Sunday, 9 February 2014

Re- Direction?

Moving the focus of this blog towards reflections on psychodynamic and psychoanalytic thinking, papers, articles and events. And the dynamic of human relations outside the counselling room, explored through working with horses, gardening and the visual and performing arts. @psychodynamix

For counselling services information see here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Gentle Birth Companions - Debra Pascali Bonaro review

"I love Adela's book. Gentle Birth Companions captures the heart, passion and sacred path that doulas hold in supporting women and their families through out time. The perfect blend of her-story with science, showing the doulas role and importance today as she helps us  re-discover the value of female companionship during childbirth. 

If you are pregnant, thinking of hiring a doula, becoming a doula or are involved in maternity care today, Adela's book is essential to help you reconnect the circle of support in childbirth that provides an essential ingredient for a safe, fulfilling birth experience."

Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Director of the documentary and Co-Author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience, DONA International Doula Trainer and Lamaze International Childbirth Educator


Monday, 10 September 2012

Birth Stories

For many doulas, our journey begins with our own birth story. Our first experience of pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding, becoming a parent. Our first understanding of being part of our new family. And our first contact with the maternity care services. 

The quality of physical, emotional and social support that we have received during this time can make a huge impact on our experience of childbirth. And whether it has turned out as we hoped or expected, or whether it has confirmed our worst fears, it is nonetheless so often the trigger that starts us thinking about the idea of supporting other mothers through the same experience.

Listening to other women's birth stories is bread and butter to doulas therefore. It is the way we learn about and connect to the mothers and fathers we support. It forms the baseline upon which our relationship with our clients during this birth experience balances, it provides waymarkers and flashpoints. And allows for the unpacking of a whole heap of the grief, anger, fear, hurt and disappointment that can sometimes accompany the joys of holding our newborn.

We need to be strong, mindful and steady in order to weather the storm of some birth stories, as well as gentle and yeilding enough for the parents to know we are with them from our hearts. This can be tough, it can resonate with our own birth trauma or postnatal illness, and touch us in ways we never knew was possible. Not only can it connect us back to the circumstances surrounding the birth of our own babies, but also to our personal (unconscious) memories of our own birth.

It's useful for new doulas to be aware of the powerful and valuable impact that birth stories bring to their learning and preparation I feel. Not only does the novice hear about the physiology of natural birth and what happens when this is disturbed, but also it is an opportunity for her to begin to explore what it might mean to provide birth and postnatal support in practical and emotional terms within a safe setting.

To become humble, to begin to know a little of the amazing art of just being.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Birth Mindfulness for Parents 1

Planning a natural birth?
Did you know that there are three key ways that you and your partner can prepare for the arrival of your baby, whether in hospital or at home, which may make a real difference to your chances of experiencing a gentle birth? 

Place – feeling safe and unobserved in your birth environment, free to move around and take up any position you want, can help your mind and body to stay focused and keep those essential labour hormones flowing. Rearrange the furniture, hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door!

People – choosing attendants you trust to uphold your wishes for labour and birth is wise. Your supporters can protect your birth space by keeping questions and noise to a minimum, by banning strangers from the room. Enlist a doula (birth companion) as your advocate, she is there for your partner too!
Pain – establishing a unified attitude to the way you choose to work with your contractions, and making sure you have plenty of positive emotional support, can mean you are less likely to feel the need to request pain medication or an epidural. Write a clear birth plan, keep everyone informed!
An ‘undisturbed’ labour means you are more likely to enjoy a gentle birth. And a positive experience helps you, your baby and your family off to a good start.
To purchase ‘Birth Space, Safe Place: emotional wellbeing through pregnancy and birth’ (Findhorn Press, 2009) see

Friday, 9 December 2011

What does 'support' in childbirth really mean?

I have been thinking about the use of the word 'support' in relation to childbirth and wondering if it is not just being paid lip-service to lately, a bit like 'natural' childbirth.

Folk say "Yes, of course support is important' but do they understand what this really means?  What kind of support we are talking about? Or why it can make a difference?

My wise doula sister BB tells me that Michel Odent is not a fan of the use of the word 'support' which perhaps suggests there is something to this discussion. Yet what term are we to use instead?

