Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Scottish Doula Network Retreat

Last weekend I went on my first Scottish Doula Network retreat and I have been sitting here for days wondering how to write a post about it. I thought before I went that I would come back full of stories and tales to tell. I thought I would take lots of photos and have lots to write about. Well, it seems like I did take a lot of photos… but I don’t have a lot to write about. The retreat was amazing. It was everything I needed and more. There were tears, laughter, stories, therapies, walks, lots of cake and a lot of amazing food. One member summed it up perfectly in her Facebook status update (I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing!):

“laughed, cried, shared food, shared birth stories, made a cloth pad, drew & helped make and then walk in a labyrinth, massaged, hugged, walked and generally had a fabulous time with the lovely ladies at @Scottish Doula Network. Thank you all for a wonderful, emotional, fun weekend, it was great to see you all :)”

It was just a mind-blowing experience and I can’t describe it well enough! I never thought you could put me in a room (well, a nice house in the countryside) for a day, let alone two days and two nights, with a group of women and tell me I would enjoy myself! They came from different walks of life, all with one purpose – to support women during their journeys into motherhood.

So, here are some of the highlights of my weekend:

I made a cloth menstrual pad! We talked about menstruation and how it has become a taboo subject and how we should embrace our monthly cycle rather than shy away from it. Everyone should own a Mooncup (or equivalent!). Everyone should read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant! And maybe every women should think about celebrating their daughters’ first Menarche, so that these women grow up with a positive view of their bodies.

Cake. LOTS of cake.

A walk to a beautiful Loch.

Drawing, making and walking a labyrinth.

I was really sceptical about this beforehand! What can you possibly achieve by drawing a labyrinth? Well, it would seem you can achieve focus, as well as a new, beautiful shape to doodle when on the phone! Labyrinths are not like mazes, as you can’t get lost in a labyrinth. Just follow the path and you will get to the centre. The amazing thing with a labyrinth is that you feel you will never get to the middle. The path takes you close and then veers back out again but as long as you have faith, you will get there. This faith has been translated into the birth and postnatal experience – the walk to the centre of the labyrinth can be seen as your labour and birth journey; once you reach the centre, your baby is born and then you turn around and make your way out. The path back through the labyrinth is just as meaningful and it can be viewed as your journey back through parenthood. Before you mock me, try it! It’s an incredibly centring experience.

On the first evening, we made a rice labyrinth in the gardens of the house and we all walked it together. On the final day, I walked the labyrinth again on my own. This website, Sacred Labyrinth, summed this up perfectly for me: “Your walk can be a healing and sometimes very profound experience or it can be just a pleasant walk. Each time is different.”. My walks were very different, the second one feeling very emotional as I dealt with some fears and anxiety, which I have kept to myself for a while.

So, go away and draw a labyrinth. When your daughter celebrates her Menarche, make a rice labyrinth in the garden and walk through it together. And when you visit old buildings, especially churches and other religious places, look out for the labyrinths in the gardens and on the walls…

And finally - birth stories! One night we sat down and shared birth stories. Some people told their own stories and others told stories of births they had attended. Every story was different and each experience allowed me to gain another insight into the amazing world that I feel privileged to be a part of.

This of course will probably be my one and only Scottish Doula Network retreat. In a way I am glad, because I'm not sure an experience like that can be recreated! It mainly makes me sad though. I'm sad to leave Glasgow and leave behind this brilliant group of women who make me feel like I belong, 100%.

Thank you ladies, for all you gave to me last weekend. It was amazing. x

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sarah Buckley study day, May 7th 2011

*Disclaimer – I have not been sponsored to write this post, I honestly just love this woman this much!*

Yesterday, Saturday May 7th 2011, I had the great privilege to attend a Sarah Buckley study day in Edinburgh: “Safety and Logic of Physiological Birth”. For those in the natural birthing world, the name Sarah Buckley will be well known. For everyone else, Dr. Sarah Buckley is an MD from Australia who extols the virtue of natural birth through evidence-based research and her own experience of birthing her four children. She is author of the absolutely fabulous book, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”, and has written numerous articles on pregnancy and birth.

The study was organised by Adela Stockton and co-friends from Doula UK. Adela is my ‘local hero’. It was through attending her doula workshops that I began to understand the path my life was going to take. She is awesome. She is a writer, midwife, doula trainer, homeopathist and mother. Her book “Birth Space, Safe Place: emotional wellbeing through pregnancy and birth” is an easy, beautifully written piece on how to obtain a great birth experience. I would recommend it to any pregnant friend or partner. Her second book “Gentle Birth Companions: doulas serving humanity” reflects on the history of the doula movement, both in the UK and Europe, and is essential reading for anyone looking for more information on the background of doulas.

So, my two favourite natural birth advocates in one room!! Could my world get any better?!

Actually yes! Because the day was spent with a group of amazing women; doulas, midwives, mothers, pregnant women and an expectant father. I was surrounding by some of my wonderful West of Scotland doula friends, met up with some East coast doulas I hadn’t seen in ages, and also met many more of the doulas and midwives who serve Scotland and Northern England.

The West of Scotland doulas meet Dr. Sarah Buckley MD

The day was based around three main lectures, “The Safety and Logic of Normal Birth”, “The Impact of Interventions”, and “The Hour after Birth and Postnatal Period”. Sarah spoke first about the physiological processes which take place during an ‘undisturbed birth’, that is, a birth without any interventions where a woman is left to labour in a private, safe, unobserved environment. What I love about Sarah is that speaks about evidence-based research. Maybe because I am a scientist, it just makes so much sense to me. She spoke about the hormones released during normal birth: oxytocin – the hormone of ‘love’; catecholamines – the hormones of ‘fight or flight’; beta-endorphins – the natural painkillers; and prolactin – the hormone of ‘paternity’. The second lecture of the day talked about how interventions can affect the natural pathways of these hormones and what affects these have on a labouring woman. It seems so obvious, once you understand what is happening in the body, and yet in this age of medicalised pregnancy and birth, an undisturbed birth rarely happens and interventions are commonplace in the labour room.

After lunch, Sarah moved on to the time immediately after birth, highlighting how essential it was for women to remain in their birthing state in order to effectively birth the placenta, maximise their hormonal surges and begin the process of attachment to the new baby. The importance of delayed cord clamping was explained – it’s incredible how much more blood the baby receives from the placenta before it stops pulsating! Why has it become routine in our society to clamp the cord and stop this transfer from mother to baby?

What blew me away was this quote, written by Erasmus Darwin in 1801 – Charles Darwin’s FATHER!

“Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child.”

Erasmus Darwin,
Zoonomia, 1801

At the end of the day, people were split into groups and asked to think about factors that could ensure a woman in labour feels private, safe and unobserved. All women are different and different environments will work for different people, but this was a great opportunity to hear the experiences of others, learn how other doulas behaved in the birthing space and listen to the wisdom of midwives who explained their roles in the birth.

I came away from the day feeling humbled by the amazing women I was surrounded by; inspired by all of the new knowledge which I gained; and amazed by the power of females during labour and birth.

Wow. Now – spread the word!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...