The Red Tent has had a profound impact on many of the women that have joined our circle including us. It is such a privilege to build this strong support with you. We must never underestimate the power and magic contained within a group of women sitting with intention. We believe together with love and gentle birth we have the power to change the world. Here you can find some of the final pieces of work that were produced on completion of the certification and some feedback on the journey. You can find further feedback from women on our Facebook page here.
Once all the home study elements and workshop requirements are complete the women who take part in the certification submit a final project before a one to one session with their facilitator. A last piece of work that brings together their learning and development so far. This can take any form they wish; written, spoken word, art or craft. The piece must incorporate the following elements: the importance of birth, where the woman fits in this picture, choice, support, integrity and love. Enjoy these samples of work – we think they are quite incredible.
“It’s such a wonderful experience, to find people of your tribe…They don’t have to be from your culture. When people are grounded in their bodies, in their lives, then you feel so connected in our deeper layers. And cultural difference just brings more colours to that experience. Thank you all!”
Tricia wrote a blog post about her journey with Red Tent – you can read it here http://nurtureme.uk.com/2014/10/12/my-red-tent-re-awakening-my-journey-as-a-doula-is-beginning/
THE WOMEN’S CHANGING ROOM
The day after I finished my Doula training
I went for a swim.
I was tired, so I swam lazily up and down for a few laps
then sat in the Jacuzzi,
feeling the warm jets of water soothe my back, and my legs, and my shoulders.
The training had tired me, more than I expected, but yet I also felt strangely elated, as though I’d given birth to something in myself-
something that was worthwhile, something valuable.
I lay back and closed my eyes for a while
then went in to the changing room
There were probably ten women in the room,
dressing or undressing.
Naked, our bodies on display,
we stood or sat,
rubbed cream into our skin,
combed our hair,
applied deodorant and makeup,
or changed from everyday clothes
Some of this little band of chance-met strangers
were very young, blossoming into womanhood,
full of hope and promise and joy to come.
No lines marked their faces, no stretch marks marred their sculpted bellies
and their breasts were firm and tilted upwards.
One was pregnant, her heavy belly resting on her thighs,
as she sat toweling her long, dark hair.
Her breasts were veined, engorged, ready for their purpose,
her nipples darkened.
She looked proud and happy
as she reached for her shoes,
smiling ruefully as she clumsily pulled her socks on.
“I’ll be glad when this is over,”
We wished her luck,
and a safe delivery.
Two were very old,
maybe in their late eighties, maybe even ninety.
They were friends, it was easy to see,
as they laughed and joked as the pulled on voluminous underpants
and shapeless vests.
The skin in their legs sagged and wrinkled
like old stockings
and their hair was thin.
And I was there,
Not young, far more than middle aged,
but not yet too old, I hope,
although my hair is white
and my body not what it used to be,
but still not too bad
I think to myself
maybe just wishfully.
And so we stand around,
then go our separate ways.
Sometimes with a smile,
and a cheerful goodbye,
sometimes too wrapped in our own world
to pay much attention to the others.
But maybe a goddess sees us,
bestowing a blessing on us,
we who are all sisters under the skin,
all mysteriously, marvelously female,
with wombs and breasts
And hearts to love.
Catherine Williams wrote a blog post about her journey with Red Tent – you can read it here: http://www.chilledmama.co.uk/single-post/2016/08/28/The-Motherline
For my final piece I was inspired to write a manifesto (of sorts) to encapsulate my understanding and practice of birthwork, explain how I wish to contribute and be of service as a doula, to remark where I stand now and to feel for the direction I wish to move towards. The original inspiration for this came from a passage in Alice Walker’s novel ” The Temple of my Familiar”. I have read and re-read this book since I was 18, and I often think of it as one of the books that shaped me into the woman I am today. As a young woman I was unsure and often looked to it as a map, however I have now come to see it as simply a reflection of my journey into womanhood, changing with time. In this book there are three pages devoted to one of the character’s ‘gospel’ or ‘ beatitudes’. Instead of the Bible’s “Blessed are those…”, Alice writes “Helped are those…”. I found this list of personal ethics very inspiring, and hope to create my own for my final piece. The original extract is below:
HELPED are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.
HELPED are those who love the entire cosmos rather than their own tiny country, city, or farm, for to them will be shown the unbroken web of life and the meaning of infinity.
HELPED are those who live in quietness, knowing neither brand name nor fad; they shall live every day as if in eternity, and each moment shall be as full as it is long.
HELPED are those who love others unsplit off from their faults; to them will be given clarity of vision. HELPED are those who create anything at all, for they shall relive the thrill of their own conception, and realize an partnership in the creation of the Universe that keeps them responsible and cheerful.
HELPED are those who love the Earth, their mother, and who willingly suffer that she may not die; in their grief over her pain they will weep rivers of blood, and in their joy in her lively response to love, they will converse with the trees.
HELPED are those whose ever act is a prayer for harmony in the Universe, for they are the restorers of balance to our planet. To them will be given the insight that every good act done anywhere in the cosmos welcomes the life of an animal or a child.
