Doula life and birth stories

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Communion

Not all mothers wish, or are able to breastfeed their babies. If this is you, you'll find no judgement on your circumstances or choices here. This is simply a comment on how I feel when I'm supporting mums and babies to breastfeed.

There is something about sitting with a mum who is happily nursing her baby, especially when just a short time before she had been doubting her abilities and her body.  Maybe its her feeling of pride and wonder; relief that her determination has paid off. Maybe we are all drunk on the oxytocin pervading the room. It feels to me like being in the presence of the most holy of communions, the most pure and giving form of love that there is.

When I'm with a mum who is breastfeeding her baby, I feel the same as I do when I'm peacefully walking in nature, or sitting in a beautiful old church. When the milk is flowing, we don't need words. We are sitting together as women, mothers, will have done since the dawn of time.  Do I imagine a connection to something ethereal? Something greater than the mundane which is present during that physical, the biological, mammalian behaviour? I think I am literally feeling the love.

 If you can sit still for a short while, and just be with them, you will feel it.  Those around the mother and baby are nurtured too, blessed by the power, the urgency, the determination and wonder of this act.  Its the total antidote to all the crap, evil, and negativity encountered in life, drip-fed through the media.

So much around us is destructive; we are destructive to our earth, whether we mean to be or not. So much out there can threaten us, and we are ourselves a threat to our world.  A mother nurturing and nourishing her baby is transferring a magical, eco-friendly, sustainable and free substance, which is itself a living force, actually alive. Breastfeeding is a complex communication, physical, physiological, emotional, hormonal.

And spiritual? [spir-i-choo-uh l] ? Something delicately refined, devotional, sacred, loving, selfless giving? I think so.

Nursing a baby is the complete opposite of so much that makes up our world. Its a force for good, for all that is positive and healthy, a force that is actively protecting the human race, its full of hope. It means that we can go forward.

These helplines are available if you need to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor in the UK:

ABM 0300 330 5453
NBFH 0300 100 0212 
NCT  0300 3300 771
LLL 0845 120 2918
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Favourite reading corner!





This little corner is right by my back door, its where I crash with a cuppa in between clinics or at the end of a busy day of breastfeeding support.  Whilst the day is still fresh in my mind, I go over all the challenges that the women I support were facing on that day, and make sure that I said and did all the right things, and remembered everything.

One of the best things about the world of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, is that there's just so much to learn.  I could live to a very old age and still never know it all, and I love that feeling!  I'm really so grateful to the mothers who come in to the clinics, as as they, and their babies, are my greatest teachers.  It is just awesome to sit with someone who is maybe in some pain, still in that shell-shock of the first weeks with a first baby, who is being given advice left, right and centre about what she should and shouldn't be doing, but who is despite all that simply and determinedly focused on doing the best she can for her baby.

Women are just pretty awesome really.

These helplines are available if you need to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor in the UK:

ABM 0300 330 5453
NBFH 0300 100 0212 
NCT  0300 3300 771
LLL 0845 120 2918
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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Graduation

My course started Monday morning.  Sunday lunchtime 'flu hit the household.  I couldn't believe that I was going miss my first day of the course.  Despite feeling like absolute death and being dosed up on every potion possible, I went in for my first day.  I don't remember too much as I really was quite poorly...a jumble of faces, babies crawling around the room, little ones in arms, two or three tutors introducing themselves and handing out forms.

The 'flu lasted three horrible weeks, but I didn't miss a class.  Suddenly one morning I was there without being full of lemsip and ibuprofen, spring was round the corner, and I was making new friends and learning some wonderful stuff.

There were low points again...the course was aimed at young mums, and was quite disparaging us oldies and 'our' outdated ideas.  I did chuckle when I thought about the giants' shoulders upon which we were standing; the likes of Ina May Gaskin and Michel Odent, both well into their 70's and 80's, but it made me feel out of place and I wondered  if I would fit in at the clinics.  This notion was quickly dispelled by my doula colleagues who assured me that the clinics would be heaving with mums who just needed support, and may even like the fact that I was a bit more mature.

We graduated amid a party of our friends and families, full of hope and excitement for the future.  I was interested to see if my expectations of how it would feel in clinic would be accurate.  I still couldn't really imagine it being anything other than tears, pain, difficulty, frustration.

In just under six weeks' time, I would find out. If you want to find out, click here

These helplines are available if you need to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor in the UK:

ABM 0300 330 5453
NBFH 0300 100 0212 
NCT  0300 3300 771
LLL 0845 120 2918


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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Journey




A few years ago, at the start of my job as a doula, I registered my interest in doing the breastfeeding peer supporters' course run by my local community trust.  Lots doulas do this, because it's a great way to give to your community whilst at the same time learning about breastfeeding and how to support mothers with young babies. Other than doulas, the other supporters are usually mums who have had support in their breastfeeding journeys and felt moved to give something back.

Embarking on the journey to becoming a doula usually begins with a Doula UK approved course which takes around a week of intensive study with a tutor and handful of students, with additional reading and study modules to be completed at home. It's as much about the journey of understanding yourself and your experiences, as it is about grasping the physiology and biology of birth. This inner journeying and reflection continues throughout the doula's working life, as does the gathering of experience and knowledge and the connections with doula friends who will support and debrief her as she will for them. Becoming a recognised doula is a bit like mentored self-directed study and apprenticeship, that finishes when you reach a certain level of knowledge and confidence, but really the learning and growing never finishes.

