By Helena Whitwell
The past year for me, has really seen a new phase of my entry into the Doula world. It has included many moments of uncertainty, self-doubt, huge excitement, and anticipation. It’s amazing to look back on my doula journey and reflect on what has happened!
I absolutely loved my Nurturing Birth doula training, which I completed in 2019. Then began the next phase, where I began to ask questions like ‘When is the right time to start doulaing?’ ‘How do I stop my current job and start doulaing?’ It all felt like a waiting game, with so many things to consider such as my income and the needs of my children.
In March 2020 (eek- doesn’t that month ring alarm bells!!) I had arranged with my employers to reduce my part-time admin job hours and make space in my week to start investing in my doula work. I began using my few extra hours a week to network, start an Instagram account, and find opportunities of local groups to attend. I was daunted, had a lot of self-doubt, and just really wasn’t sure how to get myself known out there! How on earth would I get my first client??
Then of course, that very month, the world changed, schools closed and suddenly I had two children (8 and 5) at home 24/7. This was most definitely not in the business plan!
Fortunately, I was able to maintain my part time job flexibly from home, as well as try and entertain/home school my children. But that’s a whole other story! For the purposes of this blog my dreams of being a doula went back on hold.
A few friends from my church were pregnant at the start of 2020, and I wanted to do what I could to support them in their pregnancies, help them as they prepared for their births and also encourage them to connect with God too. Before lockdown I hosted an evening for this group to chat, share anxieties, pray for each other and their babies too. They all said they found it really helpful, and wanted to do more of it.
When lockdown began, I decided to try leading them in some reflective prayer sessions over Zoom! Initially this was for a couple of friends, just before their births. I got them to prepare a comfy corner (candles, blankets, fairy lights all encouraged!) where they felt safe and could relax, and then led them through a guided meditation-type prayer. It included questions or ideas to talk to God about, and helping them to hand over their anxieties and worries to Him.
After receiving positive feedback, and after a really helpful Nurturing Birth mentoring session with Michelle, who encouraged me to pursue this more, I decided to begin advertising a bit wider, to friends of friends and through local churches too. The sessions are now growing and it’s wonderful to be able to help people find some peace, quiet, and space to reflect in what can be both such a hopeful and also a scary time of pregnancy.
I now have a mailing list to keep everyone updated with the dates and Zoom codes, a discount offer to buy a journal from my friend’s stationery company, as well as other information about the services I am offering. This is such a valuable way to keep in touch with my ‘attendees’, and it’s wonderful to hear their baby news and how my sessions have helped. Just yesterday I got this message on Instagram:
‘Delighted to share that my daughter was born beautifully last week. The birth was calm, empowering and wonderful. She is doing really well, as are we.’
I have also started leading Zoom ‘Pregnancy Retreat’ mornings, which involve a smaller group coming together, sharing where they are at, praying for each other, having quiet space reflecting, some worship songs and a creative journaling session. I also show some video stories of women talking about their positive birth experiences in 2020, and how they ensured their faith was very much a part of their experience.
Although Covid has had such a negative impact on maternity services (and so many other things!) I find it is also worth noting the different opportunities that have opened up, for people to access things in new and different ways. Running a retreat on Zoom is certainly not something I would have thought of pre-2020, but a major benefit is that people can attend from the comfort of their own homes, without the need for travel logistics and expense. I have even had people attend the sessions from New Zealand and South Africa!
Hosting the prayer sessions twice a month has given me an opportunity to put myself out there, introduce myself to women on their pregnancy journey, and become a potential, trusted person to support them further. I am so excited to have my first birth client booked in. I don’t think I will quite believe it, until I actually see that baby born, but I am so ready for my first ‘actual’ birth as a doula!
Although clearly my ‘niche’ is focused around my own Christian faith and those who I know in my church circles, I do hope and really believe that some of these ideas could benefit anyone (with faith or none) who is expecting a baby. The practice of *stopping* in our busy schedules, writing stuff down, thinking, reflecting and ‘letting go’ of worries and burdens is so beneficial. And in the age of mindfulness, self-care and developing healthy boundaries, I hope this is something that we as doulas can support, sign-post and encourage our clients in.
It’s amazing to see the array of online-accessible classes and meet-ups, which I am always keen to recommend to friends and clients, such as hypnobirthing, pregnancy journal sessions and much more. There is definitely something for everyone out there and we can see all these things as tools available to us and our clients. It’s amazing for women and their partners to access what they can to feel equipped, empowered and prepared not just for the birth, but for each step of their pregnancy and into parenthood too.
If anyone would like to find out more, or may like to collaborate in developing spaces or events online to benefit their clients in some way, please do get in touch with me, I would love to hear from you and see what other creative things we can explore.
Here is my Nurturing Birth Directory listing: https://nurturingbirthdirectory.com/doulas/united-kingdom/south-gloucestershire/bristol/helena-whitwell/
Follow me on Instagram: @doula_helena
Thanks for reading. I wish you all really well as we hop, skip and jump expectantly into the NEW Year!!