What does a doula do?

I’m a doula. “A what?” I hear you ask, “A jeweller?”. This is often the response I get when I meet someone new and they ask me what I do. So, what is a doula, and what does a doula do?

Put simply, a doula is a woman who has experienced childbirth, who supports another woman (and her partner) through the experience of pregnancy, birth and the early days of new parenthood. Her aim is to “mother the mother”, so the mother can focus on caring for her baby. Some doulas work with women at the time of birth, whilst others choose to support women once their babies are here. Between myself and my colleagues Kirsten and Charlotte, we cover the whole spectrum, supporting women from the time in their pregnancy that they book us until they feel they no longer need us, whether that is days, weeks or months after their baby is born. 

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A doula is not usually medically trained, and it is not her responsibility to make clinical decisions - that is the midwife’s job. The doula is there to provide emotional and physical support and reassurance, primarily to the woman, but frequently to the partner as well! In an ideal world, doulas would not be necessary, as women would have a chance to get to know their midwife throughout their pregnancy, have the same midwife care for them through their labour and birth, and support them for the first few weeks at home with a new baby (think “Call the Midwife!”), but sadly those days are long gone for most women. So the doula steps in to provide that continuity of care, which we know makes a huge difference to women’s experiences of labour, birth and early mothering. If a woman has a long labour, she may see several midwives, and have to form a relationship with each one, but her doula never leaves her side, and is someone she already knows and trusts and can rely on. I was recently at a birth from 6.30am - 1.00am the next day, and in that time the labouring woman was cared for by six midwives, four doctors and two anaesthetists, and needless-to-say, felt a bit disjointed! 

Once mum and baby are home, a postnatal doula provides support, company, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and another pair of hands around the house. She doesn’t offer advice, but helps mum to discover for herself how to respond to her baby, enabling and empowering the new mum to feel confident in her mothering skills. She may do practical things like cooking, laundry, shopping, collecting other children from nursery etc, or just provide an opportunity for mum to offload her worries, frustrations, delights and joys in her new baby. Or she may hold the baby to enable mum to go and have a much needed nap, safe in the knowledge that someone else will respond to the baby if necessary. 

Having a doula at the birth cannot guarantee that all will go smoothly (nothing can guarantee that, or we’d all be doing it!), but research into having a doula present has shown that women are 50% less likely to need a Caesarean, 40% less likely to require forceps, less likely to use epidural anaesthesia, more likely to breastfeed, and their labour is likely to be an average of 2 hours shorter than for a woman without a doula present. 

Being a doula is an incredibly humbling, rewarding and special job. Being invited into someone’s life and home at such an intimate and life-changing time is an honour, and being actively chosen to be at someone’s birth is incredibly touching.

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Guest blog: 10 top tips to keep relationships happy

Many of us are experiencing the return to routine as our children return to school, playgroup and nursery following the summer holiday break. After what is often a very enjoyable summer, the routine can put us back into bad habits for family life.

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As a family lawyer, working with couples both dealing with breakdowns of the relationship and protecting relationships, I have seen a number of situations where relationships deteriorate over what appears to have been simple issues that have become unresolvable. Over this period of time, I have learnt a lot about why relationships fail and often see the practical consequences of not taking care of your relationship.

I thought now would be a good to share with you what I think is the top 10 tips for maintaining a good relationship with your partner.

1.         Date Night

Although life is always busy, particularly when we have young children, making time together is a priority. Ensuring this is precious time where chores, tasks and admin are put to one side and time is spent talking to each other is treated as a priority. Although this can often be hard to find time to do, the value of this can be tremendous to maintaining communication particularly at stressful or busy times in your life.

2.         Argue

I regularly see couples who have faced issues in their relationship based on financial difficulties, personal difficulties or parenting difficulties. In all of these situations the ability to communicate and talk those issues through massively improves the ability couples have to resolve conflict which maintains a good healthy relationship between them and shows good communication styles and skills for their children.

