Guest blog by Anna Murray - Doula up North
I can't wait for you to read this epic blog post by the brilliant Anna, otherwise known as Doula up North. Anna perfectly describes the fire in her belly that motivates her to be a Postnatal Doula and how she found herself wanting something more for birthing parents and their families.
The road to Doula
Supporting families in the postnatal period isn’t something I only started doing when I became a Doula, I’ve been in this work in some capacity for a decade. It all started after the birth of my Son in 2011. After a traumatic birth experience and undiagnosed postnatal anxiety I became agoraphobic, only leaving the house if my husband was with me. I planned my day around feeding my baby because I wouldn’t feed him in front of people or out and about, I was crippled by the fear of judgement and the thought of negative comments being thrown my way. I completely isolated myself, I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t want anyone to visit, I wouldn’t answer the phone. And although my relationships have never fully repaired, I loved my bubble, I loved my baby, We were a pretty good team and I don’t regret the decisions I made, even if they came from my illness.
One place I felt safe and “normal” was the breastfeeding community. I was lucky enough to have a family member who is a La Leche League leader and a Lactation Consultant, and they introduced me to the world of feeding support. I trained through my local children's centre to be a peer supporter and began to volunteer at their groups. When a job came up at my local NHS trust for a breastfeeding support worker I applied and got the job! I loved it and only left last year to pursue a career as a Doula. We were like a little renegade team, working against the system from within to support families to follow their instincts and feed their babies the way they wanted without judgement or fear. We would talk to them about normal newborn behaviour, show them safe sleeping set ups, sit with them for hours, giving them space to talk through things they might not feel comfortable talking about with their midwife or health visitor. It was an amazing job and taught me so much about individualised care, natural parenting, working with your baby’s needs, and normality in the postnatal period. It made me passionate about supporting parents the way they needed, not the way the system wanted. It set me up for a life as a Postnatal Doula.
Becoming a Doula was the natural progression for me, it was just something that was inevitable. I love working with people, I love seeing the moment they become confident in their decisions, when they know what they’re doing is the right thing for them and it's working!
The hidden trimester
The fourth trimester is my jam, I loved it both times as a parent and I love talking about it and facilitating it. Our needs as a postpartum parent and a baby are so simple yet so intricate, the way the parent/ baby dyad communicates with each other, creating and giving to each other will never not blow my mind. How is it possible that a baby’s saliva can tell their mother/parent what antibodies it needs to boost its immune system!?! How incredible is it that a mothers/gestational parents sleep cycles change to be in sync with their baby to allow them to respond to their night time needs quicker and reduce the risk of SIDS?
How can we not be in awe of ourselves? Why isn’t everyone made aware of these spectacular things we are capable of? Why aren’t we being supported in a way that allows us to thrive through these and many more physiological and biological processes? Why are we being undermined and gaslit at every turn?
This is Where a Postnatal Doula comes in, we’re there, to educate and support, to listen and facilitate, to shout from the rooftops that you and your baby are deserving of a slow, loving, nurtured beginning. You are allowed to trust your instincts, to prioritise yourself and your family, to do what feels right to you. This is my why, my reason. I can’t accept that what’s expected of new parents and babies in our current society is normal, I won’t allow capitalism to rob us of a process that literally affects ours and our children's genetic make up. Being a postnatal Doula is an act of rebellion to me, it’s a protest, it’s a life’s work.
Wow. Thank you Anna! She's right, our role as a Postnatal Doula is more than 'just' providing support to families in the fourth trimester and beyond. We're part of a bigger movement to reclaim the rite of passage that is postpartum. To value, honour and respect those on their postpartum journeys and pushback against a culture that undermines it.
If you're feeling the pull towards postpartum work, I'd love for you to check out my Postnatal Doula training course, The Postnatal Doula Academy. You can book a free zoom call with me if you'd like to chat about it in more detail. Can't wait to hear from you!