Long before I even started my career I knew I would work with children. I grew up with lots of cousins of different ages and loved playing and being with them.
I volunteered at a local nursery whilst doing my Duke of Edinburgh’s award and fundraised for a number of children’s charities when I was a school kid.
Two years after becoming an osteopath, I started a MSc in Paediatric Osteopathy at the well-known Osteopathic Centre for Children. I was fascinated with treating children of all ages, and working with babies particularly captured my interest.
Through working with babies and children I developed an interest in pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. I’ve become a birth doula and have immersed myself in many healing modalities to nurture pregnancy such as shiatsu and yoga. I’ve treated hundreds and hundreds of clients and been privileged to be a witness at a really precious and intimate time in life.
As a paediatric osteopath I can’t say I ever felt less experienced because I am not a mother.
However when I became a doula, I suddenly felt out of my depth.
I believe passionately in the power of the human body and its ability to create life and birth.
However I was missing this piece of life experience for myself. I am not a mother.
For some time it made me hesitant to tell people that I was available to be a doula.
Instagram is awash with mums’ clubs and mum bloggers and mumpreneurs and it’s easy to feel unwelcome in this world even though it’s one I serve passionately and with total commitment.
There’s definitely a curtain between non-mums and mums. Due to my experience as a professional, I often feel able to slip into this world despite not being a mum. I am witness to the honesty of birth and its emotions in all its glory and honesty and rawness. I can talk about cracked nipples and lochia and baby blues and pelvic floor symptoms. I can listen to the real version of someone’s experience, not the public face she feels obliged to show.
I’ve worked with clients who have loved and loathed their pregnancy. Who have sailed through and struggled. Who have valiantly soldiered on and those who have had to draw a line, and let go of the dream of a perfect water birth or easy breastfeeding.
Yet I feel a brittle discomfort in my chest brittle at the thought that not being a mother might mean I am less of a professional in a field I have through my heart and soul into. Whilst I am not a mother in the literal sense of the word, I know what it means to nurture and support. I have focussed the bulk of my work on supporting mothers for many years. In fact, one of the greatest compliments I have been given was from a colleague who thanked me for “mothering the mothers”.
There are a number of colleagues in the pregnancy and birth world who aren’t mothers. There are even a handful of male doulas and male midwives who, however much they support the process, will not be physically experiencing birth in their bodies any time soon.
You can work in fields such as terminal illness or mental health without having to have experienced those conditions yourself. So why is motherhood different?
I’d like to think I hold the space for a client to have their own experience without using the lens of my own personal experience. When you are with a client, you’re holding a place of openness and listening and non-judgement. Empathy and compassion.
The way that I work is to support a woman to trust in her own experience, to consciously choose what she can, and to let go of things when the time comes.
So can I as a childless woman be a decent professional? In my bones I know I care deeply about women and their babies. It feels much more a vocation than a job. I’d like to think that in 1:1 work it’s all about meeting the person where they are and hearing their story. I’d say I’m equipped to do the work I do, even if I’m not a mum.
I’d love to hear from you. Does a pregnancy expert need to be a mother herself? If so why? If not, why not? Come and comment here .