These are the words of sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman, and her sentiments are echoed by Amélie Nyhan, a Certified Post-Partum Doula based in Frankfield, Cork.
Eco-conscious Amélie can be seen travelling to the mothers she supports on the south side of Cork city on her electric bike.
There are two main types of doula; a birth doula and a post-partum doula. Birth doulas work with women during the antenatal and birth period. Post-partum doulas work with women after birth.
Amélie, who is originally from northern France, decided to train as a post-partum doula after the birth of her third child. Transitioning from a mum of two to a mum of three proved to be difficult.
She said: “My baby was quite colicky and I hadn’t had a baby like that before. It hit me that there wasn’t a lot of support I could get if I was having a hard day, especially in the evening time. I had my partner but we were both at a loss as to what to do.”
She came across the term post-partum doula while researching support for mothers who had just given birth. Amélie decided this was the type of support she needed when her third baby was a new-born, and that she would like to train to become a post-partum doula in order to help other women.
Amélie has been working as a post-partum doula since September, 2018, and is a member of the Doula Association of Ireland. A post-partum doula carries out a wide range of services such as guiding parents through all aspects of new-born care, preparing meals and snacks for the family, assisting with infant feeding and sleep, provide companionship and emotional support, and helping to look after other children in the house.
Amélie said: “Ideally, an expectant mother would reach out during her pregnancy so there is time to build a relationship and have conversations about what they will want after the baby is born. If it is their first baby, we can discuss their expectations and what they know or don’t know.
"If they had children, what were their experiences, what needs do they anticipate they will have. We can build a post-partum plan around their expectations.
“I offer a service where I go into the home before mums return and I set up the house, tidy the house, cook a few meals, set up different changing stations around the house so that everything is organised for mum.
"Once mum is home, I come in whenever I am needed, for example, I might do a morning or evening shift to help do whatever it is mum needs.”
The idea of women nurturing women has been around since ancient times and becoming more popular in the modern era, where lives are becoming busier, time is a precious commodity, and family members don’t live in close proximity to each other. Home births are becoming more popular and the presence of a birth doula at home births, as well as in delivery suites, is increasing.
Louisa Khalfi and her husband, Kieran Creedon, are parents to Evelyn, aged three and Arlo, aged one. Louisa gave birth at her home in Vicarstown and employed the services of a birth doula for both of her children.
She and Kieran decided to use a doula because they “knew very little” about birth.
"I felt we needed someone to guide and support both of us through the process,” she said.
Louisa explained the role of the birth doula as opposed to her midwife during the labour and birthing processes.
“A birth doula supports the parents. A midwife looks after you from a medical perspective, making sure mum and baby are both healthy, that there are no complications and help with the delivery of the baby.
“You have ante-natal meetings with them so you get to know the person and they get to know what you like, what you don’t like, what you feel comfortable with, if we were going to be transferred to hospital, what my birth preferences were, making sure they were communicated effectively if I wasn’t able to communicate them.
“Most people think we went for a doula because we were having a home birth but, for me, it was more about, if I had to transfer to hospital, who would be an advocate for us?”
The birth doula comes to be with mum when she goes into early labour and supports her through the labour by suggesting different positions and exercises that mum can do to relieve pressure and pain.
Louisa said having a doula was “very beneficial”, especially during the birth of her second child. She said: “Reminding me to breathe was a huge help because my second labour was incredibly fast and quite overpowering and overwhelming. My doula, Louise, kept saying ‘just breathe’ because I felt that every time a contraction was coming that I was bracing myself and holding my breath.”
After both births, Louisa’s doulas (Mary Tighe for Evelyn’s birth and Louise Murphy for Arlo’s birth) provided an in-depth de-brief.
Louisa said: “Arlo was born in under two hours and 20 minutes. From the get-go, it was like a non-stop train. My whole body went into shock and I don’t think I realised what had happened. It was hard to get on top of the contractions.
“Louise, our second doula, talked it through with me. My perception of the birth was different to what Louise witnessed and talking through, it helped me dismiss any negative thoughts I had about the birth.”
Louisa recommends using a doula, whether birthing in hospital or at home, “especially if someone has had a traumatic birth experience previously or needs a bit of extra support. Maybe they want a vbac (vaginal birth after caesarean), or want someone who knows the system and can work around it and knows what your options are. It’s great having someone you know and trust there who can present the options to you.”
Amélie echoes Louisa’s sentiments about women asking for help and support. She said: “Many of the women I have worked with have said they felt peace and calm around them and they didn’t think that would be the case. I (as a doula) am there to take away some of the chaos that ensues when a new-born baby comes along.
“Having someone who has gone through it and knows what it feels like, to guide you through it and tell you that what you are feeling and what you are going through, is normal when most women don’t know it is. They feel isolated and lonely and a bit lost. They don’t know that what they are feeling is what the vast majority of women are feeling.
“Take the support and the help that you need. Realise that this a new learning experience in your life and that it is good to seek advice and support in order to make the most of it and enjoy it.”
For more information, visit www.nurturelearngrow.com / Facebook: Amélie Nyhan Postpartum Doula / Instagram: @amelienyhandoula