Distance Doulaing during Covid-19
Every woman should have a Maddie in their lives during pregnancy, childbirth and the early breastfeeding days. I believe it should be mandatory and doulas should be viewed as essential workers because what they do – even without being physically present at times, or always tangible work – is unique and fully transforming for a woman.
Maddie was a crucial figure for myself (and my husband) during these three big milestones, even more during COVID times. Maddie gave us the beautiful gift and opportunity to view (and experience) childbirth with another light – as a natural and evolutionary process, and a journey of trust and finding the confidence in my body, in my baby and our ‘dance’ together.
I’m an anxious person by nature and having a first baby during the early pandemic times was extremely nerve wracking and difficult to deal with (and accept) the uncertainty of the times and the complete lack of physical support. [Together] with my husband, Maddie was a steady hand, a steady voice, my calm. She was always there when I needed, while also giving us the freedom and independence to find our way together.
I remember Maddie’s simple, uncomplicated words: ‘focus on just this surge’, and later on, ‘focus on just this feed, not the future’ – these words helped me to remain collected, or to pick myself up, and push through, believing that somehow things would get better and evolve. And they always did.
Maddie’s support and approach help me to discover the seed of my motherly instincts and intuition – motherhood it’s certainly a long, ever changing and beautiful journey but the right support at the start is so important – having that someone you trust to tell you that the challenges are normal, that all is ok, all is as should be.
It would not have been the same without you, Maddie – you are wonderful. Cannot wait to hug you with all my strength when the world goes back to normal.
Shared Care Doulaing
My husband and I decided to get a doula as one of my friends is a doula (not living locally) and so I knew about their work and its benefits. With it being our first child, and no family in the area, we decided the extra support before, during and after delivery would be invaluable.We met both Maddie and Tracy (separately) on Skype for the first time after reading their profiles on doula.org.uk. We felt a connection with them both immediately and as they both have different specialisms that complement each other perfectly, we decided on doula “shared care” (which worked well for them too as they knew each other well and, given we were due in January, they shared the on-call period over the holiday season).In addition, we attended Tracy’s hypnobirthing course. We found this very insightful and it prepared us well to understand what to expect, options we had, techniques we could use during birth and other practical tips. We are believers in knowledge is power, and so found Tracy and the insight she gave (including sharing her own experiences) comforting – it helped us to prepare and calmed us. We also liked the way Tracy ran the course – it was informal, small class sizes and “warm and cosy”. No question was too stupid!We met with both Tracy and Maddie twice before the birth, to get to know each other better and prepare. Again they both shared personal insight of real life situations which helped bring the theory to life. We had a WhatsApp group (Tracy, Maddie, my husband and I) – they were always on hand to answer questions or check in on us in the run up to the birth which I loved especially as we had a baby that just wouldn’t get in to position ! The NHS / midwife support you get prenatally is great, but I really think having someone you can ask questions to ad hoc is fantastic.We ended up needing an induction (my waters had broken with no contractions) and when we found this out the first people we called were Maddie and Tracy. We agreed Maddie would come the next morning. It turned out not much had happened by the time she arrived, but it meant my husband could go and get some rest as we knew we had a long way to go. Maddie and I chatted and walked as we tried to spur the baby in to action. It seemed to do the trick as suddenly my contractions were very close together and we needed to call my husband back ASAP (but as we were waiting for him I was so grateful to have Maddie). Combined with using hypnobirthing, I can honestly say Maddie’s techniques for natural pain relief were second to none – to the extent that even if I wasn’t in the same room as Maddie and a contraction started she was instantly there to help. She really worked tirelessly to support us and hardly left our sides for a moment (she must have been as exhausted!).I went to 8cm dilated very quickly but then “got stuck” with some tense times for the health of our baby. We were all very tired and Tracy came to give us extra support and be a fresh face. We had choices to make – further induction procedures to force me to 10cm or potentially a c-section. Through the delirium and tiredness of labour I knew deep down there wasn’t something right with the baby and wanted a c-section. Maddie and Tracy (remaining impartial, but supporting us, laying out the facts and helping us to have a clear head) gave us the confidence to believe in my gut instinct and we elected to have a c-section.When we got in to the OR it became quickly clear that our baby was mal-positioned and carrying on with labour would have meant she would have got stuck and it would have been a real emergency. I still well up with tears thinking about it, but because of the choice we made with their support she was born kicking and screaming and healthy.Tracy stayed on after she was born to give me company and my husband a break, and Maddie went home for a well earned rest.After the birth, both Maddie and Tracy stayed in contact and Maddie also supported me in breast-feeding as our little girl had tongue tie and weight gain issues. Again just having someone to reach out to informally whenever you needed was so helpful. They both came over for a post birth debrief which was great – it was nice to see them both again and also there was a lot of stuff from the birth we had forgotten!Even though our birth experience wasn’t what we had planned (we didn’t have a rigid plan, but even so), we still look back on it positively. Birth will never go to an exact plan, but it’s what you make of it (Maddie and Tracy taught us that!).
