Call me a Chameleon!

Call me a Chameleon!

chainimage-chameleon-colorful-lizardimage credit: chainimage.com

As I mentioned in a blog post on my professional Facebook page a couple of months ago; I heard myself referred to as “The Trauma Doula”. This is not because I inflict trauma upon my clients you understand (!) but more because I have chosen to specialise in supporting women (& their partners) in unravelling traumatic experiences and their impact on the journey of pregnancy, childbirth and the post partum period. So around and about Amsterdam I speak a lot about Birth Trauma, about VBAC, about Caesarean Birth, about sexual abuse, about domestic abuse and about the ways and means we have at our finger tips to support our hearts, bodies and minds in unpicking the thread that these types of trauma can weave through our experiences of these special moments in our lives.

Anyhow, I digress! Never having really had a “nickname” because Ilena doesn’t really rhyme so easily with other words;  (someone did unsuccessfully attempt to spread “Ilena the Painer” some 22 years ago) I decided that “The Trauma Doula” was also not really one I was keen to perpetuate within the Amsterdam Birth Network or the wider network of families and parents-to-be.

So it got me thinking….what would I like to have as my nickname or “trademark”? To mention but a few fabulous doulas in Amsterdam with nicknames; the wonderful Maartje de Bruijn-Bruning from MotherMe is referred to as “The Duracell Doula” due to her unwavering high energy support, my beloved and multi-talented mentor Jennifer Walker has recently become “The Spinning Babies Doula” due to being one of seven approved Spinning Babies trainers, and the lovely Wendy van der Zijden IS “Holistic Doula”,due to her passion for all things natural and holistic, so what would I (or others) coin as a nickname for myself?

Well after waiting a few months for an answer, earlier this evening it struck me:

Am I “The Chameleon Doula”???

Now in other contexts of life, the notion of being a chameleon might not work so well: who would want a dentist come gynaecologist come antiques dealer to fill in a root canal? Who would trust a baker come plasterer come politician? What about a chemist come footballer come gardener? Maybe not….(!)

In the world of birth keeping however, I believe passionately in the value and significance of this ability to camouflage into the surroundings, and shape shift as appropriate. For me it is important that as a doula I can support you in a homebirth setting, in a hospital induction, in a water birth at a birth centre, or in a planned caesarean birth – all equally.

Now what does that actually translate into in terms of what I actually do during birth support? Let me be clear and tangible :

  • I love space clearing with sage, palo santo or incense
  • I love to offer insight into herbal teas and mineral supplements
  • I love to sit with you as you learn about the physiology and chemistry of birth
  • I love to use yoga principles to help you stretch out the body
  • I love to hear your feedback after having reviewed the lastest scientific research on Vitamin K
  • I love to sit with your midwife as you present your preferences for your care
  • I love to help you pack your birth centre bag
  • I love the curious and sometimes intense taxi ride to the hospital
  • I love to coach you through the fears and doubts that arise as you navigate those final cms in your living room
  • I love to bust out the essential oils for you as you’re hooked up to the CTG
  • I love brushing your hair and applying make up as you enjoy the relief of the epidural
  • I love to heat up your body with my warm hands as I channel the healing and rejuvenating energy of Reiki through your body
  • I love to talk you through what I can see as you lie back on the operating table ready to meet your baby
  • I love chanting with you as you prepare to bear down and push
  • I love to coach you through the mental blocks like a hockey coach as you continue to push like you never did before
  • I love to capture your incredulous awestruck face as you take in the face of your baby in person
  • …and I love everything in between! I have to shape shift pretty dramatically in one birth between all of these tasks.

My clients reflect this chameleon like appearance; I serve artists and corporate lawyers,  recruitment consultants and managing directors, performance coaches and stay at home parents….and every professional and non professional parent in between. Religious parents, atheists; trilingual expat parents, parents fluent in the local dialect; parents who prefer allopathic medicine to parents who utilise holistic medicine; etcetera. All of these individuals have sought support in pregnancy, birth and postpartum parenting….none of them can be labelled in any one way – and here their “job titles” and some “parenting choices” are just a couple of reflections of who they are or what is important to them.

Surely I have to be a chameleon then?!

I was incredibly lucky to have experienced a shape shifting or chameleon like birth story for my first child…it was like a four part story: through a home birth, an undisturbed hospital water birth, a  full working day of the full casacade of interventions, culminating in a beautiful if unexpected Caesarean birth. Being a chameleon as a professional doula in Amsterdam means that I can support you in any birth setting, through any change of plan, through any and every choice you make, and through any outcome – always unconditionally and non-judgementally.

I realised through my own personal experience the true value of having birth support who can comfortably switch birth settings, who can effortlessly adjust to the mood and atmosphere as birth unfolds and everything shifts dynamically. For me the ability to be a chameleon seems intrinsic to the nature of a birth keeper…to be a professional who can shape shift easily and effortlessly and yet hold true to the core essence of their values and beliefs.

What does the core essence of my professional pledge look like?

