By Michelle Every,
Mentoring Coordinator and Supporting Every Birth facilitator
On the Nurturing Birth Doula course we talk about how to empower clients by creating a safe space for them to be able to let go of other people’s expectations and to listen to their own instincts on what feels right for them.
In reality, as I supported clients as a doula myself, I became aware of how often this concept of listening to ourselves was alien to them. They had read many books, and over the years as online support became more common, looked on the Internet and followed people on social media. But when asked the question “What feels right for you?” they were flummoxed. No-one had asked them this before. Some even said that they did not know that it was an option to have their own opinions on their own birth.
It was, and is, such a privilege and joy to journey alongside people and empower them to discover new tools and practices to uncover their instincts and desires.
Reflecting on my upbringing and childhood, I do not remember being asked to consider what I felt was right for me. I was taken to church. I was put in the nearest Infants School and then High School because I passed the 11-plus. We went on holidays that my parents chose (and I did love the swimming in the sea) and weekends were full of activities that I was taken along to. No-one asked how I felt or encouraged me to follow my own instincts.
And yet, even without this support my discernment grew – and maybe because of the lack of it in my childhood I became courageous in expressing it, and risked following it.
For example, when I was 20 I met 18 year old Iain and after hanging out for a day he asked me to marry him. And I said yes. This was certainly not the wisdom from my family or community, but I just knew what I knew. So we married a year later and we celebrate 30 years of marriage in 2021.
Trusting your instincts can bring joy for sure.
I could share so many stories of when Iain and I went against the flow and instead trusted our instincts and followed peace.
Helping others trust their instincts has become a passion for me. I delight in seeing people turning inward, creating space and silence to listen and then having the courage to trust what they feel and hear.
Having discernment certainly complements the work I do as a doula and mentor. Trusting my instincts has served me well.
I am aware that not everyone understands the phrase ‘trust your instincts’ and I find it hard to describe because for me it is a feeling in my soul rather than words in my head.
But I do know that it is something that can be practiced – like a muscle that stretches and grows in strength as we use it.
In discussions with clients, colleagues and friends I have discovered that some people are so busy, living with so much noise, that they do not know how to access their instincts. The idea of listening to the voice feels to some like stopping the fun. Others doubt their feelings can be trusted and fear the process of being still. And others have oodles of experience and practice of trusting their instincts and can access them at the drop of a hat.
As doulas we want our clients to trust their instincts. They have so many external voices advising them how to give birth, how to parent and what is best for them. What a gift we can give to create a space where they can sit still and listen to their own voice. We can encourage them to follow their own wisdom and heart’s desires. And yet, we are client led and if the client wants to follow what advice the midwife has given them, or what they have read we respect the decisions and support them equally to any other.
Many doulas are comfortable with empowering their clients and supporting them to trust their instincts, yet as a mentor what I see so often is doulas do not always create the same space for themselves.
How much time do we take to be still, to quieten our minds and listen to our inner voice? How often do we listen to our discernment when we are at interviews for potential new clients or interacting on social media?
I experience this knowing when I shut out external noise, opinions, advice and information. I can hear what feels right for me when I allow myself some space and silence. And I know it is my discernment and instinct when I am left with a deep sense of peace.
You may find it helpful to ask yourself some of these questions:
– How often do you create space for yourself and how could you gift more time to yourself?
– How do you still your mind and listen to what your heart’s desires are?
– How do you make decisions and explore new opportunities? Do you tune into your discernment rather than looking outside yourself to external factors and influences?
– What does it look like to you to be guided by inner peace?
If you would like to explore some of these questions further why not sign up for one of our mentoring sessions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
About Michelle Every
Michelle is an experienced birth and postnatal doula based in Greater Manchester, having trained with Nurturing Birth in 2007. She has been involved in mentoring across a wide range of communities particularly in areas of doulaing, parenting, relationships, marriage and life/work balance.
Michelle is the writer and facilitator of Supporting Every Birth an interactive workshop for birth workers looking at supporting both clients and themselves through all birth journeys including baby loss.
Michelle is married to Iain and they have three daughters and two sons.