don’t bring this 50 shades bullshit to birth work

this morning i woke up and along with millions of others began scrolling my facebook feed. i’ve been following the coverage of the 50 shades movie release with some interest.  i joined #50DollarsNot50Shades and have been happily promoting this fantastic initiative to send $50 to your local womens refuge rather than buying a ticket to watch what the reviews are telling me is a really poor film regardless of the subject matter.

so as i scrolled down past cats pushing glasses of water off desks, coverage of the terrible chapel hill shootings and beloveds holiday shots this morning there was a very distasteful presence of memes made by midwives suggesting all  the birthkeepers better prepare for a spike in the birth rate come november after the release of this movie. it has turned my stomach.  i believe birthkeepers have a responsibility to be feminist and woman-centred always fighting for women to be kept safe and flourish, to be empowered and to protect them while they realise and actualise their own strength and power. more than anyone else we know the impact of sexual trauma on a woman – i have held so many women while they wept and broke in half with the pain of their sexual abuse in my role as birthkeeper.  this smacked of those same women trivialising something that can be so damaging, demoralising, haunting and often times deadly – i am despairing – i am crestfallen and i am really fucking angry!

now i’m all for everyone getting DOWN in whatever way they want – seriously i have no hang ups about what people get up to when they are being consensual. thing is with this book and this subsequent movie is that it’s not hot sex in a safe context – it’s hot sex in a very dangerous context.  this blog post however isn’t to pull that apart as many, many others have done so in a wonderful way.

this blog post is about how on earth women who are supporting women around birth can think its appropriate to joke about this! since when is it okay to joke about stalking, domestic violence and sexual abuse? i grew up in a home with a very charming, handsome, rich, charismatic and horribly abusive and controlling man – i know how this goes down and i know how far it permeates – female members of my family have read this book and found it hot regardless of the trauma they have suffered. you know i really hope lots of people have some great really hot sex this weekend and i hope that some of this sex results in babies or i’d be out of a job but what i want more than anything is for us all to THINK about this for a minute. is it about hot sex or is it that the mainstream have now decided that this kind of abuse is hot ? many abused women stay remember and have sex and express love and still find their man hot – it’s a very fine line that is easily crossed – as a dear facebook friend said and i quote “.. replace Grey with that creepy guy working down the road in tesco, and the whole thing would not be regarded as quite so harmless and hot anymore. so as long as you are a hot guy, abusive is ok….women should probably just count themselves lucky….”

please, please birthkeepers i emplore you to take down any jokes that have this distasteful subject at its heart – please, please i beg you do not bring this 50 shades bullshit to birth work!

fifty

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.

she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.

Freedom

Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.
Coretta Scott King

I am very blessed to spend much of my working life around women and this weekend I have been surrounded by brave, intelligent and beautiful women. Women who are open to learning, building and exploring their inner and outer worlds. The predominant theme it would seem was freedom. Not the expected external feminist, post-modern woman-struggle misogynist-battling freedom but the internal struggle for liberation or rather lack of it. How can we expect to save our world as its soul if we are internally incarcerated?

I have heard woman after woman tell me that their goal this year is to silence the sabotaging side of their inner dialogue. The need to carefully dissolve the incredibly intricate and convincing story their minds are creating about whether they are good enough…fair enough…..too milky white….not dark enough…..pretty enough……a failure……an under-achiever…….stimulating enough or not……successful……a terrible decision maker….a bad mother….you know the lyrics to this song – all women do. Sometimes this list feels endless!

I spent a wretched new year’s eve in bed with flu listening to the sounds of my family having fun, receiving messages of frivolity and celebration, woken again and again by messages, revellers and fireworks – Edinburgh really knows how to celebrate New Year’s Eve! By 2am I was completely convinced the entire world was having a good time without me – on purpose! I soon realised how ridiculous this place was my mind had taken me as the threads all slipped away in the morning and I got the real story from the world via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook and all the other streams of virtual consciousness we allow to infiltrate so frequently. One by one the reality began to unravel my phenomenal story of world joy while I suffered. Tales of mediocre events, bad hangovers, disappointed evenings as well as a good times showed me just how much we torture ourselves with our imaginal realities. Our capacity to have someone stealing, cheating, lying, rejecting or loving us is incredible.

