By Sophie Burns
Sophie has received permission from her clients to share their details in this article.
In February last year I got my first booking from a birth client. This was what I had been waiting for and I was so excited. Coronavirus was being talked about in the media, and on my birthday I went out for lunch with two friends, one of whom had just got back from Singapore. “Buy loo roll” she said. The other friend and I laughed…
Only 3 weeks later we were in lockdown and people were stockpiling loo roll! The start of lockdown was grim as my cat was run over and I was furloughed from both my part time jobs. I signed up for every bit of free CPD, did the Nurturing Birth webinars and bought the online modules from the Expansive Course to keep me focused1. I also had an ever growing stack of doula books waiting to be enjoyed.
The weeks went on with no enquires, but there were plenty of things to be positive about. The Virtual Cuppa was, and still is, a lovely way to connect with doulas that you might not meet in person2. We’ve shared challenges, supported and celebrated each other and it’s certainly shown that virtual support can be as authentic as in-person support.
In June I had a call from a mum of a 6 month old. She was finding it hard without family around as well as not being able to meet other new mums and find her ‘village’, so she was seeking support. I could hear the sadness in her voice and went to meet them the next day. She spoke of Postnatal Depression (PND) and a thyroid condition which made her feel exhausted. So we agreed that I would work with them for two or three afternoons a week and I’m still there! The mum has made a good recovery but uses the time I am there to rest and have some time for self care. For me, it was a real bonus as I got to cuddle the baby. Even writing about it makes me feel quite emotional as that so felt amazing after almost three months of living alone in lockdown.
In July I started working with another postnatal client with a 4 week old. A traumatic birth and not having family nearby had led this mum to seek some support. She was very anxious and tired. I worked with them for a couple of days a week for four months and watched her confidence as a first time mum grow.
One of the issues that came up for me was that I didn’t want the postnatal jobs to turn into anything that resembled a nanny job. I had been a nanny for over 25 years and had decided to have a change of career. Although there have been moments when it has felt like that, I remind myself of what the sometimes subtle differences are and where my personal boundaries lie. For instance, working as a nanny meant that I was “in charge” of my working day from the parents leaving in the morning until they returned in the evening. We would have a brief handover at the beginning and end of a day and regular chats about the children. I arranged play dates, found activities and classes and booked doctor and dentist appointments as well as meal planning and food shopping. It was usually a 60 hour week and I stayed with one family for 22 years.
As a doula I am led by the mother as I am coming into their home to support them as a family, usually for a briefer time than a nanny job. Sometimes I am doing similar tasks, but other times I’m holding their space. It’s their choice.
When the restrictions lifted over the summer it felt good to be able to see the local doulas and share our experiences. It was usually done with good food….. and wine! We all started to hope that doulas would be allowed back into hospitals, but we were lucky that our local Trust had never stopped their home birth service. We raised a glass to the prospect of a baby boom!
In July I was taken off furlough for my part time job as a Marketing Manager and was immediately really busy with a new project and both the postnatal clients. I know I’m more productive when I have a fairly full schedule. And at the end of the summer I got another cat.
My first birth client and I did our birth prep sessions over the summer and at the end of September I was called out just after midnight. As I drove through the Buckinghamshire countryside I was so glad that this was a home birth, meaning that unless the situation changed during labour I would be there for the birth. The next few hours were intense and beautiful, culminating in the baby arriving in the birthing pool just before 5am. Watching her parents and three siblings fall in love with her was a privilege and as my first birth client family they will always hold a special place in my heart.
At around the same time I also got 2 more bookings for birth clients that I’m about to go on call for. In the last few weeks the client has chosen a different birth place, so I won’t be there in person once she goes into hospital. We have worked together to prepare for hospital rather than home birth. I will support them at home in early labour and then go home to sit in a calm space with a phone, FaceTime and a cup of tea. It will be a different experience. I really am looking forward to the time when doulas are welcomed back into hospitals to support women.
Sadly, one of the clients suffered a loss so I supported her through that and was thankful that I had attended Michelle Every’s Supporting Every Birth workshop. The client and I are keeping in touch and I hope for her that this year is kind to her.
From the beginning of lockdown in March last year it would have been impossible to imagine that the pandemic would last so long. And how much longer is still an unknown quantity. There have been news articles and posts in birthing groups on social media from parents who have birthed during this time and it seems that there have been increased levels of trauma and postnatal depression. My own experience of working with clients postnatally during this time showed me how isolated they felt as a direct result of not having family close by and not being able to meet other mums and babies. But, being listened to and supported by someone without judgement can make an enormous difference.
Sophie is a birth and postnatal doula in Buckinghamshire. You can find her Nurturing Birth Doula Directory listing here: https://nurturingbirthdirectory.com/doulas/united-kingdom/buckinghamshire/whitchurch/sophie-burns-2/
Find Sophie on Instagram: calmdoulabucks
Find Sophie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calmdoula
- The online modules are ongoing learning modules available to doulas who have completed their Nurturing Birth training. If you would like to know more, please contact us.
- The Virtual Cuppa is a weekly Zoom meeting for anyone who has completed, or is undertaking, Nurturing Birth doula training. This is a wonderful opportunity to get together with other Nurturing Birth doulas to seek support, connection and doula love.