3.         The Perfect Marriage

Try to remember there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. We all strive to have the best possible relationship we can, but often what we see on social media, in the general press and what is portrayed by those we meet is not as it appears and as the old age saying “what goes on behind closed doors” refers to is often that what appears perfect really is not what we would define as perfect. In an age of social media, it is often difficult not to compare our own relationship and life with those of others, which have been filtered to perfection. Keep in mind what you want from your relationship as your focus, rather than what others want from theirs.

4.         Secrets and lies

Don’t keep secrets and don’t lie. Often the breakdown of a relationship can be traced back to a secret or a lie which unravels and can lead to a complete breakdown of trust. It is often difficult to undo this and rebuild that trust.

5.         Think back

Try to remember what it is about your partner that made you fall in love with him or her. Often when the madness of family life takes over, remembering this helps us to remember why we continue to do the things we do and focus on what it is important in life.

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6.         Turn off your mobile!

Mobile phones in this day and age are often a cause of marital dispute particularly when we find ourselves attached to our phones for work, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all social medial demands. Making sure that we have “phone free” time whilst together and appreciating our spouse more than our phone is important.

7.         Laughter

Laughter is a key part of any positive relationship. Find it as often as you can.

8.         Don’t put your marriage on hold

 There can be a tendency to look to the next goal or milestone before making time to spend as a couple but much can happen to delay that putting the relationship on hold repeatedly. Often this means that there is resentment and in these situations if the time never comes, the marriage or relationship is not given a chance to prosper.

9.         Be patient

It is often easy to express frustration and criticism of those that we are closest to. Try to encourage and be patient with your other half, to nurture the relationship rather than criticise it. The support from your spouse is often the things that helps us through the most difficult times.

10.      Say sorry

 We encourage our children to always say sorry but often this is the thing that we forget. It is not an easy thing to say and saying it has great value to those we love.

There is no right or wrong way to conduct a relationship but I genuinely believe these tips are ones that have shone through in my years as a family lawyer as reasons why relationships fail and how the situation can be very difficult if as much care were taken with our relationship as it is with many other parts of our lives.

Have a great week,

Claire

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Claire Colbert:  Mediator and Family Partner with Freeths

Claire has advised clients for over 16 years on all aspects of family law including dealing with disputes between couples and family members.  Claire can help couples protecting themselves from financial claims and assist with agreeing arrangements for children.

Claire has experience in dealing with Child Maintenance Service appeals (formerly CSA). She assists parents dealing with school appeals for primary and secondary school places.

Claire is a mediator, collaborative lawyer and an accredited specialist of Resolution and Law Society Family Law Panel member.  Claire was awarded Family Law Associate of the year at the Jordan's family law awards in 2013.

What separates Claire from other expert lawyers is that she works hard to resolve issues amicably without the need for a court intervention, aiming to achieve constructive legal solutions quickly and cost effectively. 

DDI: 01865 781182

claire.colbert@freeths.co.uk

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Hello from Kirsten

Hi,

I’m Kirsten, I have been a part of Birth Baby Balance for over a year now and I wanted to say hi, introduce myself and let you know a little bit more about what I offer as part of Birth Baby Balance.  Take a look at the video to find out more, or there is a brief transcript of the video below.

My passion is postnatal health and well-being, so primarily I am here to support new parents in those early days of parenting. Some of you may already have attended my Newborn Mothers session as part of the postnatal course for new parents, or as part of Sarah’s antenatal course.

I have also trained as a postnatal doula and am looking forward to supporting more new parents in this role, helping in your home in the early days and weeks with baby.

My support for parents extends beyond those early days and as a parenting consultant, I run a Calm Parenting course for later in the parenting journey, when there are increased challenges with toddlers or perhaps the introduction of a sibling is causing conflict and frustration.

I also offer sleep support when your little one has some sleep challenges and isn't getting the sleep they need, and nor are you!

I’ll be writing about all aspects of parenting on the website blog and sharing these and other articles of interest on the FB page. So make sure you look out for them!

I look forward to meeting and working with you soon!

K x

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