Again and again I have gathered story after story of blame. The template for this sabotage is made over the years by our mothers, our societies, our cultures, our media, our education systems, who we allow to influence and teach us, organised religion and endless other threads. These may also be the positive and strengthening influences we can harness to lift ourselves but many times they are whispering and cajoling us to think until the 90’s our backsides were too big and now seemingly they cannot be ever big enough! There are no doubts that these threads inform our inner world but should we allow them to have the power to pull the puppet strings of our self-esteem, our direction, our satisfaction with life and how we value what we have achieved thus far.

This last season I have also been asking myself the same questions over and over again. I am playing with process to figure out what they are? Are they true? Where do they come from? Is there any basis or hard evidence for what my mind is conjuring up? Some of the women around this weekend had some fantastic suggestions too ….talking back to the voice….”No, thank you, not now” “Thank you for that – I will deal with it later” “Fuck off!” “Are you sure?” “Do I really believe that?” “If that is true then what shall I do about it?” It was really powerful for some to write down the beliefs they wanted to discard on a piece of paper and burn it. I believe all spiritual traditions try to silence this sabotaging inner voice in order to let the higher voice rise. Often working with the breath, the body and the voice – the yogis have the so and the hum, the Sufis have the Al-lah, the Buddhists the chant and as that inner stillness is achieved we can really go to work on what we can do to rise up and better ourselves.

How about when we hear that story start up we yell STOP!!! Not now!!! Thank you for your opinion now get the hell out of here!! How about we stop judging ourselves first and surely this leads to the cessation of our most damaging sin as women – judgement of other women? How about we raise ourselves up so that we can really be in a space to elevate others? How about we be a sister to ourselves first before we expect to foster sisterhood with others? How about we look at how much we love ourselves before we try to share our love with others? How about we look at ourselves naked in the mirror and truly and authentically say we are beautiful because you are beautiful – we all are. All the wrinkles that mark the passage of your life, the stretch marks that mark the passage of your babies, the grey hairs that show your wisdom, the teenage spots that show that change is afoot and you are finally becoming a woman, the big lips, the thin lips and the freckles. How about we free ourselves from these chains and how about before we even attempt the external revolution we cause the internal one so that we can truly lead as strong, whole women. Then truly this is how we find our freedom.

news from afghanistan

this autumn in bali i met an incredible italian birthkeeper who selflessly travels the earth helping out in the most incredible situations – i asked her if we could hear her news on her travels as i have been so inspired by her and she is most definately a wysewoman – here is her news from afghanistan …please keep her in your prayers and know that there is a small but immensely strong army out there to heal the world one small step at a time….nicola

burqa

Dear friends,

it has been already 6 weeks in Afghanistan.. time is flying by. I wanted to write you before but it has been really difficult to gather my feelings and write them down in this email. In our daily activities seem that our lives are flat, nothing special happen, just normal activities every day. In these 6 weeks a lot has happened here, many stories to tell..

In this email, I wanna talk about women. It’s my favorite topic… Women are my heros, but here they are nothing, the most ungrateful human being in the world. For some, women are not even a human being.
I am placed  in a city in the south east of Afghanistan, close pakistan border. It is a conservative area. Women wear burqa and is not allowed not to wear it because men cannot look at women belonging to other men. When they go out, they should always accompanied by a man. This culture is really sensitive about gender separation, women should not look at men. When we have general staff meeting or celebration, women and men are separated. They cannot talk with men. For us it’s different, we can talk with them, but rarely we are taking into account. Some men don’t even look at you when you talk, if a man say something to a man, it’s a different story that they will take for sure into account. If I say something to a man, often I am just a woman talking. We cannot touch men or even attempt to have a discussion about women or deep talk. Some men are very kind and respectful. I believe, I hope, they are the same with their wives. They live in big family, around 20 people in a house and they share everything.

