As a newbie back to the UK and to the Doula world I’m excited and little nervous about what my journey will look like. Having completed a course two weeks back with Developing Doulas I’m fired up to keep the sparks burning. Meeting with like-minded women on a daily basis for five days we formed our own small tribe, amazing and genuine women, a sisterhood birthed. We discussed, role played, laughed and cried as we shared from our own experiences. We let go, listened deeper, strengthened old skills and learned new ones. Zara, our course facilitator was a fabulous conductor and a wealth of information as we explored the huge disparities of childbirth from many angles including cross culture and generations. We connected and many of us still have our red threads on our wrists. The 3-month-old mascot stole our hearts.
Looking back gratefully with fondness and moving onwards in the birth world I am reflecting on the value of being connected, as a birthkeeper and as a doula, the power of networking, that’s something I am good at.
Having lived in Asia from 1998-2016 I had to be resourceful to stay updated and access birth networks, both locally and globally to stay current in my midwifery practice. For nine years, I was an active member of an NGO, Birth India, with the hub in Mumbai and other groups across many of the metro cities. I “met” some amazing people via Facebook, Twitter and online conference forums and discovered great ways to continue to learn and grow as a person. It’s really fun to actually meet some of these people now in person.
Upon my return to the UK in September 2016 I was keen to attend some conferences. I discovered in 2016 that my cousin Zara is a doula (and was my DD course host/facilitator) and we reunited after more than two decades at The Positive Birth Movement conference “Be the Change” in September 2016. It was wonderful to meet her again and even more so as we discovered we are both passionate for “being the change”, activists in childbirth.
One of my #twitterbuddies and facebook friend Michelle Quashie (a fellow graduate of DD! – Ed) was also there. I was seriously inspired seeing her in her third trimester and organizing a conference, the first of it’s kind. I signed up and attended in October 2016. “The Women’s Voices Conference is a service driven event, providing a platform for women to share their maternity experiences in a safe environment to an audience of individuals interested in improving women’s maternity services”. I witnessed brave women share challenging, sometimes painful and beautiful experiences. A compassionate and a supportive audience with listening ears joined in discussions and there were plenty of emotive presentations from a variety of care providers too. It was moving and thought provoking. I was personally challenged as to the language I use when speaking to women and their companions before, during and after the actual event of childbirth. Language and body language are powerful and communicate positivity or negativity. Women remember their birth experience and that includes what is said, done, and also the unspoken.
Women’s Voices is about to happen again on 14th October. Join #womensvoices17 online or attend by purchasing tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womens-voices-conference-2017-tickets-33366626478
I also met the lovely Natalie Meddings, a doula, writer and yoga teacher who founded Tell me a good birth story “Talking to women with a good birth story to tell is like having a magic key” Her website aims to put pregnant women in touch with new mothers willing to share their birth stories. I have since met Natalie a few times for coffee and chat. She is an inspiration, sharing her own birth stories and personal passion for being a doula. I would say she is a sparky ambassador for the Positive Birth Movement whose website motto is “Meet up – Link up – Shake up Birth”. She has written two books to be released very soon.
Whilst living in the vibrant city of Mumbai I enjoyed the multi culture across multiple facets of life. One of the items on my wish list was realized after I left India. I had hoped to see a Positive Birth Group set up and hopefully more in the metro cities across the nation.
The Positive Birth Movement (PBM) is “a global network of free to attend antenatal groups, linked by social media, connecting women together to share stories, expertise and positivity about childbirth. PMB aims to challenge the epidemic of negativity and fear that surrounds modern birth, and help change birth for the better”. You know that feeling you get when you read a great book, watch a film, hear a talk and it resonates deeply? Well Milli Hill’s articles (and now a fantastic book) have always been a must read for me. Highlights of happy moments of returning to UK was hearing Milli speak at her PBM conference and bumping into her on marches and childbirth conferences, and of course the book-launch of her book The Positive Birth Book. She’s so down to earth and positive.
We obviously benefit from connecting with others experiencing similar stages of life. I have met people all across the world who made friends in pregnancy and some remained friends for life. To discover more about what’s going on in my local community and to hear women’s expectations and perinatal experiences I decided to join the local PBM group. Each month a different topic is discussed. (See where your local group is by visiting the website).
I had already joined the facebook group but nothing can replace tea and cake and meeting face to face. This week I attended my first meeting and it was a welcoming, friendly environment. One woman spoke of her participation in the local Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) in the local hospital. There are many ways in which ideas can turn into action. Training and discussions are taking place so that women are heard and they, and their families can know their rights and make decisions, based on what they really want. To find out more visit the BirthRights website. Other topics mentioned during the evening were upbeat stories of #betterbirths #continuityofcarer #gentlecesarean #counteractingfear #speakingup #advocacy and the benefits of accessing community based midwifery. I met a doula, a midwife and two hypnobirthing practitioners – all there without our “hats” on and listening to the one pregnant attendee and her thoughts approaching birth any day now. Towards the end an enthusiastic neighbour friend popped in and told her story of how she had gained confidence by meeting a forthright Glaswegian in pregnancy who spoke her truth boldly. It’s true, that when buying a car, a computer, colouring our hair (purple in my case) we don’t hesitate to speak out about what we want and making sure we achieve that goal to our best efforts. So why do we not approach childbirth in the same manner? That’s probably another blog’s worth!?
The pregnant member left earlier than the remaining few who were left munching yummy snacks and sharing resources. (We found out later that she was in early labour and went on to have a baby the next day). One of our popular culture values in recent years is “Pass it On”, whether that’s Jamie Oliver’s simple nutritious recipes for healthy eating, or midwifery news. Good things get better when shared, well the ripples spread wider. I was sharing about The Practising Midwife Magazine. When midwives and doulas work together for the common good more oxytocin is shared.
The good news is out, that Maddie McMahon has recently been invited on to the Editorial board. Maddie is a doula and writer, and founder of Developing Doulas.
Another brilliant resource from Sheena and Anna are the #sundaysummaries “Anna keeps reasonably well-informed on current national and international issues, so she decided to synthesise relevant topics into snappy, bite-sized sections, and delivers them to all subscribers”. You can subscribe for free at byromandbyrom.com
Participating in Developing Doulas course I am experiencing being “doula-ed” through my journey into being a doula in the UK. I value the process and look forward to meeting more of the larger doula family as well as the web of interlinked people along the way.
On twitter today I am following the #NormalBirth17 conference. Kathryn Gutteridge, president of the RCM was quoted to have said “The birth environment is the key to how women labour and birth and give women a sense of safety and sanctity?
Isn’t this what we all hope for, for ourselves and for our clients?