This year I’ve officially been doulaing for 16 years. And just like my real 16th year, it was full of love, adventure, awkwardness and a looking forward with excitement to what the future brings. There has been joy and heartbreak, beginnings and endings, and most importantly, this year has been populated with wonderful people. Thank you to my clients, my colleagues and friends for making 2019 a year of learning and growth in many and varied ways! I’m dedicating this post to the doula who was there at the beginning, the indomitable, enormous-hearted Linda Quinn. Linda has been a doula for 50 years and has been my wise mentor, friend and confidante since I became a doula. I love her more than words can say.
But this this round up of my year is mostly about promoting the fabulous work of other people and organisations, so I hope you’ll click on a few of the links I’ve added through the months.
January started off with a continuation of the work I have been doing with a wonderful local group called Haverhill Breastfeeding Friends. I have loved supporting this group this year as a breastfeeding counsellor. Seeing the mothers grow in confidence, make friends and enjoy each other’s company is incredibly fulfilling. I also continued with my work with Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance and our weekly support group in Cambridge and the ongoing work to keep the work funded. Working with Rachel, Justine, Julie and all our incredible trustees and volunteers is part of my life that brings incredible joy. I am immensely proud of us and the work we do together. If you’d like to support a tiny breastfeeding charity for your new year good turn, feel free to click on the link to donate!
In January I also spoke to Karen Hall of Sprogcast about my book Why Mothering Matters. I always love chatting to Karen! You can listen to the episode here. I also recorded a podcast with Alison Barker where I talk about breastfeeding, doulas and postnatal care. You can listen here
January was also the month for the Birth Trauma conference. The conference has grown out of the work by The Make Birth Better campaign, a multi-disciplinary group of interested campaigners, including AIMS, working to raise awareness and understanding of birth trauma amongst birth workers. I reviewed the day for the AIMS journal here
At the beginning of February I facilitated the first Developing Doulas course of the year and also went to Sussex with my workshop on tongue tie for birthworkers. I also attended a meeting of AIMS volunteers. I have been both fulfilled and dismayed by my work on the AIMS helpline this year. Listening to the callers can be heartbreaking. From this work I have become even more interested in the topic of birth rights and consent and have developed a new workshop for doulas that explores the legalities of consent in the birthroom and provides a space for doulas to discuss and share stories and practical tips. You can read more about the workshop here
Mid February was the Normal Birth Conference in Ipswich, hosted by the midwifery society there. It was a lovely day, with wonderful speakers including Anna Coonan-Byrom of The Practising Midwife Journal, Mark Harris aka Birthing For Blokes, and Natalie Meddings of Tell Me a Good Birth Story fame and author of one of my favourite birth books, How to Have a Baby
In March I skyped in to an editorial meeting of The Practising Midwife Journal. I am still really enjoying being part of this wonderful team, supporting the amazing midwives that produce this great resource both in paper and online. I am still totally honoured to be the only doula on the board and I look forward to continuing to help promote the journal in any way I can.
Another meeting in March was of the trustees of the other little charity I’m involved with – Maddie’s Miracle. 2019 has seen us get some funding and achieve our first aim; to get our bus roadworthy. 2020 will see us be able to convert the vehicle to our needs and get our travelling breastfeeding support bus on the road. We also welcomed a new Trustee to our team. Thank you Zohar, Becky and Suzanne for your commitment to this project! Click here to donate or contact us if you’d like to volunteer.
I also went to a workshop facilitated by Margaret Jowitt in March. Listening to her talk about the anatomy and physiology of the pelvis, uterus and clitoris was both fascinating and entertaining. Margaret is the author of another of my favourite books, Dynamic Positions In Birth. Check it out if you haven’t read it!
At the end of March I took my husband and daughter to see the movie Tigers. The film was shown in Cambridge Arts Picture House and we were excited to welcome the man whose experiences whistleblowing the unethical practices of his bosses at Nestle was the story on which the film is based. You can watch the trailer and find the link to stream the whole film here
April and May
April brought the next Developing Doulas course in Cambridge and May saw the first course of the year in Surrey, facilitated by Zara. Zoe’s first course of the year in Blackpool was in June. Zara taught again in November and Zoe ran groups in Blackpool in September and then our first ever course in Northern Ireland in November. Thank you to everyone who joined our DD community in 2019 – it was wonderful meeting you and welcoming you to our community. We always learn so much from our newest recruits! If you’re thinking of becoming a doula we are setting dates now for 2020. Check out the Developing Doulas website for details.
In May I went to London to facilitate two workshops: Breastfeeding Case Studies and Tongue Tie and I also went to Surrey with the Tongue Tie workshop later in the month. Thanks to everyone who attended one of my workshops this year – I loved meeting you all!
At the end of May I took my annual deep breath at Cae Mabon. Swimming in the cold water of the lake, then warming my bones in the hot tub as usual did great things for my well being!
Back in Cambridge in June brought the next doula course. I also continued to support the doulas who are working their way through my online course, Doulavation I have so enjoyed developing this course, which is designed to support doulas to build a business that sustains them and brings them joy. Doulavation isn’t just about dry business stuff. It’s a place to extend your reflections on many aspects of being a doula and to spend some time thinking about how far you’ve come, where you want to go, and what is working for you and what isn’t. The content is both written text and videos and contains useful exercises to help you go deeper into your doulaing. There is no time limits for the course and membership is for life. The course is supported by a friendly facebook group in which I invite interesting people to hold live sessions to enhance the course content and support doulas to elevate themselves to where they want to go. If you’d like to find out more about Doulavation, check out the website and feel free to get in touch. If you’re a DD you qualify for a significant discount.
