Meet Anne, NI's 'Mother Doula'
After attending the NI Positive Birth Conference last year, at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast, I was
educated on many aspects and support systems for birth, which began my interest and own personal research into positive birthing. There was a stand for ‘Doula UK’ and I decided to enquire about the role and what it would entail – something that I plan on looking further into, in the near future.
I have attended a birth, in which the client had her best friend along (she was very much a ‘Doula’ at her birth and her support was most definitely invaluable for the client before, during and after birth.
Many families, and birth professionals, come across the term ‘Doula’ but they don’t actually
know what it is.
So, what is a doula?
Doula :: provides continuous support for the whole family through pregnancy, birth and the early days of parenthood...[and are] there to listen, give confidence and not judge. [They are] experienced women who have completed some basic training [and] do not offer clinical skills and are not medically trained. A Doula is also known as 'the woman's servant' and is there to mother the mother.
So, I reached out to one local Doula Anne Glover, based in Lisburn, and asked if I could meet for a cuppa and learn more about what she offers and how she supports mummies throughout Northern Ireland.
Anne, owner of ‘Mother Doula’ and a registered doula with Doula UK, has been working with 60 families during the past four years now as Birth Doula and a Postnatal Doula. She has a multitude of experience when it comes to children, as she has 3 of her own plus being a childminder and leader of Mother and Toddler groups had a weighing factor on her decision as well. She is also a family support volunteer with TinyLife supporting families with multiples. Anne has attended various births, including home and hospital vaginal, caesarean, VBAC, epidural births, not to mention water and lotus births – what sticks out for me though is that Anne supports families who unfortunately have suffered loss and has attended stillbirths and supported those families through the heartache of losing a child. This is most definitely an invaluable service that she offers for her clients, and one that can never be forgotten.
What are your views on supporting all births?
Because there are various Doula organisations that many are part of (some even go out on their own), their principles and beliefs are generally quite similar. For Anne, Doula UK’s philosophy “being not doing” is what she follows, believes in and uses to support the mummies and families that hire her for any and all births. She is there to support, listen and respond to mummy’s needs. She isn’t there to medically intervene or provide medical advice, however Anne will provide guidance and resources so that mummy is well-educated on her choices and her rights to birth. To find out more about Doula UK’s Philosophy, read more here.
Who are your biggest influences in the ‘positive birthing industry’?
Anne’s ‘go-to’ book, every time, is ‘Why Doulas Matter’ by Maddie McMahon – a fantastic resource and discussion of how doulas can provide invaluable support and information for before, during and after birth. “Also, information on Hypnobirthing – it blows my mind”, Anne adds. She also offers book loans to her clients, of authors ranging from Ina May Gaskin, Dr Sara Wickham and Milli Hill, to Sara Ockwell-Smith, AIMS publications, and the Pinter and Martin “Why … Matters” books – the list is endless. Anne is so thorough with her clients, and in her work, allowing them to find out everything they should know, their rights as a mother-to-be and how to have the best, possible and positive birthing experience they can have. Other resources and influences that she encourages her clients to explore are the NICE guidelines and Cochrane reviews, as well as positivebirth, tellmeagoodbirthstory, bellybelly, evidencebasedbirth, birthwithoutfear, birthrights. Another great resource for dads is Birthing4Blokes - everything you need to know for when your partner is pregnant!
Walk me through your role as a doula…
“My role as a doula before birth is to support mum to consider her birthing options and
preferences, preparing for labour, comfort measures, the Fourth Trimester, feeding baby and
nourishing herself. We take time to look at the evidence-based research, contact relevant support groups, sign-post if appropriate and I often support mum by attending some hospital appointments. So I take time to get to know the family as we prepare for their birth of their baby. My role during the birth is supportive, physically and emotionally, holding space for mum as she births her baby. The support can vary widely from birth to birth, but this is something we would have discussed beforehand, as it is very indivualised. Sometimes I’m very hands-on, giving massage and rubbing mummy’s body, hip squeezes or using the rebozo for comfort and ease, all the while daddy is holding mum, giving her love and reassurance. Other times I simply try and keep the environment dark and quiet, offering sips of water while mum and dad are content to get on with birthing their baby. As I’m a HypnoBirthing doula, I use various techniques during labour to provide comfort and confidence to the birthing family. Basically I see myself as a comfort measure to be used as mummy wishes. After a birth I tend to hang around for a few hours to encourage the golden hour and offer support with feeding, ensuring mum is feeling OK. As a postnatal doula I visit the family often, depending on what support they want. I have to remain flexible as the plan can often change! Sometimes mummy just wants me to hold her baby while she has a shower or something to eat, support with feeding her baby, or as a postnatal doula I can help with older children and light household chores while mum and baby get to know each other in the early days. Again I’m supporting the family physically and emotionally as they get to know their precious wee bundle.”
What do you find are your birth clients’ biggest stumbling blocks? How have you helped them overcome them?
“The biggest stumbling blocks [of birth are] often fear. We chat through the issues, look at what’s available to help, encourage some research so mum can make informed decisions and feel empowered. Another big stumbling block is disappointment or guilt so again we address the concerns, talk them through and as a doula, I don’t give advice but remain impartial and non-judgemental.”
So, in my opinion, not just as a Birth Photographer but as a woman, are Doulas worth hiring?
Absolutely. I have witnessed first-hand how beneficial and priceless a Doula can be at the forth birth I photographed, and from chatting with one of Northern Ireland’s most-talked-about Doula within the positive birthing community, I can only highly recommend Anne for her dedication, her determination and passion to help local mummies have the best birthing experience that they can have. To have a ‘support system’ for birth and postpartum, I can only imagine how many mummies love those last few months of being a pregnant goddess, and to treasure these precious first moments as a mother when a Doula is involved in their birth story.
I have, also, found this article very helpful in understanding that a Doula does, but your own personal Doula will tell you exactly how she can help you by trying different techniques birth and seeing what works for you.
You can read more about why you should have a doula, but I hope this interview with Anne has enlightened and opened your mind as to how invaluable a Doula can be. The latest research on the benefits of having a doula can be found at https://doula.org.uk/research/