While I had long felt drawn toward working with women, children and families, it was really my own experiences as a mother brought me to this work. It was the beginning of a journey that had been calling to me for many years. My story began with my own first birth…
I am mother to three children. Each of my births was unique. Each taught me something of the mystery and unpredictability of birth.
The roots of my decision to become a doula reach back to my first experience of pregnancy and birth. It was then that I met Chris Warren and Michelle Irving, two phenomenal women and independent midwives (part of the independent midwifery practice, the Yorkshire Storks). Although at the beginning of my pregnancy I wasn’t certain how I felt about birthing at home, I knew I needed the continuity of care Chris and Michelle could provide. Quite simply, I didn’t want to be surrounded by strangers when giving birth for the first time.
I wanted continuity of care, to know the midwives who would be present at my birth. I got so much more. Chris and Michelle spent time with me, listened to me, nurtured me throughout my pregnancy. They offered me information, but made it clear that all decisions were mine. I was a respected partner in my own care.
Chris provided me with an unexpected, but immensely valued gift of being truly present with me throughout the toughest moments of my first labour. She seemed to know exactly what I needed without me saying a word. Nor did she speak unnecessarily. Her few words, spoken quietly, helped me to work with my body in labour rather than resist. She never doubted me. Her presence at the birth of my daughter was a profound lesson in authentic midwifery care.
My journey begins
It was only later, talking with other women, that I learned how different my experience was. I felt and still feel strongly that all women deserve the kind of respect, support and continuity of care throughout pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal weeks that I received.
In July 2007, I attended the inspirational Paramana Doula ‘doula information session’ with Dr. Michel Odent and doula Liliana Lammers. I did this primarily out of my own interest, with no fixed intentions other than to give myself the gift of this incredible workshop. Michel and Liliana brought me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the care I had experienced in my births. They also gave me my next lessons in authentic birth support. Most importantly, they brought me to awareness of my calling and confidence in my role. Becoming a doula would give me a chance to give back to others some of what I had received in my own births.
I attended my first birth as a doula in August of the same year, a home water birth.
Along the road of experience
I have since been privileged to support mothers, fathers and families at home and hospital births.
I feel strongly that women deserve to be supported in birthing their babies in whatever environment feels right for them, accompanied by those whom they wish to be there. Supporting women in different settings, with different situations, brought some difficult lessons. Not all births are easy. It became clear to me that information is not enough to prepare women and their partners for birth. These experiences and realisations brought me to explore new areas.
There is a need to prepare both mind and body for birth. Intellectual, information-only approaches cannot reach the instinctive self. Without preparation on this deeper level, women may be unconsciously drawn into potentially traumatic experiences. In my quest to learn new ways of working with women and their partners, I enrolled in Dr. Gayle Peterson’s Prenatal Counseling and Body-centred Hypnosis for Birth. Here I learned about new ways of working with the mind, and the body through the mind.
Confronting the shadows
Sometimes, despite doing everything ‘right’ to the best of our ability, birth can be the opposite of what we hope for, plan for, or expect.
Witnessing birth trauma, and wanting on the deepest level to bring healing to those who have experienced it, drew me to Sheila Kitzinger’s Birth Crisis workshop (2010). Here my instinct that listening with heart and personal responsiveness to women’s stories is a first step toward supporting healing was confirmed.
I was also drawn toward Pam England and her extraordinary Birthing from Within trainings and materials for preparing and supporting parents, and helping them to heal from birth trauma. I have been privileged to study with Pam and Virginia Borbro directly in their Facilitating the Birth Art Process (2010) and Birth Story Listening (2011) courses.
All of these workshops and experiences have brought insights and self-development, and perhaps most importantly self-healing. I’ve seen through personal experience that sometimes deep healing can happen spontaneously, in the right conditions and given the right tools. A great part of my own healing has come also through my Reiki practice, which I began in 2009, studying under Taggart King of Reiki Evolution. Reiki has brought so much to me and my clients. I am so pleased to be able to share it.
At the very end of 2011, I began a journey into deeper healing with Kay Gillard which has brought me great clarity and restored wholeness. I am currently studying intuitive healing techniques with her, bringing these both into my personal practice and work with clients.
I remain committed to on-going personal and professional development. I remain passionate about birth and choice.
I participate in workshops relating to all areas of my work. Some others I’ve been privileged to study with in recent years include Stephanie Larson (Dancing for Birth, 2011) and Gail Tully (Spinning Babies, 2012) .
As part of my commitment to local families, I volunteer as a La Leche League Leader (breastfeeding counselor). In this capacity, I offer information and support to mothers who want to breastfeed their babies in County Durham and the Northeast region through telephone and email support as well as in-person consultations and regular LLL meetings.
I am a recognised doula with Doula UK. I am a certified doula, childbirth educator and trainer with Childbirth International. I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to be working with families in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Durham and the northeast region since 2007. I continue to learn from every birth I support, every parent and baby I meet.
My commitment is to serving birthing women and families, and bringing healing to those who have experienced unexpected challenges or traumas around their birth experiences.