Reflections on 2018

At the end of 2017 I wrote a review of my year.

I found this a very useful exercise, because as I wrote telling a story, I gained a lot more insight into what I had done during the year than when I bullet point it like I used to do.

So I am doing it again, for myself, but also because I hope it will inspire others to do the same and reflect on their year and celebrate their achievements.

I am breaking it down in sections: my doula year, my teacher/facilitator year, my personal development and self care year.

My doula year.

This year I supported 10 families through pregnancy and birth (my busiest year yet) and 4 through the postnatal period. There was a HBAC (homebirth after caesarean), 4 birth centre births (including a VBAC), 2 vaginal births in the delivery unit after induction, and 3 planned caesareans.

I am sharing some of the stories below with permission from the mothers.

Two of these births where twins, which was an entirely new experience for me. I felt out of my depth and had impostor syndrome. I remember worrying whether I’d be able to support the mum adequately, especially in the postnatal period, but my worries were unfounded, and I now feel much more confident supporting multiple pregnancies.

One of the twin mums was a repeat client. It proved a complicated pregnancy with lots of hospital visits, we knew her babies would be born early, but it still came as a shock when she called me telling me they were taking her to theatre, right now, at 32 weeks on the dot. I was packed for a week end away and about to leave the house. Luckily my husband saw how torn I was and immediately told me to go be with her (I love him a lot for this). It was important for me to be there for her. The babies had to spent quite some time in NICU and when they came home, my client had a very challenging journey to breastfeed them. They were both tongue tied, and the local maternity staff didn’t support her breastfeeding, pushing formula and claiming that “breastfeeding was too tiring for them”. We embarked on a several week long journey to help her achieve her goals, which at some point involved 3 doulas providing full time support during the day. Each feed go like this: she would feed one twin first, I would then give that twin an expressed breast milk top up whilst mum fed the second one. I would then put twin 1 inside my stretchy wrap, so I could hold twin 2 and give her her top up, whilst mum expressed her milk. She only got a 30 min break before starting the whole thing all over again, which gave me incredible respect and awe for her determination. She went on to breastfeed them for 8 months after that! Also, for the first time in my life I carried her twins together in a sling which was so special and lovely.

Births don’t come nicely stacked, they tend to come like buses, and this year there were two sets of 2 births really close to another, one days apart, the other hours apart. I didn’t repeat the 2 births in one day experience of 2017, but I did attend 2 births less than 30h apart, and so once again I am so grateful for shared doula care which made the whole experience so much easier and less stressful.

Births also tend to come in themes: This year the theme for me was rebozo and spinning babies techniques. Apart from one very quick birth (and obviously the planned caesareans), I used a combination of spinning babies techniques and rebozo work to incredible effects during pretty much every birth. I’m so grateful for this knowledge. In late 2016 and early 2017 I attended 2 spinning babies workshops. But it is only this year, probably through a mix of increased practical and theoretical knowledge (and the fact that I have been teaching rebozo techniques for 2 years, something that has really deepened my knowledge), that I saw miracles happen.

What made the miracles happen was the using the spinning babies quick reference booklet and rebozo techniques together, and asking midwives very granular questions about the baby’s position and station (then using this to inform which techniques to use).

One of the birth highlights of the year was a 4 day long HBAC (homebirth after caesarean), the longest birth I have attended. I used many different rebozo and spinning babies techniques during this birth, but the most striking effect was when, after 3 days of labour, mum got stuck at 6cm dilation due to a posterior and asynclitic baby. With the help of her husband and my co-doula Becky, we helped the mother get herself in an inverted position, and during 3 contractions, I vigorously shook her buttocks with my rebozo. When she came back up, she announced that her back didn’t hurt anymore. Her midwife confirmed that baby had rotated, and she had her baby in the pool 4h later. After those 4 days of labour, when she finally birthed her baby boy in the pool in her living room, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. In fact it was such a joyful relief that I actually cried and laughed at the first time, something that had never happened to me before.

The effect of the techniques we used during her birth was so instant and amazing that when Becky went to a study day at the hospital the following day, she lost count of how many midwives approached her to ask “but what did you do?” (because of course, everybody had heard about “that” birth.

I’ve had similar experiences after this birth, probably because seeing for myself how miraculous the techniques could be was what I needed to really drive the message. I’ve also started telling all my clients during pregnancy that if there is any delay in progress, rather than risking some major intervention, I’ll offer them these techniques. I make sure we have practised them together, so they aren’t put off by my offering of these things during labour.

During another birth, as soon as I turned up I noticed that the mother had the typical one long one short contraction pattern indicative of an OP baby. She also had back pain, so rather than waiting for confirmation, I offered rebozo sifting as a way to help her back ache. After 3 contractions of belly sifting followed by 3 contractions of shaking the apples, boom! the contractions were regular and she birthed 3h later, having only been 2cm dilated prior to the rebozo work.