  • Unconditional and continuous support

  • Non-judgemental support; I have no agenda

  • An open mind, an open heart and open hands

  • Respect and reverence for the uncertainty and miracle of the journey of birth

  • Positive and empowering communication

  • No protocol or prescription for care; on the proviso that it is clear that my support is non medical by definition

Whatever my personal choices might be in my pregnancy, during the unfolding of my birth stories, and as a parent I hope they don’t influence whether or not you decide to hire me…I would like to think that I have a successful and demonstrable track record in providing support as outlined above to all families who hire me; whatever their choices.

If you would like to enquire about the flexible and interchangeable services of The Chamelon Doula (!!!) then please email me to organise an introductory meeting where we can explore what doula support could look like for your family.

hello@ilenajoannestandring.com

 

My Very First Brelfie (in honour of World Breastfeeding Week 2016)

My Very First Brelfie (in honour of World Breastfeeding Week 2016)

I’m often torn between sharing my personal stories or not – torn from a professional perspective and torn from a personal perspective. From a professional perspective as doulas we are taught that in the name of providing non judgemental and unconditional support we must be cautious when sharing personal stories so as to keep things neutral and therefore to not form ideas in our clients’ or network’s minds as to “what kind of doula” we are. As a coach I am a firm believer in authenticity: as I am all about authentic and wholehearted loving and living, in both my role as a coach and as a doula. So from that perspective personal story sharing is up there as a foundation of authenticity.

Personally I also hate that feeling when you’re trying to share your truth and someone shares or “over” shares and kind of over looks your experience; and that is the last thing I would want to do intentionally; to friends and acquaintances and of course to clients. Of course sometimes some parts of our personal histories are just that: personal. Intimate. Things we don’t necessarily want to share.

So when I saw that the UN was promoting the sharing of ‘brelfies’ to support World Breastfeeding Week 2016, after an initial reaction of positivity and gratitude once again for social media and how wonderful it can be when used as a tool to promote awareness and positivity, then I got that torn feeling about what I was going to do with it “professionally”.

Without going into the ins and outs of what has been a hectic week, I pressed pause on the whole thought process and got on with life. But today I decided it was time.

I had a moment this afternoon to filter through all my photos from 2014 (the year my son was born – there are literally thousands!!!) and find my very first brelfie. It made me cry. Now admittedly – it’s not actually a brelfie, as my beautiful little sister took it for me – but it is also coincidentally a photo of the very first time I breastfed outside the rosy newborn cocoon of love which my beautiful apartment had become since my bouncing baby boy arrived earthside.

 

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I can see on my face and my body remembers and feels all of this when I look at the photo:

pride        love        surprise        nervousness        gratitude       

the newness        the let down reflex      the nipple shield       

the sibling love

(my sister and brother had travelled to come and meet their nephew together)       

trepidation        my fuzzy new mum brain        warm fuzzy feels       

oxytocin        the weight of his newborn self        self conscious       

the props to support feeding after my caesarean birth       

my shiny sweaty skin as I was still having a huge hormonal temperature peak when I got the let down reflex

       hope        the rosy glow of new parenthood        the smell of his milk drunk  

tiredness        the sleepy high of breastfeeding        the relief of the silence as he drinks

the smell and taste of a deliciously naughty but nice sickly sweet starbucks coffee

 

Why did I decide to share in the end?

Because I am so proud of our breastfeeding journey; and because that photo is one of the first photos of our journey. For me, breastfeeding has been a rollercoaster of liking and loathing and triumph and tribulation and pride and shame.

Yes I said shame – and my most embarrassed moment in my breastfeeding journey came last week at the zoo here in Amsterdam. I continue to feed my son and for some that is confronting – we dont see toddlers breastfeeding often enough and different pockets of society have a lot to say on the topic. A woman and her friend were approaching, and one of them looked closer and realised that what could have easily been miscontrued for simply a cuddle, was in fact me breastfeeding my toddler. The first friend sniggered, and pointed out very cattily what was going on. The second woman blatantly threw a pointed look of disgust in our direction, not once, not twice, but three times in the space of the next 5 minutes. My friend sat next to me was ready to jump up and confront the woman, but I urged her not to as I was so taken aback and so upset. And yes – I felt ashamed.

So maybe it is also that experience which makes me boldly stand up and share the very first (public feeding) brelfie I have; because I look back on the whole journey and am very grateful, very proud, very happy, and because realise I am very privileged and lucky to have had the resources available to me to overcome the difficulties, to ensure that my breast milk and my own health remained the healthiest choice all this time, and to keep encouraging me through the moments when it was tempting to give up.

I would love to see your brelfies, and would love it if you would share your brelfies out and about in the virtual world to normalise the sight of breastfeeding and to support and encourage new mothers out there navigating the newness of breastfeeding or navigating the toe durling ouchy moments or navigating the sleepless torture of night time cluster feeding.

 

Disclaimer: As a doula in Amsterdam, I support you in whatever choice you make about feeding your baby. Your body, your baby: YOUR CHOICE.