“The emotional impact of birth is one that simply can’t be explained, it must be experienced. A joyful and triumphant birth can make a woman feel like she is capable of anything. Yes, thousands of women do it every day…birth though, is by design life changing, overwhelming and it leaves a deep mark on our souls.”
– Sarah Clark- mother of four and natural birth teacher in U.S.A
A doula is an experienced woman [often a mother herself] who offers practical and emotional support to a woman or couple before, during and after childbirth. A doula supports the mother emotionally and physically, enabling her to have the most satisfying and empowering experience of giving birth that is possible, given the circumstances on the day. The doula provides continuity of care that is sadly lacking in our medical system today. Unless you hire Independent Midwives [imuk.org.uk] or have a home birth with a dedicated home birth team, you will see any number of midwives during your pregnancy and are unlikely to have met the midwives who attend your labour.
When people look for a doula they often speak to a few doulas and meet up with the ones they like the sound of. When you have chosen who you would like to work with, there is a basic contract to sign. All doulas are self-employed so their fees are varied, usually according to their experience. For a birth doula you pay a deposit to secure your booking. For postnatal support you agree on a minimum number of hours for the first week or two and pay a deposit to secure your booking, this is usually the first week’s hours. You can always add hours where you need them and your doula will let you know in advance what hours she is available each week.
Look at www.doula.org.uk for more information about doulas.
Couples or women will get to know their doula during their pregnancy. During antenatal meetings you will discuss any pregnancy and birth related issues, birth preferences and your hopes and worries about your labour. Your doula will give you lots of information to help you make informed choices about your maternity care. You will get to know each other so that during your labour you can help to create a calm and safe atmosphere which will encourage the natural, physiological birth process to unfold.
Every woman deserves to have a positive birth experience. It is such a momentous occasion in a woman’s life, for a first time mum she is giving birth and becoming a mother which is a huge change, an adventure and a joy. Women remember each birth for ever, not every detail but the essence of it and the physical and emotional effort involved. If you begin your journey of becoming a parent with an empowering experience it will be easier to have confidence in your ability to look after your newborn baby. I believe that the vast majority of women can give birth naturally without medical intervention that can unfortunately lead to more interventions and sometimes sadly to the traumatic birth experiences that we often hear about. Women need to believe in their ability to give birth, to reclaim confidence in their bodies and trust their instincts which is not always an easy thing to do in today’s society…
WHAT I OFFER AS A BIRTH DOULA
When I am booked to support a client we will arrange a few times to meet up. During these antenatal sessions we will discuss your hopes and fears about labour and birth and/or discuss past experiences and any relevant medical or personal issues. My birth doula package includes 2 - 3 antenatal visits, 2 postnatal visits and being "on call" from 2 weeks before your estimated due date [more about the “due date” later…] until you go into labour, whenever that will be, at 38 weeks, 40 weeks and occasionally past 42 weeks
The antenatal visits are for you and your partner/birth partner so we can all get to know one another and I can work out how best to support you both through your labour and birth. We will discuss your birth preferences including place of birth, use of a birth pool, hypnobirthing, breathing for labour and birth, active birth, medication and general hospital practices. We can discuss and practice positions and movements for an active birth, although birth is instinctual I think it’s useful to have some ideas that you are familiar with, breathing and visualisations. We can have more antenatal sessions and less postnatal if you prefer, some clients who are not 1st time parents prefer this arrangement; it depends on what works for you. I also offer an extra meeting for first time parents to discuss breastfeeding and looking after/coping with a new born baby as sometimes the focus is so much on the labour and birth that people don't think so much about looking after the baby and becoming parents!
I will visit you a couple of times after your birth to talk through your birth story, support your breastfeeding/feeding and refer you onto more specialised support if necessary and just check in and see how you are all doing. This support also helps your whole family to relax and enjoy the experience of becoming parents or extending your family by welcoming a new-born baby into your lives.
As I am trained in massage, acupressure and rebozo for pregnancy & labour, I can teach your partners some simple techniques to use during labour to help keep you calm and focused, they can be practised in the final few weeks of pregnancy. I use rebozo techniques, massage and acupressure during labour when it’s needed. I can also give you pregnancy and postnatal massage treatments but these are not included in my birth doula package but can be booked with me at Active Birth Centre therapy clinic or at my home in Islington. See Massage Practitioner page…
Maya 2013: “Baby is beautiful…We are both very happy and exhausted!!! Very much appreciated all your amazing help and support. Really meant a lot to us…”
Rachel 2013: “Thanks Sue – We both feel pretty amazing today and just thrilled to have experienced a birth like that…I feel the power! Your presence made an enormous difference in so many ways. Huge thanks”
Nessa's home birth: "Sue's calm, warm and practical approach to pregnancy, birth and postnatal care was so important to us as we prepared for the birth of our second child. I felt completely comfortable with her and it was great to know that she knew what I was afraid of and what kind of support I wanted. Luckily I also had a great midwife for my birth [Homerton home birth team] but having Sue as my doula meant that I wasn't as concerned about which midwife would be there, as I would have otherwise been..."
