By Victoria White
I first heard about doulas when I was pregnant with my second child. I had really struggled during my previous postpartum, and I was looking to source some more support second time around. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any doulas working in my local area. But I did come across the Nurturing Birth doula training course, and that planted a seed in my mind about my future career!
I originally trained as a marine biologist, and I worked for 10 years as an environmental consultant to offshore industries. The work was interesting and varied, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was always keeping an eye out for inspiration to train and work in a different area.
Before training to be a doula, the only births I’d been to were the births of my own daughters (and my own!). Both births were very medicalised and were similar on paper, but the way I felt about them was very different. The second time, I had done my research, and I felt in control throughout the process. I trusted my body, which was something I didn’t experience the first time.
I became interested in the wellbeing and mental health of birthing people and new parents, following my own challenging experiences. Unfortunately after the births of both my daughters I experienced a lack of consistent support and isolation, during a difficult postnatal period, and it made me think there has to be a better way. I trained as a Mother Supporter with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, and found supporting people breastfeeding at our local support group extremely rewarding.
During my second pregnancy, I discovered the Nurturing Birth doula training course and I knew it was something I was keen to explore further. When my daughter was 6 months old, we moved as a family from Aberdeen in Scotland to Paris, with my husband’s job. We moved just a week before the Nurturing Birth training course was due to be held in Aberdeen! So I put the idea on the back burner. However just months later the Covid pandemic presented me with an opportunity. Nurturing Birth had developed a Distance Course online. I enrolled in the summer and completed my coursework and received my doula certification in November 2020.
There are so many things that I love about being a doula. There’s a large community of expats in Paris, many of whom are starting families. They are not living in their native countries and are often facing the challenges of pregnancy and birth in a foreign country with no family support and perhaps also isolation from friends. I really love seeing the difference that having an English-speaking doula can make; to help them navigate the French system, plan their birth, and support them during those early weeks postpartum. It is without a doubt the most rewarding work I have ever done.
Of course, there are challenges. In the first year of working as a doula, I have, like many others, found imposter syndrome to be an issue. I have struggled with a lot of self-doubt! But my confidence is growing and I am learning how to observe my inner-critic objectively (and to tell it to pipe down!).
Looking to the future, I am coming to the end of a year-long course working with Alex Health of the Traumatic Birth Recovery College on many different topics relating to perinatal mental health. I am also a certified TBR 3 Step Rewind Practitioner. I have loved this work and hope to support more clients with their emotional wellbeing and resilience. Next year I plan to run an online workshop on Perinatal Anxiety, and ultimately I am considering training as a psychotherapist in addition to offering doula support and 3 Step Rewind services.
The last thing I want to add is that being doulad myself throughout my first year working as a doula has been invaluable. I have been part of the Nurturing Birth mentoring program since my certification, and it has been such an important part of my doula journey so far. I have felt encouraged and nurtured by my mentor, but also completely in control of my own path and development. It has really boosted my confidence and also encouraged my self-awareness.
Victoria is a birth and postnatal doula working in Paris. You can reach her through her Nurturing Birth Directory listing: https://nurturingbirthdirectory.com/doulas/france/ile-de-france/neuilly-sur-seine/victoria-white/