I am so excited to share this fortnights beautiful journal with Charlotte from The Living Doula. Many of us have heard the term 'doula' but I've found many Mama's are still a little unsure of the immeasurable support they can offer us on this often challenging journey. Here, Charlotte shares her take on this important role and offers some very important lessons we should all be taking stock of, mother or not.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to this work?
Hello beautiful Moon Mamas. My name is Charlotte and I am a mother, a lover and a survivor. I am a mother to Rupert and to whoever the little soul is that’s currently taking up my womb space. I have been the lover of my partner, Jack, for almost 10 years. I am also a survivor of Cancer. Motherhood was my inspiration to survive my cancer diagnosis and is also the reason I find myself now working as a full spectrum doula, specialising in working with mothers/parents who have had challenging health histories. I am so honoured to do this important work in supporting families to find their joy, their confidence and their own style of parenting that feels good to them.
How would you best summarise your personal offering and the work of doula in general?
Each individual doula has their own unique approach as it is incredibly personal work that requires someone truly aligned to you and your values for the relationship to be successful. Some doulas come with extra sets of skills like, naturopathy or a massage certification or they’re practicing midwives. It’s essential that you know what’s important to your family and what you’re hoping to gain from having a doula in your support team. It’s a little bit like dating, you’ve got to have that spark and synergy between you both.
My personal approach within my doula work is largely about understanding ourselves and our lives on a deeper level in order to become the parents we want to be. I support people/families during the stages of preconception, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum. I truly believe that when we understand the emotional root cause we can begin to untangle.
Doulas are there to crack through to the intimate parts of you and help you transition into the parent you are being called to be, baby in your arms yet or not.
Can you give us a few examples of what this encompasses?
Logistically a doula supporting you through fertility may be helping you to understand your cycle. Helping you to connect with like-minded practitioners who specialise in fertility health, processing any pregnancy loss(es) you may have experienced, creating healthy boundaries that will spiritually prepare you for parenthood, holding your hand through IVF meetings, helping you to navigate tricky conversations with loved ones or offering informed education on how to eat for optimum fertile health. It may even be supporting you to tap into your sensuality more and exploring any blocks you may have in this area… there is so much to explore in this juicy stage of the journey.
A pregnancy/birth doula's support would be educating you on birthing options in your area, supporting you to explore the kind of parent you plan on being, discussing your postpartum plan and supporting you to peel back layer by layer, fear by fear, limiting belief by limiting belief to prepare you for the birth of your dreams. It would also be bringing together your ideal support team to create a unified front so you could feel protected to fully surrender into labour and birth as well as being physical support in the form of tension relief practices during labour, consulting with birthing staff and supporting your partner (if present) through all stages.
Postpartum a doula may provide physical support in the form of cooking family meals, light household duties, childcare if there are older siblings. They may offer massage, closing of the bones ceremonies, placenta encapsulation services, general new-born information and/or breastfeeding support and be a wealth of knowledge in regards to supporting you to stay on top of your physical and mental wellbeing. They support you to debrief and process your birth story and any emotions that that brings and encourage you to connect deeply to yourself and your own instincts and intuition as a mother/parent. We give you space to find your voice so it can be louder than the external noise and pressures.
When typically would a pregnant woman start working with you?
There is no strict timeline. It’s about when you feel called to reach out to support. In saying this I often have women reach out in the preconception phase to set an intention to work together and build a connection, she will then reach out again once she is pregnant. Otherwise often in the final stages of their pregnancy or once their baby is already in the world. Sometimes this is due to overwhelm, or when the birth hasn’t gone to plan (i.e. unplanned caesareans or premature births) and they weren’t prepared or informed about the fourth trimester and the intensity it can bring.
Let's talk about the post-natal period, in your words, why is having a doula an invaluable experience for mothers from a holistic perspective?
Thank you for asking this question. I am incredibly passionate about more families being educated on the importance and long term effects the fourth trimester has on our birthing people. Ysha Oakes was the first to coin the phrase “the first 42 days after birth set the stage for the next 42 years” of a woman’s overall health. I personally believe a selfish postpartum is the most selfless thing you can do for your baby, family and community. When we allow ourselves to be held, nourished and cared for as the newly born parent we are, we give ourselves the best chances of fostering a deep connection with our baby. It is in this period we can encourage oxytocin highs that allow us to feel happy and content. When we go slow we allow the whole family time to process and adjust to the new roles they have just taken on, including new siblings. It is in this time we can honour our bodies and give them a chance to heal properly, and fully.
Our western society has led us to believe there is a rush to ‘bounce back’, this messaging is dangerous and incredibly detrimental to our overall long-term health on every level; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is imperative that all birthing families educate themselves and invest in their postpartum period with consideration and attention to detail.
In my experience having a support system during pregnancy and especially over the post-natal period can shape your experience dramatically. Can you speak to the importance of a good support system?
Gathering your village takes courage. Asking for the right kind of support in those early weeks from trusted loved ones can absolutely define your journey. Gifts like soft toys are great and all, but a warm nourishing meal, a tidy kitchen and an encouraging “time for us to leave so you can get back to bed” is 100 x better.
Some of us struggle asking for help, we pride ourselves on being independent and self-sufficient and honestly think we’ll be ‘fine’ after the baby has arrived. I am here to let you know, you don’t have to be a hero. Having a meal train in place might be the best way for your family and friends to support you, or maybe it’s taking your older child(ren) to the park for an hour, or maybe it’s having a friend walk your dog for you, or popping over to hold your baby while you shower. Also, an important note… postpartum is forever. Our mothers are most at risk for postnatal depression when their last child is 4 years old. Let that sink in…. now go check in on your mama friends!
Where can we find you or other like-minded doulas in our area?
I would suggest google, Facebook community groups or Instagram up first. There are also some wonderful doula directories online that can be a wonderful resource to get started. Some of these resources also offer meet ups for birthing people and doulas, that way you can meet a few at a time and see who you have that magic chemistry with. Most doulas offer an initial coffee or discovery call so you can get to know them and their scope of practice and/or philosophies. Good luck on your search!
We are honoured to welcome Nature Baby to our journal this month. As kind as they are clever, Jacob and Georgia Faull, founders of world renowned baby-wear brand Nature Baby are in a league of their own, paving the way for ethical and organic business. A wee ways back I sat down with the dynamic duo for my book Wild Kinship; Conversations with Conscious Entrepreneurs and am excited to be sharing 5 questions for 5 minutes about this incredible brand and the work that they do.