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!
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.
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 🥳
If you’re here, I imagine you are probably aware of what a doula is in the context of birth and postnatal support. Doulas are most commonly known for working with women and their families, providing continuous physical, emotional and informational support through positive pregnancies, birth and the early days of parenthood. However, we see pregnancy and birth as just one part of a full spectrum of reproductive experiences and bring this model of care to any pregnancy discourse and outcome. Given all this we consider ourselves to be full spectrum doulas.
But what is a full spectrum doula?
In short, a full spectrum doula is one that offers support across the full spectrum of reproductive experiences. We trust women and their inherent strength to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves, offering witness, companionship, information, resources, advocacy and support. Here are some of the ways that our full spectrum ethos influences our work as doulas and the support we offer:
Every pregnancy has to start with conception! As full spectrum doulas, we can support you in looking at your physical and emotional health and wellbeing before you are even pregnant, helping you to be in the very best place before heading into any future pregnancies. For some, growing a baby isn’t easy and not every pregnancy and conception journey is plain sailing. We can be there to guide and support you through these possibly challenging times.
We are pro-women and pro-choice, providing non-judgemental, compassionate support, focused solely on nurturing your needs throughout your experience. We can provide one to one support before, during and after your abortion, depending on the method chosen and the support we offer is always completely tailored to your needs and wishes.
As your birth doulas, we will provide continuous support for you and your family throughout your pregnancy, birth and the early days with your newborn.
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.
The first few weeks following the birth of a new arrival is often a bit of an overwhelming whirlwind. As your postnatal doula, we will provide non-judgemental practical and emotional support for you and your family, helping you to adjust to life with a new baby.
In addition, we recognise that each of these reproductive experiences are significant but also interconnected and we bear this in mind throughout. For example, a previous baby loss experience may or may not influence how you feel about your pregnancy and birth and this could have an impact on your needs and the type of doula support you want. As full spectrum doulas, our support is always holistic and women-centred. We support you as a whole person, and see you as more than just your current pregnancy and birth.
We’re always up for chatting about the way in which we support women so if you’d like to learn more about what we do, please get in touch.
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!
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!