By Sophie Brigstocke
When I first became a doula I joined an online doula forum (shows how long ago it was that Facebook hadn’t gained notoriety yet!) I was an excited new doula, keen to find a tribe of like-minded people, share my experiences of training and ask for support. When I introduced myself to the group I volunteered that I was meeting up with a well-known breastfeeding expert for a cup of tea. The reaction was totally unexpected. There was an outpouring of vitriol about this person, what I perceived as judgement of me and my suggestion of meeting with them and a desire on my behalf to run away and hide. I felt so bruised and fearful of getting it wrong that I didn’t post on the forum for at least six months afterwards.
Whilst it was very useful to be enlightened about this particular person and it informed me to ask a lot of deeper questions when I did eventually meet them I was left with a feeling that I wasn’t safe in that forum.
I had told myself that doulas were all lovely, caring, nurturing people who would be supportive of me and my desire to go out there and do good work. I made an assumption that the world I was entering was peopled by those unified in their desire to improve things for birthing families. What I realised was that my expectations were unrealistic and naïve. We are all humans, all perfectly imperfect and often with our own stories to process around why we are drawn to this work. It was a painful lesson to learn, but it made me seek out the people I did feel safe with and put together my network of trusted doulas who I could outreach to and dare to be vulnerable with.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Coming into the doula world there is so much that I didn’t know – so much I needed to learn and so much I needed to unlearn. My beliefs and knowledge were challenged. I was encouraged to consider my own opinions and judgments about so many things. I had to let go of my own stories, recognise the importance of them for me, but realise that hanging on to them would be of little or no benefit to the families I supported.
It is courageous stepping into doulaing. It takes vulnerability to look at our own stories. It takes humility to recognise that there are things we may have got wrong in the past, whether due to just not having the knowledge, or in how we have related to people. I honour that. I love every single person who takes that brave step to come and join us on a doula course, who is willing to do the work and prepare themselves to go out and be with people on their journey. It is amazing, rewarding and sometimes challenging work.
At Nurturing Birth we want everyone to feel supported. I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to run away so they can lick their wounds in private before daring to put their head above the parapet again. Our values are compassion and respect. Compassion means that our intention is always to create safe spaces – on our courses, in our online groups, on our workshops and in our mentoring. Respect means that we honour each person’s journey – everyone is worthy of their place in our groups and has something to bring. There is no such thing as a stupid question, even if it has been asked many times before. We want to nurture new doulas so that they gain in confidence and ability – what better reward for us when doulas go from taking tentative new steps to flying!
Very recently there were some difficult discussions on our Facebook group (the one doulas can join once they have completed their course). What blew me away was how respectful the discussion remained, despite people having different and sometimes strong feelings and opinions. More than one doula messaged me to say how amazed they were that the conversation had stayed so respectful and compassionate. I felt so proud of Nurturing Birth doulas – it was a very precious moment.
If you want to come and join us, comforted in the knowledge that our ultimate aim is to provide a truly safe space for you to explore what is coming up for you around becoming a doula then do contact us. We would love you to join us on one of our Dreaming of Being a Doula workshops where you can spend two hours with Michelle Every (our Mentoring Co-ordinator) and two of our recent graduates asking questions and learning more about what it is to be a doula and what our courses involve. Going forwards you have three different course options to consider – our in-person courses (Intensive and Expansive) or our remote courses (Expansive and Distance). We really hope to see you on one of them!
Sophie is a doula in London, breastfeeding peer supporter and baby massage teacher, and she is also the owner of Nurturing Birth. Her Nurturing Birth Directory entry is here.