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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Barber

Reframing my role as a Doula

This Summer I have been working as a Postnatal Doula for some wonderful families, all welcoming a precious new baby into their lives. Such a full time of healing and recovery, joy, milk, exhaustion, and appointments; balancing the needs of each family member is a big job in itself. And, as with a lot of families nowadays, familial support isn’t around the corner, but hours and time zones away.

I have done this work for over 12 years, privately with families in West London. The work is sporadic, but so honouring and special, so personal and intimate, really such a joyful working experience for me, most of the time. A space to be really focused and authentically caring with each client.

This Summer, there has been a real shift for me, in thinking about my role as a Postnatal Doula. Through my initial Doula training so many years ago now, I understood the word “Doula” to be a Greek word, meaning “Mothering the Mother, a helper and a caregiver”. And while being a Postnatal Doula includes those roles and qualities, it really is so much more complex and detailed.

Sure, the work itself involves a lot of hands-on Baby Care, with practical support, suggestions, signposting and sometimes, just being there. The role includes being truly present and available for the Parents, in a way that no one else can be or will be, without any judgement or agenda. That doesn’t sound like it’s realistic sometimes, but I promise you, when I am with a family, supporting them, I truly embody the role, being there just for them.

Of course, friends and family will want to fuss over the new baby, bringing gifts, casseroles and usually flowers (see; they may overstay their welcome, and probably leave the new family utterly exhausted, more than prior to their visit.

Parents of a newborn really need to take things slowly, to be reminded to sit instead of stand to conserve energy, to be brought bottles of water and healthy snacks, even without asking. They need help ensure that there are meals to hand, toilet paper replenished, appointments made, and rest to be taken. To be metaphorically “held”, kept in mind and offered time to debrief, air out whatever is on their mind, brainstorm about things; whatever is needed.

I have come to think of the role of a Doula as a Personal Coach, and Postnatal Coach, alongside the practical caring and helping duties. A Coach is there to hold space, listen and understand, work through whatever “stuff” there is with their client, and help them to be the version of themselves that fits for that time. No judgement, much questions and discussion, setting small tasks and goals, to make such a sticky, messy time easier and more enjoyable. To work through such a major life transition, with someone who is simply there for you.

This week one of my lovely Doula Mamas told me that I was such a “calming influence” for her, another said she understood my value more, having been with their family for a few weeks now.

How lucky I am that I can merge my experience, my passion, my roles and my gifts, all in one! A Personal Coach, a Coach for Parents, a Postnatal Doula, and, as I am most commonly referred to as “the baby whisperer of West London”.

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