Being a Doula in the North
The struggles and triumphs of being a birth worker in the North of England. Specifically, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Once I had qualified as a doula I thought that meant that women with baby bumps and sonograms would start running towards me and see me as this sparkly light in the darkness. Oh, how I was wrong!
Don't get me wrong, putting in the graft and working hard is 100% necessary, but I did think that it would be easier to attract 'clients.' I realized after time, effort and research that quite a few (not all) pregnant people in my region didn't see doulas as something that was 'needed' or 'relevant' for them. Not because of a lack of knowledge or social circumstance, but because of the 'Northern Mentality' that I feel many of us in the North have and live by. Now, I can't speak on other regions and I'm not trying to generalize any place or group or thing, this is all from my experience and perspective (and interviewing women for our podcast @britainsbirthstories).
What I believe the 'Northern Mentality' is for me and possibly for some around me is the idea that we don't need anything special or to make a fuss or big deal of things - we just get on with it. We just push on, keep going, get through and sometimes we have to 'get over it.' I see this in my life daily, this slightly hard exterior and mentality where we just need to carry on and not focus too much on the difficulties and realities. I have also heard many women, pregnant women, mothers and birthers in my region say things like 'well you just get through it, don't you?' or 'you just keep going and it'll be fine eventually.'
I have always been proud of being Northern and having this type of trait which basically means that even though I am or was unhappy, unsure, uncomfortable, stressed, worried or scared; I just kept going anyway. But is this something I/we should be glorifying or acknowledging and trying to balance with acceptance, self-love and forgiveness and willingness to accept and want extra help or love and support?
In no way would I say that someone should change who they are or who they feel they are just because I may not see it as healthy or productive, but I do sometimes fear that some of those around me and myself included - are almost too hard at times, that we forget that feeling and processing issues or wanting help or more support and love is normal and acceptable and more importantly - is amazingly okay.
Now how does this relate back to being a doula? Well, from what I have heard through my interviews and from those around me, many birthers here don't feel like a doula is necessary because they already have the NHS and midwives and why would they need to make a 'faff' of it all by getting another person involved and also having to pay for another person! I totally agree, when you've got an amazing service like the NHS and the midwives who can be absolutely incredible - why would you then spend money on someone else to join you? Well, there are so many reasons but one of the main ones that relates to this topic is - To give you that time and support that you may not think you need or should have.
A midwife will care and support you, but they are under a lot of pressure and have many others to support too - this can add to that whole 'Northern Mentality' where we feel like we get what we are given and that's all we deserve. That is not true, a doula can be there for you when you feel you need more support or to ask random questions to or to have a chat about something you're worried about or excited for. Doulas have the time, they want you to feel as safe, secure, confident and loved as possible. So do midwives, but doulas can provide more time and space for you as they are 'private' to you and not the NHS/Region.
Sometimes we don't realize that we needed that extra support or time until after we've had a baby and then when we reflect we think 'actually, I would have liked to do this - but I just got on with it.' A doula is there to almost normalize the want for more support, love and choices. You have so many choices and you may not be aware of them just because with this 'Northern Mentality' we feel like we need to plod on and get it done and dusted. Some may argue that this isn't a 'Northern Mentality' but just people and their attitudes - this could be 100% true, but I am just basing this on my experiences with those who are around me and in my region and noticing the common mentality between us.
I'm not saying being a doula in the North is more difficult due to this, but it has presented it's own challenges as I try to build connections and promote my work in the area. On the other hand, it has been amazing to see how curious and open-minded so many are in the North. There is a clear desire to break molds and be different and to try new things for themselves and their babies/families; which I am so grateful for.
At the end of the day, I'm just a birth worker trying to uplift and support anyone and everyone that crosses my path and I am so hopeful that with more time and effort the concept of doulas in my region will become more normal and people will see that they deserve the love, the support and the space for themselves and families.
Until then, let's keep going and getting on! Stay safe and well always,
Birth with you.