HELPED are those who risk themselves for others’ sakes; to them will be given increasing opportunities for ever greater risks. Theirs will be a vision of the word in which no one’s gift is despised or lost.
HELPED are those who strive to give up their anger; their reward will be that in any confrontation their first thoughts will never be of violence or of war.
HELPED are those whose every act is a prayer for peace; on them depends the future of the world.
HELPED are those who forgive; their reward shall be forgiveness of every evil done to them. It will be in their power, therefore, to envision the new Earth.
HELPED are those who are shown the existence of the Creator’s magic in the Universe; they shall experience delight and astonishment without ceasing.
HELPED are those who laugh with a pure heart; theirs will be the company of the jolly righteous.
HELPED are those who love all the colors of all the human beings, as they love all the colors of the animals and plants; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them.
HELPED are those who love the lesbian, the gay, and the straight, as they love the sun, the moon, and the stars. None of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them.
HELPED are those who love the broken and the whole; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them.
HELPED are those who do not join mobs; theirs shall be the understanding that to attack in anger is to murder in confusion.
HELPED are those who find the courage to do at least one small thing each day to help the existence of another–plant, animal, river, or human being. They shall be joined by a multitude of the timid.
HELPED are those who lose their fear of death; theirs is the power to envision the future in a blade of grass.
HELPED are those who love and actively support the diversity of life; they shall be secure in their differences.
HELPED are those who KNOW.
With every new life born, there is the death of a woman’s previous self and the evolution of her new being. If we were going through any other major life change: divorce, house move, bereavement etc, people would be there, asking, helping, supporting. It seems to be, when a woman has a baby, we neglect, judge, compromise and isolate her. Why?
Odent talks about medical advancement being ready for the, ‘post electronic age’ (Odent, 2003, Clearview) but people aren’t. This is so true. We’ve been kyboshed into a subservient society, and ego has got in the way. We aren’t looking at the common history of birth, but the ‘heroic’ male dominated, hospitalisation of it. As can be seen through reading The Birthkeepers (Robinson), and more terrifyingly, Birth Crisis (Kitzsinger), birth has become dominated by a system of theory, and logic. Neither of which necessarily aid or support the ‘normal birth’, in which a woman finds an inner guide which, is intrinsic, and instinctively led. In fact, the ‘normal birth’ (one, at home with no intervention) is now something that is treated with fear and trepidation by many NHS staff. Sadly, our world of litigation has to shoulder some of the blame, too.
The results of these things butting heads are, women losing their right to a peaceful, contented and safe birth.
We pump birth situations full of adrenaline and stop the beautiful love hormones that need to be at work. The trauma caused by a ‘bad’ birth is vastly ignored by the NHS and the definition of trauma is lost in the, ‘one size fits all’ care we are receiving. Far too often, we hear of the professional advice rhetoric spouted as, ‘what did you expect?’ and ‘well you’ve just become a new mum, it is hard.’ Women’s self evolutions are being blocked by their loss of birthing, ‘the way nature intended’ (that can mean a variety of things to different people). The untold damage caused by interventions seems to be forgotten about by the experts, who are trusted with our lives, the moment we are physically repaired.
I have found myself, frequently, sat in situations with groups of women and more have ‘bad’ birth stories than good, or normal. This raised the question to me about what on earth was going on, and (as well as ensuring women don’t go through what I did) what could I do to help it?
It seems crazy that, something women have been doing since the beginning of time, is now a narrative of trauma and horror. There is no doubting, that birth can be horrific and dangerous, but the nature of living, is that the life can end. There is also, no doubting, that in the past, many women and babies didn’t survive because technology and medicine hadn’t advanced, but there still seems to be so little known. When reading The Red Tent (Diament), it struck me, when the protagonist talks about her Aunt’s midwifery and her own midwifery experiences, that, yes, there may have been losses but there was far less trauma when there were survivals. Is this due to the women centric nature of the whole process of birthing? Yes, I believe so.
Lack of information on choice, coercion (often with kindness), naivety and fear are the ruling classes in this birthing context. These things count for both clinicians and mums, and I was one of them. A doula is the person there to offer the choice, with love and complete respect. To ask the family to consider why, or what, or how. To ask the questions, due to the fault of the system, clinicians can’t or don’t have time to. I don’t believe that any midwife, nurse, or doctor goes into their role without wanting to do good, and it saddens me, for some, that gets lost or forgotten, by red tape and criteria, along the way. Someone said to me recently, you need to be well to go into hospital. How true. I am sure, most hospital staff would be saddened by this.
So, where is my place within birth? The answer,I believe, deep down, is nowhere, unless explicitly summoned by the mother (or partner where appropriate). The birth of a child is about the mother and her baby; if I am privileged enough to be invited into that space, as I have been deemed by the mother as a support, then my place is on the periphery. My place within the birth is to ‘serve’ the mother, and partner if necessary, and ensure there space is held in the way they desire for the birth of their child. I should not be ‘part’ of the birth, but the person there to facilitate what the mother wants and how she wants it, based on her informed decisions. My most important phrase should always be, ‘how do you feel about that?’ Her feelings and wishes, are my priority.
