Thank you for everything 2019 - Hello 2020!
On the eve of 2019 morphing into 2020, I sat (rather soberly!) overlooking my favourite view on the Devon coast. What a year! I have done some incredible courses, worked for four wonderful new mums and their beautiful babies, met an inspiring doula community and all of this has taught me so much. I have actively been laying a major foundation during this first year of my post natal doula journey. It has been a time of growth, challenge and learning, each step supported and guided by my mentor.
Having had this regular review process has eased me in, giving me a guiding point of contact and making me part of a little team. Sometimes working independently can feel a little alienating and having set up my cancer support group totally off my own back, this was something I was slightly apprehensive about. The doula community, both online and in person, is the nucleus of this ever expanding body of women, breathing care and nurturing to all pregnant ladies and new mothers, giving me a new energy, welcoming and supporting me, offering advice, inspiration and new friendships (and how many Facebook groups?!) that have made me laugh out loud, offered reassurance in those moments of self doubt (of which there have been a few!) and most of all, highlighted, once again, the importance of self care.
Spending time nurturing, nourishing, holding space and offering a non judgemental ear are a doulas priorities, yet I have been aware how this impacts us on a personal level. With a young school age child I am still limited by school time perimeters and though this has worked well for me this year, the realisation of coming home and repeating these tasks for myself with far less appreciation, has been a huge learning curve! On the flip side, my recipe repertoire has increased ten fold, my menu planning a weekly ritual, my freezer organisation totally Instagram worthy and my culinary skills, though not quite worthy of a Michelin star just yet, are noticeably more tasty! As for multi tasking, well, I’m spinning plates in my sleep! Finding my own space to relax, sleep and rest has become a daily focus, even if just carving out time to walk the dog and get some fresh air! There seem to be more boxes to tick but I generally feel more productive and organised, which can be no bad thing!
One of the many noticeable observations I have made, has been the impact of new siblings on older children in the family. It would naturally affected the dynamic but I have been acutely aware of how the arrival of another baby can be another new territory for any mother. For a small child it can mean subtle regressions in sleep, toilet training as well as pushing boundaries, flexing muscles and asserting themselves, pushing buttons that, on top of everything else, can result in feelings of frustration and guilt for new mothers. For them to be able to release these feelings, vent and talk them through, while offering them reassurance, comfort and space, has felt like one of the most valuable services.
Not having wanted to focus on breastfeeding when I completed my doula course, I now feel it is an area I want to explore more carefully, mostly since it was breast cancer that led me to this role in the first place (You would think the clue was in the name!) It is also because this is such a huge part of becoming a mother. Whether she has firm ideas about breastfeeding or has a tentative plan pre baby, a post natal doula's role is to support a mother as she explores the options. If there are difficulties or complications it can be a real advantage to have some key knowledge so we can be more proactive and practical.
Seeing how well my clients have done with their own breast feeding journeys has been hugely positive. As babies have got older and some have made the switch to formula, it has been rewarding to observe mumma navigate her own way through, owning her decisions, signposting and supporting her as she transitions with confidence and a joy to witness babies development.
The area of babies growth has also been highlighted with my baby wearing, since the Boba wrap is now a permanent part of my wardrobe! One moment they are tucked in there, tiny and hidden, the next, they are craning their necks with FOMO, practically climbing out! Having them sleeping close while Mummy showers or rests, has been a favourite part of my doula role. It is like having a little hot water bottle tucked in my jumper and is lovely bonding time.
Learning about my own physical and emotional boundaries has been a big part of my self confidence this year. I feel passionately about connecting with women when they feel vulnerable and chemistry between a post natal doula and her client is paramount to a successful postpartum experience. However, I did not appreciate the importance of bonding with the babies too. Trust and responsibility are vital cornerstones of this role and by leaving a new baby in my care, while a mother rests or showers, is a privilege. I have also discovered my own boundaries between being a post natal doula versus a nanny. If I recognise that by playing a game with an older sibling for a few minutes, or taking them to the swings for half an hour, helps my client relax and gives her some space, it is something I feel I can be flexible with, but I have learnt that by making clear my main focus is the mother and her wellbeing, I have asserted my primary role.
Even my post natal doula admin has been a learning curve! This week I found myself editing my profile on the Doula UK platform, after reviewing how much needed to be updated. I have a clearer view of what this role involves for me now, what role I want to play in this doula community and what areas I want to explore going forward. I am also aware that there is so much more to supporting a mother postnatally, than making a few meals and holding the baby! My bone closing massage has been a huge awakening thanks to Sophie Messager and expanding my work in mental health, with Alexandra Heath and the Rewind Technique, has been invaluable. As with any journey, as a mother and a doula, each day presents new challenges, but we always have choices. Having awareness of this has not only been useful for me to remember, but is something I like to frequently remind my clients.
So far, my post natal doula journey has not only taught me so much more about motherhood and the intricacies of the postpartum phase, but it has also unearthed a deeper understanding of myself, as a mother and as a woman. Certain views have shifted, I am less judgmental, and I feel this is the most natural thing for me to be doing. It gives me a sense of purpose and my self worth is far greater. I consider it a blessing to share this time with new mothers but even more so, with the clarity I did not have myself when I became a mum. Oh how I would do things differently now, nine years later, but such is the gift of hindsight! Having the opportunity to hold a space for a women to share, download, heal and connect, as she slowly makes this transition, is a vocation and as my first clients baby turned one in December, I can, hand on heart, a year in, tell you that I love my job!