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

 

I wish I had…

I wish I had…

I wish I’d been more prepared…

I wish I had read more about what to expect…

I wish I’d known that I could say no…

I wish I had known that I could question their decisions…

I wish I’d made a birth plan…

I wish I’d asked them to follow the birth plan…

I wish I had known I didn’t have to lie on the bed…

I wish I’d learnt how to breathe…

I wish I had waited before agreeing to induction…

I wish I’d known about the other choices…

I wish I had known I didn’t have to have constant monitoring…

I wish I’d been more assertive…

I wish I had been given a clearer picture of the consequences…

I wish I had really understood what a doula does…

I wish I’d had a doula!

I hear so many different mothers and fathers saying these things or variation on these themes.

Even long before I became a coach and doula, people have told me their stories and secrets. I often joke that I have a sign on my forehead that says “Tell me the things you would normally never tell a stranger”. I love hearing these details, despite them often being difficult or painful to hear. I believe passionately in people telling their stories, owning their stories, giving their stories space and time to heal, to evolve and to transform. Ultimately it is these eclectic stories I’ve heard that led me to become a coach.

It is a strange thing now as a doula though (perhaps it’s also that I’m a mother) that I catch myself so often wishing that I could have met them sooner, told them about the myriad of wonderful birth workers in Amsterdam that they could choose from – that their regrets over how their birth unfolded or how their trauma occured could somehow have been less painful, less rueful. It’s a nonsensical line of thinking though of course – because these experiences of birth; be they ecstatic, traumatic, blissful or agonising – have the power to reshape our lives and experiences and propel us into a new direction or simply propel us forward to begin to question the paradigms we had previously accepted without a second thought. And that is beautiful.

I’ve been privileged to have supported many second time mothers and fathers, and after having experienced a very different type of birth the second time round they say things laughing like “I wish every family could have a doula” or “I wish we had had a doula the first time” or “I wish every family could have the chance to prepare like we did this time around”

I previously wrote an article on “what a doula does” which goes into a little more comparative detail about what a doula can support you with compared to other people in the birth team, but I didn’t speak of how doulas can offer so many different support options and how affordable a doula can be.

Obviously I can’t speak for all other birth workers but I can speak for what I am able to offer aside from my doula support packages as stated here:

  • Birth Planning Session: 2 hours discussing birth, labour, post partum and induction/interventions in detail. I leave you with a few birth planning templates and review the document with you a week or two later over the phone/email. 175 per couple.
  • Best Birth Support Companion Ever: 2.5 hours teaching your birth partner “how to doula you” 175 per couple.
  • Birth Story/ Birth Trauma Healing: 2 hours speaking, counselling and coaching through your previous birth experience and ending with body or energy work to finish the session. 150

And two last points:

  • It is never too late to hire a doula! Don’t be the one that says “I wish I’d gone for it and hired a doula”! I offer a last minute package (if I have availability) which is priced at €695 for one two hour prenatal appointment, being on call for you 24/7 from the moment of hiring, and one post natal appointment. I am even open to you keeping my phone number in your phone and if you end up in hospital thinking “right about now I would appreciate having someone here to support us” then try me – whatever the hour!
  • To put the cost of full doula support into context, the Principal Doula Package will cost you less than 20 per week of pregnancy…doesnt it seem much more affordable when put like that?! Please see the testimonials page for more insight into how others have valued my services.

And the very last point(!) – my teachers Jennifer, Jacky and Joyce at JJ Doula Training have details of many student doulas who have completed the education with them but who are looking for experience – and a student doula support will cost between 200 – 350 in Amsterdam (level and experience dependent) for two or three prenatal appointments, birth support and post natal support. I’m happy to facilitate contact or you can reach out to them directly.

What would I gain from having a doula in my birth team???

What would I gain from having a doula in my birth team???

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As a coach and a doula I do a lot of networking online. I was very grateful yesterday to receive this very honest and curious question from an expectant third time mother:

{Q} “As I have only really heard of Doulas on USA TV shows, can I ask what… (sorry I’m trying to word this as my intention is far from to offend you but to learn if this for me)..would I get from you that i wouldn’t get from my midwife, husband, my mum and friends? I’m trying to work out if this service is going to give me anything extra than I’m already lucky enough to have? Thanks x”

{A} “Your midwife’s two priorities are the physical health of your body and the physical health of your baby; my priority is empowering you to make the best choices for your emotional, psychological and spiritual health, and then supporting you and those choices to optimise your enjoyment and empowerment through your birthing experience. A doula supports those aspects of your husband’s/wife’s/boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s health and enjoyment, and if relevant your other children or other birthing partner. In other words your midwife will focus mainly on your cervix, vagina and baby’s health, I’ll focus on making sure you are feeling positive, peaceful, comfortable and powerful as the latter stages of pregnancy, labour and the post partum period unfold.

Your husband/boyfriend as a male (or your wife/girlfriend/friend as a non labouring female) has the potential to be both having their own profound experience as well as being or feeling a little lost in the experience. He can read a lot of books to prepare him, he can empathise as much as his imagination allows him to, he may feel scared, exasperated, helpless, overwhelmed, overjoyed, traumatised, frustrated, squeamish or traumatised at any given moment during labour, birth and immediate post partum.

Michel Odent has infamously asked three confronting questions of fathers being present at a birth:

First question: Does the participation of the father aid or hinder the birth?

Second question: Can the participation of the father at birth influence the sexual life of the couple afterward?

Third question: Can all men cope with the strong emotional reactions they may have while participating in the birth?