In 2017 I became a doula UK mentor. I have now mentored 15 doula, two of which have now become recognised. It’s been such a special journey supporting new doulas as they grow, and again I found myself learning so much from it, that it made me revisit the idea of becoming a doula trainer, something that had been in the back of my mind for a few years.

I approached Maddie McMahon of Developing doulas. It had been a long time coming because Maddie was my doula and I also attended her first ever developing doulas course in 2008 (and it feels very fitting as she celebrated 10 years of doula courses this year), and started co-facilitating courses with her in September. Having co-facilitated 2 courses with her, I’m being assessed in February and booked to teach my first solo course in London in May. I’m so excited by this new journey!

I wrote 19 blog posts on topics ranging from birth to motherhood to self care, and I hope what I wrote helped women and birthworkers feeling empowered in making informed decisions. I also started writing a regular column in The Doula magazine.

My teaching/workshop facilitator year.

I facilitated 23 workshops in 2018, a mix of Closing the bones, Rebozo, Babywearing and Reiki workshops. I trained over 150 people, including teaching rebozos to NHS midwives for the first time. I travelled up and down the country (from Cambridge, to Norfolk, to Nottingham, to various places in and around London). This year for the first time that I took my teaching outside of the UK, first to Belgium, then to Dubai. I had a blast, especially in Dubai where I combined my trip with a bit of sightseeing, and got to go up the tallest building in the world and swim inside the man-made palm island. I meet some awesome women, and shared some incredible moments of connection with them too.

This year also saw me launch my online rebozo course. After 18 months of preparation, working with a large group of early adopters, doing a beta version of the course with them, the finished course was launched in July, and I’ve received extremely positive feedback about it since. I’m excited to be able to share this knowledge further afield.

Maddie McMahon and I celebrated having trained nearly 400 people in the closing the bones massage. We hope this will help play a role in changing our culture’s attitude towards supporting women during the postpartum, to be more women centred. Our dream is that all women know about this treatment and why it’s so needed, and that people buy them this and really support, like home-cooked food and offers of doing chores instead of bouquets of flowers and gifts for the baby.

Over the last couple of years, many people started approaching me asking me to develop a massage table version of the closing the bones. Closing the bones is usually done on the floor, and many people with knee or back problems found it too painful or difficult to do. In September 2017 I had approached my osteopath friend Teddy Brookes asking him if he would be interested in helping develop it. It took us 18 months to develop it, and it morphed into something really quite different from the floor work. We called it the postnatal recovery massage, and trialled it out on a small group of guinea pigs in October, and they loved. You can read more about it here. I am incredibly proud of this new technique, and excited to be teaching it together with Teddy in 2019.

 

My healer year

Giving healing treatments, whether it is using closing the bones and/or Reiki and drumming is something I love to do, and this year I did plenty of this. I used my energy management skills to a whole new level at births this year, seeing the mother’s energy field open to let the baby’s soul in for the first time. This is such a powerful and beautiful image that I am planning to have it tattooed on my arm.

I closed the bones of several clients post birth, some more than once, and also used it outside of the birth setting, to support loss in particular, and difficult life transitions. I just love how healing this treatment can be.

Whilst treating clients with Reiki, I had the new experience of feeling my arms and hands vibrating strongly (enough for my clients to feel it) which kind of freaked me out because I didn’t understand why it was happening. After I learnt that this was simply caused by a very large amount of energy coming through to very depleted people (like when too much water tries to come through a narrow pipe), I became excited when it happened, as I knew it would be doing good to my client.

I learnt a new trauma release technique called the Rewind technique this year and had some very effective experiences with it.

I also organised 2 mother blessings for 2 local doula sisters, and it was especially lovely. You can read about one of them here . I’ve now been booked by women who want this AND a group closing the bones ritual for next year, and I am so excited about offering this.

I also got booked by a client who wants me to drum at her birth, something that has been on my bucket list for a while! It will be interesting to see the hospital staff reaction to it.

In September I got my first tattoo. If you told me even a couple of years ago I would get one I would have laughed. But whilst making a drum at the doula retreat last year I was introduced to the idea of having a tattoo done in ceremony. The idea grew on me, I delayed it as I wasn’t ready and hadn’t found the right design. But when I committed to it I found the design the same day (an intricate female wolf face, which is inspired by henna tattoo designs. The wolf is my spirit animal, something I discovered during a guided drum journey at the doula retreat about 4 years ago) and I loved having it done in ceremony with my doula sisters holding me and drumming for me. It feels very significant and special.

My personal development year

I’m an eternal student and love to learn new skills more than anything so this year was no different.

I attended 2 conferences (doula UK and Birthlight) and 8 study days (Rewind training, Slingababy CPD week end, 2 workshops at the doula retreat, safeguarding, bump wrapping workshop, and AIMS consent workshop).

I guess what was new this year is I learnt a lot of new skills by myself.

Launching the rebozo online course led me to learn lots of new skills, from shooting videos to taking pictures, and how to translate live into e-learning., and developing the postnatal recovery massage course really increased my bodywork knowledge too.