All this seems strict, very hard .. It is. But I will never try to judge them for this.
There is something amazing I wanna talk about with you.. It’s inside the hospital. It’s a women environment, there are no men, they are not allowed to enter. Everyday I walk through the door that connect the compound with the hospital, when I enter the hospital is like entering into a special place. Midwives love the hospital, is the only place they can behave how they want, they don’t wear burqa and you can see their beauty. They are beautiful with long black hair and that smile… Everyday I receive so many hugs. I have never received so many hugs in my life! They are so tender, affectionate with us and amongst them too. This is probably because they don’t receive love in their lives, And you can tell that they are happy to be in the hospital to be themselves, without being checked by men.

When I am around the hospital, they often call me to have chai, tea, with them. We sit together, we talk about our cultures and of course they ask me if I am married or if I have got some children.. I ask then the same question to them.. They are all young, most of them married with already 2-3 children. One day I asked to the postnatal supervisor if she was married and she told me that she is single because men are mean and she doesn’t like them. I understood that something happened to her.. I didn’t dare to ask more.

I think I am falling in love with this group of women, gathering inside the hospital and sharing that bit of love they don’t receive out of this environment..
I want to end this email telling you a story of a young girl of 12-13 years old. She has been raped and got pregnant. She has been hidden the pregnancy for 9 months. When she started labor she is obliged to come to the hospital. She said to the parents that she has a myoma and needs to go to the hospital. The mother then understood that she was pregnant, the father has some doubts and said to her that if she is pregnant and give birth he will kill her. According to the culture a woman cannot bear a child if she is not married and should be killed if happens. SO she came to us, had a very difficult delivery. Unfortunately the baby died during birth. . She stayed all day in the hospital but the day after the birth, smiling, she said she needed to go back home. The father was outside waiting for her. We don’t know what happened, but the midwives said that for sure she will be killed.

I want to tell you that I am happy to be here, because I am finding out that is some part of the world women are not living a life but a nightmare. I am happy to witness that and to share with you. I cannot change a culture but I hope to bring a bit of love in this hospital. I have seen so many births in my 6 years of midwife, but never seen a birth without love like in afghanistan.  I hope a bit of kindness, love for these women. If I will achieve that, I don’t know if something for them will change, but worth it to try.

Merry Christmas to all, if you decide to have some presents under the Christmas tree, do not forget to make a wish for these women!

Hugs&Love

welcoming back the light as a birthkeeper – setting your intentions

light

i sat down at my table last night as the dark came upon us in scotland in the mid-afternoon during the shortest day of the year – i closed my curtains and lit some candles and put pen to paper.  the candles shone brightly and warmed my heart with the love that was contained in the ones that were gifted from birthkeepers i helped along their path this year and the ones that were for lighting at birth and the baby came before the candle burnt out.  this is witchcraft 😉

i sank back into the restful, womb-full darkness and welcomed back the light into my world and my heart. verily out of the darkness comes light!

every so often at an auspicious time i set my intentions and assess what needs to be discarded.  this year i’ve been drawn to the camino de santiago and i’ve been fascinated with the pilgrims shedding their physical load as they let go of their spiritual baggage along the path. this is an essential blood letting and pruning to let new growth flourish, walk forward and let the magic come in.  my intentions were set for my whole life picture but i got to thinking about my work here as a birthkeeper.  its central to all that goes on in my world and needed extra thought and love and most of all tuning in.  its served me well to go through this process over the years and i wanted to share so it may be useful to those coming after me.

wysewomen are running a red tent in london in a couple of weeks at the start of the year and we made the intention it should have the theme of clarity as this is what we realise is crucial to sewing the seeds for the next year.  we are all great list writers and planners but we will often write generic titles such as “get fit” on these lists with no real step to be taken – clarity brings intention to fruition.

