By Sophie Brigstocke
Those following the March With Midwives group and galvanising themselves to join vigils on Sunday 21stNovember will already be aware of the desperate stories of midwives who are struggling to keep themselves afloat, let alone provide the level of care needed by those using perinatal services. I read another story this morning from a midwife which just broke my heart – these are people who have a deep desire to support people and the necessary skills to help them birth safely and they are being taken to a dangerous edge. So many are giving up and in deep grief at not being able to continue and/or at seeing maternity services in such a dire state.
Over the years we have witnessed many doulas reaching a point of burnout – of not being able to continue. Many of us in the Nurturing Birth team have sailed close to that point ourselves, and over the past few months I have certainly recognised those tell-tale feelings of exhaustion. Stopping and recognising when the time has come to take care is essential. As doulas we often prioritise others – we are the carers, the providers, the nurturers. But, when our own energy is depleted we are no good to anyone else.
Last Monday Michelle and I hosted the first of what we hope will be many retreat days across the UK and beyond. I’m not sure I have the words to explain how special the day was, but I will certainly try!
Our retreat day focused on simple principles – relaxation, nourishment and letting go. So many of the wonderful doulas who joined us shared that they were holding on to stuff that they wanted to put down – in holding space for others we sometimes absorb their energy and overly carry responsibility. Making space and time to put some of it down is important so that we can continue to offer that essential role.
Nourishment comes in many forms – we were really fortunate to be joined by a wonderful yoga teacher, who guided us through a really restorative, simple practice which helped us to ground ourselves. Our fantastic mentor, Charlotte, who is passionate about nutrition and especially postnatal recovery, created such a delicious lunch, rich in colours, flavours and nutrients. Being in the beautiful Hampshire countryside we were able to go out and walk, enjoying the rich autumnal colours. And then we went into a guided breathwork session, a really powerful practice which supports the body to let go, release old emotions and stories, detoxify and re-energise. Witnessing those in the room was a privilege.
At the start of the day I read a simple oracle card on which the words “I care; You matter” were printed. The reminder was to be fully present and it echoes for me the power of holding space. As doulas we care and I hope we make clients and those we support feel like they matter. On our retreat days, and in the other offerings we have for doulas I hope we are able to offer that same sentiment – doulas matter and we, at Nurturing Birth, care. We are there to listen, to be fully present, to hold space. It is becoming ever more important as we navigate this complex time in the maternity field.
We are in the process of confirming dates for our retreat days next year – I would love to host many, so if you would like one in your area and you know 6-8 people who would love to join you then please let me know. The days are not exclusively for doulas, but open to anyone who works with or around those in the perinatal period.
We care … You matter. Take care of yourself this week – listen to your body and do what you can to nourish yourself.