Why THIS doula didn’t hire a one

A Wonderful GUEST post by Charlie at The Good Birth Practice…

If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.

John H. Kennell, American Professor of Pediatrics

It’s been a good couple of weeks for doulas. Last week; the whole did-she-

didnt-she around Meghan Markle’s birth of Baby Thing. This week Amy

Schumer acknowledging that women are the shit, and recommending that

women get a doula (if they can... recommendations on how to find *your*

doula at the bottom, even if you think you can’t afford one). Doulas seem to

be the next trend for women seeking to make the whole birth experience a

bit more, well, bearable.

So why didn’t I hire a doula? After all, I’m a tub-thumping advocate for

positive birth. I’ve known about doulas since I was first pregnant in 2010. I

know some absolutely incredible, inspiring, preconception-challenging

doulas who’ve changed my world (Steph Grainger, Lauren Derrett,

Louise Daniels, I’m talking about YOU, Ladies). I know exactly what doulas

do, and why they’re important - and yet I STILL didn’t have one at any of

my 3 births.

The answer? Well, there are two; Susie and Tina.

Womens strongest feelings, positive and negative,

focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers

Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin,

Doulas support women. Our purpose is to quietly gently lean in. To

bolster women. To nurture them, focus on them. Practically, we inspire

confidence by sign-posting to resources, groups, information. We hear

concerns, reassuring where we recognise common experiences, and gently

prompting, referring to the appropriate support. We listen to women,

giving the space, time that is no longer afforded pregnancy, so that

thoughts, feelings, expectations, assumptions can be processed. We

NEVER make clinical assumptions, recommendations or opinions. Perhaps

most importantly of all, we provide continuity of care. That continuity is

important because we learn about the whole woman, and the context she

comes from. It means we can see her fully, and facilitate the environment

she needs to have her baby in. It’s not just hippy dippy doulas that believe

this. Last weekend, to coincide with International Day of the Midwife, NHS

England announced the doubling of funding to maternity services to £40

million, with a focus on the provision of a named midwife for pregnant

women to see throughout their pregnancy.

Safety for childbearing women and their partners and

families...means emotional, psychological, and social

safety. This holistic sense of safety is what (women)

receive through continuity models of care.

NHS England

All these reasons above are why I trained to be a doula AND why I didn’t

need to hire one for my own births. Because from the moment I attended

my first ‘booking in’ appointment in 2010 I have been lucky enough to be

cared for by the same two women. These women - Susie, Tina - kept

skilled eyes on me, my babies for nearly 120 weeks over 5 years. They

listened in, they dipped sticks in wee, they palpated, and they measured.

More than that though, more than the numbers & the graphs, they listened

to me. They visited me at home. They gave me options. They didn’t

ridicule, patronise or deride me - quite the opposite. They gave me the

information, the protocols and explained why things were as they were -

and then they listened to what I wanted and why, and they helped me get

it. They were practical and rational, and empathetic. They trusted me, and

so I trusted them. They lit candles around my bath. They held my hand and

eye contact. They smiled at each other and my husband as I disappeared

further into myself, my labour. They whispered love into my ear. They

became part of my family, and I became part of theirs.

So you see, I didn’t have any need for a doula at all. My midwives doula’ed

me beyond anything I could ever have imagined I might want or need.

And not just me. I live in a community of women who have deep love for

Susie and Tina. Women who well up on the street corners when they realise I

know them, and who recall quiet words, small moments and powerful

memories months and years old. Because birth marks us in ways beyond

measure.

So I know how lucky I am not to have needed a doula - and I will always

pay that forward in any way I can.

You can find a doula at the Doula UK website. If your budget is limited, talk

to mentored doulas who may be pleased to support you as they work

towards their recognised status. They may also be able to refer to you to

the Doula UK access fund.

How to cope with Fear in Pregnancy and the Birth Room

Blog by Christy

pregnant-nature-mom.jpg

Let me let you in on a little secret. Everyone is scared. At least of something! No one is fearless and absolutely no one approaches birth without some degree of apprehension or worry. Perhaps that’s a sweeping statement but one thing is for sure, that no one knows how the birth is going to go and no one can tell you that everything is going to be okay and know beyond doubt they are telling you the truth. That is scary. I remember facing the birth of my second child, with a pit of bubbling panic and wringing anxiety in my stomach. Mainly because I had given birth before and it had been gruelling and painful but also because the hypnobirthing teacher in front of me was telling me this next birth was going to be different, better and all I could think was “How to hell do you KNOW?!”

