This is our panel of patrons. Wise people we have chosen to support us in our endeavours and being our ethical sounding board. Because of the Developing Doulas belief that doulas and midwives are siblings, we have chosen two senior midwives and two experienced doulas.
I have been a doula forever and at the age of 75 still think of myself as a doula. The first time I was asked to be present at a birth I was 16 and not at all surprised to be asked.
I did my midwifery training having always wanted to be a midwife but as I came to the end of my training realised I wanted to be the person empowering the women rather than rushing from room to room catching babies.
I made four programmes about doulas for the discovery health channel and joined Maddie in founding Developing Doulas. I believe I will be a doula until the day I die because it is not about what we do but who we are.
Sheena Byrom OBE, RM, MA, HFRCM, Ed D honoris causa, D. Univ.
Sheena Byrom is a practising midwife of 40 years, having worked in the NHS for most of that time. Sheena was one of the UK’s first consultant midwives, and as head of midwifery successfully helped to lead the development of three birth centres in East Lancashire. As well as being an international speaker, Sheena provides consultancy services to both NHS Trusts and to organisations globally; helping them to support normal, physiological childbirth. With her midwife daughter Anna is the proud joint owner of The Practising Midwife journal, and an exciting learning online platform All4Materity.com.
Sheena’s midwifery memoirs, Catching Babies, is a Sunday Times bestseller, and her seminal book, The Roar Behind the Silence: why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care jointly edited with Soo Downe, is being used as a resource to improve maternity care throughout the world. Sheena and Soo have recently edited their second book, ‘Squaring the Circle: researching normal childbirth in a technological world’ in 2019.
Sheena was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to midwifery and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Midwives in 2015. In 2016 and 2018, Sheena received Honorary Doctorates from Bournemouth University and the University of Central Lancashire, and in 2017 she was made a Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University. Her personal and midwifery related website is sheenabyrom.com.
Sheena is committed to the humanisation of childbirth, to maximising normal physiological birth processes, and for all women to experience a positive birth. The global onslaught of medical technology as a means to improve safety continues to influence childbearing women’s physiology and autonomy, and her work to reverse the trend is ongoing.
‘I believe that every woman/person should decide who she wants with her during her pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. When doulas and midwives understand this and come together to be part of a nurturing and trusting relationship with the mother, magic happens. That magic maximises the potential for a positive birth experience and a mother/infant bond that is the basis of a happy, healthy family’.
I’m an experienced midwife. I’ve been a hypnobirth instructor and birth preparation teacher, an associate university lecturer, created courses for midwives and birth associates, campaigned for midwife led birth units and been a passionate student and enabler of normal physiological birth.
Like many midwives, I was often frustrated by the obstacles in mainstream maternity care – something that changed for the better when I joined a newly opened Midwife Led Unit where I worked full time for over a period of 7 years. I witnessed hundreds of undisturbed physiological births working in the unit and during many years attending home births while working in an integrated midwifery team in a hospital that had a 7% home birth rate. Working in these environments and observing a myriad of complex births whilst working in an obstetric unit gave me the opportunity to make a systematic exploration of midwifery skills and observations that can help resolve long difficult labours caused by malposition.
The techniques and strategies that emerged from this time helped me revolutionise my own practice and I began to regularly witness rapid and dramatic progress as I put them to use during “difficult labours”. People would often say “Molly, I see you’ve worked your magic again”, I’d reply through, only slightly gritted teeth, “this is not magic, these techniques and skills are based in science- Biomechanics – the study of human movement, everyone working in the birth world should know this information. I’m now travelling the world teaching my course Biomechanics for Birth offering gentle and effective ways of resolving malposition using interventions. This is my contribution to change the narrative in childbirth.