are we independent?

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

When we chose to be fully independent, we chose:

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  Values mentoring as a continuous practise

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

  • Has appropriate insurance

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

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

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

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

Doulas

5 doula myths… busted!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Doulas are too expensive!

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

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

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

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