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  • Writer's picturehayleydunn

Doula Manifesto

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

I began researching doula courses during the birth of my best friend's first baby. I accidently supported her through her exceptionally long labour. Although I wasn't entirely sure what to do or say, I drew on my own experiences of labour and child birth as I reassured and comforted her. I instinctively provided the emotional support that is so often overlooked in our maternity services. I knew at this point I wanted to know more about how to support women effectively. I chose the Developing Doulas course based in Cambridge because I was drawn to Maddie McMahon’s warmth and pragmatism. Maddie's approach to doulaing inspired my own, combining natural intuition about what people need, with in-depth knowledge of the physiology and endocrinology of birth and the weeks and months following birth. She emphasized importance of 'mothering the mother' in facilitating physiological birth, initiating breastfeeding and tapping into parental instincts.

I feel my background in biological sciences has given me a deeper understanding of birth. Birth involves a set of hormonal processes that need to be facilitated, rather than medical problems that need to be fixed. Of course, biological systems can sicken, and then medical assistance is required. In these case, I make sure that parents are fully aware of their options for medical care and sensitively supported throughout. Biologically informed emotional support is of equal importance when it comes to nurturing babies. I remember my own struggles with breastfeeding. When I was all but ready to give up, it was the kind, gentle, consistent guidance of a particular nurse that made all the difference. Because of this wonderful woman, I went on to feed my boy for 2 years.

Through becoming a mother myself and listening to the stories of many new parents I have gained insight into what it is that parents need at this most significant time in their lives. I also work with mothers who have had traumatic birthing or breastfeeding experiences. Listening to their heart-breaking stories of neglect, dismissive or even abusive treatment by their caregivers at the most vulnerable time in their lives, informs the way I support all parents. One of the most important aspects to this work is listening. Parents need to have their concerns to be taken seriously, and they must be supported to met their own needs too. An exhausted, anxious mum is not best equipped to nurture her baby! No-one can fill from an empty cup.

Becoming a parent is so much more than bringing a baby into the world. Its a transformative process, intense, magical, overwhelming and unimaginable. With this in mind, I empower women to understand their bodies. I encourage partners to be advocates, and to find their role as primary supporter during and after the birth. I give parents the information and confidence they need to ask questions of their care providers, and to make decisions based on their individual set of circumstances. I believe knowledge is power, preparation is vital, and individualised compassionate care can make all the difference to parents lasting sense of wellbeing.

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