Antonia writes, Sophie responded to my blog post ‘Why are babies so hard’. Something about the piece resonated with her and her work as a Doula and so we connected. She agreed to write a piece about how she came to be a Doula for my blog and I was thrilled! Having had a doula for my second birth they are some of favourite people in the world. Every time I meet a doula I see the light shining from them. Their job is such a vocation and passion for them and they do women such a tremendous service both before, during and after labour. They are some of the hardest working women I know and a great many of them have families to tend to themselves. Sophie runs a website called www.nurturingbirth.co.uk where you can find local doulas in your area. You can also learn all about doulas and what they do and even learn about how to train to become one! The site also has a wonderful blog section you can delve into all sorts of interesting topics around birth.
Sophie writes; What inspired me to become a doula?
The honest answer is a chance reading of an article in a Sunday supplement when I was at the in-laws one weekend. It was 2007 and I was relishing an hour to myself whilst my babies, then 4 and 2, were being entertained by their Dad and grandparents. I had that blessed moment of time-uninterrupted with a cup of tea and something grown-up – I couldn’t remember the last time I had read something from cover to cover that wasn’t Bob the Builder. The article described four women’s journeys to new careers and one of those happened to be an actress-turned doula. Despite my fascination with all things pregnancy, birth and parenting, doula wasn’t a term I had come across before. As soon as I got home I had to google it, found Nurturing Birth and, after very little consultation with my husband, signed up to do the course. It felt like the biggest form of fate.
In 2002, a few short months after the birth of my son, Alfie, I gave up my career in the film industry. The company I worked for folded and I knew I couldn’t go back in to the 24/7 insanity with a small person in my life. So, I retrained as a therapeutic massage practitioner and baby massage teacher. I always knew those were springboards to something else, but I didn’t know what. Now, on reading one short article and an evening’s internet-searching, I felt sure I had found it. The sadness I felt when I waved off heavily pregnant mothers after their final massage combined with the frustration at hearing new mothers’ tales of isolation, fear and difficult early weeks with newborns during my baby classes melted away – in realising there was such a role as a doula I felt that I could be with women through those times – with her at the birth and in the first few days and weeks as a new mother.
I loved my doula course – a few intensive days in the company of other inspiring women discussing everything to do with pregnancy, birth and parenting. I learnt from listening, I shared my stories and let go of the fears that I wouldn’t be able to do it because of my own birth experiences (thankfully I wasn’t the only person to have had emergency caesarean births). I came away with more questions and an even greater desire to learn. With two pre-school-age children I couldn’t conceive how I would make it work – I originally thought that postnatal work would be easier to schedule around my life, but it transpired that occasional birth work suited me better. I pulled together an incredible network of support – friends, family and childminders who could drop everything and take over my household when I got called to a birth. It took a bit of time to hone the fine details – one hot Saturday morning I got very antsy waiting for the babysitter to turn up knowing that my labouring client was awaiting me, but all was well. Once the kids were both in school the postnatal work increased too, though my husband was unimpressed if he heard that I had rustled up something amazing for another family’s dinner and had no more culinary imagination or ingredients at home!
Years passed and I worked with extraordinary women and their partners – every birth different and capable of teaching me more about how the body works in labour, how couples interact, how our medical system operates and when and how to best support someone. I witnessed beautiful arrivals of babies in different environments and some much more challenging births too – ones where women were asked to draw on every ounce of their strength, determination and courage. I supported planned caesareans, home water births, breech, twins, VBAC … the list goes on.
The next time fate played a huge role was when I received an email at the start of 2012 asking if I would like to become a course facilitator for Nurturing Birth, the very company I had trained with. Initially I thought I couldn’t possibly do it, didn’t have enough experience, knowledge or ability to facilitate courses – how could I possibly teach former midwives, antenatal teachers, other women who had birthed their babies or those who had little confidence in themselves? But, something made me say yes and trust that if someone recognised something in me then I might just have that capability. Less than two years later I took the opportunity to take over Nurturing Birth with my colleague, Florence Etienne-Jackson and over the past four years we have grown the company further, now offering international doula courses, a Directory for parents to find doula (and other relevant) support as well as mentoring for birth professionals. It has been the best journey of my life – so empowering and exciting. Like being a doula I learn from every course I teach, every person who comes on the course, every mentee. It is utterly inspiring.
Now the greatest challenge is switching off! My children are much older and very used to Mum disappearing off to a birth, and the bizarre logistics that come with it. I can spend every hour of every day in the doula world – reading, networking, meeting, writing, teaching. Self-care has become a priority – to look after myself to the greatest of my ability so that I am best able to be present for a client when she goes into labour. So, with that I am off to run myself a long hot bath with a cup of tea and a good book!
Sophie Brigstocke is a birth and postnatal doula based in Clapham, SW London. She won Doula of the Year at the MaMa Conference, 2017. She runs Nurturing Birth, providing doula courses, mentoring and the international Nurturing Birth Directory.
To follow Nurturing Birth go to
Facebook – www.facebook.com/nurturingbirthdoulas
Twitter – www.twitter.com/nurturing_birth
Instagram – www.instagram.com/nurturing_birth