In the past I have written about the importance of listening  to your inner guidance instead of always looking for answers outside of yourself. I guess this year, for the first time I feel that I am really integrating the concept of developing my knowledge from inside rather than outside.

Yet, the year didn’t start so well for me, in February I was in a quite a negative mindset and feeling kind of stuck, stressed and overworked.

I met an awesome coach called Bonny Williams and embarked on a 3 months coaching programme with her, based on the One of Many female archetype system. Bonny explained that always trying to achieve at a constant rate is a very male way of working, whereas we women, with our menstrual cycle, have cyclical energy, and that working in such a masculine lead to depletion and wasn’t sustainable. This proved to be totally transformative for me, and thanks to her I discovered a more flowy, fluid, fun, and more feminine and intuitive way of working, and stopped beating myself up when I wasn’t constantly working at the same pace, like a man. I even started to give myself permission to do very little at the beginning of my cycle, something I wrote about it here.

I finally let go of the idea that I ought to be productive all the time. I felt like I was shedding 40 plus years of conditioning, from school to Uni to corporate life. Miracles happened once I started using this new way of working and I feel that for the first time since I left employment 6 years ago, I have finally found the right way of working for me. I’m much happier and relaxed for it too. And guess what, true miracles have happened since because I have had a more successful year both personally and financially than ever before.

This helped me “come out” even more as my scientist cum healer self, and in July I had a photoshoot with my friend Ali Dover , and completely rewamped the look of my website to reflect my new self.

My self care year

I kept my rule of having a body work treatment after every birth, from my osteopath friend Teddy Brookes, who has a unique way of resetting my nervous system, something that is much needed after a birth. I tried two new treatments too, thanks to amazing therapists friends with whom I do skill swaps: I had a Watsu session with my friend Kamilla Bombeiros  and it was incredible, like the most relaxing and enjoyable thing ever. I also had a new type of deep tissue massage from my friend Emma Kenny , perfectly timed to recover from facilitating my first doula course!

Of course the 4 days doula retreat in magical Cae Mabon in North Wales in May, away from the hustle and bustle of the world, was the highlight of my self care year, and this time involved me having a rather mind blowing healing experience as I attended a grief workshop, and also shed another layer of “not being good enough” in a workshop which wasn’t part of the plan, you can read about that here.

Last year I re-joined a choir, something that I find incredibly good for the soul. I’ve carried on singing with them and we had two incredibly magical moments : singing at the top of Castle Hill at dusk in the summer, I felt this experience touched the divine. Another wonderful event was spending an evening punting up and down the Cam river whilst singing, with the whole choir on 6 punts hooked together!

Sports and health wise, I kept to my weekly regime of 2/3 swims a week, and 3 body weight/kettlebell exercise sessions, all of which I do first thing in the morning. In June I started eating a ketogenic diet, mostly for weight loss as the perimenopause meant that I was getting to a size I wasn’t happy with. I achieved my goals and more with this, loosing around 20 pounds since June, but what I didn’t expect was how well this way of eating would make me feel. My mood and energy are much more stable, I’m not just leaner I’m also happier. I find this way of eating incredibly liberating too as I’m never hungry nor need to count any calories.

But the surprise highlight of my self care year, was discovering the local river swimming club. I had promised myself I’d do some wild swimming in the UK this summer, and thanks to a friend, I was introduced to the local river swimming club. It’s in the most gorgeous, peaceful and secluded wild spot, and as I started going there daily over the glorious summer, it did such wonder for my mental health, very much like if I was washing all my shit off in the river. I loved it so much that I kept going as the weather grew colder, and I’m still going now once a week (with a wetsuit since the water temp dropped below 5 degrees). It makes me feel incredible. I’ve written a whole blog post about it if you’d like to read more.

Last year I wrote my year review as a blog for the first time and found it an incredibly useful process, because it made me reflect a lot more than when I just wrote bullet points as I used to do. It also helped alleviate the feeling that I’m not doing enough to achieve what used to be my own impossible standards.

At the end of last year’s review I wrote this : I’m making the promise to myself to spend more time having fun with my work, than trying to stick to a rigid working schedule. Boy did I achieved this and more. I actually totally smashed this goal.

I’m no longer spending time beating myself up for “not achieving enough”. It sounds crazy but I used to do this all the time. I’ve truly let go of this way of thinking this year.

I love more than anything learning and doing new things. In 2019 the two things I’m most excited about are facilitating two new courses: the postnatal recovery massage workshop, which I will teach jointly with osteopath Teddy Brookes, and the Developing doulas course which I will co-facilitate with Maddie Mc Mahon in February, then teach my first solo course in Lewisham, London, in May. Do get in touch if you’d like to train with me!

I hope you enjoyed reading my review and found it inspiring. I’d like to encourage you to do the same for yourself, because it’s easy to focus only on what we aren’t doing and miss the amazing things we have achieved.

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