I left working in a media company in April 2015 to go on maternity leave with my second child and I was so happy to be starting a new chapter as a mum of two. I had only been back at work for a year after going back after my first maternity leave and that year had left me exhausted. I was exhausted from having to juggle what felt like everything… commuting into London, nursery drop offs/pick ups, endless doctors visits with a poorly first born, barely any sleep, an HR battle to try and get some flexible working, a full time job and a new pregnancy. So for me, so be able to stop work and just focus on my family was everything I wanted.
I had a wonderful birth experience and I was absolutely buzzing and loving it. But I found myself wanting more. Financially it made no sense for me to go back to work, childcare for two and travel would have taken all of my salary, if not more. From everyone I knew that was pregnant I felt a longing to support them – to tell them that birth can be amazing. Training to become a midwife was my first thought, but I knew with all the training and punishing shift work, I’d be back to my old juggling act and I didn’t want to be taken away from my young children. So I sussed out other ways that I could support women through pregnancy and BAM, I found doula training.
As a pretty excitable person, I was booked on a course pretty instantly and got excited to start another new chapter for me and my family. But boy oh boy was I not ready for what was to come and I whole heartedly think that every woman should give themselves this training as a gift. There was me thinking I was finding an answer to me going back to work, but what I found was so much more…
First and foremost my five day training was like a retreat. Like many new mums, I spent my life giving all to my kids with little to no time for self care. And then suddenly I had distance and was Me – not mum, just me and to be honest I had no idea who ‘me’ was anymore.
I was surrounded by the most wonderful and diverse women who all had one thing in common… we all wanted to support women. Do you have any idea how electric that can feel? We had a safe space to explore, discover, feel and support. There was laughter, there were tears and my goodness was there joy.
I realised it was OK to want more. Yes my kids and my husband were everything I’d ever wanted, but I was supported to realise it’s OK to want something for me – to want something that makes me covered in goosebumps because it feels so right. I wanted to bring this joy back to my family.
I experienced what it feels like to be listened to. And I don’t just mean a chat, I mean to actually be heard. I was given a safe space to explore different thoughts, beliefs, motivations and desires with absolutely no judgement. And this wasn’t in a therapeutic environment, it was just something that organically grew as the week went on. The only way I can describe it is magic.
Everyone there had a chance to debrief their birth experience which is something I feel so overwhelmingly passionate about. Good or bad, just revisiting such a pivotal, overwhelming time in your life can allow you to discover things about yourself, things that have impacted you in ways that you just weren’t aware of. This time allowed for reflection, which as a mum I didn’t really ever allow time for.
I discovered more about the woman I wanted to be. And it was a refreshing time to not be talking about success at work, but more just what I perceive to be success. I looked at the beliefs that are really at the core of my being which has helped me to shape the woman, mother, wife and practitioner that I want to be.
In what I will always remember as the most sacred of spaces, the everyday expectations of us as women were nowhere to be seen – we dug deep and found what made us tick. And there was no ‘voodoo weird’ stuff going on which I think so many people think doulas are all about. There was no hemp, there were no dreadlocks, there was no chanting. But I think my biggest learning has been to not make any assumptions. It’s all too easy to do, especially when we are exhausted or have little time. But that’s not support. I believe in the pause… a pause can be all that is needed to read a situation a bit clearer or to offer someone a chance to be listened too or to. I’m practising with my kids too, allowing time to digest, realise or discover.
For me, its a no brainer… if you are to give yourself one gift, allow yourself a pause and a sacred space to discover what makes you tick. It might actually surprise you… you never know, you might want to grow dreadlocks afterall.