I’ve titled my presentation Finding your Voice because you have a voice and your voice matters.
I’m Carol Burroughs and I am a doula. A what? Most people ask! A doula. I’m a birth coach, I don’t replace a midwife, I don’t perform medical tasks like blood pressure or internals, but I am trained in labour and birth. I support you and your partner emotionally and physically through labour and birth of your baby and I help you find your voice. The word doula is a Greek word and means handmaiden, woman who serves, one who comes beside you/ holds space. And can be applied in a variety of life situations – not just birth.
First a little about me and my journey. I have had 8 children. Eldest 28, youngest 13 (4 girls, 4 boys, and yes 1 husband!) You might say I found my passion in life and my new passion is not to convince you all to have 8 as well but to share that you can find your passion in your labour and birth.
Of my 8 births I had 3 where I went straight home afterwards, 7 were hospital births, 1 home birth, 1 miscarriage, 4 went to 42 weeks. Let me share some of the lessons I learned from my births...
First– Everything was unknown yet I had read Active Birth and I felt supported and safe. I had a vivid memory of eating pizza in a kind of waiting room while rocking on all fours. I looked up and asked the passing nurse "Does it get much worse than this?". I couldn't understand why she just smiled and walked away. I could have done with some encouragement at the time.
Second – I learned to have compassion for my husband. During labour my mid-wife said to him "You look tired. Why don't you pop out for a cup of tea and cake?" I turned and said "He’s not going anywhere! I don't get a break!" Looking back I think we could have really done with some doula support. He dutifully stayed :)
Third - I learned to keep my dignity. I was nearly pushing and on all fours on the bed, my doctor popped in en route and dressed in a tux. "Hi Carol!" "Hi Grant!" "You're doing well" he said. I was mortified at to what he saw and took me a while to come to terms with it. That was the closest a doctor ever came to seeing one of my births. This was in the days of shared care. Whenever I knew it was time to push I would give it my all - not the best advice! - but thankfully I never tore and it was my incentive.
Fourth – I was quite happy to have a home birth with my own bed, room, fridge - everything familiar. I chose a home birth at a time when most mums were being shipped to Whangarei. I had a great mid-wife with a lot of trust in each other.
Fifth – I had a scan at 41 weeks and found a foot where there should have been a head! I resigned myself to a caesarian but later that night with my hand on my tummy I felt a kabloop! I knew baby had turned and got up to tell the nurse. "Go back to bed Mrs Burroughs. We'll see in the morning." A further scan revealed yes baby had turned but I turned down the caesarian offer and went on to have another week of sun at 90 mile beach. I ended up with an induction but all went well and I felt empowered following my gut that everything was ok. This was my 1st hospital stay and after staying in hospital for a few days I enjoyed looking after myself and baby and was quite amazed how much time , energy and emotion this took. I had my meals all cooked and no house work - on the one hand bliss - on the other hand I was still working hard.
Sixth– Every life has a purpose. Richard was born at 18 weeks at home and looked perfect in every way. The older children wrote him love notes and know he isn't just a bunch of tissues. He is their brother.
Seventh - I learned to expect the unexpected. Isaac was born at 38 weeks and interestingly he is the only morning person of my 8 births!
Eighth - I learnt to trust the birth process. Again he was born at 42 weeks and we nearly didn't make it to the hospital. I wish I had just had him at home but my midwife was busy.
Nineth – I loved birthing in a pool and have a vivid memory when her head crowned of her looking up at me and all around. I knew she would be fine under the water and calmly waited until the next contraction.
Back to Finding your Voice...
Growing up I loved the back row. Anything not to be seen or heard. I even wore brown corduroy trousers! I married and found my passion of birth. I believe with each birth I found myself and my voice. We home schooled, had a mini bus and definitely stood out - there was no hiding now! I followed my passions and gradually found my voice.
Finding your voice when you didn’t think you had one. It won’t be brash – it’ll just be you. It doesn’t have to be loud to be heard – just connected to who you are. Are you feeling powerless?
My handy hint – don’t disconnect who you are from your pregnancy, birth or parenting adventure. Your passions, things that bring you alive...bring them into your birth. You need them. They are who you are and they are your power. Your life line. Your voice.
Don’t disconnect who you are from your birth. Your birth NEEDS who you are as well as when you get home and face the myriad of decisions that come with parenting ...
I love music. During my parenting journey I listened but seldom played it. I had the piano but saw it as a luxury to sit down and play. I realise now it was not a luxury, it was and still is my oxygen. Maybe I was waiting for permission/space to play without realizing the time was something I had to give to myself. I have a theory that this whole passion/self-care thing is deeper than going out for a coffee etc. It has to involve connecting with what we value and what brings us value in our lives.
This is why I run Birthing with Passion classes and offer one on one sessions. I’m living my passion – so you can live yours.
How do you find your voice? Follow your passion. What brings you joy? When do you feel free, creative, and alive? When do you as a couple feel these things? Whether it’s writing, swimming, gardening, horse riding, music, food...I can show you how to connect these with your birth. Yes even horse riding (bouncing on your birth ball and hold onto the reigns (end of the bed)) and using a snorkel while in the pool. Might seem a bit extreme! I see it as women brave enough to live their passion through their birth and reaping the immense benefits.
Doesn’t have to be perfect – just has to be you. I had to choose between my doula work and working in just one rest home. I chose doula work and now have the privilege of playing piano in not just one rest home but several throughout Taranaki. I see it as still being a doula – someone who holds space/cares for those who need it.
These passions are what you need to bring into your pregnancy, birth space, your days, weeks years after birth.
I offer amazing comfort measures with Birthing with Passion classes...but I also invite you to go deeper and consider/imagine what bringing your passions along with you will do for your confidence, oxytocin, ability to focus and wonderful outcome ...Not detaching from the amazing job your body is doing bringing new life into the world but incorporating, adding and connecting with who you really are, rather than giving up your power to those around you.
"You’re not a failure if you opt for an epidural or other pain relief but let’s try all these options first?"
"You don’t have to walk through the hospital door with your hand up saying “Just give me an epidural.” ‘cos that’s all you know and you have no other options."
"I’m not just coming to watch you brush your teeth! It’s a privilege and an honour to be present at your birth."
Value Tips using your 5 senses-Breathing Smell the beautiful aromatic roses, and blow out those candles with loose lips. Smell Don’t put oils in pool water because can get into babies eyes. Taste If you don't have any cravings - make them up! Sight Use photos, eyes, and learn to focus. Touch massage, water, feel your baby come down.
Your new life as a mother/family begins – but don’t throw out who you were before. She’s still very much there and still very much needed. We are biologically wired to need and receive support. We were never meant to mother or parent alone.
So now you know the word doula (a useful word for scrabble), you’ve met one and hopefully you know a little about what I do. Please remember (I don’t replace a midwife or perform medical tasks but my focus is you and your journey) I can’t guarantee the journey but I am with you every step of the way. I look forward to connecting and hearing with you! Thankyou.