I found out that I had missed that year's intake for new peer supporters by a hair's breadth, and there was no indication of when the course would run again.  It was a 10 week course, over 5 months, and my obligation at the end of it was to volunteer in the drop-in clinics for a six month period.

A year went by.  I supported mums before, during and after birth, and marvelled at how different and diverse were the families I worked for. There were common themes though, and one thing stood out; the fact that no birth or postnatal job went by without a question about breastfeeding and nappies, input and output.  In my preparation sessions, I talked to couples about the 'golden hour' after birth and its importance for the start of the nurturing relationship.  I realised that, although I had fed five babies of my own, and done a brilliant doula course given by a passionate advocate of breastfeeding, this was still my weak area, the part I couldn't talk confidently about, the part of doula-ing which seemed to scramble my brain and tie my thoughts up in knots.  I knew that I needed to strengthen my knowledge, but I was beginning to dread the possibility of getting a place on the course and having to do the clinics.  I realised that breastfeeding, to me, was a jumble of memories of conflicting feelings and struggle, overwhelming joy once, but mainly struggle, pain, desperation, and (as was the way decades ago) an almost total lack of knowledgeable support.

It was during one of those times in life when business was quiet and I was wondering if I was on the right path at all, considering tearing down my doula website and jacking it all in, in the dismal dark and cold of mid-February, that the call came.  A nice voice on the end of the phone, reminding me that I had applied for the breastfeeding peer support training, and telling me that there was a course starting in the next few weeks. Was I still interested?

No, I wasn't.  I was scared.  I dreaded the clinic work which was my obligation after the course.  I imagined the tears, pain, frustration...being the person to support women through that...why would I want to put myself through this?

So against everything my head was saying, my heart said yes, so I did it anyway.

Here's how I got on.

These helplines are available if you need to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor in the UK:

ABM 0300 330 5453
NBFH 0300 100 0212 
NCT  0300 3300 771
LLL 0845 120 2918
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Monday, 27 July 2015

Mama and baby amber necklace set

I had a repair in today, which made  me get my bead board out and finish something I started ages ago but put away in favour of doing outdoors, summer-type stuff, rather than sitting indoors beading.

It is part and parcel of selling amber teething jewellery that you expect to get pieces sent back for repair now and then.  I always clearly state that necklaces should be removed for bathing and swimming, because the silk gets stretched and ruined by water, even though amber is fine in water, as it is harvested from the sea. Of course, amber will be damaged by detergents in bath water, like bubble bath, shampoo and soap, as well as chlorine in swimming pool water.  So if you've wrecked your necklace by wetting it, I will be able to tell and won't be offering you a free repair!  Amber teething necklaces are made by knotting each bead separately so that if the necklace breaks, you won't loose more than one bead.  I get my clasps from Lithuania, they are specially made to break easily for safety, so that if the necklace is put under pressure, it comes apart.

So, with my beading board out I set about making my first Mama and baby set.  Traditionally, these would have been given to the mother to wear during pregnancy, as a necklace for her, and a bracelet. she would wear them both, impregnating them with her vibrations.  Then, when her baby was born, she would wrap the bracelet around the baby's ankle, and later, his or her neck.  As the amber had taken on the mother's vibration, they were thought to be uniquely placed to comfort the baby.

I chose the gemstones for this one, for their calming properties, and for the quality of letting go.  Some mums and babies have a need to release their birth experience for well-being, and this necklace was made especially with this in mind. If you know anyone who might like this, do go to the shop and buy it for her!
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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Why did you do that?


 I know, its a pretty drastic change, and I should probably have expected some questions from those around me, but I honestly didn't expect the amount of attention that this change generated.

I had my long curly dark brown hair cut in May 2015. The photograph on the left shows me in December 2015, the middle one is March 2016, and the last one is June 2016.

When I originally had it cut, I changed my profile pictures on social media to keep up with my new look, and the most common reactions to this were:

"Why did you do that?"

Why did I do what? Visit the hairdresser? Get a haircut? Get a new style? Actually get a style for a change?  Well believe it or not it was for the same reason every other woman visits the hairdressers I should think...to look good and feel better.

"Will you grow it back?"

Well it will keep growing, and for now, I imagine I will keep having it cut.  Because I can't think of a single reason to grow it long again. Except that actually now I am bored again and growing it again

"What have you done??!!"

I've freed myself, that's what I've done.

I've freed myself from being 'that woman with all the hair'.  I've freed myself from 5.30am starts when I don't have to actually leave the house until 8am but I need the time to wash, condition, rinse, dry and style the monster. Add another 40 minutes if I'm going to straighten it, which I need to do in order for it to look neat. But which I can't do if it's misty, humid, too hot, or raining.  Or if I'm going to the gym, or to swim.  And finally, I have freed myself from starting every shopping list with 'hair grips' and 'hair ties'. Oh, and last of all, constant, nagging neck ache.  That's what I've done.

Some people were actually annoyed at me for doing it!  Which I find curiously touching, that someone should actually be so moved by something I've done to myself, for my own reasons, and my own ends.  Bless their hearts!  My hairdresser nodded sagely when I told her about this, and said simply,

"People don't like change."

Well I'm loving it!

Footnote: (June 2016) Bit bored with it now and growing it back!


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Goodbye, 10 inches of hair!


from this.....
to this!
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Microbiome Documentary: Crowdfunding Pitch

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