For the answers and full exploration of this topic read the full article here: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/fatherpart.asp

A doula can support your partner in their experience of labour, both practically (ie popping the kettle on, making cups of tea, topping the birth pool up, making the placenta smoothie after birth, taking photos with you all in frame, letting him go to the bathroom and take a break for a moment), emotionally (a hand squeeze, a hug, a shared look, a hand on the shoulder, a safe word if he’s squeamish) , and all in the name of helping him to support you best. I love this article, and this quote from it “Our doula really helped bring me together with my wife as she gave birth. My wife remembers my constant support and never failing love or knowledge. She remembers the doula as a nice person who did some stuff in the background. We won’t give birth without a doula.”

Your Mum is your Mum. You were connected at one stage by an umbilical cord, or by adoption papers; either of those things carry a lot of emotional baggage – in a good way most of the time, but sometimes some women find that emotional baggage doesn’t actually keep them in the best place for them to experience their own power during labour….some women need their mothers and can’t imagine labouring or birthing without their mothers in the room. If your mother is there; then a doula can support your mum in supporting you in the best possible way; taking away the things that might take her away from the – the practical and emotional things above. Or, if your mum is not there, then a doula can mother you; take care of your every need in a nurturing way – but without the same weighted emotional ties. And she would probably offer to text your mum to keep her informed of the process so that you are kept away from the bright light of the mobile screen which isn’t so conducive to the labouring mind.

Your friends are family you choose, you mention them so I’m assuming you are close and that’s wonderful that you know they are there to rally around and be supportive. The thing is with friends that we often have a certain point with friends where we stop just before we ask them ‘one more thing’ – because we think “Oh but they’ve already done so much” or “ Oh god should I share that info or is that just TMI” or “ I know she’s having a really tough time with her husband right now – I can’t have a pregnant moan about the fact that I sent my Tim out for hazelnut icecream and he bloody came back with macadamia nut brittle instead” etc. A doula is there to listen to the TMI stuff, to go that extra mile and make up an extra batch of xyz as needed, to realise the difference between a hazelnut and a macadamia and to not think you’re a pregnant or labouring diva but to just get to know you and do those extra little things in just the right way for you….so your friends can come round, have a cuppa, have a two way moan because you know you’ll save that extra moan with your doula so you have space for their stuff too.

Other things a doula does above and beyond the team you mention:
– She helps you inform and empower yourself about birth so you can plot out your birth preferences not based on what the hospital protocols/home birth team/birth centre normally “allow” but upon what will work for you and your family, what will make you feel safest and what will hopefully mean a positive, peaceful and empowering birthing experience as opposed to birthing a healthy baby at any cost.
– Unwavering, non-judgemental and non-phased birth support at any birth you choose or need to undergo. In a Pennine stream, in a hospital theatre, in a birthing pool in your living room, the local birth centre or on your kitchen floor: a doula will be there calm and unwavering, with a hug, a smile and an eye to eye look reminding you of your power and strength when you need it most – whatever the setting whatever the situation.
– She holds the space around labour, birth and the golden hour post partum. What does that mean? It means helping you to keep your surroundings during the last weeks of pregnancy as calm, safe and peaceful as possible, and during labour means protecting that space and reminding those who may come in and out of it to respect it, promoting oxytocin amongst everyone who comes in and out; and that oxytocin will help you and your body to remain saturated in it (Oxytocin is one of the main hormones in the birth hormone cocktail)
– She records your birth story for you; the time you really got into the zone, the funny thing you said whilst eating a sandwich, the time the midwife arrived, the time your waters broke, the time the delivery kit was mobilised, the moment baby crowned, the moment baby was fully earthside…and if you’re lucky she will be able to take a few photos too!
– She can offer alternative pain relief methods such as massage, acupressure, rebozo, aromatherapy.
On top of all that I would say that I personally can offer:
– Years of counselling and coaching experience to support in listening, overcoming and setting intentions and goals around pregnancy, labour, post partum and breast feeding
– Reiki and polarity massage before, during and after birth
– Alternative support in helping you with Optimal Foetal positioning )including Moxa for breech presentation
– Massage, acupressure, rebozo sifting and aromatherapy as above
– Birth photography
– Currently offering preparation of placenta smoothies and portioned placenta for the freezer, plans to offer placenta encapsulation in the not so distant future
– Excellent tea making skills; and a penchant for choosing the right herbs to support good health throughout”

I received this reply following my answer:

“Wow thank you for this information, I’ve read, reread and read again for good measure ( it’s peaceful here at 5.30am lol) I think your work of empowering the person going through the labour and pregnancy and her partner is such an incredibly amazing thing and understand how and why many many couples would need and want you by their side especially for a first birth or after a previously traumatic experience. Having laid here digesting your words and reflecting on my previous birth experience ( emm c-section, sick mummy, very cardiac sick baby and then natural, long but brilliant personal birth with my hub by my side then straight home to breath in our own space) I feel my husband and I are all we need to create an environment in which to bring our third child into our family. I do feel for my second child my husband ( his first) would have really gained so much from you bring there from what you’ve said above. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve sent your comment above to two friends who are both due to give birth in August ( one first time parents and the other a mum who’s going to be a mum and a dad soon) who I think will both be very interested in your support.”

What would you add to the list of benefits of having a doula beyond the great statistics that are out there?

Did you have a doula?

Did you not have a doula but wish you had? Why?

Did the experience live up to your expectation?

What would you tell someone who was thinking about having a doula to support them and their family?

A quote I love which is a good one to end on (and also features on my business cards) is this one from John H Kennell MD:

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it”

(So impressive are the positive birthing outcomes for mothers supported by doulas)

Still need convincing?!
Here are some other articles on why you might like to hire a doula:

http://expectingthebestbirth.com/50-reasons-to-hire-a-doula

http://taprootdoula.com/2015/03/23/stop-worrying-and-hire-a-doula/

http://www.bellybelly.com.au/pregnancy/doulas-what-is-a-doula/