Ironically, it’s that very fear that can be the cause, the root of the problem and by learning how to manage and minimise that fear early on in your pregnancy, it can reduce the chances of things going awry.  Here’s why.

Fear is a mechanism in place to ensure our survival, and the survival of our young, it’s there for our protection. For example, if you don’t know what’s over the edge of that cliff, Fear says, “It could be dangerous, and you could fall off the edge and die, so you’d better not venture over.”  And the fear of the unknown is a huge thing for most people, as you must look at many possible outcomes to be prepared for all eventualities.  Then we can introduce anxiety if you can identify more ‘What If’ scenarios than you can cope with, being swallowed up by trying to manage an outcome from an almost infinite set of possibilities which cannot be controlled. It all becomes very stressful, scary and an impossible prospect. Welcome overwhelm and/or depression. With these circumstances, how much better do you feel if you stick your head in the sand? Loads! For a while. Then the anxiety bubbles and the fear creeps, because this birth is still coming, and no one can do it for you and you can’t run away and pretend it’s not happening!

Fear is there to make us aware of danger, keep us safe (and alive). How then can it possibly hinder us in birth?  Fear is an emotion that can become overwhelming and literally paralysing with it.  Let me give you an example.  Feeling frightened (where you feel unsafe, exposed, observed or anxious) during your labour, your body creates this paralysis, a signal your body interprets that the environment is too unsafe to let your baby out into the world, so labour slows down or stops altogether.  Only when balance is restored, the fear subsided, can the body can resume birthing.  Worry, stress and fears can seriously take their toll on your mind and therefore your body – think appetite changes, sleep problems and anxiety induced conditions such as IBS or OCD. They are intrinsically linked. Is it therefore such a surprise that it can directly affect the body’s ability to birth too?

If fear is a serious player in ensuring a smooth and comfortable birth, then the issue is how to manage those fears, minimise or eliminate them quickly and maintain your cool in the thick of labour.  There are a number of ways to break this cycle and get some relief - 

BREATHE. It’s cliched, but that’s for a reason – it works. Breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth, fill your lungs to the bottom and count your breath in and then release, count your breath out. This maximises the blood flow to your brain and keeps your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels balanced, which keeps the nervous system in balance. Breathe deeply and feel the calming effects immediately. 

MOVE. It doesn’t have to be much or indeed vigorous in any way. Just get your heart rate up by moving. Walking, preferably outside in the fresh air and natural daylight will elevate your mood by releasing the tensions in your body and encourages the release of endorphins – your body’s natural defence to pain. It also helps to regulate your breathing, sleep better and provide you with some headspace with the break from your routine/day.

CONNECT. Take some time to get to the crux of your fear and ask yourself, ‘What am I the most scared of?’ The worry you’re experiencing is often far worse than the reality, so get informed on what to expect and it will take the sting out of the unexpected. If you’re not sure what is the root of your feelings, why not start a journal and write regularly. You may be surprised what comes up for you.

BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND. Often in a state of fear or anxiety, you’re beating yourself repeatedly with thoughts that are negative, scary, stressful and downright mean, which puts your body and mind in a high state of alert for prolonged periods of time. Isn’t it sad that your inner chatter, your inner voice that talks you through everything you do is the meanest person to you? Always ready to have a go at you when you wouldn’t dream of speaking to someone like that, never mind someone you love. No one feels good on the receiving end of that, so give yourself a break and try and listen to your inner chatter. Every time it starts to be nasty, mean or warn you of all the horrible things that could happen, thank yourself for the opinion and choose to think the opposite, a positive thought that is encouraging. What would you say to yourself, if you wanted to feel loved, supported and like you had your back in this birth thing? Exactly. Be your own best friend, you know you can do this deep down, so cheer yourself on.

For more techniques and discussions around dealing with fear and anxiety in pregnancy, birth and parenthood, Christy will be speaking at the Kent Baby and Toddler Event in Maidstone on 9th December 2018. Alternatively do visit the website www.kenthypnobirthing.com for how Kent Hypnobirthing can help you prepare for a calm and comfortable birth.