A Doula’s Journey 2017
Thank you from this Doula – 2017 has been an incredible ride.
I began 2017 intending to take a break – being on call 24/7 for up to 5 weeks at a time is an intense commitment, it is hard on you, on your family and also on your extended network, after all you need childcare, back up childcare and back up for your back up.
I have to mainly thank my mother, my husband and my dear friend Abbie Hope
Doulaing With Young Children Was Tough
When I began doulaing I had a 10 month old, a 3 year old and a pretty high needs 5 year old. It was tough – really, really tough – so many times I held my head in my hands and wondered – is it worth it – because believe me doulaing is not something I do for money.
But yes it is – being there watching a mother be born (or reborn) with each birth is such an absolute privilege and honour. To be with couples and single parents at the most intimate moments of their lives – I wish I had the skills to capture the tenderness, the love, the strength I see at every birth and present them to the families as a gift.
I can take some incredible photographs – but the work of photographers like Jo at Lillian Craze Photography literally takes my breathe away at times.
Doulaing with 2 Young Children and a Home Edder
Nowadays is a walk in the park – at 5, 7 and 9, for a day I can throw food at them, take the 2 schooled children across the road to school, ask Abbie to pick them up and rely on their dad to give them tea, pull my 9 year old into my room and watch TV for the day – it is once a month and it doesn’t hurt them.
But for this I have my mother – 3 nights in the run up to Christmas she has had them, staying here – so that if I am called I can go. And she does this despite not understanding “YOU AND YOUR WAYS” because she knows this makes me happy – supporting women runs through my blood.
I Have Had Many Messages This Year
These messages tell me being a doula is what I am meant to do – the first one came, just after I had made the decision to take a few months out, from a former client, she needed to transfer in and I immeadiately offered to go in and meet her, so her husband could stay with their other children.
She needed a lot of intervention and given that hospitals are her worst nightmare was struggling with this.
She asked me to do what I did to pray – so through various moments and procedures I sang – well chanted – to her, gently in her ear, just privately, intimate, shared moments for the 2 of us, with her baby in theatre, right besides her, still close.
Being A Doula is Not All About Birth Though
It is also, for me, about holding someones hand through a miscarriage, be that in person or figuratively, online – holding a woman who has had a baby pass at birth, through the loud sobs, or the long, silent tears, witnessing moments of incredible trauma, or amazing strength, often both at the same time, of watching families wrestle with making life changing decisions and finding the courage to do so.
It is also for me about supporting women through termination – something many women think wont happen to them – until it does.
Other areas I can be involved in include IVF and surrogacy support.
Breast Feeding Support
I am not a qualified breast feeding anything, I have done a peer supporter course – but I have fed for nearly 10 years continuously – my eldest was breast fed for 6 weeks, the younger 3, naturally term weaned, feeding through pregnancies and returns to work.
Do I support formula feeding women – of couse – I support womens informed choice in all things, birth and breast feeding are massive feminist issues. But – and it is a huge but – many women are correct in their assumptions they CANNOT FEED – usually that is down to lack of proper support, societal norms and cultural expectations. Not their bodies, it happens but it is rare.
I have supported probably well into the high hundreds now, online or in person, I may not be the best person at getting a baby to latch – but I am a wealth of knowledge and signposting and I know I make a difference to the journey of many familes.
I would like to ask – where are our NHS International Board Lactation Consultants in Wales, in what other vital area of health are specialists in their field not recognised and employed – this to me is at the root of paying lip service to breast feeding while not really properly supporting it.
Post Natal Support
In terms of post natal support, I do this in person and online, all too often it is supporting families through birth trauma. This HAS TO CHANGE.
The amount of PND, PTSD and Trauma I hear about, in the increasingly medicalised version of birth is not OK, at what point do we stop and say what we are putting women though – chasing the impossible, zero still birth rate – this cost is just too high.
I know there are many who will disagree with me – many who think even one life saved is worth this suffering, and I am sure the families of babies who have passed would be top of that list.
I also provide practical hands on support, with whatever you need (except ironing, I hate ironing!).
Home Birth, Hospital Birth, Freebirth, Vaginal and Caesarean Section.
This year I have been at them all – they are all amazing – hospital birth especially requires a unique strength, an ability to have to trust your own body in the face of scary words, statistics that are rarely produced and a lack of evidence for a lot of procedures.
As a Doula at hospital birth it is a very fine path to tread – we are not medical professionals (or want to be ones either) and often we are supporting our clients to challenge hospital policy – this is not because we are awkward but because we have had time to get to know our clients wishes and these are not always in alignment with hospital policy. However hospital policy does not trump our clients legal rights.
Birth is a 24/7 event – and so support for parents to be together and parents to stay with their babies is also a 24/7 event. Sometimes it seems that when parents have had the most traumatic time – they are expected to be able to manage without the support they need, hospital staff are amazing, but they are busy, they change shifts and they cannot replace the loving, continuous, 121 care of a family member or a doula.
I had the honour of attending a birth with an incredible midwife who welcomed me as a doula and supported the family, without rigidly sticking to rules and I would like to thank her – I feel touched to have shared the birth space with her.
My Doula Colleagues
They have the answers to everything - some of them I know in person, some of them I have supported, others I have cried on or laughed with, in person or down the phone to - they help me to be a better doula and are a wealth of knowledge enabling me to better support my clients - thank you to them. I love being a member of Doula UK and I am so glad I joined.
Thank You – From The Whole of My Heart
Being with you at this most magical time, holding your hands, tying back your hair, holding you, photographing you, being hands off and just holding space. Helping you online, in person or with a story or a post – these things mean the world to me.
It is usually the look on a womans face I see as she births, as I am there ultimately for her – its a timeless moment, as the years drop from her, her vulnerablility shines through, a liminal moment in time between times, to be there is a previous gift and something I hold within me and treasure.
There are exciting things afoot for 2018 and I look forward to every one of them, I will be running ante natal courses with a difference and 121 sessions in the New Year.
Merry Christmas, Happy Mid Winter and a wonderful 2018 to you all.
Samantha Gadsden is an experienced Doula based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and website, Caerphilly Doula.