VBAC mum 2016 "After having had an emergency caesarean for our first daughter, I knew I needed someone by my side who was experienced and who'd seen it all. I really wanted a home birth for our second baby and when we went to see the specialist at Homerton she said that we'd made a fabulous choice with Sue as she is known as 'the doula who helps everyone have a successful home birth' I knew we were in the best hands.
The night our son was born everything happened really fast. Sue was there the whole way. She did counter pressure massage on my lower back during each surge, handed me coconut water and homeopathy when necessary. She was calm. She was my rock. She made me laugh. She was the best mothers (and fathers;) helper we could've ever ever wished for."
“A heartfelt thank you for delivering my baby last March, you were invaluable! " email from Anna who gave birth to her 3rd baby at home before her home birth midwives arrived [there was a lot of snow and her birth was fast!] March 2018
Training and experience
All my maternity massage training was taken with the inspirational Suzanne Yates of Well Mother- www.wellmother.org. After supporting pregnant and postnatal clients for a few years and listening to their birth stories [and knowing the pressure that the NHS midwives are under at the moment and the strict guidelines that they should adhere to] I decided to train as a birth doula so I could support women throughout their pregnancies, birth and into the postnatal period. I did further training with Well Mother with their Massage for Labour course in 2006 and have been working as a doula since 2008 and I have been a recognised doula with Doula UK since 2010 www.doula.org.uk
I have attended many home births, births in hospitals [most commonly Homerton, Whittington, UCLH ] The Royal London, The Royal Free, St Mary’s and St Thomas’s, Barnet General and births in stand-alone birth centres like The Barkantine on the Isle of Dogs. I have supported many water births and natural, active births, hypnobirthing mums, many successful VBAC’s [vaginal birth after caesarean] many of which have given birth at home, one twin vaginal birth and many medically assisted births and a few caesarean births.
Out of interest I did more doula training with the famous French Obstetrician, natural birth pioneer and author, Michel Odent on his “Paramana Doula” course in Nov 2011. This was very interesting for me as he has a very “hands off” approach to doulaing and as I come from a massage background I like to be hands on, where necessary and appropriate of course! After training with Michel Odent I began working as a postnatal doula, helping to nurture families in the early weeks after their baby/babies are born, offering practical and emotional support and helping to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
I also undertook training to be a Peer Supporter with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers www.abm.me.uk . This training has really helped me support breastfeeding mothers which is invaluable in my work with postnatal mums and their babies. I have supported many first time mothers, solo mums, many pregnant with their second babies and a few mums with twins.
What I offer as a Postnatal Doula
“Women are not meant to shoulder the responsibility of motherhood alone. In an ideal situation the extended family would be able to provide continuous support at this early stage of parenting, but now most people live far away from their families. Parents often have no previous experience of newborn babies until they are holding their own which can be daunting to say the least ! Postnatal Doulas specialise in guiding the newborn parents and baby through these early experiences as a new family by offering help and support once the baby is born.” Doula UK
I support breastfeeding and bottle feeding, I can help with calming and getting your baby to sleep, look after your baby so you can sleep or have a bath etc. I can do some shopping, prepare food and make sure you've eaten and rested. I’m also there to answer questions about breastfeeding and baby care and to listen to your birth story. I try to boost your confidence in looking after your baby, aiming to make your transition into parenthood smoother and less stressful. I can look after your older children, help around the house with light cleaning, washing and cooking so you have more time to spend with your baby. I can be available at varied times during the day and some evenings and if you give birth over the weekend and would like help with getting breastfeeding off to a good start that's fine too. I have supported many first time mums, many having second babies and quite a few twin mums too.
Postnatal doulas basically help out around the house and look after you so you are calm and rested and have the confidence to look after your baby. Having a doula takes away the worry about all the things that you don’t have the time or energy to do in the early weeks after you have given birth. This should be, as it is in many cultures, a time of rest and recovery while you adjust to the demands of a new baby and a different pace of life. All too often new parents live far from their families and don t have much family support. They are left to cope on their own, often with no or very little experience of what life with a newborn baby is like, or without help when adjusting to extending their family with a new baby.
Alexy 2014: "Our daughter was born slightly early and we were somewhat unprepared, Sue's help was invaluable right from the start, she came to visit me in hospital, provided great advice and support with breastfeeding as well as keeping our 2yr old son entertained. Sue managed to get hold of a lactation consultant when we realised our baby had a tongue tie, even though it was 24th December!"
Naomi 1st time mum with twins: "Sue was an amazing help to me and I honestly don t know what I would have done without her! At times when I felt exhausted and lonely, Sue would arrive and brighten up my day with chat, support and laughter"
One of the most important jobs with a mother who is breastfeeding is to make sure that she has good support in the first few days to help get breastfeeding off to a good start. Many problems can be avoided by looking at how to encourage a good latch and positioning and attachment ideas in the first couple of days after birth.
Most people give birth in hospitals now where the postnatal care is often less than optimal due to midwifery shortages and a general lack of knowledge around breastfeeding. Hospitals vary hugely with the postnatal support they offer, some have a dedicated breastfeeding support team, some have volunteer supporters and others only overworked and exhausted midwives…
There are many amazing breastfeeding support groups and charitable organisations such as La Leche League - http://www.laleche.org.uk/ and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers - http://abm.me.uk/ who have experienced volunteers on their free helplines, organize breastfeeding support groups as well as lots of information on their websites.