its going off in spain – reminiscent of the burning of millions of women during the witch trials of the middle ages. today sees a report about the strange goings on of the witches being released by one of the governing bodies of the spanish midwives – this report has been collated over the last three years and has been put together by a multi-disciplinary group of experts composed of nurses and legal specialists in health and criminal law (this is what google translate tells me anyway!). the witches in question aren’t really witches of course but supportive women at the heart of the community encouraging families to make their own decisions around birth and loving them throughout those decisions regardless of what they are. doulas work – the evidence is clear – read more about it here.
fair enough i say to collate a report about a new body of women that are becoming prominent working amongst the new families of your country. we like to take care of our mothers and babies surely – so we look into something so big and so powerful sweeping our nation. however, the results of the report are astonishing to say the least!
the piece of journalism breaking the news is sensationalist media at its worst and clearly cherry-picking the most shocking findings of the report but they are included none the less and i want to address them because i am certain this isn’t how i go about being a doula and i’m pretty certain this can be said of most of the doulas in spain – i spent a heavenly week in a large circle of mainly spanish birthkeepers this last autumn whilst co-facilitating loving the mother (read more about these workshops here) and they were an incredible bunch of women working very hard to bring health and peace and joy to women birthing their babies and becoming new mothers in whatever way the mother herself sees fit.
the three main claims are extraordinary and i want to say a little about each one.
the report claims that doulas divide the family by shutting the father out of the process. in twenty years almost every single family i have worked with has involved a close relationship with the father as well as the mother as we ALL work together to facilitate gentle birth and try our hardest to generate as much love as we possibly can. doulas are reassuring for men and can support them through the process – at a birth women are often birthing incredibly well with no assistance or support and its common for them to ask to be protected and accompanied but left. this can be a very unusual and some times impotent feeling for a man – the doula is there to support him through this and be a reassuring and often times practically useful presence. i once read a birth story written by a dad i worked with – it included a section about him bursting into tears when i offered to make him a cup of tea as i was the first person all day that had shown him any care during the very emotionally trying experience of supporting his wife birthing their first child. not once have i come between a woman and her man – the only time a mother and father agreed that he wouldn’t be at the birth (previous birth trauma for them both meant they felt most comfortable with this arrangement and they had made this decision themselves before they met me) i took a gamble and asked her (as baby was imminent) if this still worked for them – she changed her mind and i popped my head out of the bedroom door to ask him the same question. he came in to witness his second son born gently and powerfully by his gorgeous wife – the healing of this experience was incredible. we love fathers and we encourage them to love and support their partners. read more about dads and doulas here.
the second claim is that we use the term “obstetric violence” to encourage families away from medical assistance when they birth their babies. there’s no doubt that their are birthkeepers in all their forms that may have witnessed trauma at their own births or those women who’s births they’ve supported at. this trauma leads to an intimate understanding of the impact that this trauma has on the world. how the woman is impacted and begins her mothering as a survivor rather than a victorious woman. what it does for a man to see his sexual partner and lover brutalised. what impact does this have on the baby? their potential as a contributing adult to this world? what this means is almost all the doulas i have met are pro-choice – proactively encouraging families to think through all their choices very carefully. working through the options until they settle on the ones most likely to bring about the end goal they are after. this may be a heavily medical birth or the other end of the spectrum at home alone in the dark but we all agree that women must choose as it is the woman who lives with the consequences of her choices for the rest of her life. who loves this woman’s body and baby more than this family? who cares more about the outcomes? occasionally we are supporting someone’s choice to not take up medical or obstetric care – its their choice to make. don’t believe that birth can be traumatic or are affected by these issues – talk to these people here.
finally and my particular favourite is the suggestion that doulas belong to a cannibal sect. now i’m a big fan of walking dead but i’ve not taken that any further! its incredible that this is included in a serious manner in what ought to be a very serious report. sure i’ve met a few doulas that have eaten their placentas but i’ve met many more mothers who had no doula who’ve chosen to do this for many reasons. read all about your placenta and possibly consuming it here. i’ve met even more mammals who’ve done it. truth be told among the families i’ve supported this is quite rare. i don’t encourage or discourage – my job is to ensure women know their options and exercise their choice. many will bury their placentas which is the most common human behaviour around the world. most common is to leave the health services to dispose of it. sadly and i’m sure disappointing more than a few folk who read this report we do not meet at the full moon around a fire on top of a hill and eat human flesh. that makes for a great story though doesn’t it?
after initially being so amazed, then angry and now just dumbfounded i leave you with the wise words of ibu robin lim placenta lover extraordinaire (read more about her here) lets all deal with this with love – it is the Mothers way and the only way.
“I am holding a Loving space for ALL BirthKeepers to work together with Care, Love and Respect… that is the Mother’s way.”
things you can do to make a change here
you can sign a petition against this report here
you can purchase an awesome book all about doulas – who they are, what their history is and what they do – you can buy it here
you can share this article so that the world will know doulas are full of love and not placentas 🙂
nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth.