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The refuelling station, or the importance of self care for doulas and birthworkers

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A couple of days ago I was given a beautiful self care analogy. I was treating my friend Teddy with Reiki. He is an osteopath. For some reason, that day, I was drawn to treat his hands, something I haven’t been trained to do. But when I was treating a new mother recently, she mentioned her hands were aching from holding her newborn so much, so I treated them and it was lovely. Somehow it made sense to treat Teddy’s hands too because, as his main working tools, I figured out they could do with some recharging.

It produced very interesting effects. As soon as I started treating his hands, I felt a great amount of tingling energy flowing through my hands. Teddy became aware that his hands had felt empty and then  said that it felt like a petrol pump or a fuelling station refilling them with energy.

I treated him until it felt like the Reiki has done its job. It took a good 20 min, which, in my personal experience, is quite a long time. Especially for him as he is one of the fastest responders to Reiki I know.

It was a very interesting learning experience for me on several levels.

Firstly from my own Reiki angle-I found myself wondering why treating hands isn’t part of the standard positions suggested as part of Reiki training. We do so much with our hands, all of us, even those of us who aren’t body workers. We touch with them, we give with them, we express love with them. From now on this is something I will remember to offer to my clients. When I treated my new mother client, the treatment was very significant for her. She said it felt like it was acknowledging the hard work her hands were doing.pexels-photo

Secondly, it reminded me of the importance of self care, and the fuel pump was a beautiful analogy. It is a well known fact that people who work in professions that involve healing or caring for others are usually pretty bad at looking after themselves, because they tend to put the needs of others ahead of their own.

I learnt this the hard way myself during my first year as a doula. When I was working as a scientist, my self-care routine involved eating well, getting enough sleep and running 3 times a week. That seemed to do the trick.

Then I left science to pursue my heart’s calling (read more about this here).

I LOVED every minute of my first year as a doula: the births the postnatal families, everything. I felt so blessed to the able to do this special job.

Then towards the end of my first year I suffered massive burnout. I remember at the end of two long weeks looking after several postnatal clients-I felt physically, emotionally, and (that was new to me) spiritually empty. I had never experienced anything like this before and I didn’t know what to do.

I called my wonderful doula mentor Suzanne, and she explained to me that, due to the giving nature of doulaing, I needed to develop a new kind of self-care routine.

You see when you have a job that involves giving to others, day in day out, and especially if you happen to also be a parent, so you have to do it all over again for your family in the evenings, your fuel tank can get empty without you even noticing. So have to find new ways of refilling your own tank.

This is important because you simply cannot fill somebody else’s tank if your own tank in empty.

So ultimately, by looking after yourself, you are also looking after your loved ones and clients.

In the months following months after that burnout experience, I tried out a lot of different self care approaches. I had treatments with different practitioners: massages, reflexology, osteopathy. I learnt to religiously book myself a treatment after a birth. I tried mindfulness and meditation. I developed a liking for something I call a “birth hangover”-if I can after a birth I have a sofa day at home in my pj’s watching DVDs and eating lovely food. I also learnt to pace myself, and that I could only take so many clients at once. Eventually this, helped by the wisdom of other doulas who were further in their journeys than me, led me to continuing the Reiki training I had started 15 years ago and completing my level 2 and then my reiki master level. This is something I did first and foremost for myself and my own self development. Today I am beyond grateful for the caring gifts it has imparted me, my family, friends and clients. Self treatment with Reiki is my go-to treatment of choice. If I feel off-balance nothing works as well as that. My kids come asking for it whenever they hurt themselves or are upset. I still have regular body treatments too.

So if you look after others in one way or another, I would like to encourage you to think about ways you can fill your own fuel tank. I like the SPICES acronym for this. S is for social, P is for Physical,  I is for intellectual,  C for creativity, E for emotional, S for spirituality.

How are YOU going to look after your fuel tank?

 

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