In June I also attended Rebecca Schiller’s writing workshop for birthworkers. What a blissful day talking about one of my favourite topics and writing poetry in her beautiful garden in the sunshine! If you would like to blog, or need to write in any other way for your work, or would like to get published, I can heartily recommend Rebecca’s workshops.
At the end of the month Molly O’Brien came to Cambridge with her workshop Biomechanics for Birth. I had a great day practicing the simple methods that can really help labour progress. I have to say that, despite doing two spinning babies workshops, I found Molly’s day much more practical and empowering and the techniques proved instrumental in a couple of births this year!
In July, after a lovely holiday in Rhodes, I welcomed a bunch of doulas to my house for my workshop on weaning, closely followed by a few days away with a couple of the other Developing Doulas course facilitators. We found a little hideaway cottage on the Suffolk coast to work on our new project: the Developing Doulas Postnatal Doula course. The course will be launched in July 2020 in Surrey, with dates around the country after that.
In August I was interviewed for local TV about breastfeeding and the kinds of support mothers need. I also attended the book launch of the Swan Bone Flute, a novel by my good friend, breastfeeding counsellor and storyteller, Rachel O’Leary. I absolutely loved Rachel’s book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel! Check it out – if you love a good story of strong women and motherhood fighting the patriarchy, this novel will light your fire.
In September I spoke at the Breastfeeding Festival in Milton Keynes. My talk was based on a blog post I wrote about the red and green traffic lights of breastfeeding – the things that help us and the things that hinder us along the way. You can read the article here.
I also taught the last Cambridge Developing Doulas course at the end of September, ably assisted by the lovely Katie Olliffe, who will be joining the team in 2020.
In September I attended my first Baby Feeding Law Group meeting, representing Doula UK. I am over the moon that Doula UK was asked to join this august organisation and support it’s work to rein in the more outrageous activities of the formula companies.
I was able to provide a number of sessions for parents this year, preparing them for Baby Led Weaning and the grand adventure that is solids. The group in October was well attended and lots of fun.
In October I was also able to continue to support an amazing group called Kings Hedges Family Support Project. KHFSP is runs drop-in sessions for local families with children up to 3 years old in Cambridge. Cambridge Breastfeeding Alliance supports this group as part of our outreach work, providing breastfeeding support to families in an area of Cambridge that has very little support. Small charities working together can achieve a lot!
At the beginning of November I went to Alderley Edge near Manchester to provide two workshops – Tongue Tie and Weaning, to the local doulas. It’s always wonderful to stay with my friend Nikki, who is a brilliant doula and runs Prism Placenta Training – check them out if you fancy becoming an encapsulator (you get a 10% discount if you are a DD, or if you’ve done Prism training and want to be a doula, you get a 10% discount with us, too).
Towards the end of November I went to Chelmsford to the University of East Anglia to talk to the Masters in Midwifery students about doulas. It was really lovely spending time with these passionate and compassionate midwives talking about what doulas bring to the party.
At the beginning of December I welcomed another bunch of doulas to my home to talk about consent in childbirth and then the following weekend, I was SURPRISED by an amazing party to celebrate my 50th birthday. I am still speechless and full of gratitude to the friends and family that gathered to help me dance the night away. The doulas bought me, amongst other things, a hammock, which I can’t wait to set up in my garden and fall into, armed with a drink and a book. Thanks to everyone, you know who you are and I love you all.
I finished the year by going to see my doula-mother-mentor Linda Quinn. She’s had a tough time recently so it was wonderful to see her and reminisce a bit!
I was honoured to support 12 families having babies this year, supported by wonderful doula-partners – Becky, Ellie, Harriet, Becky T, Verity, Alice, Katie and Sophie, thank you for your support – didn’t we have some adventures!? Throughout the year, I was privileged to witness amazing midwives at work. Sadly I also had to support a client through a birth at home where no midwife could be provided for her. Highlights definitely include being asked to support two doula sisters as they grew new humans! Thank you, dear ones, for allowing me to give you a little bit of support along the way. You make gorgeous babies and it was a pleasure to be around for you.
Special mention to the wonderful midwives in my life, Milly, Sheena, Kemi, Amity, and Becky. You remind me every day that midwives and doulas are sisters and that we should never become fatalistic about the state of maternity care. Keep the fire in your bellies, wonderful Happening Women!
Now I’m 50 and soon my first born will be turning 20. It feels like a turning point, a time to stop and take stock and think about the future. I’m spending some time now making plans and dreaming. I want to live by the sea, so this year is going to be about working towards that goal. I also want create more space to work on the AIMS helpline, because the service this provides parents is unrivaled and so very needed!
Here’s to 2020 being a year for us to begin to work out how to save the world and heal divisions! Birth work continues to mean the world to me, because if we want to change the world, we have to start at the beginning. Because if we want the world to change, we have to change the way it works and that starts with the way babies are born and cared for.