so what do you need to be clear about this year? i like to break it down into doable chunks.  what are your long-term goals? where are you going on your path as a birthkeeper? where do you see yourself in ten years? most importantly once you set these how do you get there? this year i’ve been blessed to come across the japanese term kaizen (read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) loosely i’ve understood it to mean constant improvements in small steps to achieve greatness. i’ve been encouraging those i’m around in my workshops to identify what great things they want to achieve (healing the earth with gentle birth anyone?) and see what that first small step is towards that goal.

be clear about your intentions for this coming year. this year are you focusing on serving your local community? the women of the world? do you want to teach and grow the next generation? are you tired? do you need to be restful this year? would you like to improve health outcomes amongst your people? build the family? how much money would you like to make this year? do you want to stay broke like many birthkeepers? does this keep you holy? would you like to be able to meet your rent this year without struggle? would you like to earn so much that you finally put that deposit down on your own home? would you like to be fully abundant? where are your yearly markers? what do you really want?

i believe to really find the answers to those questions you need to think about what you need to let go of  what is serving you? what is growing you? what is nourishing you? what is serving the greater good and growing love in your community, nourishing the world.  how do all these things impact you and your family? to grow and blossom we need balance alongside adventure and a good intention.  if something is no longer serving you but you feel its a service to others you want to provide to the world/women/God you may choose to keep it.  if its damaging you you may need to think twice.  birthkeepers are renowned for running themselves into the ground – all of my heroines in this world keep black circles under the eyes and a generally worn down look which is entirely overshadowed by the beauty of the Godly service they do for the world. none the less it is there.

so what are you saying yes to this year? what are you saying no to? write it down, draw it, sing it out, shout it to the world and bring it to you. let me here about your plans 🙂

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. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.

cats and doulas

I have always been a fan of Michel Odent. Primal birth was one of my first reads as a budding new doula and Birth and Breastfeeding was an inspiration when pregnant with my last and unassisted birth. There is such confidence that he exudes from his books with regards to the case for undisturbed labour resulting in pleasurable birth with excellent conditions for bonding. I had been consumed with jealousy in my second pregnancy that cats have so much more freedom than women to take themselves off on their own in the dark to birth their babies in safety.  This is a far cry from the place that most women find themselves in at the end of pregnancy and I have heard so many women saying they wished they could just go build a nest and give birth on their own. The notion that they can seems only a distant dream when well meaning midwives want to check  in on women and consultants want to monitor women’s pregnancies. Then there are the wonderful caring family members and friends consumed with excitement, so they call every 5 minutes to ask if anything is actually happening.  No wonder pregnancies get longer as women are less safe with their physiological need for privacy not being met with the constant observers.

When I found out my cat was pregnant in the summer 2014, I was a very happy surrogate grandma. I could be a doula for my cat and mother her through pregnancy and observe, albeit from a distance, how she would raise her young kittens. She was only a kitten herself at 10 months of age and we expected she would have 2 kittens from what the vets had said. I had gentle curiousity at the thought of observing a mammal from afar give birth without all the restrictions that have been put over humans since birth moved into busy hospitals. I also wondered whether her unhindered births may put me off my love for the doula, thinking that she would birth alone and need nothing being the independent mammal that she is.

On the 31st August, I went to a beautiful homebirth of a second baby. The baby was born in the water and the mama was absolutely blissed out and the Dad and husband truly in awe of his partner. I got back to a quiet house, kids in bed and a clean house. I had bought a dog cage and put it where my cat used to sit. I had covered it inside and out with fabrics so it was cave like. Much to my surprise at 2am, my cat came to sit on me in bed next to my sleeping toddler. I gave her a little pat and settled back to sleep but she started mewing like she wanted more attention. I kept stroking her and realized I could feel her contracting under my touch. She was dribbling and purring with pleasure. I knew pretty quick that she was in labour in my pitch black room on top of me in my bed. After about an hour she jumped off me next to my sleeping son and yelped. I then heard lots of licking before a shrill mewing. I had always known never to disturb a cat in labour but I didn’t want another kitten being born on my son! I moved him over and sadly aroused him enough to want milk without sleeping properly so we left her with her 3 babies by then in the dark on his cot attached to the side of the bed. At 7am there were 5 scrawny looking kittens suckling their mama as she laid out proud on my bed. She was treated every few hours with cooked fish and chicken and dried food. They nursed pretty continuously for a week so she could not really get up much and she appreciated the food and water under her chin every so often. She would only be happy with me near her nest so I protected her from my ever curious kids.

