I’m just back from a long birth with little sleep. One that didn’t end the way that the parents had hoped for.

They seem OK and are very grateful for the support.

But I feel very raw and open, and for some reason I also feel the need to “stay” with that feeling for now-I don’t want to heal it, I don’t want to move on. At least not yet. I feel I need to honour the feeling somehow, maybe so I can fully process it.

Over the next few days I know I will-I will meditate and do some Reiki on it-I have booked myself a couple of bodywork treatments to restore myself to my grounded, more balanced self. I probably will cry, and I will heal.

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But for now I want to stay with the raw openness feeling. After a birth, I often find myself on the edge of tears without warning. Today that feeling engulfed me and I felt tears of gratitude and sadness mixed together whilst watching my kids dancing. Gratitude for I have two beautiful, healthy and joyful children. Sadness because the birth was long and challenging and I worry about the mother I supported.

I know some of the feelings are partly caused by lack of sleep. But that is not the whole explanation.

I know a woman’s energy system needs to open for her to give birth and I find myself wondering whether that of birth supporters does too. Hence the feeling of being so open after a birth.

Figuratively, we birth supporters give a lot of ourselves to support a woman has she birth-so our hearts are wide open to we can give freely.

Spiritually I think something deeper happens. I think we mesh with the birthing woman’s energy field.

Sometimes the birth is easy and straightforward and all the attendants are kind and supportive.

Sometimes the birth isn’t easy and straightforward but the mother feels supported and respected and the experience is beautiful still.

I still feel very emotional and open but after those births I drive home with tears of joy and gratitude.

Sometimes the birth takes unexpected turns-veering away from the parent’s hopes and wishes-and sometimes the people supporting her aren’t kind or respectful, and she finds herself coerced into interventions she didn’t want. I try to protect her space and her choices as best I can. But it’s hard.

Those are the births when I drive home with tears of sadness and frustration and of what might have been.

Those are the births after which I spend too much time over analysing what happened and whether I might have helped influence the outcome in a more positive way had I done this or said that or suggested an alternative comfort measure at a different time.

Deep down, I know I did the best I could. But I can’t help and worry that somehow, I failed her.

That things could have been different. That I could have helped her more. That I could have made more of a difference. That I could have protected her more.

Only I didn’t fail her. I didn’t fail myself.

Just by being there, I made a difference.

When I support a birth I have very strong protective feelings towards the birthing mother.

I feel like a fierce mama bear.

I protect her space.

I’m a warrior.


So when things don’t happen as she hoped, when the power gets taken away from her, sometimes I also feel powerless myself. Powerless at protecting her.

Only it isn’t quite like that.

Because it isn’t at the easy births that doulas really show their strength.

Because it is when things get the most challenging, when the going gets tough, when there are lots of interventions and upset and exhaustion and pain, this is when we make the most difference.

The mother remembers above all how we massaged her back for hours during contractions, even when we were exhausted from two nights without sleep.

She remembers that we held her, that she wasn’t alone.

That when interventions were suggested, we made sure she had all the information and time she needed to make her own decisions.

That’s what matters. That’s what makes the difference

Not how it looks on paper but HOW SHE WAS MADE TO FEEL during the birth.

That’s what makes the difference between a good and a bad birth experience.

That’s what we do. And that’s why it is so difficult to quantify and measure.


I run workshops for doulas and birth professionals-if you feel drawn to work with me, head over here

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