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

 

Coaching: for birth workers, by a birth worker.

Coaching: for birth workers, by a birth worker.

Coaching, counselling, witnessing, and healing for birth workers; by a birth worker.

We wear our hearts on our sleeves in this work. We give a lot. We love a lot. We receive a lot – and some of what we receive and carry is heavy. It stays with us. It is in these moments that we need support. Some first aid for your hearts and for our emotional selves. We need to offload. We need to be held. We need a shoulder to lean on as we reemerge to begin again, to support the next labouring goddess, to bear witness at the portal of life.

 

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This offering has birthed itself; birth keepers in my community found me organically – knowing that alongside my birth work I continue to offer coaching.

I have chosen to specialise in supporting clients who have experienced trauma. And perhaps it is for that reason that birth workers reached out, because sometimes we too are traumatised – secondary trauma is real.

Perhaps what you would prefer is coaching to support you as a self standing business owner? Perhaps actually what you need is someone to brainstorm and mind map with; someone standing on the sidelines helping you stay on track with your business growth and objectives; someone to doula you as you birth your business? I’m your woman for that too!

Here are a couple of testimonials clients shared after we had worked together. Please make contact directly to find out more. +31 (0)648688308 or hello@ilenajoannestandring.com

“I perceive Ilena as highly intuitive and extremely fast in understanding me and my needs. She is so profound in her observations, that she can express my thoughts and feelings sometimes even before I am aware of them; a skill which is highly useful as a coach… She notices every detail and is able to calm down the energy and atmosphere instantly; something which is important and useful as a coach… I am grateful I have the privilege to work with her.”


“I feel so relieved to have been so honest with you – I obviously wasn’t willing to share how it all was for me until now and I am truly grateful to you for hearing and seeing me.

I cannot tell you how light I feel for having spoken it out!
I didn’t realise it was still there (annoying) so of course I am glad to have been able to give it space, and I am just so so glad that it’s now been shifted and you were so wonderful and able to hear it. I really already knew that whatever happens with me is “ok” – but I don’t think I have allowed that feeling and space and committment to myself until now so thank you for allowing me to access that.
Such a relief to be broken open! All my love and gratitude.”

3 Things….

3 Things….

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Two days ago I downloaded the series of podcasts from one of my top five most inspiring sheroes/heroines Elizabeth Gilbert who I was so privileged and inspired to meet in November 2013 at High Tea at the De Hortus Botanicus here in Amsterdam as a celebration and promotion of the release of her then latest book The Signature of All Things.(It’s a really wonderful read btw!!!)

Last night I started to listen to them, this morning I was aching to hear the rest, so the Teletubbies were put on the iPad for the little person and I indulged. Creativity explosions! Ideas galore! Gratitude beating through my body! Thankful faithful heart.

The two quotes in the Instagram picture which literally made me catch my breath when I heard them came from Episode 4 of Magic Lessons where Liz speaks to Rob Bell, had to be written on my fridge immediately. I recently discovered (thanks to my tenants who were living here for the first half of this year) that you can write on my cupboard surfaces with dry wipe marker – anyone who knows about my sheer love of both stationary and playing teacher(!) will atest to the fact that this is wonderful news.

Later this morning as I was walking The Pig and was still reverberating with the thankfulness, creativity and gratitude I decided to share one of my daily practices with you.

My “3 Things”

  • 3 things I am grateful for today.
  • 3 things I am hoping for today.
  • 3 things I am trusting today
  • 3 things I am releasing today

So here is today’s list – even though it’s a little earlier than I usually put them together:

Today I am grateful for:

  • My friend Liz and all that she is; her work, her generosity, her spirit and her laugh!
  • The incredible late summer weather that Amsterdam is bathed in
  • Amsterdam Oosterpark – where The Boy, The Pig and I walk every day and enjoy the daily changes where we really notice “It is a new universe every second!”

Three things I hope for today:

  • That the forecast is right and that we can enjoy this late summer bliss for three whole days
  • That my client is enjoying being 9 days postpartum and that breastfeeding is establishing well
  • That my next client is ready to contact me and move forward with our work together

Three things that I trust today:

  • That I will be divinely guided to take the next perfect step toward helping my clients to find me
  • That the universe in all it’s glorious abundance is taking care of my finances
  • That I will start “The Book” when the time is right

Three things I release today:

  • The need for perceived originality in my writing  – surely if I write from my heart and soul voice then that in itself is unique?!
  • Worry – it takes so much energy and focus away from the areas I wish to direct my energy and focus like The Boy, The Pig, my desires and my dreams.
  • Guilt about the iPad and Teletubbies: listen to Magic Lessons Podcast episode number 1 for the justification

Disclaimer:

A) as much as I say “daily practice” I confess it doesnt happen every. single. day.

B) sometimes the same thing will take up space on the list for days/weeks at a time

C) sometimes I don’t manage 3 – but I still write 1 or 2

“So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door…..”

“So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door…..”

In the park there is a constant ebb and flow of people. People exercising. People circulating energies through the serene movement of Tai Chi – every morning at 10am in front of the bandstand should you wish to join. People cutting through. People detouring in order to exhange a street for a winding path flagged with luscious green grass beside the lake. People walking their dogs. People drinking. People playing. People being people.

Late this afternoon I was walking Winston. I was falling into the gentle mindful experience which I try to be present in each time we walk in the park. Part of this means I am aware of the people around me, but at the same time need to remain unattatched to what they’re doing around me. This is intrinsic to my growing and deepening mindfulness practice.