Our first two children both ended up on formula by a month old, due to tongue tie issues. When we were expecting our third, we wanted to get some 1-1 breastfeeding support to give us the best chance of getting feeding working this time.We had a “Preparation for breastfeeding” session with Maddie towards the end of pregnancy. We went through how feeding had gone both previous times, and planned what to do this time in the first hours and days after the birth. Maddie is an amazing listener – we really felt that our fears and concerns had been heard and taken into account. Her suggestions, all based on sound research and deep knowledge of the subject, were all offered very openly, with no pressure to try any particular approach, but rather to find something that worked for us, while knowing about other ideas to try if we chose to at any point.After the birth, Maddie came to our house a few times to offer follow-up support, comfort and encouragement, combined with practical suggestions, ideas and tips that we could try if we wanted. Without her patient support, we would have stopped breastfeeding within a month again, as our third child also had tongue tie, and it took nearly three months to get to the point where we were exclusively breastfeeding.I cannot thank Maddie enough for helping me hold on to the hope that I could breastfeed a baby, through all that time when I couldn’t believe it for myself.
From a father, Danny:
From the first meeting Maddie put myself & my partner at complete ease. From a male perspective I didn’t know what to expect or the skills on offer…on reflection and without any doubt, every couple or Mum-to-be should have access to a Doula. Their insight…into pregnancy, child birth and breastfeeding comes from a grounded, heartfelt approach, full of empathy, sincerity and centuries of wisdom that was once passed from woman to woman.
I simply cannot express deeply enough, how different birth & active labour can be from what today’s society has ingrained in us. Given all the options, guidance and support… as future parents, you can knowingly make informed decisions to benefit Mother and baby throughout the phases of birth.
I shall forever be grateful that Maddie supported us. From the beginnings of our planned home birth, to transfer into hospital for observation & into the birthing pool room, Maddie did not leave our side. She protected our interests in salvaging the next best thing to our original birth plan but gave so much more. Ever present, never imposing, she knew exactly how to guide us and nothing was too much bother.
Personally, it was a privilege to obverse and share the divine unity of one woman embracing and empowering another as she entered her final stages towards motherhood.
We could not have felt more safe or loved and all she replied to me was ‘its just what Doulas do’.
We’ll feel forever in debt and blessed for such an unforgettable experience & having Maddie by our side x
From a postnatal client Z:
Your support to us all has been invaluable and in helping give A have one of the best starts we could and keeping me going when times have been hard especially with all the feeding issues. I will be forever grateful that we had hand expressed before A was born and were then in a position to keep it going and for the handy sling tips that revolutionised our early weeks in so many ways. You are amazing at what you do and anyone who has you as a doula is very lucky.
From one of my clients, Kate:
I found out I was having twins (my first children) at the 13 week scan and was petrified. I knew I needed help but had no idea what was out there…
A friend mentioned her doula, and with a bit of research I was lucky enough to come across Maddie, who helped me after the birth until the boys were 5 months old. Maddie would come once or twice a week and was an absolute godsend, exactly what I needed.