For me, this poem by Anonymous, really sums up what I mean when I talk about childbirth support, or any kind of emotional support I suppose:

What is Support? 
Support is unconditional 
It is listening
Not judging, not telling your own story

Support is not offering advice …
It is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug … caring. 
We are here to help women discover what they are feeling … not to make the feelings go away. 
We are here to help a woman identify her options … not to tell her which options to choose. 
We are here to discuss steps with a woman … not to take the steps for her. 
We are here to help a woman discover her own strength … not to rescue her and to leave her still vulnerable. 
We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself … not to take that responsibility for her. We are here to help a woman learn to choose … not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.
--> -->

Although written as if for mothers, if we replace the word 'women' for 'men', it becomes a poem for fathers too.

So let's be mindful of how we use the word 'support', let's notice when and where we use it and what we really mean by it, and if we hear it being paid lip service to, let's feel proud to quantify the true value of its existence.

Monday, 7 November 2011

'Birth Aunties'

I was fortunate to have been invited to the annual 'Gala Evening' fundraiser event for our university campus, last week.

It was a 'black tie' do and I found myself seated between a Professor (our host) and a Doctor of Education who I had not previously met, both highly intelligent, interesting and interested men.

Inevitably the moment came when I was invited (by said Dr) to define a doula.

"But surely that's the same thing as a midwife?" he responded, "What's the difference?"

So, after reiterating the emotional, social and practical - rather than the clinical - support bit, I tried something new:

"Kind of like a birth auntie!"

The conversation then changed to another subject. However, some fine wine and a good dinner later in the evening, as we paused between Raffle and Auction, the delightful Dr reflected this term back at me in perfect context.

Yay, he so got it! I was so impressed! And it made me reflect on the possibility of using 'Birth Auntie' as a way of describing the doula more often ...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Against the professionalisation of doulas - where next?

The role of the doula has been formalised in the UK for ten years now and I sense that the doula community and what we stand for may be standing at a threshold. My recent blogposts challenging the case for professionalisation of doulas have been met with some interesting feedback from both sides of the pond. 

There seems to be a general consensus that doulas work in a 'professional' way - we do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it and we work with respect and integrity towards our clients as well as health professionals - but that we are not 'trained professionals' in the same sense that a midwife or a teacher is. And I do believe that the majority of doulas, including myself, would concur with this theory.

However, I also believe that there is MUCH more we could do in the way of giving a consistent message to the public and to health professionals by avoiding the use of the word 'professional' altogether. In essence, Doula UK's Philosophy has traditionally promoted the doula as a lay person:

"The doula role, we believe, is a way of "being" not "doing". A "training" implies completion and it is not useful to believe that a woman can attend a two or three day workshop or ... course and believe that she is a doula. Doulas are learners, they are explorers, they are guides, friends, sharers, it goes on and on. Without an open approach to self development and human growth it is impossible to be available to enable others. Within a doula’s education there must be a deep concentration and focus on self awareness and ... a lot of time reflecting." "We do not want doulas to add another layer of ‘professionalism’ to an already overloaded maternity system."
yet terms like 'training', 'trainee', 'profession' and 'continuous professional development' still feature in the organisation's vocabulary. There is perhaps room for adjustment here therefore, a replacement of such professionalised terms for others that are more in keeping with the lay role perhaps, such as 'preparation course', 'new doula', 'doula work/doulaing' and 'ongoing learning'.
During the doula preparation course too, much work can be done by course leaders and facilitators to remind new doulas that our role is not a professional one. Terms such as 'qualified' and 'certified' simply suggest that doulas have some special 'professional' status which in fact we do not. Why not 'attended an information session' or 'completed a preparation course'? If all doula course leaders were consistent in perpetuating the use of lay language, our students would carry this with them on out into their work.  

In any occupation, jargon particular to that line of work may be found, jargon that is relayed initially to new workers via their educators or supervisors - so why not doulaing too?   

As we stand on this threshold where an awareness of our role has reached a wider public, where more mothers and fathers are choosing to enlist a doula during childbirth and more maternity health professionals are beginning to take the value of lay support seriously, we can surely step forward from here and make ourselves what we want to be.    

I believe that now is the moment to commit to our principles and fuse the definition of our role into how we want it to represent us into the future, for if we do not, I fear we will miss the moment, and possibly miss the greatest opportunity UK doulas will ever have to unite as one voice.

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