So my expectation of cat birth could not have been further from what my cat chose. She had places to be alone but she chose to be next to me and a toddler crazy as it was.

I had read a book in 2012 called ‘The Power of Pleasureable Childbirth” by Laurie Morgan. It really challenged me on why I would want a doula at a planned unassisted birth. A doula being seen as something outside of the normal family unit, so an intervention. Ever since I read this I have reflected on whether the intervention of me being at a birth has affected that natural flow of the births I have been too. I think for most of the families that I have been a doula for having the intervention of a doula was a better insurance than meeting the interventions of birth within a medicalised system. I chose to have a doula because she was someone I knew well and had been to her birth a few months earlier. Having her come with her baby was like an extension of my family really. I also wanted the emotional support of a woman as I had never received this in my relationship with my children’s father. The birth of my cat’s kittens really did highlight that there is a role for doulas to play when this is what a mother wishes. Not all women receive the nurturing from a partner that they need for giving birth. Not all male or female partners trust the mechanics of birth. Not all partners want to talk about life events after the occasion so I guess a doula fits this gap. My cat I believe picked up the scent of oxytocin from the birth I was at that very day. She came to my magical family bed, which is full of oxytocin with a breastfed toddler and she wanted me to lovingly touch her. Something that I don’t like in labour but plenty of women do like touch. Given that cats are much more intuitive than many of us humans have evolved to be, I believe my cat found it was safe being next to someone who trusted birth and mothering.

I feel very honoured to have witnessed my cat birth her babies and very honoured to have doulaed for so many families. It is wonderful to see how it all unfolds when left alone and in the case of my cat see how much pleasure is gained from acknowledging the need to be loved!

hannah robertson

hannah can be found at http://calmyorkshirebirth.co.uk/blog/

and running doula uk preparation courses in york at http://redtentdoulas.co.uk/

loving the mothers in gaza

i have no idea how it must be to be a mother in gaza right now.  whenever i’m faced with a tragic human on human conflict like this my first thoughts go to the women.  i know like all other women i’d find a way because i am a mother and that’s what mothers do.  the average age in palestine is 17 – thats an awful lot of children for mothers to be loving.

i’d find a way to do my absolute best to provide safety, love and faith.   i would make the decision whether to sleep all my four children in one room with me or spread them out so that if we were shelled at least some of us would survive.  my husband and i had this discussion yesterday – he was for spreading them out.  i was for keeping them together with me.  it was a disgusting discussion and it was only hypothetical.

how must it be to provide a home that can become the grave at any moment.  to try and console the family that are aware of death at every turn; family members, the woman in the local store you shopped in for the last ten years who kissed all your babies as they were born, the classmates of your children, the sanctity of your place of worship and your local hospital shattered by rockets.  no more playing at the beach, running around the corner to grannys house, staying with your friends or late night prayer and quran recital for ramadhan at the masjid.  thank God it is ramadhan; a time for mothers all across the world to remember that our children are given to us as a test of safe-keeping a gift from God.  a trust to love, care for and raise to our best abilities.  a time for faith and hope – a time to read the words “do not despair” and inhale them deep into your being and let them be your very oxygen.

how would i feel? impotent to physically protect my babies during this “shooting fish in a barrel” season.  my youngest is still impacted and mourning the death of his pet finch a year ago on eid – how on earth would he cope?

i cannot fathom – my heart is bleeding for the mothers but it is also swelling when i see their strength, their ability to continue, to go forward, to birth and feed their babies, to make do.

