My first blog posts have been about easy, simple ways to help you. How to afford a Doula, Reasons to Breastfeed, and thoughts on Cesareans. I feel its time I give you an insight into me, and how hardwickbirthdoula came about.
I grew up in England with my mum, who was a nurse. I went to University and studied International History and International Relations and upon graduation was offered a place on a Management Training Scheme for the National Health Service. This involved three separate roles; 1) managing a Spinal unit, theatres and outpatient departments in a regional hospital 2) managing a County Government efficiency audit and 3) managing the introduction of a telephone medical triage system for the County. After I graduated from my training scheme with a Masters in Health and Public Leadership, I was offered a job as a Contract Specialist and was then promoted to Manager of Offender Healthcare in Prisons and Police Stations, including maternity care. My final job before having my children was as a Commissioning Manager for Drug and Alcohol Services, both in prisons and the community. I loved being able to help people and provide services where they were needed, but always felt too removed from real life and the people I wanted to help.
When I went onto maternity leave with my first son we decided to emigrate to the United States to be nearer my in-laws. During this time, I was also training to be a childminder. My son was born using Hypnotherapy although we ended up with an assisted delivery as his head got stuck. I gave birth to a healthy 9lb 5oz baby boy; I didn’t care how he came into the world, he was here. I struggled greatly trying to breastfeed him. He refused to latch and we left hospital with him having not latched. I hand expressed and cup fed him for three days. We returned to hospital to be told that I should consider a bottle because realistically how long was I going to wait for him to latch. We ended up in hospital with him twice and I was distraught both times that I wasn’t being supported just told to quit. Upon our return from hospital the second time, my son latched and fed. It was the greatest feeling. This experience made me want to support women the way I felt I wasn’t. I researched and found Childbirth International to study to become a Breastfeeding Counselor. I chose them as at this point we were unsure whether we wanted to stay in the USA or move back at some point. I wanted something that I could easily transfer.
When my oldest was around 15 months, we found out we were expecting again and I can honestly say I have never felt so ill. I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and unfortunately it caused the end of my breastfeeding journey with my oldest as I was too dehydrated. I wanted another Hypnobirth and in my head, mentally planned everything out. Ideally I wanted a homebirth but, first of all we needed to find a home. When we finally bought our house, I was too ill and further complications meant a cesarean was the only option. I was disappointed, but again I wanted a healthy baby so would do what was necessary. During this pregnancy, I felt totally unprepared. I was alone, aside from my husband. I didn’t understand the healthcare system, unlike in England where I worked within it. I didn’t understand the insurance side of things (in England, your taxes pay for the National Health Service which is free at the point of delivery). I just felt so isolated and scared with the complications during pregnancy and the surgery that would mean my husband having to look after my oldest son during a hospital stay. I needed someone who understood. I needed someone who could help me find the information I needed to make me feel in control. I needed someone to talk to my husband about his fears. I needed someone to listen. I needed a Doula.
Unfortunately given we were having a Cesarean, I didn’t believe I could have a doula (how wrong was I!) However, this realization of what a Doula offers to pregnant and birthing mothers made me realize that this is exactly what I want to do. I want to help people realize their own strength. Realize how courageous and brave they are. Help mothers and their birth partners feel empowered and in control of their experiences and that their birth journey is not happening to them, it is a part of them.
Being a Doula is a privilege. To be involved in such an intimate part of their life and the arrival of a baby is forever humbling. I feel as a Breastfeeding Counselor and as a Doula, that I have a unique view into a mothers journey, all of which comes from the struggles I feel I faced during my two pregnancies and births. I would not change either of them for anything, they gave me my two wonderful sons, but I want to help other mothers look back on their experiences and feel at peace with their decisions.