At the beginning she helped me persevere with breast feeding both the boys – something I couldn’t be more grateful for now they are nearly 6 months old, bouncing, happy, and exclusively breast fed the whole way through.
She also mopped up a few tears (mine and the twins), took the boys out when I needed to sleep, listened when I wanted to talk about how it was all going and gave the best advice about parenting and motherhood I got from anyone – my own mother included!
Her calm manner and wonderful mixture of practical and emotional support was perfectly judged and got me through the blur of the early months.
I can’t recommend Maddie highly enough!
R: I never got to say a proper thank you to you for holding my hand (literally as well) through the birth of A. Now we are close to 3 months from when A made his journey into our lives, however I remember his arrival like yesterday. The waters broke, I knew I could call you, the period like feeling began, I knew you were there close by, and when I called you, there you were at our doorstep. As soon as I saw you I realised everything will be fine, and you led me to the stars with your gentle voice and reassurance. When I look back at my birth preferences, that’s exactly how A came to this world, I wouldn’t have it any other way…Thanks for your kind and warm support.
A: Maddie’s breastfeeding support ahead of the birth made a huge difference. Daytime care enabled me to catch up on sleep. Reassurance in times of anxiety – questions answered. Husband able to return to work with peace of mind.
Caroline K: [Maddie] is a truely wonderful person. She is kind, genuine, trustworthy and gentle. She has been fantastic to our son and has become an integral part of our family.
C: [Maddie] helped me move from being worried about the birth to looking forward to it. [She] increased my confidence in my ability to labour and have a VBAC. [She] put me in a positive frame of mind. [During the birth] I knew Maddie was there and this was reassuring. I felt ‘un-alone’ but alone to get on with labour how I wanted to.
L: Maddie worked on relaxation techniques and was also there to reassure and to enforce the positive. She helped both me and my husband by doing the practical (drinks, breathing techniques etc). She also was thinking one step ahead each time and was able to get things set up when needed ie birth pool.
Sophie M: Maddie provided information which helped me make the right choices for the birth. She gave me support when I had difficult times during pregnancy. She gave me breastfeeding information and a practical demo!
By giving me support, both physical and emotional during the birth she made me feel safe and allowed me to follow my instinct.
Vicky: Maddie was my birth and post-natal doula. When I was pregnant it was great being able to discuss my thoughts and fears about the birth with her, she was very supportive, gave me lots of references and reading suggestions – she must have recognised my enjoyment of the written word! – and this gave me confidence both in my choices for labour and in her as a birth companion. The first few days after the birth were a blur, but Maddie held me together when I found the going tough and helped me so much, as I had no experience of looking after a small baby. In particular I will always be grateful that she identified my daughter’s tongue-tie at a very early stage, when it had gone unnoticed by several midwives, and thanks to her breastfeeding contacts it was treated the next day, averting certain breastfeeding misery. Maddie is such a lovely person and it was great having her around. I feel very thankful I made the decision to have a doula, and I was so lucky that it was Maddie.
I am a father of three sons. The births of our first two sons were very traumatic. So I was in such a bad place in terms of my ability to help my wife with the delivery of our third son. Maddie and Sophie really helped my wife during the birth, and also gave me confidence to help my wife.
Almost three months into motherhood now, your words and lessons have continued to ripple through my days and offer subtle reassurances…Breastfeeding has been an incredibly positive, bonding experience – and I owe a great deal of that to the fact that she wasn’t the only one between us who knew what she was doing. The knowledge from your session gave me confidence from day one and most importantly, gave me an inner tool kit to pull from during any tiny bumps in the road – recognising why certain things may happen and knowing that they weren’t necessarily problems has kept me feeling at ease, even during the fussy moments.
Yours has been a gift that has continued to echo, and is one I am very grateful for.
I have a book full of feedback, comments, thank you cards and photos of lots of lovely parents and babies. If you’re thinking of meeting up with me to see if you’d like me to be your doula, I’ll bring it with me so you can have a look.