so lets send them our love and our prayers.  lets march and protest and write and boycott and sign petitions and educate and cry and do whatever ever we can to send the mothers of gaza our protection as limited as that may be.  lets support the people that are out their making a difference like the midwives for peace who are an israeli/palestinian collective of midwives who no doubt are working the hardest they’ve ever worked just now.  click on the link below to read about them and how you can help.

http://www.madre.org/index/meet-madre-1/our-partners-6/palestine-midwives-for-peace–palestinian-medical-relief-society–zakher-association-41.html

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. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.

empathy for birthkeepers

yesterday whilst a wee bit poorly and cold tucked up in my bed for one reason or another i started to think about empathy….and empathy in the birth room in particular…it’s what we all want isn’t it? to have others understand how we feel, what we are going through and what we need to heal.

when the birthkeeper puts themselves in the shoes of others her universe expands, her stress levels go down, her immune system is boosted and her brain lights up in the same way as the person she’s empathising with…there is some really amazing science that goes with this involving mirror neurons and your brains inability to reason that its not actually happening – we are born and wired to have compassion – isn’t that great? it seems like it will go a long way to making our life better.

so who’s shoes? what about mum? how is she feeling? what’s going on for her? what about her fears that you know of? perhaps that fear of doctors because of the rough vaginal exam she had as a young woman during her loss…what about that hope she has for her baby being born peacefully to heal that wound….what about the feelings of deep sadness she shared with you that her partner doesn’t find her sexually attractive whilst she’s pregnant and her great joy that she is birthing and becoming a mother which she’s dreamt of solidly for around the last ten years…and all the many thoughts and feelings you know nothing of…..what happens to you as a birthkeeper when you wear her life for a minute? you understand and you allow

what about the baby? we could write a large book on what we imagine this baby is thinking and feeling whilst birthing is taking place….how is she feeling? what’s going on for her? i’m sure there’s a whole lot of wooooaaahhh…….transitioning from one realm to the next …… flooded with chemicals at one moment high and dreamy on endorphins…loved and happy and safe full of oxytocin….rushing from adrenalin…..stressed when mum stresses…..i wonder about synthetic oxytocin and how that feels…focus goes from baby to mum continually…”we don’t want the baby to get tired”…”we’ve got to think about your pelvic floor”…what does this little soul feel when its very life is put on the line….what happens to you as a birthkeeper when you wear her life for a minute? you understand and you allow for stresses and strains and sleepy babies and babies that need a little energy or rest or time and you remember just how wise babies are….you understand

what about dad? how is he feeling? what’s going on for him? what about his fears and hopes that you know of? lets face it we know he hasn’t had sex for a long time – there must be something going on for him even if he hasn’t shared it with us…..perhaps he worries he’ll be a violent father like his own….maybe he’s looking forward to fishing trips and seeing the reflections of his grandparents in this hoped for baby…..perhaps he really didn’t want another baby….he’s concerned….at a homebirth he has jobs to do…in the hospital he may feel trapped, safe, disappointed, in the right place, in the wrong place, emasculated….maybe he’s wishing the cultural pressure was off so he didn’t have to be right there for the birth – he always thought it seemed better to be with the men folk while the women did the birthing with the support of the women in their family and circle…he’s feeling pride, the need to protect and respect at the strength of this woman thats birthing their baby…what happens to you as a birthkeeper when you wear his life for a minute? ….you understand and you allow

what about the doctor? how is she feeling? whats going on for her? what about her hopes and fears? what about the fact that she’s so far travelled her whole career not understanding the risks of synthetic oxytocin and has only had it ever presented to her as safe and useful….perhaps they’ve never been in a quiet darkened room and witnessed birth as sacred and holy and blessed…maybe last week a mother or baby died….remember her years of study, her trying so hard to be like all her mentors…her status quo ….her feelings of being a lifesaver and sometimes that actually being so….she’s tired….she’s fragile…she believes babies are dangerous and women aren’t often very good at birthing….she’s a few weeks pregnant….she’s thinking of her career…she’s getting bullied by her superior….she spent last year donating her time in a war zone…..what happens to you as a birthkeeper when you wear her life for a minute? you understand and you allow and feel a lot less judgmental ….