Additionally, I have been struck by images of mothers being on their own after a baby is born, and everyone else busied by the product of the labour (whether that is baby, paperwork, tidying etc). She is isolated and in need of care. Again, she is my priority, with that important question, ‘how do you feel?’ After birth, once everything is deemed to have returned to normal, my priority is her- how do you feel? The answer to these questions will determine my place in birth.
We seem to be in desperate need, not just in birth, to take a step back and look at ourselves. Our ancestors hold the answers to our need to birth our children in the way that stops the, frightening, statistic of one in 10 women suffering from PND (PANDAS), or the links between lack of colostrum in the early stages and later life depression (Odent), or the scary studies on addiction as a result of birth trauma. Medicine and technology are wonderful and life saving, I owe my life to a blood transfusion, but we are jumping too quickly to them. As is illustrated through Gaskin’s reflections, the stories and ‘midwives manual’ in Spiritual Midwifery, we need some knowledge about birthing, but much of it comes from ourselves.
Estes, shows us we have this in our make up by the collections she shares in her book, Women Who Run with Wolves, we have an ancestral knowledge, that as a mass, we seem to be ignoring. We need to heal our sex, and part of doing that is reclaiming birth and the knowledge of birth. Women need to show up in their power and stand together, not breaking each other down. With love we can redefine women to be the warriors they are, and that isn’t in a violent and aggressive sense, it is strength, intuition, and comradery.
Bramble Angela O'Brien
Click this link to view Bramble Angela O’Brien’s poetry pdf: towards-earthside
Growing up in Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s was fun for the most part. Yes, the “troubles” were still ongoing and unemployment was high but for the most part life was normal. No when I say normal, I mean normal for me. That may not be your normal or Joe, next door’s normal. My families normal was hushed family secrets, unspoken rules, forbidden words and copious amounts of Irish stew.
As a child I remember families getting bigger but never thinking to ask how, never really wondering how all the little people were finding their way to my friends or neighbours houses, that is until one found its way to my house!
I was 11 and had just come home from school on a Wednesday afternoon. Everything seemed ‘normal’ until I opened the living room door and my mother was sitting there holding a baby. At first, I looked around the room for the owner of the baby but the only people in the room were me, my father, my mother and the baby. My two younger brothers subsequently barged through the door a few short minutes later. That’s when the realisation hit me that it was, in fact, our baby. I did not dare to ask about the how’s or when’s. We just carried on with our normal family routine.
It was years later when I found out I was pregnant myself that I began you think about all this again. Mainly because I really struggled to announce my pregnancy to my mother. I was actually afraid to use the word pregnant, as this had been one of those forbidden words, along with sex, vagina, penis, anus, gay and lesbian. I could only tell her I was ‘expecting’ which seems completely alien to me now 13 years on. Struggling with that announcement brought back all the childhood memories I had stored as fine. Like the covering up of pregnant bellies, the whisperings of pregnancy announcements like it was a swear word, and the basic lies we were told as children, if we were lucky. Generally as children we were shielded from life, it was thought that it was better to find out these things when you got older. The problem being when we got older we were not equipped to deal with such experiences. So ,as my two younger brothers spiralled out of control when they realised they were different from all the other boys because they did not know how to cope with their feelings or emotions I could not process my emotions or feelings and really struggled as young girl entering womanhood on my own as it felt, becoming a women or a man was just not discussed at home.
As I progressed in my pregnancy I read a lot of book and articles, based mainly in Britain and America and had a lot of amazing expectations. My reality was very different indeed. I had no basic choices. Information was extremely limited to which hospital you could go to. There was a lingering feeling of disgraced young girls on the maternity wards and it was heart-breaking. Heart-breaking that in 2005 a young society appearing to be at the forefront of developed countries was still in fact stuck in the 50’s and 60’s ruthless Church ruled Ireland.
Since 2005 I have researched and read and sourced all manner of resources to confirm that pregnancy and birth should be celebrated and the woman should be made to feel special and celebrated. Women were made, whether it be by science or God, to grown and birth human babies. Our anatomy supports this. Our hormones support this. Our emotions and our brains are wired to support this process. I find myself asking the question then, why in 2018 are we still working on reforming/improving maternity services to support women and their babies in a way that is actually woman-centred.
I am lucky to have experienced maternity services that are supportive, to a point. Many of my family and friends have never experienced that and may never still. I have learned to offer support to those I know through love and kindness. I have learned to work through my family history in order to go forward in a supportive role. I am aware of my limits on this journey in so far as my hopes for a woman are unimportant to her and ultimately will not facilitate me to support her effectively.
My journey as a Doula has encouraged me to look around and learn from all cultures, to take into account a woman’s beliefs and values and to recognise when I cannot support someone. My goal as a doula is not to ensure a woman chooses a normal physiological birth at all cost but to ensure she is provided with relevant, evidence-based information in order to choose a birth path that is right for her, her baby and her family. All birth, however it occurs, is truly magical and empowering and so it should be celebrated as such.
I feel I have been on this journey for a lifetime but only just recently recognised my purpose. I know and hope I will continue to learn from the wise words of the many wonderful doulas that have preceded me and of course all the beautiful women I hope to work with.