I noticed the air. It was cold but not bitter. It was not moist but it couldnt be described as damp. I felt thankful for my sheepskin gloves. The wind was insistent. The wind was neither aiding nor abetting my movement. The blustery rhythm however was not regular enough to excite a breathlessness within me – which happens with the right kind of wind. The sun was starting to say a slow Wintery goodbye. I felt grateful to have enjoyed the sunshine today – not commonplace for February in The Netherlands. The ground was hard beneath my feet. I noticed within my body the release of endorphins starting to mobilise. I noticed the half smile on my face.

I heard a voice behind my right shoulder and turned to face the man who had spoken.

It was a man of around 60, riding his bike, wearing a baseball cap which was frayed around the rim. His dark chocolate brown hair was greying but his smile was bright.

“Strong sturdy dog isn’t it, a bulldog? It’s back and behind is so strong, and round and perfect.”

Hoping that he wasn’t in fact talking about my behind in a vaguely disguised dog remark, I replied warmly that I loved Winston’s behind – and that Winston was a great dog. He proceeded to explain that he had a Jack Russell, and that he thought of her when he saw Winston’s behind because her back and behind were a little fragile. I said the appropriate dog owner to dog owner “Awwwwwww cute, shame about the fragility” and started to continue moving. He fell into my rhythm but on his bike, and went on to explain that she was his companion, that there was only him and her at home now – his wife had died just over a year ago.

He wakes up in the morning and rolls over and says “Good Morning” and he swears that she answers back – in her own doggy way. They have a routine together now. They wake up in the morning – he says “Good Morning” and she replies – then he lets her out into the garden so she can do her business. He cleans it up and then they can go back to bed for an hour or so.

He explains that his wife died of a brain tumour, and that before that she had been prone to lung infections. She had loved animals but because of her fragile health they had resorted to keeping a pair of canaries rather than any other animal. He laughs loudly and says “Imagine the chaos – two canaries flying around! We couldn’t keep them in a cage.” His laugh rings out and he smiles with a distant look in his eye and says “You know, she knew she was going to die. It was about eight months before she did that she started to insist that we got a dog, despite her ill health. So we got the Jack Russell…..I think she wanted to know that when she left, the dog would still be there. So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door as I came home from work. And she is there. She’s there waiting for me behind the door.”

He refocused on me, and we shared a blurry moment. I can’t speak for him but I noticed my heart was full of love, and worried that it may brim over through the tear ducts in my eyes.

I rubbed his arm and said something simple about the beauty of the companionship of dogs. Then we smoothed over the raw emotion by sharing a moment passionately enthusing over the efficacy of sheepskin gloves in keeping your hands warmer than any other glove, and for the second time in the space of twenty minutes I felt thankful for my sheepskin gloves.

And we parted.

As I walked away I marvelled again at the way love never dies. How it lives on in our minds, in our dogs, in our sheepskin glove warmed hands, in our shared windy moments in the park, in our hearts, in our souls.

I hope that his beautiful wife rests peacefully, and looks in every now and again on Ricardo and his Jack Russell with her fragile back and behind.

The Tribe Contagion

The Tribe Contagion

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn

As a coach and self transformation enthusiast, I have heard and read a lot about the people you surround yourself with; your “tribe”. I fought this for a long time, plaguing myself with ideas about obligation, loyalty, duty; “Yeah but who else does he have to talk to about his relationship catastrophes”, “She’s just going through a difficult period – its only been a decade of difficulty – she’ll turn a corner soon”; blah blah blah. I thought my tribe were mostly positive, inspired, ambitious and interesting people, so it didn’t matter that some were a little less so. Then I stumbled across this quote and the mathematical logic of it really struck a chord. I realised the “some” were indeed affecting my average.

Over three years ago I consciously started engaging with my existence; I began my mindfulness practice. This involves being present in the here and now moment; allowing full feeling of physical sensations, emotional experiences, mind generated thinking, heart centred thinking; truly being. Being mindful starts with the self, one’s own mind, one’s own thoughts. However not being a hermit (though there are solitary shell days which I enjoy very much) and thriving on contact and connection with people, very quickly my practice began to take in the physical, emotional, and spiritual reactions to others. In the broadest sense of mindfulness when I say “others” I mean other objects, other people, other animals, other experiences, other behaviours, other communication, other physicality, other anything. The noticing of ‘the other’ is inevitable as part of a mindfulness practice – because the mind persists in it’s separation of self before succumbing to peace, acceptance and oneness. In the context of this post I mean other people.

So in noticing my multi faceted reactions to the people in my life, and the people I encountered in life, naturally an inventory of states began to take form. Very quickly it started to become clear to me with whom I was feeling most at peace, most at ease, most courageous, most inspired, most able to be vulnerable, and crucially for me; where I was mostly hooting with laughter.

Naturally then, without confrontation, and always blessed with love and gratitude, some relationships just started to fall away. This didn’t happen entirely without action on my part, reducing my facebook friends by 350 people was a significant action. Another action, which was perhaps even more significant, was learning to flex my “no” muscle. I am still actively training this muscle, and have learnt a lot about communication in doing so; expect a post on the “no” muscle.

Another action was reestablishing boundaries in the relationships which still had a chance of evolving into a vessel to serve us both, sometimes those boundaries worked for us both and we have grown closer together, sometimes they didn’t work and so we have taken seperate paths. I noticed the liberty of letting these relationships fall away. I noticed the loving gift of an honest no. I noticed the expansion of internal space and possibility. I noticed the heady excitement of random meetings with new people now there was more space in my being, in my heart.

In letting people fall away we are allowing a WIN WIN WIN WIN scenario.

WIN 1: you spend time with people who invigorate you

WIN 2: they spend more time with people who want to spend time with them

WIN 3: you create space for new people to enter your life

WIN 4: those new people get to be invigorated by you!

And one last point to honour the wise Jim Rohn; your average becomes exceptional. Outstanding even!