what about the midwife? how is she feeling? whats going on for her? she has a constant stream of registration worries…she was just reading about a colleague and her case….she has a divine calling but spends her days in front of a computer screen reading machinery not women….she’s under pressure….she’s hungry and only has coca-cola crap to eat available at night on her shift – she’s putting on weight…she’s tired – she’s on nights but it was her sons school play yesterday and she didn’t want to miss it…she knows the consultant oncall is a sexist creep and is praying he’s not coming into her work space tonight….she still vehemently believes in birth – she’s desperately trying to still believe its safe and trust it….she was just called a bitch by the last woman she was caring for…she’s training for a marathon to raise money for breast cancer…she’s quite keen on doulas….what happens to you as a birthkeeper when you wear her life for a minute? you understand and you allow ….you have compassion

what about the doula? how is she feeling? whats going on for her? what about her hopes and fears? what about the teenage daughter at home that just told her last week she was pregnant…her divorce…her trust in birth and that all will be well…what about her good intention for this family to begin their life as a family together on a healthy, happy and whole note….the fact that last week someone told her a gossipy tale of midwives at the central desk bitching about doulas even though she sacrifices so much and earns so little to do this work….she’s praying….she’s suffering watching many of the obstetric practices she believes should now be defunct….she believes she has a divine purpose…she believes that gentle birth will heal mother earth one new soul at a time…..she’s broke…..she’s delighted to be there….what happens to you as a doctor or a midwife when you wear her life for a minute? you understand and you allow for her ideals, her advocacy, her lavender oil, her prayers and you no longer see her in your way….you understand

all of the above (apart from the baby of course) is based in truth, real life that has been taking place for families over the years i’ve been a birthkeeper…one thing i’ve learnt is that empathy and compassion go a long way to making my job an awful lot easier – give it a try and let me know what happens for you.

here’s two wee films that might take you a little further

RSA animate (remember them – the really clever little animated loveliness)  – the empathic civilisation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

TED (come on i know you all know them) a radical experiment in empathy (this one really got me thinking)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia

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. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.

“I couldn’t have done it without you!”

“I couldn’t have done it without you!” 

I’ve heard this phrase many, many times over the years of supporting new families.

“Oh no! Stop right there! YOU performed all the magic!” My standard reply.

I want absolutely no credit for someone’s birth. I don’t want to be known as someone you “need” around  to birth your baby. I don’t want to be known as a “deliverer” of babies or women! I don’t want any of the glory the new family should be basking in.  I don’t want to feel like I birthed the baby or made it possible for the baby to come or not come as planned however it may pan out.  I make no decisions and I give no advice.

I’ll take the love I receive from parents and gladly.  Who doesn’t love love right? I’ll take a small fee for my time and my efforts and my love but that is never a barrier for me not to provide love and care and safe space around birth.  I’ll drink in the magic of a powerful birthing woman, a dad who is so in love and so in awe he restores all my faith in men or a midwife or doctor who is gentle and loving delicately undoing any hurt previously done.

I also want to acknowledge a woman’s power.  Her ability to cope, manage, roar, succeed, problem-solve, laugh, crack open and let go, love and kill her ego like never before.  I want her to own that – to really own her birth as her achievement, as her doing, as her reality or communion with God or her nightmare – whatever it means to HER.

I’m a space holder, a prayer, a napper and a knitter, a believer in a woman and baby’s ability to work together to choreograph this perfect dance of birth if you just leave them the fuck alone.  Of course I’ll clean a sick bucket, love a woman, press on her back for hours or days at a time, feed her coconut water through a straw and tell her she’s stunning and listen to the darkness and light as it pours forth.  We gather the stories, the hearts desires and disappointments, the hopes and the fears and we do a great job.

Women own your holy births. Birthkeepers own your dedicated holy service. But please don’t get to the two twisted together.

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. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.